Levain Bakery Follow Up: The Homemade Version

If you recall, when we went to New York, I tried the famous Levain Bakery cookies and decided they were alright, but not hands down the greatest cookies of all time. Remember? I even made a preposterous claim that I liked my own cookie recipe better. 

As a result, I decided that I needed to turn the flavor of my cookies into the size, shape, and texture of the Levain cookies, and set to work. My two biggest peeves with the Levain cookies were a) the walnuts and b) the (lack of) a good dough flavor, so that's what I set out to "fix." 

There are a number of food bloggers on the interwebs that have already undertaken replica Levain recipes, so I started there. This one looked good, but a friend had already tried making this one and declared it was amazing, so that's the one I ended up using as my base recipe. That one turned out to be a good one, since the baker had already done the hard work of figuring out how much flour and chocolate chips were required to make up for the removed walnuts. And so I got to work. Here's what I did:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup frozen salted butter (grated on a cheese grater)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the grated butter and the two kinds of sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. (I do this step in three batches.)
  7. Once all the ingredients are fully mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips. (There are a lot of chocolate chips, so don't be alarmed.)
  8. Scoop the dough into baseball-sized dough balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with either a baking mat or parchment paper. There should be no more than four per sheet. Do not flatten the dough balls.
  9. Bake the cookies for 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are the perfect shade of golden brown.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes to finish the baking process.
  11. EAT THOSE COOKIES.

And oh. my. goodness. These were actually the best cookies I've ever had. My husband said, "I don't know how anyone could finish one of those in one sitting. I had a half of a half and I'm full!"

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Well, folks, I'm here to say that I CAN finish one in one sitting, although I will also say that I probably wouldn't want to eat anything else until the next day, so if you make this recipe, eat at your own (delicious) risk. My friend Rachael and I sat down and consumed them alongside a glass of wine and the finale of The Bachelorette. They were, as she posted to Snapchat...

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Tea Time with Friends

Well, I blinked and two weeks went by. Just call me Rip Van Winkle already, ok? It feels like a lot of things are going on but at the same time not much is happening. Part of it might be because I'm used to feeling somewhat stressed at this time of year due to the busy season at work, and that is only something I'm hearing about (rather than experiencing personally) this year. In a way, I feel a little guilty getting together with friends during the work day since I know that so many of my coworkers are under the summer pressure, but that's when I try to remember that I have a tiny human depending on me to stay alive 24/7. I guess that's its own kind of stress, but decidedly of a different sort.

Speaking of friends, a couple of my best ones and I decided to get afternoon tea along with our small offspring. A daunting thought, to be sure, but made easier by the fact that two of the three babes aren't mobile yet and are fairly content to sit in our laps, and the third is still in the womb for the next 11 weeks or so. It all sounded rather proper and lovely, and so we decided to risk the possibility that the babies could lose it while there and went anyway.

Fortunately, both babies were well behaved (though mine required a snack toward the end) and we had a grand old time. Initially we were headed to the Wenham Tea House, but we realized at the last minute that they weren't open every day and had to change our plans. Instead, we hightailed it to Salem and tried Jolie Tea Company, and it was well worth the extra couple of miles to get there. They offered over 80 kinds of looseleaf tea on their menu, and had a variety of either individual pastries or small combinations of pastries and pots of tea at very reasonable prices. For example, all three of us chose to get "La Petite Tea," which came with a pot of any kind of tea on the menu, along with a scone, a madeleine cookie, and a French macaron for $9.95. Considering some of the teas were around $7 a pot, I consider that a pretty good deal.

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It was so nice that we all declared we wished we could do it once a week. While that isn't really feasible, we'll definitely make it a regular event, and it inspired me to try to make time for creating that type of thing at my own home. Especially as Elise gets older, I think it would be fun for her to have a real, delightful tea party every once in awhile!

It also reinforced how grateful I am for this group of friends. What a blessing it is to have seen each other through the college years, first jobs, boyfriends, engagements, weddings, and now babies. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they're a big part of mine!

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NYC Eats: Levain Bakery

We're currently in NYC. Chaz needed to travel here for work, so Elise and I decided to come along for the ride! We'll save the "Here's how we traveled with a baby!" post for another time, since not EVERY post on this here blog should be baby-focused. Instead, we'll turn our gaze toward my other great love: cookies. Though I don't have extensive familiarity with NYC (having only been here twice and only walking around at night), I have lots and lots of experience with cookies, and while I wouldn't use the term connoisseur, per se, perhaps we can consider me something close to it. In other words...I freaking love chocolate chip cookies and will seek them out if I get an opportunity.

