Category Archives: For Foodies

Loving a man who bakes

It’s really not that hard. Especially when he brings you one of his salted caramels to taste test and it tastes like heaven and well . . .

Alright, I confess, it’s a little bit harder than that.  At least it was for me last weekend when Jason made copious amounts of sugary treats for his co-workers.  There were a few times I tried to avoid helping and there was that time I thought “Do the salted caramels really have to be wrapped that perfectly?!”

But they must.  Everything must be perfect.  And it was.  And I still love this man who bakes.

The lineup was Cherry Chocolate Hazelnut Bars, Molasses Spice Cookies, Fudge, and Salted Caramels.  The first two came out of the The New Best Recipe (aka Jason’s third best friend next to myself and Jordan). The Fudge was Martha’s and well, we’ve decided to keep the caramels a secret because I think we could make some money off of them, they were so amazing.

There were several moments where I heard from the kitchen “This is awful, it’s totally ruined!” only to hear him later say with much satisfaction, “Actually, this is pretty darn good.”  In the process I learned not to become discouraged that yet another bag of chocolate chips was going to be wasted as he poured them into a pot of steaming cream, butter, and marshmallows.  The fudge would indeed turn out fabulous. My taste buds are verifying it this very moment that I write.

Jason’s mom, Becky, worked tirelessly with him as his sous chef, and Bill put his caramel stirring, cutting and wrapping skills to work (as well as his caramel eating skills).  I helped minimally (as was previously mentioned), but did put the finishing touches on each plate.

20 plates of goodies were packaged up and went off to Jason’s co-workers on Tuesday morning, but thankfully there were some leftover for us to enjoy.  Except Jason couldn’t keep from spreading his baking cheer so a couple of neighbors got some and I’m trying to eat up the rest 🙂

Thank you, Jason, for taking us all to greater baking heights.  I know I’m a better person for it.

Granola bars

I swore to myself that these would be pre-workout fuel ONLY. 

I told Jason this rule was unalterable.  Well, I didn’t really tell him.  It was more like I waved my finger vigorously at him, while pointing towards the bars and giving him the evil eye.

But then a few days later they were just there, sitting in a tupperware container in our cupboard . . . so I had one.  And then another one. And the rule flew out the window.

Despite my hypocrisy, they still serve as great workout fuel (due to all the good things in them).  Or as second breakfast, with a glass of milk.  Or a couch snack.  Or whatever . . .

Granola Bars (adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup flaxseed
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ¼ plus 1/8 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 9 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (sometimes I add these, sometimes I don’t)

Directions

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, and flaxseed onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring three times.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips quickly (before they get too melty) and pour the mixture into the baking dish.  Press it down with the back of a greased spatu

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Enjoying the fall

When I was a little girl I loved celebrating the different seasons. There was so much joy and wonder in the sights, sounds, foods, and activities that came with each turn of weather and upcoming holiday. I always felt a sense of nostalgia when we would open up the boxes of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter decorations.

I owe a lot of this to Mom who really got into holiday decorations, activities, and cooking. She organized parties & costumes, baked Christmas cookies with me, helped me address my valentines, etc., over the years.

Living in Minnesota where there is such a stark contrast in the seasons (fall colors and white Christmases) also added to it for me, as well as the fact that I loved school (which is all about seasonal crafts and parties).

Sadly, I went through a phase in young adulthood where I found these sort of celebrations a waste of money and time. Thankfully, that has come to an end in the last few years. Marriage has especially brought it to my attention, as Jason & I have talked about what traditions we each had growing up and which ones we want to continue.

Finding joy in the seasons doesn’t feel altogether new, but rather like a possession you put away years ago, thinking it was childish, only to rediscover you like it now just as much or more.

As for this season, I’ve been savoring the crisp weather and the fall colors that seem to be especially bright around Seattle this year. Mother Teresa came for a visit last weekend and we hiked Twin Falls, with perfect clear skies and sunshine. It reminds me why so many people say that fall is the best time to come here for a visit.

I bought a pumpkin last week which sits on our front steps and after stumbling upon an apple tree in Discovery Park, I made it a goal to go apple picking. I don’t think we’ll have time to do the apple picking, but I’m going to carve the pumpkin, do some cooking with the innards and roast the seeds.

When Mother Teresa came last Friday she came with her own agenda (how surprising) of certain fall recipes she wanted to try out–Pumpkin Pie Squares and Autumn Apple Cake. We spent Monday afternoon in the kitchen, also adding caramel apples to our repertoire.

I’ve been thinking about what this has to do with this lesson of childlikeness vs. childishness that I’ve been working through. For me, my childishness has been the act of foolishly throwing away joyful memories and traditions (all for the sake of self-perceived maturity).  For some time, it was slightly shameful and felt wasteful to get to excited about such things.

Childlikeness for me now is savoring God’s grace in allowing me to rediscover those things that I enjoyed so much as a child and joyfully passing them along to my husband and son in the future.

It turns out that the Pumpkin Pie Squares were a hit at the mom’s gathering I went to today, so I thought I would share the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie Squares

Filling:

  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
  • 1 (12 oz) can low fat evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger, optional
  • 1/4 t ground cloves

Crust:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c butter, softened

Topping:

  • 1/2 c chopped pecans
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 T butter
  • whipped cream, optional
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13×9 inch glass baking dish.
  2. To prepare crust, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and butter. Using pastry blender, fork or food processor, stir until crumbly. Press into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes or until partially set.
  3. To prepare filling, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, granulated sugar, salt and spices. Pour over crust and bake 30 minutes.
  4. To prepare topping, combine pecans, brown sugar and butter. Remove from pan and sprinkle topping evenly over filling. Bake 15-20 minutes, until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 30 squares.

