i feel incredibly loved

My husband may be the most thoughtful man on earth. I hope everyone finds a “Michael” if they’re looking for one. He is intelligent, quirky (though mostly behind closed doors), an amazing designer and photographer, and incredibly thoughtful. We are coming … Continue reading

Apple Fritters

I’ve always enjoyed apple season. We used to go and pick apples at Stephenson’s Orchard as a family when I was young. My sister and I would climb the trees to get some of the best apples from the tops. I have fond memories of blue rimmed heart shaped sunglasses during these adventures. Yeah 80’s. I don’t think you were supposed to climb the trees but we were little and probably light enough it didn’t matter. We picked a ton of apples, mostly Jonathan apples, and stored them in a fridge in the garage. I miss the convenience of having an extra fridge or freezer. I don’t know if the orchard still exists for picking in the Kansas City area, but the restaurant that had some of the best apple desserts does not. I was always fascinated by their caramel apples, and still am to this day. I’ll be making my own soon so don’t fret. I also have a special place in my heart for fried dough balls filled with apple chunks. 

I picked a variety of recipes for the month of September for the Easy Bake cOven blog but I chose to make the fritters first. I usually get around to making quite a few of the recipes but these were calling me. Michael asked why I bought so many apples at Trader Joe’s when we got back from our NYC trip, my response was baking. It’s usually baking when I buy an excess of one particular ingredient. Unless butter is on sale… 

I don’t fry things often. Sometimes Michael and I will make tortilla chips if we’re out and have nothing but corn tortillas, but this is the extent. Desserts are excessive to start and I feel worse eating something fried. Doughnuts fall in this category. I love doughnuts but don’t have them often. Guilty pleasures. I really enjoyed these little fried dough balls. Simple and quick yet small enough you don’t feel bad eating a few. 

Apple Fritters
Pioneer Woman
I halved the recipe and it made about 2 dozen ping pong ball sized fritters. 

2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
3 T sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
3/4 C milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 T melted butter
2 whole granny smith apples peeled and diced
powdered sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Melt the butter in a large liquid measuring cup and add the milk, egg and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until little flour remains. Add in the apples and stir to combine. 

Heat a couple of inches of canola oil over medium heat. I kept my oil temperature around 325˚F and the fritters took about three minutes each. Using a small cookie scoop, drop a few blobs of dough into the hot oil, don’t overcrowd or your oil will not stay consistently hot. Flip them over to insure even golden brown and test your first batch to make sure they are evenly cooked. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar for eating. 

Almond Spiced Granola

You know how much I like granola right? I like chewy granola and crunchy granola, and I like trying new recipes. I recently adapted a recipe from Whole Foods and though I may have cooked it two minutes longer than I should (I blame allergies for lack of smell) I’ve enjoyed it. It’s versatile because it is sweet and crunchy and no flavor is too overpowering.

If you are like me and feel ravenous before dinner, you can eat it by the handfull while rummaging through your kitchen for something to cook. You could also sprinkle it on muffins before baking, make a delicious yogurt parfait with seasonal fruits and agave nectar (or honey), use it as a topping for ice cream, make trail mix, or scoop it from a bowl filled to the brim with milk.

I like to eat yogurt wearing a toga, but you can wear whatever you like. Any way you eat it, I’m sure you will like it. Feel free to make it something you really love.

Almond Spiced Granola
adapted from Whole Foods

3 C old fashioned oats
3 T whole wheat flour
1 C slivered almonds
1 C pecan pieces
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or equal amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
1 tsp almond extract (or substitute vanilla)
1/2 C honey
1/3 C canola oil

Preheat the oven to 275˚F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silpat. Mix the dry ingredients and nuts in a large bowl. In a measuring cup add oil, honey and vanilla and stir. Add the honey mix into the oats and stir to coat evenly.

Bake for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally to break up the larger pieces. Remove from oven when it’s light brown and fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet for 1 hour or until completely cool (it will crisp up if it seems too wet after baking). Store in an airtight container.

Beet Chips

When I was little, the only beets I knew were in a jar the fridge submerged in dark purpleish-red juice and they were gross. I don’t like pickled beets (Michael does). I don’t like many things pickled but beets are at the top of my list. It wasn’t until I moved to SF that I experienced beets in a positive way. A lot of restaurants jumped on the “beet and goat cheese” bandwagon, and I finally realized I loved roasted beets. Naturally sweet and earthy, how can you resist?