That opportunity came knocking on this trip. When we arrived at the hotel yesterday, I spent our initial couple of hours soothing an overstimulated, travel-weary baby into slumber while Chaz went out and got us some chicken tenders for a quick dinner. While he was out, he took it upon himself to look up some things for Elise and me to do during the day, since he would be working. What he found was a bakery with a claim to the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Since he knows me well, he sent me the link, and I immediately added it to our agenda for the next day. Truth be told...it was the ONLY item on the agenda for the next day.

Well, today was "the next day," so after Elise took her morning nap, we set out on a mission to try the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Things started well. I put Elise in the wrap (looking at you with allllllll the heart eyes, Solly Baby wrap!) and stuck the diaper backpack on my back, so I probably looked like a turtle with a shell on both sides. What a sight. Speaking of...we happened to find a turtle on our excursion:

Moving on.

I could either take a bus, walk + subway, or just walk for 45 minutes. I went with the last option, because a) walking is good for me and b) I didn't feel like figuring out the bus system. Since the walking + subway option was going to take me as long as just walking, I figured that if I needed to change a diaper midway there, it'd be easier to do it on foot rather than on a train.

Off we went! We hit up Starbucks for a late breakfast, and then made our way west...until five blocks later, when I'd already developed a blister and it had started to rain. Not the most auspicious start.

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We bought some bandaids, prayed that the rain would stay a sprinkle and not convert itself to a downpour, stopped to take a photo of some lovely flowers, and found the nearest subway station.

40 minutes later we had emerged from the subway and found the bakery. From a visual standpoint, it wasn't much to look at, but I had high expectations. 

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

We went in, evaluated the choices, and selected two cookies: chocolate chip (obviously) and chocolate chocolate chip. At $4 a cookie, I wasn't getting any more than that. Off we went with our cookies to Central Park, and since around 2.5 hours had passed since both of us had eaten, I found a spot where both of us could snack. 

So! My entire tale boils down to this moment. If you're still reading, I applaud you. HOW WERE THE COOKIES, you ask? They were decent. But I would not say that I keeled over in ecstasy because I'd just encountered the worlds greatest chocolate chip cookie. In fact - and I'm about to make a very bold, very daring, highly suspect claim here - I actually think my homemade cookies are better. Shoot me.

I liked the chocolate cookie better than the chocolate chip cookie. And that's for two reasons. First, the bakery includes walnuts in their chocolate chip cookies, and while that's probably a feature for some people, it's a bug for me. I'm a bigger fan of a walnut-free chocolate chip cookie, because there are no distractions from the cookie dough plus chocolate flavor. Second, and more importantly, I was expecting the dough to have more of a substantial flavor. They were good - don't get me wrong - but if you're claiming to have the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, I want a dough that is a little more complex rather than just a sweet base that suspends the chocolate chips.  That said, they did a couple things very well: 

1) It's hard to get a giant cookie to have a just-right crispy outside with a soft inside, and this cookie delivered. 

2) The chocolate was still nice and gooey even though the cookie wasn't just-out-of-the-oven warm. I'm not sure how they did that, but it was great!

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And so, with both of our stomachs full, we traipsed back to hotel just in time for Elise's afternoon nap. This time, it had stopped raining and the blister was remedied with the bandaid, so we walked. 

And in case you want my chocolate chip cookie recipe, here you go:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the brown and white sugar with the butter. (Cold butter will yield higher-rise cookies, but I always end up nearly melting mine because I'm impatient and I want it to mix easily.)
  3. When the mixture is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg addition. Then add the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix with a fork. 
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three installments, mixing after each batch. I'm pretty sure three installments are unnecessary flavor-wise, but it makes it easier on your arm while stirring.
  6. When fully mixed, add the chocolate chips and stir to disperse them evenly in the dough.
  7. Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoonful on to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes.
  8. Take the cookies out of the oven when the bottoms/edges look browned but the middle still looks nice and gooey. Let the cookies sit on the top of your stove for 10 minutes or so while you watch a show or something so that they continue to set.
  9. Eat all the cookies. ALL OF THEM. Or if you don't want four dozen cookies in a single sitting, put them in an airtight container and eat them over the course of the next three days.

