Chai Snickerdoodles

IMG_1170Time for a recipe post! I’ll admit, it’s not a great picture because the sunlight was a little too bright and you lose some of the detail in the food. Like the amazing sugar and spice mixture that covers these chewy snickerdoodles. But as I was enjoying a book, my coffee, and a couple cookies on the porch during a lovely cool morning (what–you don’t eat cookies with your morning coffee for a little something sweet?), I realized that if I was going to tell you about this great recipe, I should have a picture to go along with it.

We made these cookies most recently for Chris’s annual work picnic last week (and there were a few left over, so we’ve been enjoying them ourselves since then). They’re a wonderful treat.  They really are reminiscent of the spices in a chai tea. And they bake up soft and chewy, with a little crispness from the sugar on the outside.  This time, we used a little disher to measure out the cookie dough.  It had the added bonus of automatically making perfect little balls of dough–no rolling between your hands to get them properly formed!

A couple of notes about tackling the recipe. First, the 1/4 cup sugar-spice mixture that you reserve to roll the cookies in will not look like a lot. It will be enough. Don’t be afraid to really roll them.  Second, we’ve had mixed luck with the baking time.  It might be because our cookies were a little larger this time–the disher might have been a tad bigger than it needed to be, but it was so worth it for the time it saved–but I feel like I had this same struggle last time and I ended up overcooking them.  I have not found 8-10 minutes to be enough. I cooked them closer to 14 this time, and they were just barely cooked through. They could have stood another two minutes or so.

The only downside? The go stale more quickly than most other cookies I’ve made.  The upside? That just means you have to fully savor them while you can.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a cup of coffee that needs some accompaniment…

Here’s the recipe:

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies at My Baking Addiction

Weekly Round-Up

This week’s menu is a little less exciting than past weeks’.   We’re trying to work our way through what we’ve got in the fridge, and it’s been a busy week with other commitments–less time for trying new recipes. I’ll do better next time. So what’s for dinner?

  • Monday: Leftover spaghetti bolognese. (I actually threw this in a large pan with a little extra tomato sauce and a little cream, then tossed in some cooked peas right at the end. It might not have been as “pure” or as traditional, but it reheated really well! It also snuck in a veggie for Little Miss.)
  • Tuesday: Goan fish curry with rice and peas
  • Wednesday: More leftovers–grilled barbeque chicken, grilled asparagus, and last week’s mashed cauliflower
  • Thursday: Blackened tilapia with sweet potatoes and zucchini
  • Friday: Whatever is still left in the fridge…probably fish curry, because I bought too much salmon…

An Unintentional Recipe Shuffle and Other Weekend Goodies

This post is a bit of a jumble. I guess the common theme here is how wonderful my friend are in partaking in foodie adventures with me.

You may have noticed that last week featured Theresa’s Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese.  Recipe Shuffle time!  It looked delicious, she had good things to say about it, it had her son’s stamp of approval, and it would be easy to bring together at the end of the day when Chris was coming home from work–all winning traits in my book!  So I tried it, taking into account her suggestion of adding more herbs.  I added about 2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning while I was browning the meat.  (I think I should have either used Penzey’s seasoning, which I didn’t have on hand, or added it at a different time. I still could have used more of an herby punch.) I also should have taken her suggestion about adding salt.  I was hesitant after cooking the bacon, thinking that would be enough salt. I was wrong.  (Next time, Resa, I promise to trust you completely. :) )  That being said, it was pretty fabulous, and Little Miss had seconds, so she seemed to agree. I will definitely be making it again!

Speaking of best friends and awesome food, another best friend, Vanessa, was in town this weekend for a family reunion, and she was able to make some time for us on lunch both Saturday and Sunday. We made the most of those opportunities, loving the company, of course, but also the food. Saturday we braved the permanent drizzle to check out Squirrel Hill’s sidewalk sale and the Mac and Gold Food Truck.  I’m a sucker for mac and cheese, so I would like to think I know a good mac and cheese when I eat one…and this was good.  The base mac and cheese was rich and full of real cheese, the perfect balance of creaminess and sharpness. We all got different things with it, which were prepared well and served on top.  I got asparagus, spinach, and roasted red pepper, but I also tried Chris’s roasted brussels sprouts and bacon.  Delicious!