It’s hard to cook beets any other way, or make them different because beets always taste the same. I don’t  eat beets with goat cheese much anymore. The best beet salad I had recently was literally a pile of thinly sliced red and gold beets with a handful of greens, bleu cheese and candied walnuts from Chez Spencer. Yum. I often get tired of roasted beets. When this happens, I go in search of a new recipe. I’ve heard of beet cake, and beetloaf, but the most appealing were beet chips!

We had a little package of beet chips from Whole Foods in my office recently. One of my bosses set them out. My office likes to munch. If they had been normal potato chips, they may have made it past lunch, but the beet chips last a few days. They were thick cut and fried. Shame on you Whole Foods! You don’t have to fry all things to make them taste good. Instead, I sliced up a few beets with the mandoline, sprinkled them lightly with kosher salt and baked them until they were light and crispy. They are delicious and pretty. They also don’t taste as vegetal as the WF fried version. They are a great snack, and most likely an easy way to get kids to eat something different. Who would not try a purple chip?

The only unfortunate thing about beet chips is they shrink so much when you bake them. Almost by half. So, in order to feed a lot of people for an interesting party snack, you would have to peel and slice a lot of beets. Not bad if you have a little time and like pink hands.

Beet Chips
10 medium size beets peeled and sliced thin on a mandoline (or as thin as your knife can slice them)
2 T olive oil (optional)
kosher salt

Slice the beets and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment or a silicone mat. Place the beets in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with salt. (also you can toss the chips in olive oil before placing on the sheet) Bake at 350˚ for 15-20 minutes. Most of the moisture should be gone. Let air dry until completely crisp. Enjoy!

Inspiration from the Humble City of Portland

M and I recently visited Portland over a long weekend for a wedding. I wanted to share some great places we visited while we were there. We are food people and were really excited about the food scene in the city. From kitschy cafes to Voodoo Donuts, Portland has quite the variety of restaurants to fit your occasion or mood. We had a long list of restaurants to choose from, and we made it to quite a few. All were lovely experiences, and we definitely need to go back for some of the rest. 

We started our trip bright and early on a 7am flight, where our attendants happily offered complimentary glasses of wine or beer. It being only 7am, M and I passed, but there were definitely a few takers on the flight. Running on 4 hours of sleep we needed coffee, not alcohol. As soon as we we settled in the hotel, we ventured with M’s parents to Park Kitchen in the Pearl District. The restaurant’s idea of lunch is “a really good short story” observing the time constraints of their lunchtime working customers (I’d like to try their “novel” dinner sometime too). Their menu allows choices of individual items or a lunch combo with a starter, main and a dessert. I can’t remember exactly but I think the latter choice was called something like a Power Lunch. I ordered a Roasted Beet Sandwich with home made potato chips and it was fantastic. It inspired my Meatless Monday meal (see recipe below). There were so many delicious items, including the bread which they get from a local bakery, Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Oh, the bread was divine! I completely fell in love with the rustic country bread they delivered during our lunch. I just don’t understand how people on the low carb diet plans can give up bread.

Ken’s Artisan Country Bread, Photo by M

Park Kitchen Leek Soup, Photo by M
Park Kitchen home made hot dog, Photo by M
Park Kitchen beet sandwich and house potato chips, Photo by M

We visited the Japanese Garden and spent some time on the grounds of Reed College for the wedding ceremony. Both beautiful places. We hiked around two waterfalls and drove a loop around Mt Hood. That is one big mountain! Portland is definitely green and lush. My inlaws fell in love immediately. The weather was in the 90’s which M and I are not used to, but relished in for the time we had. Oh, how I miss summer nights. Maybe we’ll have some summer in September and October (which is usually the case). 

Voodoo Donut: Original Voodoo Doll, Photo by M

Voodoo Donut: Chocolate Frosting, Rice Cereal, Peanut Butter Drizzle, Photo by M

Columbia River Scenic Overlook, Photo by M

Latourell Falls Hike, Photo by M

Latourell Falls, Photo by M

We stopped for coffee at Barista, also in the Pearl District, in a renovated warehouse space with a little loading dock charm. The loading dock is now a quaint little space with tables and chairs for sipping coffee. And not just any coffee. These are not your fast food coffee baristas like Starbucks, and I do appreciate a fantastic latte. I’m willing to wait five minutes for my latte when they look like the image below. Beautiful. I want to learn how to do this. I might use our espresso machine more often. Barista serves Ritual coffee as one of their espresso choices, and Ritual Roasters is one of the best coffee shops in San Francisco. I need pretty cups and saucers like these! 