For fear of someone disagreeing with a "world's greatest" cookie, I make no claims in that regard. I just happen to like them the best.

The Saga of the Sourdough Starter

I had high hopes that I would master the sourdough starter on my first try. I started with the instructions from what seemed like a trustworthy source. With a title like The Bread Bible, how could I possibly go astray? 

But to my dismay, my mix of 1/2 cup of organic rye flour (as prescribed in the book) with 1/4 cup of bottled water, after sitting for the recommended 48 hours, had not evolved from a ball of dough to the described pancake batter-consistency goop. Instead, it looked like a science experiment still in the shape of a ball of dough. 

While I realize sourdough requires a fermented starter, fermentation does not equal mold. So into the garbage it went.

I was determined that my second attempt would work. So I took to the internet and did some research, where I learned that sourdough starter should never come in contact with anything metallic. That must have been mistake number 1 with the first one, since I measured in steel measuring cups and stored the starter in a metal bowl. In addition, the internet said that measurements should be 1:1 rather than 2:1, and all measurements need to be exactly precise. In other words, I needed a kitchen scale.

So off to Amazon I went and bought myself a scale. It's one of those kitchen gadget purchases that I had thought of making on and off for years, and this is what it took to get me to pull the trigger.

BUT. Even Amazon Prime shipping speeds couldn't dissuade me from trying again that very night. Surely my metal-avoidance and oh-so-precise measuring skills would be enough to make a successful second sourdough starter (try saying that 10 times fast) without special equipment. Armed with my newfound knowledge about sourdough starters and an overabundance of confidence, I mixed up a second batch of flour and water and left it to ferment in a glass jar.

Days 1 and 2 looked decent, although I had a thin film of water on the top of the mixture. The instructions said that if that happened, the original measurements were off, but pouring off the film, "feeding" the starter, and mixing it very well could still lead to success. I did that, and Day 3 continued looking promising. 

However, by Day 4 I knew the second starter was also doomed. It now had a thick layer of water and was not developing a layer of foam as it should.  

And so now, new equipment in hand (thanks, Amazon...I shouldn't have been so hasty...), I will try a third time. If this one doesn't work, perhaps I'm just not cut out to make sourdough bread.

This post is for my own benefit...

Last time I was in Budapest (May 2016), I was with a lovely group of people from work and to make a long story short, we found a great restaurant. The three folks with me all got Caesar salads, but I wasn't feeling lunch food and opted for French toast instead. It turned out to be the best food decision I've ever made, and to this day it remains my number one location for French toast in the world. Problem: I had taken no pictures, I hadn't noted the name of the restaurant, and I only had a vague recollection of the location ("It's somewhere diagonally away from the Parliament building..."). Not the most useful.

I returned to Budapest this week - for work again! - and I was determined to relocate said restaurant. After a solid 15-20 unsuccessful minutes searching Google maps for "cafe" in the general diagonal direction away from the Parliament building, I finally took a wild chance and Googled "French toast in Budapest Hungary," figuring my chances were slim to none for finding anything useful. LO AND BEHOLD, I found this website, which led me to the actual cafe's website. I scheduled it into my Saturday plans immediately, and it may have been the highlight of the Budapest part of the trip...again. Honestly, who could turn down French toast with cinnamon butter and a berry sauce?

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Ok, I admit...that picture is not the MOST appetizing, but it's because I took it really fast so that I could devour it immediately. Does this help?

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I suppose not. Partially eaten food never looks the most appetizing. You'll just have to take my word for it, I guess. Anyway, this post serves as a way for me to remember where to get French toast in Budapest whenever I'm here next. Or whenever I decide to make a very expensive spontaneous decision to fly to Europe for brunch.

The Barre Experiment

Last night, my friend Meghanne, her friend Lindsey and I decided to try something new and completely different. Well...new and different for me. Meghanne had done it once, and Lindsey several times. What did we do? We signed up for a pure barre class and exercised our butts off. Or at least that's what it felt like last night. This morning I can attest to the fact that it's very much still there due to my aching muscles.

I obviously didn't take any pictures while at the class, because that would just be weird. No one takes #workoutselfies in a class of six people with a ton of mirrors, and honestly...no one wants to see that anyway. As a result, I can only give you a mental picture.

