Monday, September 22, 2014

Gray's 1st Birthday: Spiced Applesauce Cake

“when i have said my evening prayer, 
and my clothes are folded on my chair, 
mama and papa switch off the light, 
i'll still be 11 months old tonight. 

 but from the very break of day, 
before the children rise and play, 
before the darkness turns to gold, 
tomorrow i'll be one years old… 
one kiss when i wake, 
one candle on my cake. 

 a goodnight kiss for the eleven month old 
to send him to sleep and to dreaming. 
and blessings to the one year old 
who'll be carried from bed in the morning.”

And so it happened. Today, on the first day of fall, our baby turns 1 year old. I've held this body and looked at this face change every day and night for 365 days. We have only been apart for an hour or so here and there. Gray has completed our family. It's a bittersweet ending to the infant chapter of life at our house. And, as the old story goes, it went by so fast.

Spiced Applesauce Cake
from Smitten Kitchen

For cake
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped

For frosting
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square or round cake pan. I had no trouble getting my cake out of a nonstick pan by just buttering it, but if you don’t have a nonstick cake pan or are a little nervous, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter that too.

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using). The batter will look a little curdly and uneven but don’t worry, it will all bake up perfectly in the end.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely. You can speed this up, as I always do, in the fridge.

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.


Friday, September 19, 2014

After School Snacks: Wholesome Banana Bread & Chia Pudding


This year I was armed and ready for the after school crash. Dylan is just 4 years old and his preschool days really drain him and sometimes that draining turns after school time at home into crazy town. Happily, that hasn't happened much this September but maybe we are in the honeymoon phase? Either way, I have been surprising him with sweet homemade snacks for after school (remember his serious sweet tooth!) and audio books queued up for a rest on the sofa. So far, banana bread made with date sugar and walnuts and chia pudding made with coconut milk and nectarines have been winners. Both are special, filling, and healthful.

PS. Photos snapped on my phone from one of our recent walks.


Wholesome Banana Bread
makes 1 9-inch loaf or 2 smaller loaves

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup date sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl beat together the sugar and eggs for about 5 minutes then drizzle in the melted coconut oil.

Add the bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla and mix just until combined. Using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture and nuts just until evenly mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours for a 9-inch loaf and about 45 minutes for 2 smaller loaves. It's done when the top is golden brown and the center springs back when you touch it. Let the bread cool in the pan for 30 minutes then pop out to cool completely.


Cooking with chia seeds was totally new to me but it was so super fun and easy! I didn't realize all you do is shake the seeds in a liquid mixture and they magically turn to pudding. This is a total science experiment (and involves aggressive shaking) so it's perfect for kids.

Coconut-Nectarine Chia Pudding
makes 6-8 snacks

1 can lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup chia seeds
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup peeled and diced nectarines (you can use any fruit you like - banana, mango, blueberries)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch cinnamon

Put all the ingredients in a large mason jar, stir, secure the lid and shake for 1 full minute. Let the jar rest on the counter for 15 minutes then shake again. Put the jar in the fridge and wait 2-3 hours for the pudding to thicken. When you are ready to serve, scoop it out and top with anything you like from extra maple syrup to fruit slices, nuts, or toasted coconut.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Thighs: Two Ways

Our fall schedule is in full swing - preschool, carpools, soccer practice, and everything in between. Our days are packed tight and come dinner time we are all overtired and hungry. A few weeks ago I experimented with a dump a lot of stuff in the cast iron skillet and throw chicken thighs on top of it recipe and, because it worked so well, that method is now our go to weekday dinner. I

f you're not a chicken eater it's worth making these recipes and simply omitting the chicken. The underlying vegetables, grains, and beans are my favorite parts. Here are our two top combinations:

Chicken Thighs with Chard, Barley & Zucchini:
serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup barley
1 cup chicken stock (sub vegetable stock if you'd like)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 bunch swiss chard, leaves removed from stems and torn into small pieces
1 small zucchini, cut lengthwise then sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
4 springs fresh thyme,
Kosher salt and black pepper

Fist, preheat the oven to 425 F. Add the olive oil to a cast iron skillet and pour in the barley, chicken stock, tomatoes, chard, zucchini, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss well with your hands and mash the whole tomatoes up as you go. Crank on some pepper.

Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the mixture, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and toss in the thyme. Roast for 35-45 minutes. If you like extra crisp skin, put the pan under the broiler for the last few minutes.


Chicken Thighs with White Beans, Kale & Tomatoes:
serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 15-ounces cans cannellini beans, rinsed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (leave out for kids)
1 bunch kale, leaves remove from stems and torn into small pieces
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
4 springs fresh thyme
1/2 a lemon, sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper


First, preheat the oven to 425 F. Add the olive oil to a cast iron skillet and pour in the beans, tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper, kale, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Crank on some pepper. Toss with your hands.

Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the mixture, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and toss in the thyme and lemon slices. Roast for 35-45 minutes. If you like extra crisp skin, put the pan under the broiler for the last few minutes.


Friday, September 12, 2014

September Gentle Food Cleanse

Join us for September's Gentle Food Cleanse! A few lovely notes from last month's cleanse participants:

"I feel so much better, so in control and the best part is: 13 pounds lighter thus far. I am eternally grateful to you for showing me the way."

"I look better, leaner and my skin is awesome!!!"

"I feel like I am cooking more then ever and learning about new foods which is pretty cool."


21 Day Gentle Food Cleanse 

Length: 21 days

Cost: $200

When: September 22nd - October 12th (must enroll by September 17th in order to get properly set up)

Where: From wherever you are 

Goal: Over the 21 days you will slowly remove unwanted foods from your diet (like alcohol and processed foods) as you focus on supportive foods (like green vegetables and healthy fats). Every three days you will receive important information on the health benefits of these supportive foods and simple but exciting recipes to go along with them. You will have a personal calendar to keep you organized and prepared. This is an intense program but those who commit to it learn a lot about their bodies and see real results in terms of weight loss and increased energy.

Your program includes...

  • e-mail exchange every 3 days plus support in between
  • recipes that are healthy and simple to prepare
  • coaching and support to help you make dietary and lifestyle changes
  • simple but informative handouts that will increase your nutrition knowledge
  • personalized 21 day calendar outlining the removal and focus phases
Sound interesting? If you'd like to sign up or learn more email me!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beach Plum Jelly

This recipe comes from my mother in law and it is one that she has been making (according to Nick) every summer for his whole life. Maybe I was too pregnant to waddle down the bushy paths last summer but this year the beach plums seem to be going crazy. I have always been intimated by making jelly at home but his recipe is straight forward and has three decades of family testing behind it.



Beach Plum Jelly
Makes 6 8-ounce jars

First Step is to make juice:
10 cups whole beach plums
2 cups water
Place the beach plums in a large saucepan, crush, and add water.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until soft. While they cook, crush the fruit with a potato masher periodically and stir to keep from sticking.




Filter the juice through jelly bag or strainer lined with cheese cloth. Hang your straining system over a bowl and let it drip overnight. DON'T SQUEEZE, no matter how tempted you are to get more juice.  Jelly will be cloudy if you squeeze.

Yield:  3 1/2 cups beach plum juice




Second step is to make jelly:
3 1/2 cups beach plum juice
6 cups sugar
3 ounces liquid pectin (1 pouch)
Place all the above ingredients in large saucepan and mix well. Bring to boil over high heat and boil hard for  1 minute - stirring constantly. Remove from heat - skim off foam with the back of a spoon.
Pour into the prepared jars (note below). Cover jars, seal, and let stand until set.  Jar lids will pop when sealed.


Note: Sterilize the jars by placing them in a large pot, cover with water, and boil for 10 minutes. Place the lids and rings in a separate pot, bring to a bowl, then lower to keep warm.




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Farro Kale Salad

We felt pressure this weekend to pack in as many last minute summer festivities as possible (just put out the s'mores fire!) while prepping for the start of a new school year tomorrow. I wonder how long this winter is right around the corner better go swimming again!! feeling is going to last. Today's epic back to school grocery trip made me realize how the new fall schedule means a lot of eating on the go. In a perfect world, I'd always have a bowl of this Farro Kale Salad in the fridge to pick at. Samples of it were passed out at the farmer's market a few weeks ago and everyone around me was oohing and awing. So delicious.


Farro Kale Salad 
From Kale, Glorious Kale by Catherine Walthers

5-6 cups kale leaves, stripped off of stalks and torn or chopped into small pieces (1 small bunch)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion, minced (or in my case sliced thin)
1 cup of farro
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, 1 tart apple, diced, or 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries (or any combination)
4 ounces feta cheese

Dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. Wash and spin dry the kale. Chop into small pieces. Add to a large bowl, lightly salt and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Vigorously toss and massage the salt and oil into the kale until well coated.

2. Place farro in a large saucepan and cover with 2 quarts of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Farro has a similar texture to barley when cooked, and has a nice toothy texture. Drain well, and combine with the kale. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.


3. Chop the onion, dill and parsley, and add to the kale and farro along with the pomegranate seeds, and apple or dried fruit, if using.

4. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and gently toss. Place in a serving bowl or platter and top with the feta cheese.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Potato, Leek & Zucchini Tart

I have decided September is not only my favorite weather month but is also my favorite food month. Both the temperature and food is right on the edge of summer and fall. The morning starts off cozy but gives way to a hot summer day. The warm weather produce is still everywhere (tomatoes, berries, and summer squashes) but I'm less terrified to turn my oven on at dinner time. Is there a place where it is September every day? If so, I'm interested in moving there.

Around the corner from Dylan's favorite afternoon swimming pond is a farm stand that we frequent. Maybe it is these chilly nights and final (1 day!!) count down to school but I'm crying over savoring the final moments of our summer routine.


Potato, Leek & Zucchini Tart
makes 2 tarts
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise and rinsed well
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 ounces Feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 red potatoes, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, cut into wedges (for serving)
2 pie crusts (recipe below)

Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup cold water


First, make the pie crusts:

In a food processor, combine flour and salt then pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if necessary, add up to 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time). To help ensure a flaky crust, do not overprocess.

Transfer half of dough (still crumbly) onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form dough into a disk 3/4 inch thick; wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days). Repeat with remaining dough. (Disks can be frozen, tightly wrapped, up to 3 months. Thaw before using.) Makes 2 disks. 


To make the tarts:

Heat oven to 375. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, zucchini, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, about 10 minutes (you want all the liquid to evaporate so the tart is not soggy). Fold in the feta and dill. 

Roll the two rounds of crust dough into 12-inch circles and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spoon the vegetable mixture onto the two crust rounds, leaving 2-inch borders. Fold the borders of the crust over the filling. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and serve with lemon wedges.





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Roasted Sweet Cherry Fool

I trace my love for meringues and whipped cream back to Angel Pie. If you've never heard of it, Angel Pie first appeared in the 1950s Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook and is a meringue crusted pie filled with soft custard, curd, or chocolate and topped with whipped cream. As a kid, Angel Pie was a staple at all of our family events - birthday parties, Thanksgiving, and Easter. There is just something about the chewy meringue and fluffy cream that is completely comforting and addictive. So when I was flipping through The Nourished Kitchen and spotted Roasted Sweet Cherry Fool I knew it was next on my list.

A fool is essentially a deconstructed and mashed up Angle Pie. Every bite has a bit of fruit, cream, and meringue. This was my first experience roasting cherries and man oh man I'll do it again. The smell is incredible and the little fruits just leak blood red juice.

Roasted Sweet Cherry Fool
serves 4 to 6
From The Nourished Kitchen

2 pounds sweet cherries, such as Bing
1 tablespoon unrefined cane sugar
Pinch finely group unrefined sea salt
1 tablespoon kirsch
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 meringues, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Remove the pits from the cherries, and, as you do, drop the cherries into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and kirsch, then toss the cherries until evenly coated. Transfer the cherries to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and spread them into a single layer. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once, until they release their fragrance. Allow the cherries to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Pour the cream into a bowl and add the vanilla. Whip with a whisk until the cream holds soft peaks. Stir the cherries and their juice into the whipped cream and fold in the chopped meringues. Serve in individual glasses or bowls.

The Fair grounds are officially deserted but Dylan picked up his ribbons this week and is seriously psyched on them. His fair entries included: a scarecrow, crayon Titanic drawing, and zucchini bread. I love how those three items perfectly sum him up. It'll be fun to see how his fair entries change over the next few years.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwiches

Last summer when Dylan would ask me when his baby brother was going to be born I would always answer "after the fair". It's a huge annual mark for everyone here - telling us that it is soon back to school and the end of another summer. This year, the excitement started early. We would be driving someplace and out of nowhere I'd hear from the back seat "first I'm going to go on that motorcycle ride then in the ball pit".

We rode all the rides, ate the local food, won ribbons for baked goods and scarecrows, visited the new piglets, and watched the horse pull. There was a planned ride on the carousel with both boys and an unplanned ride on Dizzy Dragons with both boys. I don't have a single photograph from anything over the four days because, let me tell you, taking two kids to a summer fair solo is not a "let me wander with my camera" type of thing. I think we will all sleep well tonight.


So...sandwiches. It feels like sandwich weather here and this is a delicious and simple one. I hope you enjoy it.

Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwiches
serves 4 to 6
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

4 whole roasted peppers (either homemade or jarred)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons drained capers

For assembling
1 large ciabatta bread, halved horizontally
1 (11-ounce) goat cheese, at room temperature
2 cups baby arugula
3 thin slices red onion

Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Toss peppers and capers in, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread the bottom half of the loaf with the goat cheese. Add a layer of peppers and then a layer of separated onion rings. Sprinkle with arugula and top with the top half of the ciabatta and cut into individual servings.


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