Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Seriously Lemon

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

This spring is amazing me in all sorts of ways.  I’m noticing the light in a way that I never have before, probably because this is the first spring I’ve spent in this house.

Spring Light

I’m also enjoying spring foods in a new way this year.  Our house is super close to the farmer’s market, and that really highlights seasonal foods.  I’m gardening this year.  Yay me!  And after a bajillion snow days this winter, I’m even enjoying the consistency of going to school every single day.  The spring colors have also really gotten to me.  The yellows, the greens, the bright blues.  I’m really digging them all.

Lemon seems like the most spring fruit to me.  The color fits right in with my spring wardrobe and is probably even cool enough to hang out with grass, the way its dressing this season.  After working hard on the garden (which I got complimented on by a random passer-by), lemonade is exactly what I want need.  Lemons are bright and spunky, and don’t need your permission for much of anything.

… so obviously, I made them into a doughnut.

Lemon Preparation

Sometimes, I do this thing where I want everything to be the exact same color.  It’s something I got from one of my students.  He always matches… socks, shoes, tshirt, jacket, and hat.  When I commented on this, he responded with, “Well, of course, I’m matching.  I can’t go to school looking like no rainbow!”  And while I love rainbows, some colors are just dying for you to go monochromatic.  …so maybe I did use a yellow bowl with a yellow spatula and a yellow cutting board.  I can’t be looking like no rainbow while I’m baking.

… And the theme continued into the doughnuts.  The dough was lemon zest, filled with lemon curd, and topped with lemon glaze.  And while the flavor was intense, intensity has never been a reason for me to run away from anything, but especially not doughnuts.

Lemon Whoa

While those guys were getting tan in the sunlight, these guys are chillin’ Martha Stewart style.

Martha Stewart Style

Seriously lemon doughnuts are brought to you by Baked Doughnuts for Everyone.  Words cannot express how great this cookbook is.  I don’t get paid to say that.  It’s just a seriously great cookbook.

Just like that…

Monday, March 31st, 2014

I woke up before my alarm on Thursday morning.  Thursday was our grade level planning day, and I always try to bring the team a little treat on these days.  I almost always end up baking my favorite double chocolate muffins.  I call them muffins so we don’t feel bad eating them for breakfast.  They’re basically cupcakes.  Cupcakes without frosting.  That makes them better, right?  While we all love these “muffins”, I was itching to make something new.

New recipe was a feeling I hadn’t had all week.  The thought of cooking dinner was just too much for me to handle last week.  So feeling inspired to make something was a pleasant surprise.  And boy howdy, America’s Test Kitchen really came through for me.  I made their simple cinnamon streusel coffee cake using “Better than cup4cup” flour from Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring.

The results were spectacular.  I had gluten-loving coworkers asking for the recipe.

Simple Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

… and just like that, I was back into it.  This weekend, I was back to my normal cooking habits.  The husband and I made an absolutely divine baked pasta with italian sausage, roasted tomatoes, spinach, and (of course) a generous amount mozzarella cheese.

Baked Pasta

Sunday morning, I was inspired by half a block of cream cheese sitting in my fridge and Marlow of Gluten Hates Me to make cream cheese stuffed french toast.  Since I didn’t have bananas or syrup, I created a mixed berry syrup.  the combo was… like… whoa.

Stuffed French Toast

And then there were the sloppy joe’s.  You remember them from before, I’m sure.  I combined the sandwiches with roasted potato wedges sprinkled generously with ranch seasoning.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

And then I finished them off with some gluten free peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (full explanation/recipe/whatever to come).

… but after all of that (and especially all of the eating out last week), I’m in need of a serious detox, or, at the very least, vegetables.  Hello green smoothies and salads!  And the weather is just right for them this week, too.

Meal Planning

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Before there are groceries, there are meals.  There’s a plan.  Built on the weather, what’s fresh at the farmer’s market, what’s cheap at the supermarket, and whatever my/my husband’s work schedule looks like this week.  I always try to plan the more complicated meals earlier in the week, because I know I’ll have more energy.  Warm meals should coincide with cold nights.  Grilling with warm nights.  And these days, North Carolina is getting both in the same week.  Plan a salad for Tuesday instead of Thursday, and you might seriously regret it.

Completely unrelated, but I fell asleep while watching Scandal last night, which means I was watching what I had missed this morning, and I just spent the last 5 minutes with my hand covering my mouth, gasping repeatedly as things became more and more intense.  Why did I think this could be a chill watch-as-you-write-a-blog-post show this morning?

And that’s how we ended up with shepherd’s pie planned for this last Monday.  Monday was supposed to be cold.  I had come across a picture of shepherd’s pie on pinterest, and very much wanted to eat it.  Joel has been requesting shepherd’s pie basically since we got married.  I didn’t grow up with it, and thought the whole concept was gross.  But oh, that picture.  I wish I could find it again, but well… you know the internet.