At one point in life I thought that I could pull off a "passably graceful" status. NO. Pure barre has taught me that I cannot look smooth and flowing when lifting a sand-filled ball above my head while simultaneously pulling my knee up to my elbow. In addition, it's very difficult to extend your leg out to a 90-degree angle from the rest your body. I know this because I attempted it and reached about a 60-degree angle instead.

By the end of class I could barely wobble out to the car, and I felt like I'd gotten a very good workout. Hence the wobbling - the result of the best type of workout, I say. Despite my lack of gracefulness, I'll probably be back. Also, we felt so good about our worked muscles and burned calories that we celebrated with a trip to the Cheesecake Factory.

Oh, you want to see a photo of just the glorious, once-time-per-year peppermint cheesecake? BUT OF COURSE.

Pardon the lighting. The Cheesecake Factory doesn't specialize in brightly lit spaces.

I'm sure we had burned off all of the calories that we consumed, right? Isn't that how exercise is supposed to work? 

Thanksgiving 2015

This year for Thanksgiving, we stayed at home. My family came from various parts of New England and so our house was the gathering place. It was wonderful. Since as far back as the beginning of college going-on-nine years ago, I haven't had a holiday that didn't involve traveling. What a gift it was to really be able to relax without needing to pack up and drive or fly as part of the time off! And so to my family I say thank you for coming to us and helping us have a wonderfully laid back Thanksgiving. 

We planned our Thanksgiving feast for later in the afternoon, which gave us time to go for a walk that morning. It was a beautiful day and not too cold - perfect fall walking weather.

At the end of the trail we found a camp (closed for the winter) and a small pond, which is good to know for whenever warmer weather rears its head again.

And with that, we stopped, took a couple pictures, and then headed back to the kitchen.

Let me just add a note here and say that I don't know how chefs do it day after day. I cooked the most food I have ever cooked in a single day, but that's something they do on the daily, so...props to you, chefs of the world. 

Our menu included turkey (of course), gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce (from a can), rolls (from Whole Foods), and two kinds of pies. I made the chocolate cream pie, but Costco made the apple pie and it was glorious. Never underestimate the glories of Costco.

And when it was all finished at 5pm, we sat down and ate. 

Finally, the food was eaten, the leftovers were put away, the dishes were washed, and the counters were wiped down. Logically, the next step was the pie, which may have been the crowning victory of the whole endeavor.

And because pie...I think we'll leave it with that. Happy Cyber Monday, y'all!

Drinking Vegetables

Now that Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is on its way, I've been thinking about how to eat better. See...I love candy with an unholy passion, so whenever we have some in the house, it slowly but very surely disappears. Into my mouth. Chaz does not suffer from the same affliction/addiction that I do, and therefore he remains immune to the perils of eating too much junk.

As a result, a couple of friends and I are jumping back into the crunchy world of Whole30 Whole-however-many-days-there-are-until-Thanksgiving. We'll see how it goes, since I'm going to be on yet another work trip next week...this time in Puerto Rico.

Last time when doing the Whole30, my default breakfast for almost the full 30 days was bacon and eggs in some capacity or another. That holds true today, at least:

But earlier this week, I added smoothies to my breakfast rotation. I figured it wouldn't be exactly healthy to have the same two ingredients every single day for breakfast, so this was a nice way to switch it up. 

I put three ingredients in my smoothies: a bowl-ful of frozen fruit, a splash and a half of orange juice, and enough spinach and/or kale to fill up my blender. When I'm trying to be Whole30 compliant, I'll make sure that it's an all natural orange juice with no added sugar, since sugar isn't allowed. Also, it should be noticed that my blender is not especially large. 

When you put it all in the blender, it looks so nice and colorful!

But I confess that when you're finished blending and you pour it all into a glass...it looks like horrible green sludge.

Nevertheless, after the first sip you don't taste spinach or kale at all, and instead you taste the fruit and lovely citrus-y accents (you know...because my smoothies are hoity-toity and high class), and it makes for a nice healthy breakfast with some vegetables hiding in the mix. Hurrah!

Now I need to go make some fajita marinade for dinner. Don't worry...I'll be eating them in lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Just call my Crunchy McCruncherson, ok?

Quickest Restaurant Review Ever

A most excellent Friday to you! I slept in too late this morning and have therefore used up almost all of my available blogging time, so I'll keep this short.

I was going to write about how my parents came down last Friday and we went to Alchemy for dinner.

We had a wonderful time. But half the point of writing about a restaurant on a blog is including pictures of the food, right? If it's not for Instagram, that's why people take pictures of their food in restaurants. 