Pretty! Barista Cappucino
Doesn’t M make a lovely cappuccino face?

Mt Hood, Photo by M

We had a nice time in this small town. Yes, it is small. It feels small. but it’s clean and happy. I didn’t take any more pictures of our food, but I hope this inspired you to try something new. If you aren’t able to travel this fall, find a local restaurant in your home town to support. They do exist! Check out our list below for some of the places we couldn’t fit in, and some of the places we fell in love with above. Don’t forget to eat your beets in sandwich form next Meatless Monday

Beet Sandwich
2 large beets

To roast your beets, preheat your oven to 425˚F. Wash your beets and cut off the stem and tail (the tail always reminds me of a little rat.. just what you want to think about when cooking!). You can remove the skins before or after they are roasted – just a matter of preference since they will still stain your fingers pink no matter the order. Center the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil and coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold the sides of foil together to create a sealed pocket. Roast for one hour. Remove and let cool. Peel the skins off if you haven’t already and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds. 

For the Sandwich (serves 2 with some Beets left over)
4 pieces good quality bread
goat cheese

To assemble the sandwiches, toast the bread. On one piece of bread spread some goat cheese, on the other piece of bread spread a thin layer of tahini. Lay 4-6 beet slices on the bread and top with lettuce. Simple, delicious and vegetarian. 

Here is the list of restaurants and places to visit M and I made, with great suggestions from friends and co-workers. If you are ever in the Portland area, please check out the great local restaurants below! 

We used a variety of guides including GQ City Guides: Portland, CitySearch Portland, and UrbanSpoon: Portland 

places to eat:

The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks Roasted Veggie Polenta

It’s not pretty, but it’s definitely delicious… and cheap! If you cooking on a budget, and don’t feel the need for meat, this recipe is for you. I have been wanting to cook polenta from scratch for a long time now. It seems to be the new craze in restaurants these days – similar to the popularity of Beets and Goat cheese (which I still love). Polenta can be prepared healthy, or with loads of cream and cheese. I’ve had it both ways, but this recipe follows a healthier route. 

Previously I have only used pre-made polenta. The kind you buy in a tube from Trader Joe’s. It’s boring, and you can’t doctor it up too much without frying it in butter. I actually have nothing against frying it (especially in the form of Polenta Fries), and want to try this recipe out sometime. It is from a Food Network show filmed here in SF…. yep, apparently figure skaters can cook… Brian Boitano invented these, and they would be perfect for party hors d’oeuvres. (Insert the giggles here, I can’t really believe this show exists). 

The recipe below is similar, but healthier, and vegetarian. Works well for Meatless Mondays. The roasted vegetable sauce was really tasty, and the texture of the polenta was just right. Apparently this is still considered Peasant Food according to Wikipedia, but peasant food is fine with me and my belly. Happy cooking to you all.  

Roasted Vegetable Polenta
Adapted from Cooking Books Blog
Printer Friendly Version
For the roasted veggies:
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
handful of mushrooms, washed and quartered
1 small green pepper, sliced
1 small red pepper, sliced
2 gloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
Small handful of fresh basil leaved, chopped
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Toss the chopped veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat.  Roast for 20-25 minutes. You might want to stir them or shake the pan occasionally to prevent sticking. The vegetables should be browned and fragrant by the end.
Meanwhile, measure the rest of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 C of the roasted veggies to the mix and blend until fairly smooth. Transfer the sauce and the remaining roasted vegetables to a large saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on low until the Polenta is finished. Remove the lid and return the sauce to medium-high heat. Cook off some of the liquid so your polenta doesn’t get soggy.  

For the polenta:1 cup polenta
3 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
Salt & pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt and fresh black pepper)
1/2  cup gruyère cheese, shredded (I used Mozzarella)
Whisk together the cornmeal with 1 cup of the water in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the rest of the water to a boil, then add the cornmeal and the optional cheese to the boiling water and turn down the heat to medium low. Add the rest of the ingredients, then stir continuously for about 10-15 minutes. The polenta will become very thick and stiff. Pour it into a casserole dish that’s been lightly oiled, and smooth it out. A 10” round casserole dish is a good size. The polenta will set up thick enough to slice wih a knife.

To assemble, pour the roasted veggie sauce over the top of the polenta. Cut and serve. Makes 4 generous servings. 