We also spend Sunday sampling some exotic favorites. I’ve been craving Green Pepper’s bibimbap, so we checked them out for lunch (and found a great little consignment shop along the way. We stopped in because Vanessa liked the pants in the window.  She walked out of there with a dress and I got four shirts, so I would say it was a successful trip!).  The bibimbap was fabulous, as always, with great fresh ingredients, rice that got perfectly crispy along the sides of the hot stone bowl, and delicious pieces of bulgogi (Korean barbequed beef).  And then we came back and shared delicate French macarons from Gaby et Jules patisserie, which are just beyond words.  A wonderful shared foodie experience!

So far, this week looks a bit more tame on the food front–maybe a trip to the Pittsburgh Public market and baking something for Chris’s company picnic on Thursday, but otherwise, pretty average. We’ll see how it ends up, though–you never do know around here!  Coming soon, to continue the friends and foodie adventures, will be some notes on a new restaurant…with a new kind of coffee. Stay tuned!

Another Successful First: Cherry Pie

I especially enjoy success baking firsts, as they necessarily end in something delicious.

Two weekends ago, we took care of our neighbors’ dog, Dottie. As a thank you, they brought back a handmade, hand painted pie plate they picked up at an arts festival they went to. It’s a pretty little plate, cream-colored glaze with blue dragonflies painted on to it, and only about half as big as a traditional pie plate.IMG_1034

So last weekend, I put it to good use and made a cherry pie with those amazing cherries I was raving about a few posts ago. It was a bit of work—making the dough, pitting the cherries, rolling out the dough—but the end product was great! I love a good cherry pie, and this was the best.  Between the pectin in the cherries and the corn starch, the pie held together perfectly, no filling oozing out into the pie dish.  And it was absolutely packed with delicious sweet cherries.  A wonderful little bite of summer.

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Okay, I’ll be honest: the dough wasn’t perfect. It was a bit more chewy than flaky, especially on the bottom.  (This was even more pronounced the second day.)  I blame myself for not reading the recipe closely enough and adding too much water, then trying to cover it up by adding some more flour and probably over-kneading the dough in the process.  Despite all that, the taste was still buttery and delicious, especially the bits along the crust.  In a store-bought crust, I always end up tossing those bits.  Without the fruity goodness of the filling, those crusts are just dry and uninteresting.  But this crust was one of the best bites–the taste of browned butter, a little crisp, mingled with the sweetness of the cherries.

And the small size of our pie dish means we can eat it, relish it, and finish it before it goes stale or before we tire of it.

(Though it would be hard to tire of something this good!)

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Here’s the recipe at Smitten Kitchen.  I used her pie dough recipe, too.  I’m sure if you actually followed what she said to do, your crust would be that much more amazing than mine. :)

Planning a Menu Around a Trip to the Farmers’ Market

We tried a new farmers’ market over the weekend.  Well, that might not be entirely fair. It was still part of the farmers’ markets that are  organized by the city (and I love that they do that!), but we tried a new location.  I would be totally sold on this new one, except that my favorite fruit vendor isn’t there. And he is worth a trip across the city–his strawberries and peaches are the best around.

But, because of a play date on Monday, I wasn’t able to get to the East Liberty farmers’ market this week, so we tried out one right in our neighborhood, and we came home with some great food! This is me, planning around all of the beautiful fresh things in our fridge.