Well, the food was so delicious and we were so hungry when it came that we devoured it immediately and there were no pictures taken. All I have to report about the food is that it was worth the trip to Gloucester and all we had left over was one piece of pre-meal bread...

...until my dad ate that too. So you'll just have to take our/my word for it, I guess. Try it out! Good food! Fun atmosphere! Tasty drinks! And if you have room like we didn't, the desserts are great too! 

And now I've officially run out of time, so I'm out. Have a lovely weekend!

Pumpkin Bread

We woke up this morning to a cold chill in the air and a light frost on the ground. Chaz wore a thick sweater for the first time this year, and I'm wrapped in a quilt as I sit here and type. While I love the vibrancy of the colors and temperatures in the fall, I will readily admit that I look forward to the deep stillness of winter, the holiness of the holiday season, and the beauty of snow falling quietly out the window. I still get abnormally excited about the first snow fall of the season, and I hope never to outgrow it.

With cold weather always comes a desire to make the house as cozy as possible. If we had a fireplace or a wood stove on the ground floor of the house, it would already be lit. Since we don't, I have to resort to other things. Making pumpkin bread, for example. I was craving it this weekend after having some at church choir rehearsal on Thursday, and so I found a recipe, adapted it a little, and made two loaves. I will always choose chocolate over no chocolate, so I added chocolate chips to one. The other I left without chocolate chips, because Chaz inexplicably prefers plain pumpkin bread. And so it resulted in us eating pumpkin bread on the couch, his-and-hers style.

It made the house smell delicious while it was baking, and just like most homemade things, it tasted best when it was warm and the chocolate was gooey from coming out the oven minutes before. So in case you also want some pumpkin bread, here's what I did:

Pumpkin Bread (adapted from Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread from the always-useful www.allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Scant 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Process

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two large loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce, water, and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, coconut flour, taking soda, salt, and spices.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended. Add chocolate chips. Pour the batter evenly into the two loaf pans.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes. Pumpkin bread is fully baked when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chocolate + Peanut Butter = Heaven

A few days ago, Chaz was reading some blogs after work and stumbled upon something interesting. "Hey, come look at this!" he said, and then he followed up with, "...I'm going to email you something, because it's amazing." 

Within a few  seconds, my phone buzzed and I got an email containing a link to this. That's right. It's a giant peanut butter cup. After looking at the picture I could have started drooling, but I restrained myself and instead swore that I'd make it soon. 

Fast-forward to yesterday. Work had been a constant stream flood avalanche of finish-one-thing-to-find-10-more-things, and baking, at least for me, is the perfect de-stressor activity. Actually, to quote the best movie (Julie and Julia - don't argue), "You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort." She's talking about chocolate cream pie, but I say the principal applies to baking in general. And so I found myself at 8pm breaking out my tart pan, crushing up chocolate wafer cookies, stirring peanut butter into honey, and melting chocolate to pour on top. It was heavenly, until the reality of having a fresh pile of PB-covered dishes happened once it was finished.

Regardless of the dishes, it was 100% worth it. I mean, take a look!

When you get an outcome like that, the dirty dishes are secondary. We haven't sampled it yet - that's on tonight's to-do list - but it served its purpose yesterday. The stress of the day melted along with the chocolate in the double boiler. Too cheesy an analogy? 

Curried Chicken and Thyme Rice

Growing up, I had two favorite meals. The first was tacos, and I have since mastered the art of making them at home. I mean, come on...it's not like it's hard. Brown meat; stir in spices and water; boil off water; stuff into taco shells with other toppings. That's it! 

My other favorite meal was curried chicken with my mom's rice. That meal in particular took a bit more effort, so we didn't have it as often. Then one day in college I remembered that it was the best meal ever, so I decided that needed to make it that week. I called home, and my mom read me the recipe over the phone. I made it, burned it a tiny bit, but ate it anyway.

The next time I made it was about a year into dating Chaz. Downside: he despises curry, which was not a dealbreaker, but was/is very sad for me. Fortunately, I realized I could stop a step ahead of where the recipe ended, remove some for him, and then continue on with the curry for me. Since it was 1.5 years after asking my mom for the recipe the first time, I had lost it and I called her again. This time, she emailed it to me.

The third time I made the recipe was last year for some friends with a family member who had had major surgery. I couldn't find the email my mom had sent, so I asked her for it yet again.