For more vegetarian cooking options check out these cookbooks:
The New Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen's Classic Cooking)

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

My House is a Crepe House

For the month of June, my other blog, the Easy Bake cOven was supposed to make some crepe creations. I had a base recipe from Alton Brown that allowed for great experimentation. I have eaten quite a few crepes in my day, but never made one. I know someone with a special pan, but you can make them in a non-stick and burn your fingers too. At the exact moment a little pad of butter was singeing off my fingerprints, I was wishing for a giant crepe maker like you see at fancy crepe restaurants. Oh, you haven’t seen a crepe cooker before? (and I assure you this is the technical term “crepe cooker”) I’ll show you. 

Isn’t she a beauty? Yes, I agree that had I used those utensils instead of my fingers for flipping I may not have burned them. I should probably get a heat proof spatula… 

I don’t know why, but for some reason I just really wanted to make crepes this month. I have been so busy working the past couple of weeks that I haven’t baked much… and I feel like I am missing a leg. I don’t really have the energy to bake after a 11 hour day and I don’t even want to think about dishes. I’ve been falling asleep randomly on the couch at night while watching tv, or trying to keep my eyelids open while watching a movie, and thankfully our project deadline has passed. This zombie is ready for a long weekend! 

While I was so busy working, I completely forgot to prepare for Meatless Monday this week. So, M and I had a meatless Wednesday. I sort of snuck it in. He caught on at dinner. hehe. I made savory crepes for dinner, and sweet crepes for dessert (along with two cakes for my office). There is nothing like catching up on your baking in one day. 

For dinner, I stole some ideas from the new grilled cheese restaurant near my office. I made crepes with rosemary and basil in the batter, filled with sauteed mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, red onion, and fontina cheese. They were pretty delicious – and super easy! You can even make a bunch of crepes and freeze them for later – or prepare the batter up to two days in advance. You can also fill them with just about anything you might want to eat for breakfast. 

During this crepe-a-thon, I realized how handy the shredding blade was for my food processor. Not for anything crepe related, but for shredding carrots for the cake. they make longer shreds, but it didn’t seem to make a difference in the cake. Beats shredding those by hand with a standing grater! Everyone needs a food processor! 

Cuisinart DFP-7BC 7 Cup Food Processor

I finished my cakes and started on the dessert course. I had no liquor to add to the batter, but they were still tasty. Anything smothered in hazelnut and strawberries is ok with me. I didn’t use Nutella, I used the Italian counterpart Loacker, which is just as great. I sliced up some fresh strawberries and rolled up a crepe with more chocolate spread than necessary.

Results were great. If you haven’t ever made a crepe, you should try it. It is super easy, and the options are endless. See what the rest of the group made at the cOven

Meatless Mondays

Image courtesy of Make a Whisk

Meatless Mondays. Has a nice ring to it. Kind of like Wordless Wednesdays from one of the blogs I follow. Meatless Mondays is a non-profit initiative in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, determined to help reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet. Endorsed by Paul McCartney and Michael Pollan, the campaign has achieved social status and reached our city leaders here in SF.

Recently, San Francisco supervisor Sophie Maxwell introduced this movement to the Board of Supervisors, who passed a resolution for the Bay Area to follow suit and try and reduce meat consumption on Mondays. This resolution is extending from home, to restaurants, and public schools to encourage vegetarian options for consumption on Mondays. Although it cannot be enforced, at least our political community is aware of the overconsumption of meat and the consequences it causes.  

The Meatless Mondays website gives some history on how our country has done this successfully in the past, during both world wars. Spearheaded by Herbert Hoover, during the World War, Americans living in New York City saved 116 tons of meat in one week. They passed out pamphlets and recipes, much like the MM website has done today. This campaign began in 2003 as an awareness campaign to help Americans reduce saturated fats and reduce the risk of preventable disease, like heart disease. 

The website also has an assortment of Recipes to try for all meals. Surely there is something in there for us all. I really like this idea and starting Monday, today, M and I are going to follow suit and not eat meat on Mondays. We have drastically cut our meat consumption over the past two years or so, but having a day set aside specifically for vegetarian meals is a good thing. It is also easy to plan for, and not easy to pass up since it is the beginning of the week. If it were meatless Thursdays, we could possibly end up going out for chinese food and having a hard time passing up green bean chicken…. 

So to all of you out there who might be up for a change, a healthy change, join us for Meatless Mondays next week.