I didn’t even realize Monday was St. Patrick’s Day until I got to school that morning and saw my colleague’s shamrock tie.  But even then, I didn’t put together that shepherd’s pie was a good St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  And if I’m being really honest, Monday was a rough day for me.  I got home and made a huge mistake.  I sat down.  As soon as I sit down in the evenings, I don’t get up.  Knowing this, I sat down anyway.  I browsed instagram.  And whoa… St. Patrick’s Day was happening in a serious way.  It was all soda bread and Guinness.

The coincidence was irresistible.  To the point that I actually got off my hindquarters and made it.

Shepherd's Pie

In the end, it was a whole lot easier than I expected.  Here’s how it went down:

Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Alton Brown

For the potato topping:

  • 1 1/2 pounds red skin potatoes, chopped with skin on
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. salt

For the filling:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 t. tomato paste
  • 1 t. gluten free Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 t. dried thyme
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas

Get the potatoes in boiling water.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large (preferably oven safe) skillet, cook the onion and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is just barely translucent.  Add in the ground beef.  Cook until browned.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir the cornstarch into the chicken broth until mixed completely.  Set aside.  Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and chicken broth mixture to the ground beef mixture.  Continue to cook until just barely thickened.  Add corn and peas.  If your skillet is oven safe, you can use that.  If not, transfer to a casserole dish.

When potatoes are cooked through, drain.  Add butter, milk, salt, and pepper.  Mash.  Spread over the filling, beginning at the edge and working your way to the middle.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until potato topping is just starting to brown.

Browning Butter

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

People have been talking about this whole brown butter situation for awhile.  And to be honest, I was unconvinced.  Why on earth would I spend time at the stove carefully overseeing the browning of butter when I could, you know, not?

I gave Joy the Baker’s brown butter doughnuts a try.  Obviously, I had to make them gluten free, so I smushed together my two basic recipes.  I substituted brown butter for the oil from the buttermilk doughnuts in Baked Doughnuts for Everyone.  It definitely added a more complex flavor which I really dug.

Browned Butter

This is what brown butter looks like.  I didn’t know.  I also didn’t know that 2 tablespoons of butter, browned is different from 2 tablespoons of brown butter.  You live.  You learn.  I’m still not sure if this is going to be a regular activity for me, but I will acknowledge a difference in flavor.

Doughnuts Overhead

The real trick with baked doughnuts is letting them cool completely before you eat them all up.  It’s tough, but it must be done.  Scoop those babies out with the cutest little spatula you can find.  Then let them chill out for a bit.  In an ideal world, this would happen on a wire rack.  I don’t have one of those.  Whoops.  But I do have a platter that exactly fits 6 doughnuts.

Doughnuts Cooling

Joy’s chocolate glaze was basically divine.  They’re not nearly as heavy at the chocolate peanut butter doughnuts from last week, which makes two of these exactly the right amount.

Stacked Doughnuts

The husband and the little sister woke up to the smell of these Sunday morning.  I got more than a few bonus points.  Make these for yourself, and you’ll be a very happy camper.  Make them to share, and you’ll be loved forever.  That’s my strategy, at least.

Impressing Guests

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Last night, we had a guest over for dinner.  A single guy who typically purchases his dinner on his way home from work.  Which is only to say that I could have made almost anything and impressed him.  But the weather outside was delightful yesterday (and promises to be so again today), and I wanted to get that grill going.

Hamburgers.  Joel suggests these often, actually, and I always shot him down.  If I’m going to spend $6 on 4 servings of bread (that’s what Udi’s hamburger buns cost at my grocery store), I’m not going to waste them on hamburgers.  And I stand by that decision.  But we’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market with a booth dedicated strictly to gluten free bread.  Hello Imagine That Gluten Free!  So far, I’ve only tried their baguettes, but they’re divine.  And baguette slices can make a great partner for hamburger buns.  I buttered them up and threw them on the grill.  Flipped.  Topped with cheese.  Then threw a hamburger and various toppings on.  Then you scarf!

Burger Prep

The prepwork for this meal was easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy.  And then the actual cooking part was done outside with my husband (let’s be honest, he did the cooking), lemonade, and my favorite pup, Ramona.  But I wanted some sides for these burgers.  The sweet potato fries sitting in my freezer were an obvious choice.

I also had a Costco amount of sweet peppers in the fridge.  And that’s where our story really begins.  Cheese stuffed sweet peppers are a go to treat around here.  I keep people believing that they’re super hard to make, but really, they’re pretty easy, albeit a little time consuming.  You just have to core a bunch of sweet peppers.  Then I typically stuff with a cream cheese feta mixture.  This time, we had cheddar on hand, so I went with that.

Burger

They look kinda gross because of the blending of colors, which is why I didn’t take a ton of pictures.  But I’ll say this.  There were leftovers of everything but the peppers.

Cheese Stuffed Peppers

  • Sweet peppers (I made 10, but scale accordingly)
  • 4oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar (or feta or be creative and try your own thing)

Take out the cores and tops of the sweet peppers.  Cut a slit up one side of the peppers to create an opening.  Mix up the cheeses.  Now stuff the cheese mixture into the peppers.  I grilled them this time, but I’ve also roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees as well.  The cheese is going to ooze out to an extent.  Just go with it.