In the kitchen with Julia

 

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Quote from the magnificent Julia Child; image from bookishfreaks.com

Tonight, I ruined a chocolate pavé. Sure, it tastes alright but esthetically? I wouldn’t serve it to anyone and am even embarrassed to take a picture of it for Instagram. But you know what happens when I ruin a dessert? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are no ramifications. I just learn not to do that thing and try again tomorrow. And do you know who taught me to embrace that attitude in the kitchen? My friend, Julia. Continue reading

On Cherry Trees and Nostalgia

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This is what Italian cherry trees look like…

I ran out the back door and down the hill at full speed, jumping over the sandbox and straight for the cherry tree. Pulling ripe fruit off the lowest hanging branches before shoving them into my mouth and running toward the swings, I smiled. My sister and I played in our backyard for hours stopping only for snacks from the cherry tree. My mother, wide-mouthed basket in hand approached the cherry tree at a slower gait before selecting fruit for cherry crisp. The kitchen looked like a murder scene when she removed the pits, slicing each cherry in half before baking them with brown sugar, oatmeal and butter, so much butter. Continue reading

Bacon Peach Steel Cut Oatmeal

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With the wind coming off the lake, it feels like fall around here. I spent the whole weekend in the kitchen, cooking up caramelized onion and tomato jam with farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes and some lemon lavender scones (stay tuned for those recipes later this week!).

And I’ve been in a breakfast funk lately. Waking up late and scrambling to eat something quickly before heading out the door to work. And unfortunately, for my body and my palate, I’ve been eating a lot of Cinnamon Life cereal and Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys. These aren’t typically things we keep in the house, but this summer has been stressful and it’s nice to have a sweet breakfast treat every now and again. But every now and again has somehow become every single day and when I eat a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, my stomach is growling again around 10:30.

Enter steel cut oats. A hearty, delicious breakfast perfect for leisurely weekend mornings. And now, weekday mornings too! It’s super easy to reheat steel cut oats in the same amount of time as those sad, instant oatmeal packets.

Steel cut oats are also incredibly versatile. Once you master the basics of cooking them up, you can customize the oats to match your mood or the season. Apples and cinnamon in the fall, fresh berries, and even bacon and caramelized peaches.

So cook up some bacon, then sauté your peaches in bacon grease and brown sugar and actually enjoy Monday morning.

I mean, check out this peachy goodness…

Caramelized Peaches

Caramelized Peaches

Bacon Peach Steel Cut Oatmeal

4 pieces of thick cut bacon

2 ripe peaches, diced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup steel cut oats

2 cups water

2 cups milk (I used a combination of milk and heavy cream)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or butter)

Put water, milk, and salt into a pot and bring to a boil. While waiting to boil, cook bacon over medium heat. Reserve bacon grease and put diced peaches and brown sugar into the bacon pan. Cook until peaches are caramelized and the sugar and bacon fat create a syrupy caramel.

When milk/water is boiling, add steel cut oats and stir. Cover pot and reduce to simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Oats are done when tender and creamy. Stir in coconut oil, caramelized peaches and bacon (broken into pieces). Pour into a storage container and cool before putting into the refrigerator.

In the morning, spoon a portion of oats into a microwave safe bowl, add a little water or milk and stir before reheating for 2 minutes. Grab a spoon and enjoy!

(Today’s photos taken on my iPhone 6. My DSLR is temporarily out of commission. I apologize for the picture quality…or lack thereof.)

Chocolate Chip Cookies…and then some

Cookies with coffee

Cookies with coffee…the breakfast of champions.

I love a good cookie. Any kind of cookie really. Chewy, soft, crisp. Filled with nuts, oats, or morsels of sweetness be they chocolate chips or M&Ms. Peanut butter cookies, ginger molasses, sugar cookies with colored frosting. I’m not choosy.

Despite my love of the cookie, I don’t make them very often. And it’s not because I don’t have a wealth of go-to recipes. I do. Ginger molasses are a Chef Boyfriend favorite and I’m a sucker for a simple chocolate chip cookie. But the time it takes to make cookies…I’m not a fan. There’s the dough making process, which I’m fine with but the bake time? Not so much. 8 minutes in the oven and then you have to spin the pan and bake for another 8 minutes. It’s a lot of stand up, sit down mumbo jumbo that I don’t have the patience for. Which I suppose makes me a terrible baker.

When I baked cookies professionally, I just threw those suckers on a speed rack and baked 12 dozen at a time and got on with my day. Sadly, I don’t have a speed rack at home or an oven large enough for one. So I putter around the kitchen checking the oven every 8 minutes, setting timers and half-ass cleaning the kitchen.

I think these cookies are worth it though. Filled with oats, chocolate chips, white chocolate, walnuts and a heavy hand of sea salt. Yes, these are totally worth it.

These cookies are not an original idea. I found the base recipe online somewhere at sometime and am a horrible person because I can’t find it now to link it appropriately. But you know; you know I’m not claiming it as my own. But at their core, these cookies are juiced-up chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, and then some.

We’ll get to the recipe but first, a few notes:

  • This recipe makes about 6 dozen…I don’t believe in making small batches of cookies. If you don’t have the freezer space for all these cookies, you may want to cut the recipe in half.
  • These cookies freeze exceptionally well! So that’s what you should do. Bake the full recipe and freeze some.
  • I use 1/2 unsalted butter, 1/2 salted but you could easily use all of one or the other. I like the salt throughout the cookie, not just on top but to each their own.
  • Sticking the batter back in the fridge between scooping batches will yield less spreading while baking.