Which brings us to yesterday, when it had come time to make the recipe a fourth time (for friends with a new baby!). I had lost the email/recipe AGAIN. It's time to stop this cycle, because what if my mom is on an international expedition with no internet and I have to make curried chicken that night? Thus, here is the recipe. Mostly for me, but you can have it as well if you're interested in having a delicious meal.


Curried Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts (NOTE: most chicken breast in the store comes in 2 lb packages. If this is the case with yours, just double the recipe!)
  • 2 eggs
  • Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder

Process:

Slice chicken breast in half lengthwise so that you have thin pieces. Then use a meat tenderizer (or any other blunt kitchen utensil) to pound the chicken thin, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. I usually also cut mine into smaller pieces, because pounding the meat makes each piece very large.

Dip the chicken into scrambled eggs, then in the breadcrumbs and set aside.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the olive oil on medium heat. When the mixture is hot, add the chicken and brown on each side (about 2 - 3 minutes per side). 

When the chicken is browned, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for seven minutes. When time is up, remove chicken from the pan and set aside in a warm place (i.e. in the oven at the lowest setting). If you don't like curry, stop here.

After removing the chicken, add the chicken stock, honey, and curry to the pan. Turn the heat up to high, and let the sauce boil until reduced by 1/3 (note: sauce does not thicken). Once reduced, pour sauce over chicken and serve!


Thyme Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp thyme (I don't usually measure)
  • 2 bay leaves

Process

Add everything but the rice to a saucepan and turn heat to high until boiling. When water is boiling, add rice. Turn heat to low and let the rice simmer for 20 minutes. 


So there you have it. Anyone else have favorite childhood recipes? Bring back the tastes of home, I say!

What if...

Scattered throughout my 26 years are some things that I did because no one ever told me they were hard. Most of them involve food. For example, one night while I was in 9th grade, I decided that I needed to make a pie that very evening. I whipped out the Joy of Cooking, found a recipe for pie crust and then pie, and made both. Later my mom said, "Wow, you made the crust? Pie crust is hard!" I looked at my pie and shrugged. I didn't know it was supposed to be hard, and therefore it wasn't. Months later - the next time I decided to make a pie - my pie crust was a struggle because I knew it was "hard" and I didn't trust myself to be able to replicate what I'd done the fist time.

Angel food cake is the other one that comes to mind. Supposedly, it's one of the more difficult things to bake. Yes, it does require that I follow the instructions so that I can consistently get it to turn out the same way every time, but when I made it the first time, the "hard" label didn't pop up until after it had disappeared after a group dinner.

Angel food cake: the only baked good that I can think of that takes a full dozen eggs.

Angel food cake: the only baked good that I can think of that takes a full dozen eggs.

Last example - and no food involved! Oboe. I picked it up in 6th grade at my dad's suggestion. I wanted to play flute or clarinet, but my dad said, "What about oboe?" I didn't know what it was, but we loaded up the good ol' World Book Encyclopedia on our household computer and watched the little video demo that was on there, and I was sold. It was only years later that people started saying, "Oboe...that's, like, a really hard instrument, right?" 

I never knew how to respond, because I had no context in which it might be a hard thing. It was just the way it was, and I either rose to the occasion or didn't, and whether it was hard or not had nothing to do with it. 

I obviously don't want to go too far and put a blanket statement out there (i.e. always trust yourself, things are only hard if you make them hard, etc.) because there are things that really are hard in life. Like calculus, for example. That is one thing I will never be able to just do. But it does make me stop and think about how many things people stop themselves from doing because they assume they don't have the skills to do it or because they're afraid of failure. What if we could just somehow take that away? 

One thing that IS hard? Staying awake when you kept yourself up too late the night before. That is no good. Don't do it to yourself. Pick other hard things, ok?

Fulfilling a Dream

The other night, I had a marvelous, memorable dream. Well, caveat - the storyline of the dream is lost in the mists of my subconscious, but one thing remained very clear: I made Brussels sprouts and steak tips and woke up just before I got to eat them.

So for the next two days, I craved Brussels sprouts like I have never craved Brussels sprouts before, which is to say that I thought about them often. I don't think I've ever craved Brussels sprouts before.

Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and do it, because I was tired of my mind constantly telling me that I needed them. Fun fact: this is not the season for Brussels sprouts, or at least Trader Joe's failed me and didn't have any fresh ones. They DID have frozen ones though, so I figured those must be a little less than as good and bought them anyway. Next I stopped at the butcher and got myself some steak tips to have as a side with my sprouts.

