Sunday, October 12, 2014

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm a sucker for a good chocolate chip cookie. Always have been since I was a little kid. One of my favorite memories from kid-hood is coming home from school and making chocolate chip cookies with my mom. Warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven....pure comfort. 

I like to take a basic recipe, like a cookie, and give it my own tweak. With chocolate chip cookies, I've made some pretty yummy variations, including one with dried cherries and toasted pecans and a sweet and salty compost cookie with butterscotch chips, pretzels and Fritos. Sometimes I just like the old standard baked with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on the top.

Are you a fan of browned butter like me? Does your mouth water from that incredible nutty aroma that rolls through the kitchen while you are cooking the brown butter? It makes a pretty killer chocolate chip cookie! Drizzled over roasted butternut squash with sage and risotto or blended into a creamy buttercream icing for vanilla bean cupcakes....browned butter is such a treat. And easy to make. 

I promise.

To make browned butter, just cut up your stick (or sticks) of unsalted butter into slices and place it into a light-colored saucepan. Place heat on medium and let butter melt. After butter is completely melted let it continue to cook, stirring often. The butter will foam and sputter as the water is released and you will see the milk proteins in the bottom turning brown (hence the need to keep stirring, so they don't burn). 

As soon as you get a nice, light brown color and nutty smell, remove from the heat and pour butter into another bowl to cool (it will keep cooking and you don't want it to burn.) You can use immediately or refrigerate if you need the butter solidified or plan to store it.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup browned butter, chilled until firm
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, chopped (toasted if you like)

Make browned butter and chill it until firm. Preheat oven to 350F.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffly. Add vanilla and then one egg at a time, blending well and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and then add to the mixer bowl. Mix until blended. Add chocolate chips and pecans and mix just until incorporated. 
Portion dough with a small cookie scoop or tablespoon measure onto a sheet pan lined with parchment. Cook in pre-heated oven until golden brown, about 10-11 minutes.
*This recipe makes a softer cookie with crisp edges.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Best Homemade Granola

Isn't breakfast like the best meal of the day sometimes? 
I have made granola from scratch many times over the years. It fills my home with such a roasty, wonderful smell. I can hardly wait till it's cooled off to munch on it.
This granola has to be the best I've ever made. In fact, I'm kinda obsessed with it.
It doesn't help that my buddy Samantha brought me Noosa Passion Fruit yogurt.
It's mind-blowing deliciousness together. 
I don't know if she knows how much I love passion fruit, but she's pretty intuitive....and a bad ass chef girl to boot.

My top 5 coolest things about making granola yourself:

  • It's easy to make! Basically, dump, stir, bake, cool, eat, swoon.
  • Totally customizable - you choose your favorite add-ins, flavors, spices, etc. Make it lighter with less fat and sweetener or go all out for a more decadent version and add some chocolate chips while you are at it!
  • It makes a great breakfast AND a fantastic dessert.
  • Cheaper than buying it.
  • It makes your house smell like heaven.

For this batch, I used pecans, a dried fruit blend of blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries {my fav - like little seedy gems!}, a mix of maple syrup and sorghum, unsweetened coconut flakes, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter.  So so good.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Chicken Slaw with Feta and Citrus

I totally snagged the idea for this super easy and delish meal from one of my favorite casual restaurants, Zoe's Kitchen. Jay and I like to hit up Zoe's when we are out running errands or after working out, and when don't want to spend lots of $$$ to eat out. They have a Mediterranean vibe with some healthier options. Jay always gets chicken kabobs and this dish has become my new go-to.
They call it the "power protein plate". Basically it's a feta cabbage slaw with chicken and caramelized onions. Are you drooling yet?? 
Last time we went to Zoe's I told Jay, "I'm so making this at home myself". Here it is!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jay's Tater Tot Hash Brown Waffles

This happened. Oh yes it did. And I gotta give the hubs all the props here.
So, let's talk about how this golden, crispy bit of heaven happened.

Last weekend, Jay and I went to a crafting party at our friend Bonnie's house. We made fun, handmade soy candles {thanks Katie for the inspiration and teaching!}
In case you are wondering....yes, Jay was the only guy there. He is always game for doing anything artsy and well.....hanging out with a bunch of fabulous ladies is just a bonus. I love that about him.

During the party, Sarah happened to mention making hash browns with tater tots on her waffle iron. 
Oh boy....I didn't even have to glance at Jay and I knew his face was lit up like a Christmas tree. 
This news may have become the highlight of his day and his whole reason for showing up at this party.
Let's just say Jay loves tater tots A LOT!

So now Jay was a man on a tater tot hash brown mission. He quickly hit up a buy-one-get-one tater tot sale at the grocery and we were in business.
Let me just confirm two things....
These were scary good and it was oddly satisfying to smash the tots into shape on the waffle iron. 
Kids would so love doing this too {aren't we all kids at heart?}.

So, you really don't need a recipe for making this little gem. You just grab some frozen tater tots and thaw them in the microwave. Put them on the hot, lightly greased waffle iron and close it, smashing the tots down. Cook for about 7-8 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt to taste and copious amounts of ketchup.
{Warning: these are so tasty you might want to make them daily. Your waistline may not like that.}
Thank you Sarah for the tater tot inspiration.....they were delish and made my husband a very happy man. You rock!

