I’m celebrating a birthday this week. I remember this time last year, sequestering myself in a remote cabin in Sedona to figure out my life…all of it…over a brief seven days. I didn’t get very far, but I did decide that getting laid off would be a good thing (it was!) and that I needed to rekindle my dreams of inn ownership (I have!) and that “this” (whatever “this” was at the time) wasn’t enough for me (it’s not).
Another year wiser.
My co-worker, Dennis, also has a birthday this week. To celebrate, I made this bittersweet chocolate peanut butter ice-cream. We served scoops of it in crispy waffle cones, although I’ve decided it would even be better sandwiched between giant peanut butter cookies. Gilding the lily once again – some things never get old.
Dennis’s “You’ve got peanut butter in my chocolate” Ice Cream
- 3 Tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped (at least 60% cocoa), divided (5 oz. & 3 oz.)
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Pinch off small bits of the peanut butter mixture and arrange on a dinner plate. Freeze plate of peanut butter bits until ready to use.
- Warm one cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, whisking the entire time, then remove from heat. Add the 5 oz. chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Set a strainer over the sauce pan and set aside.
- Warm the milk, sugar and salt in another medium sauce pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the yolks whisking constantly (to avoid scrambling eggs). Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce pan.
- Stir the custard mixture over a medium heat with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners as you stir, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon or spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla, and then cool completely by placing pan in an ice bath.
- Cover and chill the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. A few minutes before it’s finished, add the 3 oz. reserved chopped chocolate and frozen peanut butter bits.
My first office job was an entry-level marketing position in mortgage banking. This savory bread pudding recipe was inspired by one I received in the 1980’s from our receptionist at the time, Dottie. I’ve upgraded the ingredients of sandwich bread, Kraft cheese and Jimmy Dean sausage into something modern, refined and packed with flavor – sophisticated enough for brunch entertaining.
Full confession – I’ve eaten this as many times for dinner as breakfast. After a long day in the office (I miss those early days of entry-level work), it warms up in the microwave quite nicely.
Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding
Updated and inspired by a 30-year-old recipe for “Breakfast Quiche.” Quiche was a big thing in the 1980’s.
- 3 cups country white bread, cubed
- 1 cup cooked baby potatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
- 1 cup frozen roasted peppers and onions (I used Trader Joe’s version)
- ¾ cup Spanish chorizo, sliced ½ inch thick
- ½ cup Gruyere cheese
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8” square pan. Sprinkle bread cubes on the bottom of the pan, followed by potatoes, sausage, frozen veggies and, finally, cheese. In a small bowl, beat together eggs, milk, Dijon, salt and pepper. Pour over ingredients in the pan and let sit at least 30 minutes until bread absorbs egg mixture. Lightly press down on bread to fully submerge, if needed (can be covered and refrigerated overnight).
- Bake 45-50 minutes until center is firm and cooked through. Slice and serve. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. Warm up in the microwave.
I’ve been thinking about things that have nothing to do with my recipe again; about whether alcohol lowers nascent inhibitions – or merely lowers our overall standards. Umm…nevermind.
As I said, nothing to do with this quintessential crumb cake or the reason for baking it. I’m four weeks into my new job and, one thing I’ve discovered is that these people relish feeding each other as much as I do. I’ve found my food tribe. In one short month, I’ve had home-fried catfish, freshly made salsa, street tacos, Vietnamese coffee (twice), Porto’s pastries, and some warm and fluffy add-your-own-frosting cinnamon rolls from a local bakery. My pounds, which I was hoping would melt right off once I began working again, are staying firmly planted around my middle.
This crumb cake was my first contribution to the food-is-love fest at my new office. It has the ideal 50/50 ratio of crumb to cake that every crumb cake should have – and the cake portion is so light, rather than eat the crumb topping and throw away the cake – it begs you to eat the whole thing…and perhaps even go for another slice. No health–redeeming qualities – this is pure morning indulgence.
- ½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon (rounded) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 large eggs
- 2/3 cups full-fat plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Make crumb topping: Mix both sugars, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir to blend. Add flour and toss until moist clumps form. Set aside.
- Make Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9” spring-form pan. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Add yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat just until blended. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating just until incorporated.