  • Monday: Fresh pasta (from the market–two nests of tomato-basil and one nest of garden herb) with sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, and other veggies
  • Tuesday: Rotisserie chicken, sauteed zucchini, and mashed cheddar cauliflower (not just because of the cheese–the cauliflower itself is a beautiful golden color!)
  • Wednesday: Baja cod, coriander potatoes, and green beans
  • Thursday: Slow-cooker Spaghetti Bolognese (thanks, Resa!) and a salad
  • Friday: Pan-seared pork, sweet potatoes, and beet salad.

The Best Thing I Ever Made?

ice_creamLarge chunks of fresh, sweet, dark cherries–the really good ones that you can only find for about two weeks at this time of year.  Thin, crisp shavings of dark chocolate.  Luxurious, creamy texture.

No kidding, this might be the best thing I ever made.

For one thing, it was quite an impressive undertaking.  Chris and I pitted cherries the night before. I cooked them down that morning, then made a simple custard. Then I stuck that custard in an ice bath. Later, I used a double-boiler to melt chocolate. Then I stuck it all in our (brand new!) ice cream maker. It was an involved process, but each step was really necessary to creating the balance in the final product–plus, I got to feel really accomplished when I listed all the things I did to get that perfect bowl of ice cream.  So yes, the recipe took me a decent chunk of a day.

And yes, it was so very worth it.

Here’s the link to the recipe I followed:

Black Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream via Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

The blog’s still here, and so am I…

I’ve been missing blogging lately, and I thought I might try to get back into it.  I’ll be modest about it (not that it was ever some grand project…), but I miss thinking critically about food, challenging myself to find new adventures, and looking for ways to describe what I’ve experienced.

Plus, it’s summer, and most of my exciting adventures necessarily happen over the summer.  I’ve been trying at least one new recipe a week, sometimes even two or three! So let’s get started, shall we?  First thing I’m going to do is just list off what we’ve been eating lately, with some links to the new things I’ve tried.  More details to follow! Stay tuned, and cook smart, cuz FoodieSuzy’s back. :)

Last week:

This week:

  • Monday: Leftovers from sesame pecan chicken strips, green bean salad, re-purposed potato-salad-turned-mashed potatoes
  • Tuesday: Bourbon-glazed salmon with polenta and roasted carrots, cauliflower, and beets
  • Wednesday: Tortellini sauteed with zucchini, squash, and red pepper
  • Thursday: Tilapia in Thai coconut sauce over rice and green beans
  • Friday: Chicken tortilla roll-ups and leftover veggies

 

Sprouts and Seeds

This is the reason I watch Good Eats.

Okay, that’s not really accurate.  I also watch it because it’s entertaining and I like learning.  So let me rephrase that: this is how watching Good Eats pays off in tasty, healthy ways.

I wanted to make beets the other night, but Chris couldn’t find any fresh beets at the grocery store.  What he did find was Brussels sprouts on the stalk, and, remembering that Alton said that’s the best time to get them, he picked them up.  And, not quite remembering how to store them and how he recommended cooking them, I went back and watched the episode to get the low-down on this little cabbage.  I then used inspiration from Alton’s show (and the recipe we made before that was so tasty) and combined it with the best preparation of Brussels sprouts that I’ve ever had, a fried sprout with bacon and balsamic glaze at Root 174.  I tried to recreate it–and while I was only partially successful in duplicating it, I did come up with a pretty tasty side dish!

Yesterday, I was feeling adventurous, so during my trip down the street to the grocery store, I picked up two pomegranates.  And then I went back and watched Alton’s episode on them to refresh my memory on how in the world I was supposed to get to the edible bits.  (They were delicious, by the way.  Every time I walked by the kitchen while they were drying on the counter, I ate another handful. And another.  And I’m looking forward to a bowlful at lunch today.)  I like feeling handy in the kitchen.  And I like feeling that, even with an infant and a minimal amount of time/flexibility to cook right now, I’ve still “got it.”