The next day, I got to work. Another fun fact: Brussels sprouts smell BAD. They're delicious, but if you were going by smell alone, you'd avoid them entirely. Nevertheless, I pressed on.

I knew I was in trouble when they felt a little squishy before they were cooked, but I abandoned all logic and thought, "Well...maybe cooking makes them more crunchy!" Hey self...cooking vegetables doesn't work that way. 

I followed the recipe to a T, because everyone said they were great. And in a way, they were right - the flavor turned out to be really great. BUT. They were squishy, and because the recipe included maple syrup and bacon + grease, they were caramelized. Again, not bad in theory, but when I found myself with Brussels sprouts stuck to my teeth, I decided that this particular recipe needed to be banished to the far corners of recipe exile. Either that or I need fresh Brussels sprouts.

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Meanwhile, the steak tips! I don't have a grill, and I'd never done steak tips by myself before. I also don't have a broiling pan, so I ended up with a cookie sheet covered with a sheet of aluminum foil. And thank goodness for the foil, because halfway through the cooking time, I saw smoke pouring out of an oven vent. 

I'm not someone who generally screams, and that held true, but it might be safe to assume that there was a litany of milder curse words running through my head. Turns out, the steak tips were delicious, but the juices on top of foil don't do so well when sun tanning themselves under a broiler. 

Never fear! My cookie sheet remained unscathed, and the steak tips emerged perfectly. And yet...I say it's time to buy a grill. 

So the verdict is that this dream remains only half-fulfilled. Please, I beg of you, help me out - what's the best way to cook Brussels sprouts??

What about second breakfast?!

Hobbits, they say, eat several large meals per day. While I am not a hobbit myself, I did try out their many-meals philosophy on Saturday. My friend Beth and I got breakfast after I dropped Chaz off at the airport. She lives just outside of the center of town in Beverly and it was a beautiful day, so we walked into town and went to our quasi-normal breakfast place of choice. As usual, the food was your average breakfast food: eggs, bacon (me) or sausage (Beth), home fries, and toast. 

I guess you could say there was nothing notable to mention there, but the food was good and like almost all New England breakfast places, the price was cheap! Side note: did you know that breakfast places are mostly an East Coast thing? Chaz at least says that they are, and he would know, being from Seattle! You can find breakfast on the West Coast, but it's normally more expensive. So there, West Coast! You can have your public beaches, big mountains, and more mild weather. WE have breakfast.

I digress.

Amidst the ingestion of our eggs + bacon + other assorted breakfast items, we talked about other breakfast places in the area. Specifically, a place called Waffle Hauzz (yes, with an A and two Zs) that served gloriously delicious waffles adorned with a number of toppings. It was irresistible. So we finished up our meal, paid our bill, and hightailed it a quarter mile down the road to get ourselves a waffle to share. 

The decor of the place is a bit...unusual. There are snowboards on the walls, which is hilariously out of place on the North Shore of Boston where there are zero mountains. Below the snowboards there's a picture of trees, a painting of a boat, and a poster with R2D2. If I were to throw out one word to describe it, the only thing that comes to mind is "eclectic."

Obviously, the decor is not the point of a restaurant. The point is the food. So since the great they declares that a picture is worth a thousand words, here's the picture:

Or in other words, you must have one of these waffles in your life. Immediately. We split ours, which was the perfect "breakfast dessert" finish to our earlier breakfast. And yes, I think I did gain 10 pounds that morning. WORTH IT. 

 

Homemade Ice Cream

About 3.5 years ago, Chaz gave me an ice cream maker for my birthday. In that time, I've probably only made ice cream three times. That all changed this weekend, because we hosted a game night and I was tired of making cookies, which is my usual go-to. 

Despite the fact that ice cream wasn't in my usual rotation of homemade desserts, I kept the bowl of my ice cream maker in the freezer at all times. Since it's always in there (and always has been in there since the earliest days of bachelorette-hood, when I didn't stock much food), I don't feel like I'm losing space in the freezer because of it. It's a mind trick though, because it totally takes up room. Nevertheless, it's totally going to stay there for the time being because there aren't many things worse than wanting to make homemade ice cream on a whim and then realizing you need to wait at least eight hours for the bowl to freeze. In addition, I don't have extra space in my kitchen to store the thing, so that may be the real reason.