Juiced-Up Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ingredients:

2 cups butter (1 cup unsalted, 1 cup salted)

2 1/2 cups brown sugar (light or dark, it really doesn’t matter)

1 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs (room temperature)

2 egg yolks (room temperature)

2 teaspoons vanilla (or a decent glug, because who really measures this?)

4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups uncooked old fashioned oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt (play with this, but certainly don’t leave it out. Yes, there is salt in the salted butter and you will top the cookies with sea salt, but never discount the importance of salt within the dough itself. You will notice it if you don’t include any.)

2 cups white chocolate chips

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups roughly chopped walnuts (you can toast these on the stovetop a little, but it’s not necessary)

Sea salt for garnishing (or any flaked salt. I think smoked sea salt would be phenomenal in these cookies!)

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Pour melted butter into a mixing bowl, add brown sugar and granulated white sugar and mix until smooth. Put mixing bowl into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill.

Remove from the fridge and mix in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt and mix lightly.

Fold in white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Taste. Pat yourself on the back. You’re doing good things.

Put mixing bowl back in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove bowl from the refrigerator and using a portion scoop (or a spoon) place medium sized balls on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, leaving space between each cookie. Press cookies down slightly (to create discs not balls) and top with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown, spinning the baking sheet halfway through. (In my oven, it takes 16 minutes, I spin the sheet at 8 for even cooking). Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then move to a cooling rack.

Warning: you may need to swat away curious “taste testers”. See below.

Chef Boyfriend likes to help but we have vastly different definitions of "helping".

Chef Boyfriend likes to help but we have vastly different definitions of “helping”.

Saturday at Revival

Drinks at Revival

Drinks at Revival

Saturday was the first day Chef Boyfriend didn’t work in weeks. And it was glorious.

We slept in, drank coffee, had drinks with lunch and took an afternoon nap. It may not sound like much, but for two people who’s schedules rarely align, a whole Saturday together is amazing and just being together is better than anything.

Though the whole day was nice, far and away the best part was lunch at Revival. If you’re in the Twin Cities and haven’t checked out Revival yet, get off the internet right now and jump in the car or on your bike and get there. Seriously.

Revival opened earlier this year and is the quirky little sister of Corner Table and Chef Thomas Boemer gets it right. It’s hoity-toity Southern cuisine and it hits the spot. Fried chicken, a solid selection of sauces, grits, beans and biscuits…I loved everything we ordered.

And the wine list? Fantastic. Created by people who get that nothing pairs better with fried food than sparkling wine. Five by the glass and 11 by the bottle; this girl couldn’t have been happier (though I’m curious as to who is ordering the $210 a bottle Pierre Gimmonet “Special Club” Chardonnay from Champagne, France with their fried chicken).

We started with fried chicken livers and the pigs ear salad.

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As I pierced the delicate coating on the fried chicken livers with my fork, I thought about how lucky I am to have found someone who enjoys food as much as I do. Someone willing to order the weird stuff on the menu: pigs ears, chicken liver, sea urchin, headcheese, offals. Someone who isn’t afraid of any animal, any cut, any part. We are exploratory eaters and we’re on a journey together.

We have our favorites, sure. And sometimes they’re safe. But if there’s an unusual charcuterie option on the menu, we’re ordering it. If sweetbreads are in something, we’re ordering it. And I will eat absolutely any animal’s liver. Which made the fried chicken livers my favorite menu time at Revival. The batter is delicious, the livers, tender and they’re served with sweet potato barbecue sauce. Go ahead and use extra sweet potato barbecue sauce.

The fried chicken itself is tender and juicy and wonderful. The white cheddar grits are unctuous. The banana cream pie, perfection. All served with three glasses of Spanish Muscat with the slightest effervescence.

It was a wonderful lunch and we will absolutely be returning. And if you’re planning a trip, invite us along.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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I don’t know Karen Christensen, but I’ve loved her coffee cake for 20 some years now. Her recipe is dog-eared in my copy of the Zion Lutheran Church Cookbook from Denison, Iowa. It’s the perfect Monday morning baked-good. You mix the batter the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Pop it in the oven the next morning while you’re in the shower and 30 minutes later, you’re greeted with a spicy, tender crumb. The perfect side dish to a mug of strong coffee. Continue reading

Gardening: a new beginning


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I am a neglectful gardener. I love the planning process. The reading gardening books. Shopping for seeds. Drawing plans out on graph paper. Researching what will grow best in my 4×6 raised bed. I am very good at these things. I check out all the right books from the library. Ask all the right questions of the Master Gardeners at the South Minneapolis Gardening Hub. I take detailed notes and am an excellent gardener. On paper. Continue reading

Food Police

I work in hunger relief. Part of my job is stay up-to-date on hunger related issues, food news and public policy. I read this article last week and this one and this one too. Basically, I have a lot of feelings about recent food policy news. And after a 20 minute rant at Chef Boyfriend, who calmly reminded me that he’s not a politician and doesn’t care what people buy with SNAP benefits, I thought I’d work on processing my feelings by writing about them. Continue reading