Here’s my Brussels sprouts preparation:

  1. Cut sprouts off of stalk, if necessary. Trim the end so it’s a perfect little sphere, then peel off any leaves that are brown, withered, etc. Cut in half.
  2. Put the sprouts and 1/2 to 1 cup of water in a pot (Alton recommends 1/2 for 1 pound of sprouts).  Cook over high heat so that the water boils for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain.  (This can be done ahead of time–like, during the morning when the little one is more amenable to being worn in her wrap.)
  3. When you’re ready to cook the sprouts, cut 3-6 rashers of bacon into small pieces.  Cook over medium-high heat until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside; drain some of the drippings, leaving about 2-3 Tbsp in the pan.
  4. Return the pan to the heat.  Toss in sprouts, cooking 5-10 minutes or until the sides are browning (and, ideally, a little crisp).
  5. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss with the reserved bacon. Serve immediately.

Being Thankful: The Little Things

Thanksgiving morning found us in Pittsburgh for the first time ever, celebrating as a family of three.  (Well, a family of three humans at least.  A family of four if you count the furry one.)  But it was a sunny morning, and while the little one slept, a bit tentatively, and while Chris took a turn holding her, I started in on making my first Thanksgiving feast.  I had taken advice from my favorite Food Network celebrities and made a timeline of what needed to get done and when, and my morning was to be dedicated to chopping carrots, parsnips, squash, leeks, potatoes, and bread cubes.  And so, I tested out my new little speakers, turned on The White Album, and got to work.

And lo and behold, when Chris and the slightly-fussy little one came in to check on me, and she heard the music and got into the warm sunniness of the kitchen, she settled down, alert but listening contentedly.  So we put her in her little chair and we did what we do best–we got to cooking together.  Eventually, she was done with the chair and ready to be held, so she and I danced around the kitchen, humming along to the Beatles and keeping Chris company while he finished up the chopping.

Later, the house would be filled with the smells of a home–the warm spices of the pumpkin pie, the rich herbiness of the turkey.  And even later than that, our table was full of delicious food.  The new recipes and preparations we tried were all winners.  The turkey was moist and flavorful, the stuffing was indeed sweet and savory, and all of the herbs in all of the dishes played off of each other wonderfully.

We had a beautiful morning, and I’m thankful for that warm moment in the kitchen, a glimmer of perfection.  I’m thankful for my beautiful little family, and for the wonderful food we shared together.  I’m thankful that we made the time to cook together again, and I can’t wait for the time when the little one will be able to join in–snapping green beans, stirring cookie dough, learning her way around the kitchen, and generally being a part of how much her mommy and daddy love creating and experiencing good food together.  I’m thankful for the day’s unseasonable sunshine and warm weather, our walk around the neighborhood, and (finally!) getting to dive in to the last of the beers we brought back from our honeymoon.  I’m thankful for the friends and family who called, texted, and were thinking of us, those who enriched the holiday and our lives.  I’m thankful for today, and I can’t wait for the tomorrows to come.

Our menu:
Herb-roasted turkey breast
Sweet and savory stuffing with root vegetables
Mashed potatoes
Asparagus
Gravy
Cranberry sauce
Pumpkin pie
Gueuze (Belgian lambic beer)

A whole bunch of new recipes with a very autumnal theme

Call me lazy.  Or just really busy.  But I’m going to mush my five (yes–five!) new recipes we’ve tried in the past three weeks or so into one gargantuan post.  But each individual review will be fairly short.  I’ve been slacking on my camera duties when we’re done cooking, and for most of them, I followed the recipe exactly, so there’s not going to be too much to say.  Ready for my delicious fall spread?

The first thing we made, and this was a while ago, was this Chicken and Vegetable Lasagna.  I won’t lie–this was time consuming.  It wasn’t hard, but there was a fair amount of chopping and cooking even before we could put the whole thing in the oven for 45 minutes.  That being said, it was delicious!  It was rich and creamy and chickeny, very different from a traditional lasagna and a little bit heavier.  The vegetables were great–I was generous with the amounts that I used, and I might even use a bit more next time.  The one definite change we would make is either cooking the chicken whole and then shredding it, or maybe even just using a rotisserie chicken.  The pieces we cut to saute were too large, which made it a bit difficult to eat.  Shredding into smaller pieces would be the way to go.  Another plus to this dish?  It makes a lot, so there were lots of leftovers–and it reheated well for another dinner or for a hearty lunch.