Monday, June 30, 2014

My Favorite Summertime Watermelon Smoothie

I gotta say. I love a good watermelon. Blend it up and it's just the most refreshing smoothie for hot summer days. Watermelon margaritas sound kind of awesome too....hmmmm.
Isnt' it awesome when you pick out your big ole melon, bring it home and slice into find that beautiful, bright pink flesh. Ripe, juicy, fruit happiness.

This smoothie is my go-to for a quick breakfast or post-workout treat. Whatcha been blending up lately?

Watermelon & Banana Smoothie
Serves 2-4

2 bananas, peeled and frozen
3-4 cups of chopped watermelon
1/2 lime, juiced
1/8 teaspoon rose water {optional, I like it either way}

Place everything in your high-powered blender and process until smooth. Drink and say "ahhhhhhh".

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vegan Coconut, Mango & Passion Fruit Ice Cream

God knows I have a wicked sweet tooth. 
I've been craving fruity sweets lately - but trying to find some ways to make dessert a little healthier. I had my heart set on making some mango popsicles the other day, but couldn't find my molds. 
So, improvisation takes over.

I think this time, I hit the jackpot. Fruity, summer ice cream with no dairy, just a little sweetener, and three of my favorite flavors together - mango, coconut, and passion fruit!

These Haitian mangoes were incredibly delicious! I can't wait to get some more.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Strawberries Three Ways!

We ran away. Just for one night.
Jay and I took a quick trip up to Blue Ridge, GA this past weekend and it was a little slice of heaven. 
Rainy and green, it was quiet up there. The earth smelled of delicious dampness and I felt a slowing down of myself that lasted for several days.

A few highlights from our trip:

Dinner at Harvest on Main - patio dining is the best and our meal was super tasty {I ♥ the smoked salmon and trout spread}.
We stayed in the Bungalow at The Fernbrook Inn,  just a few minutes from down town Blue Ridge. Cozy bed, big ole tub with jets, and sweet Debbie, who cooked breakfast and chatted with us.
Lastly, there's Mercier Orchards. I'd been wanting to visit in the fall during apple picking season. Apparently it is swamped then. So, they had fresh strawberries when we went and I couldn't resist. My dessert-making brain couldn't wait to get working on the luscious, perfumed beauties.

Monday, April 21, 2014

From Florida with Love...and Blueberry Crumble

We just got home from our annual trip down to Tampa to see my family. Geez, time flies when you are on vacay doesn't it?
One minute you are changing your work voice mail and out of office message for your trip. The next are back at home in your mirror admiring your new beach tan and feeling a bit melancholy that it all went by so fast.

So, a few highlights from our visit....

These handsome chickens in Chuck's back yard. First time I've literally gathered fresh, warm eggs from a hen house and cooked them up the next day for breakfast. Wonderful.

Lettuce Lake Park
Jay caught this guy as he was making his way around the swampy parts of Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa {perfectly happy to have missed him.....gators give me the creeps!}. 
Great park to visit on the Hillsborough River.... with lovely big oak trees, a boardwalk for walking and observing wildlife, and a 40 foot high observation tower.
You can even rent canoes.

North Redington Beach
This is the place. Our second year staying at the Hotel Isis in Redington Shores and we love it here. My brother John got married here in 2005 and it feels so lovely to stay here and remember that day.
Charming, boutique hotel. Quiet and pretty beach. Heavenly, heated pool. And the most awesome shrimp salad and crab cakes at the Shubee Shack right down the street {the first place we hit when we get to the area!}

This is Mazzaro's Italian Market. We hit it on our way back from the beach driving through St. Petersburg. My friend Tim in Atlanta advised that we just had to go and it was so worth it! It was a mad house and I loved every minute of the Italian foodie craziness {my grandmother, Olga, was Italian - so it's in the blood}. 
Fresh produce, meats, huge cheese selection, wine, coffee bar, bakery, and large outdoor seating. The deli was THE place to people watch while they rocked out the orders like a well-oiled machine.
My vote for best panini ever - pepperoni, fresh mozz, banana peppers, marinara. Super impressed.

Oxford Exchange
We spent an afternoon in downtown Tampa, walking through University of Tampa and down by the water {yep, we saw a family of manatees too!}. My sister-in-law took us to the Oxford Exchange for lunch. Hip lil' place with a restaurant {digging their Matcha Lemonade}, spots to hang and drink Buddy Brew coffee or Tebella Tea, a bookstore, and a gift shop. Beautiful people ya'll.

Steel Magnolia's Restaurant
Jay and I always like to find some unique place to stop and eat on our drive back to Atlanta. Skipping fast food is one goal and exploring a new town is another. Plus, we kill time and miss rush hour traffic. Yay. 
This time we discovered Steel Magnolia's in Valdosta, Ga.
Cute little place {I fell for it when I spied all the little vintage dishes lined up in the window}. Loved the truffle fries a little bit too much. 

Of course, we are always grateful to spend time with my family. Talking about food and planning our next meal seems to spontaneously happen....a lot. We're just foodies I guess. 
My mom cooked up my favorite cornmeal waffle and I made a blueberry crumble for everyone one night. Love. 

Blueberry Crumble
Serves 8

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart


6 cups blueberries {I used frozen}
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 F. 
Make the filling: Mix blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish.
Make the topping: Stir together flour, oats, baking powder, salt and sugar. Break the softened butter into small pieces with your hands and drop into the dry ingredients. Using your hands, rub the butter pieces until blended into dry ingredients and you have clumps.
Sprinkle topping evenly over filling. Bake until bubbling in center and brown on top, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 30 minutes before serving. 
*We served it with vanilla ice cream...cinnamon ice cream would be nice too.