Given that the bowl had been frozen for years, I really don't know why I haven't made more ice cream. It's as easy as pie! Easier, in fact. Pie isn't actually that easy. The ice cream base only has four ingredients!

  1. Heavy cream
  2. Eggs
  3. Sugar
  4. Milk

After that, you can decide what else you want to put in. I made two flavors: mint oreo and cookies and cream.

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I always pose with my ingredients before cooking...don't you?

FIrst, you whip the eggs until they're light and fluffy. Then you add your sugar, a little at a time, until it's fully mixed with the eggs. Next you add your cream and milk, and then after a bit more mixing, you dump it into your ice cream maker until it does its thing and produces delicious ice cream.

If you want to make a different flavor base, you'll need to mix that in before putting it into the ice cream maker. For mint, I just used peppermint extract, and for the cookies and cream, I used vanilla extract. 

As for the chunks, you'll want to wait until the ice cream is almost done before throwing those into your ice cream maker. If you put them in ahead of time, they'll just sink to the bottom and, though it wouldn't be nonredeemable, it would be less good.

Maybe your ice cream maker is magical, but mine can only get it to a soft-serve consistency. To make it more like "hard" ice cream, it's best to stick it in the freezer for awhile so that it can get as solid as ice cream you buy in the store. And there you have it - How to Make Ice Cream 101. And just because I'm from Vermont, I need to put in a plug for this ice cream recipe book:

It's $7.00 on Amazon, and you can't go wrong. It may just be the best $7.00 that you'll ever spend. Now go make some ice cream!

The Best Blueberry Muffins

For years and years, my dad tried to find the perfect blueberry muffin recipe. It was rather unsuccessful. He made a lot of muffins with a lot of different techniques, but sadly...they never quite tasted like bakery muffins. It's not that they were bad, but they just never quite reached the golden standard: the muffins at the Cottage Street Bakery in Cape Cod. 

Fast forward until now, when Google is everyone's best friend. 

We found the perfect blueberry muffin recipe, and all our years of searching are over. All it took was a search for "best blueberry muffin recipe" (using "best" in my recipe searches have always yielded excellent results), and EUREKA. There it was. I texted my dad, and now both the Woodstocks and the Griffins have experienced the muffin victory.

All that nonsense and I only took one lousy picture of the thing. Enjoy.

Since these muffins will absolutely make an appearance in our home again sometime soon, I'll do better next time. This picture was solely to text to my dad to show that we were both going to be eating them at the same time. 

And in case you want in on the secret, here's the recipe. They are magical and you must make them right this instant. Go.

A Resolution

It seems like everyblogger and her (or his?) mother jumped on the Whole30 train at the beginning of January, if not sometime earlier in 2014. Late last year I had looked it up, read about it, got mostly convinced, sorta half started, and then quit when I realized I wanted potato chips when Chaz and I grabbed a sandwich for lunch. None of this Whole30 stuff for me anymore! I said.

But then January hit, and everyone ELSE started doing it, and I felt especially full of post-holiday-eating-distress (aka...beached whale), so I gave in, rolled my eyes, and jumped in with no pre-planning. So far, I've managed to keep up eating no sugar, dairy, gluten, or carbs for a full seven days, and I've now been forced to admit that it does indeed actually make a difference. Consider me humbled.

Now, I BY NO MEANS consider myself a naturally healthy eater. I love cookies like nobody's business. I'm also a somewhat picky eater, and I despise/loath/abhor seafood, which ruled out a whole category of things that I could eat for 30 days. So I guess the only thing I'm here to say is that this whole business is entirely doable for anyone with a rather...stereotypically American palate like me. Here's what I've been eating:

  • Eggs. A MILLION eggs. Literally. A million (aka 17 in seven days).
  • Bacon.
  • Taco salad with guacamole.
  • Beef stew.
  • Pork chops (delicious... just discovered a new recipe!).
  • Roasted vegetables.
  • A sad, last-minute attempt at chicken curry.
  • Salad.

And there you have it. I love eggs, so the egg thing is not a problem for me. But I suppose if you're not a big egg fan, breakfast would be a lot more difficult.

Chaz is not doing this with me. Therefore I eat eggs, and he eats pizza, and I am jealous. BUT. I will say that it has significantly improved a) feeling less whale-ish, b) having more energy, c) sleeping well, and d) overall well being. So there you have it. I guess it's worth it and what everyone else is saying is true. Who knew?