Next up was these Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.  I needed something to bring to a departmental work day at school.  Last year I made pumpkin hummus and it was a huge hit, so I felt like there was some pressure to deliver something good!  (I could have brought the hummus again, but how predictable would that be?)  I found these cookies and thought they looked like a nice fall treat, and they definitely were!  They stayed nice and soft, and there was a hint of pumpkin without it being overwhelming.  I liked the tartness of the cranberry and the sweetness of the white chocolate; Chris said he thought they’d be better with dark chocolate.  I think that could certainly work…but he also just isn’t a huge fan of white chocolate.  Oh, and as a side note, this recipe makes a lot of cookies!  I probably ended up with 3 dozen respectably-sized cookies.  I’m glad I didn’t decide to double it!

Next on our list of culinary adventures was this Chicken Noodle Soup.  We have a bunch of homemade chicken stock in the freezer, but for some reason, I’m waiting for the “perfect” opportunity to use it.  So, I thought I would try to recipe for chicken soup and see if it still provided a flavorful enough base, even with just simmering for an hour.  And the answer?  I added a little bit of Penzey’s chicken soup base to ramp up the flavor, but with that extra boost, it absolutely did!  This soup was fantastic.  Flavorful and filling, stuffed with tender meat and fresh vegetables and lots of noodles.  Comfort food at its best.

Our next endeavor was one that took a little more effort on our parts.  We kept putting it off because our weeknights have been late and hectic, and who wants to eat dinner at 8:30 on a school night?  On a Friday, though?  That’s apparently okay.  So on Friday we undertook this Pumpkin Risotto.  The recipe calls for scallops and candied pancetta (which I’m sure would be delightful), but we opted for a roasted pork tenderloin, something we could season, throw in the oven, and not worry about while we busied ourselves with the risotto.  The risotto was wonderfully creamy and delightfully pumpkin-y, and I really liked it with the pork.  There are two adjustments I would make to the recipe, if you’re thinking of trying it.  First, we were lazy and opted not to blend up the pumpkin puree and butter–and we couldn’t tell the difference.  As long as you melt the butter in a little at a time and make sure it’s mixed up really well, I don’t think the blending is necessary.  Save yourself the extra dishes!  Second, make sure you taste the risotto for doneness before adding the pumpkin puree and the final ingredients.  We didn’t do this–we should have known better–and we ended up with slightly al dente rice.  It probably could have used another ladleful of broth.

The final fall recipe I’ve got to share with you is for your weekend mornings, something to munch while you curl up with a warm beverage of your choice.  Check out these Pumpkin gingerbread biscotti.  (If you’re fall-crazy like I apparently am this year, one large can of pumpkin should see you through the oatmeal cookies, the risotto, and a double batch of the biscotti.)  I made them yesterday as a splurge to myself–besides, I had all of the necessary ingredients, so I considered it something like fate.  I was initially a bit concerned about all the spices, but the cookie’s flavor isn’t too heavily spiced at all.  And the smell as they’re cooking?  Amazing.  (Chris came in from walking the dog and pronounced that it smelled like home.)  I think I skimped a little on the first cooking time, and so my cookies could be a little firmer.  Another change I made that might have thrown the texture a bit was chopping the walnuts and adding them right to the batter, along with a dollop of extra pumpkin because the batter was so dry, I couldn’t get all of the flour incorporated.  I was going to mix in white chocolate chips, too, but I forgot, so I “iced” them with white chocolate after they cooled.  They don’t look as pretty as the picture on the website, but they’re still really tasty.

*Phew!* So, that’s my fall rundown.  For now, at least.  I hope if you’re looking for something with an autumnal twist that you can find something here that you’d like to try!