- Transfer ½ of cake batter to prepared baking pan and spread evenly. Squeeze small handfuls of topping together to form small clumps. Drop ⅓ of topping clumps in a ring over cake batter (topping will migrate towards the middle while baking). Cover topping with remaining cake batter, smooth as evenly as possible. Cover with remaining topping clumps.
- Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and topping is deep golden brown and slightly crisp, about 45 minutes. Cool cake and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
The other night, my friend commented that I couldn’t #deletefacebook because of this blog – I’ll lose my followers. It made me realize that my friends don’t understand the details of this
passion hobby diversion of mine (and most likely don’t care). I take that as a good sign I’m not blathering on and on about “my blog” every second or every day. In truth, Facebook only accounts for 3% of traffic to my site. Surprisingly, my primary source in 2017 was the lesser-known Fridgg, making up about 25% of visits followed by various search engines with 13%, Foodgawker with 10% and my WordPress readers with 6%. I’m a devoted fan of Fridgg, a site that doesn’t determine what photos are worthy and unworthy based on some intangible – if the submitter believes them worthy, Fridgg does, too. Food photo democracy.
2018 is shaping up a bit differently. My primary source in 2018 has been search engines (15%), closely followed by Foodgawker (13%), with WordPress and Fridgg both at 10%. Facebook is still about 3%.
This brings me to another insight – My recent Foodgawker acceptance rates, THE site that determines if your photos are “worthy.” I think I’ve finally managed to crack their submission code. The first few years, my submission acceptance hovered around 30% – actually not too bad for the gold-standard of food photo sharing sites. Now, I’m at 45%, with February’s at 83% and March’s acceptance at 87%.
87%??! I’ll take that. I’m still undecided about Facebook.
Creamy Tomato Chicken Stew
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups Gruyère cheese
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook chicken (in batches if needed) until brown on all sides. Set chicken aside. Add carrots, onions and garlic cloves to pot and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until mixture forms a golden crust at the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes with juice and stock, scraping up the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan and breaking the tomatoes apart. Heat until boiling, then return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan.
- Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Stir in cheese, cream and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and sauce over noodles, rice or polenta, sprinkled with a little more cheese, if desired.
Candied Orange and Honey Walnut Mini Pound Cakes
She unlocks her front door, kicks and stretches her way out of her work clothes and bra, throws on yoga pants and a tank and stumbles barefoot into the kitchen.
A bad day, she knows, requires a balm – one made from the holy trinity of butter, sugar and flour…something quick, that doesn’t require a cookbook, that’s single-girl serving sized. Something to soothe.
She’s perfected just that sort of recipe. She calls it her personal pound cake – It’s 1/8th of a standard recipe, just enough for one person; enough to palliate without overdosing. One bowl and five ingredients comprise the basic cake; the perfect canvas for improvisation. From there, she can add berries, almonds or lemon zest. She can soak it in rose syrup or blanket it with cream cheese frosting. She can use it as a base for scoops of chocolate ice-cream or warm peach compote – personalizing it to target whatever ails her.
Tonight, and more nights than she’d like to admit, this is her medicine. Others mix up a drink, she whisks up one of these.
Personal Pound Cake
This recipe requires a 3”x5” mini loaf pan. I use the disposable aluminum ones available at most grocery stores for quick clean up. A kitchen scale makes quick work of measuring ingredients. The trick with this recipe is to personalize it with your favorite add-ins.
- 2 oz. (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 oz. sugar
- 1 large egg
- pinch salt
- 2 oz. flour
- add-ins of your choice
- Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Whisk together butter and sugar (If your butter isn’t softened and you’re impatient, soften it in the microwave, keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t melt).
- Whisk in egg and salt. (I add a pinch of flour at this point to help avoid separation that can happen when adding egg to butter).
- Stir in flour. Add your flavors of choice and spoon into loaf pan (no pan greasing or flouring required).
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan, slice and indulge.
In a small pan over medium-high heat, combine 4 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts
and 2 Tablespoons honey
. Cook until nuts are toasted and honey is thick and bubbly. Cool and add to batter.
Candied Orange Variation:
At the time you add the egg , add 1 Tablespoon Orange Flower Water
. After stirring in the flour, stir in 2 Tablespoons chopped candied orange peel