Pasta Bolognese

Some of my best (and easiest) recipes over the last few months have come from Real Simple. Every recipe I’ve tried includes only a few ingredients, most of which I already have in the kitchen.

Since I haven’t included anything foodie-related in a while, I thought I would share one of my new favorite recipes out of August’s issue (which has an extensive section on easy meals).

Pasta Bolognese

This is the kind of thing that’s good the first night, but great the next day. I think the white wine and basil flavors really start to come out once it’s been sitting in its own juices for a while.

12 ounces fettuccine (3/4 box)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes (about 3), chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, breaking up the turkey with a spoon, for 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the turkey is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and fold in the zucchini and basil. Serve over the pasta.

Haggard heaven

On Saturday Jason and I went to the Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place Market. Being avid cheese lovers, we’d been looking forward to this event for months.

It was that blazing hot day, but it was worth it – there were more free samples of cheese than we could’ve possibly eaten.

Our favorites were

Summer’s coming

It’s officially Mojito season.

Break out the Buena Vista Social Club.

Doughnuts make my day

Calling all Seattle carb-loaders–today I discovered there is a new Top Pot Doughnuts on QUEEN ANNE!!!

I was doing my routine errand to Trader Joe’s and low and behold, THERE IT WAS. Upon my discovery I frantically pulled over, only considering for a mere second and a half if I should go in.

The nice gentleman who sold me an old-fashioned cake doughnut (Jason) and a rainbow version (me) told me it had been open for three weeks.

How could I have missed this?!?

Slow-Cooker Lasagna

I had a bad experience using my crock pot the first time–dry chicken (fyi, Adelle says don’t use chicken breasts!). And I’m hesitant to make lasagna because it seems so labor intensive.

That’s why I was intrigued to try this recipe. The use of fresh herbs and swiss chard make it light. We added extra mozarella and included fresh basil and parmesan to give it a bit more flavor.

And the best part–you don’t have to pre-cook the lasagna noodles. Truly a crock pot creation.

Here’s the recipe.

Chef Jason

For Valentine’s Day Jason made me an AMAZING meal.

Our wine was Catena, a Malbec from Argentina. For a $25 bottle (which is pricey for us), we both rated it an okay-good.

    And the GRAND FINALE . . .

    Jason’s Famous Cheesecake

    Actually I really think he stole it from Tiffany since the recipe card I have in front of me says “Cheesecake by Tiffany.” But I could be wrong.

    I have heard about this dessert and its many renditions (toffee, oreo, chocolate, etc.) but this was the first time I had it. He even had to be sneaky about it, making it over at Sally’s house so I wouldn’t suspect a thing.

    And, just for me, he made it a little lighter, using 1/3 less fat cream cheese and fat free sour cream. It did taste a little less rich, but still very good. We had it with drizzled dark chocolate and strawberries.

    Crust

    • 1 1/2 c graham crackers, crushed
    • 1/4 c sugar
    • 1/3 c butter, melted

    Mix all ingredients together and press lightly into spring form pan half way up the sides. Bake just the crust at 350 F for 7-10 minutes until slightly brown. Take out and let cool completely.

    Filling

    • 3 8-oz pkgs softened cream cheese
    • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
    • 4 eggs
    • 8 oz sour cream
    • 1 T vanilla

    Combine all ingredients in order, beating the eggs in one at a time. Make sure to scrap the sides of the bowl after adding the milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into pan, bake at 350 F for 50-55 minutes.

    [This is Jason adding a little insight to help you with creating a better cheese cake. The above recipe will make a good cheese cake, but to make a great cheese cake takes patience and the right eye. It’s all about slow baking and slow cooling. Here is what I did for this one.

    I covered the bottom, sides and outer top ring of the spring form pan with aluminum foil. This will insulate the pan. Then I baked it for about 1:30 hours, but I came up with the 1:30 hours because from 50 minutes on, I checked it every 5 minutes, shaking the pan slightly to see how watery the filling was.

    When the cake was just slightly firm, I turned the oven off, opened the door slightly, and let the cake sit in the oven for 10 minutes, slowly cooling, then I took it out and set it on top of the oven to cool completely to room temperature, a couple hours.

    I imagine some of you are thinking this is a lot of work. It is, but that is what it takes to get a creamy cheese cake that doesn’t crack in the middle. One other hint is that if you wait and take the cheese cake out of the oven until you think it is fully cooked, you have burned it. I usually error on the under cooked than over cooked side. Thank you.]

    See Jason at work in the kitchen and others Valentine’s Day photos.

    Butternut Squash Soup & Spinach Salad

    I used to hate to cook and never thought I would be good at it. I would follow the recipe exactly and things would still turn out mediocre or worse. I just didn’t have that “sense” for cooking that really good cooks have.

    Over the course of the last few years I have taken the risk (yes, it was a risk for me because every bland soup or overcooked chicken was a failure) and started to hone my cooking skills. I’ve received lessons, helpful tips, and recipes from the likes of Sally, Adelle, Mom, Cindy, Linda, Keisha, Annie, and of course, Jason. Slowly I am developing my own unique “sense”.

    Living with very good cook (and baker) Jason means that my abilities must get better quicker (and they are). He has very particular taste buds and is quite honest during taste tests. If I get a “this is awesome” (which doesn’t happen that often) it’s a major keeper.

    Tonight’s meal was one of those keepers. I was particularly pleased with myself not only because it turned out great, but I had everything I needed already at home for the meal AND there was some leftover to freeze. Commentary and recipes are listed below.

    One of the trickiest things for me with soups is how much salt to put in. A lot of recipes say to add to taste, but I’m not very good at eyeballing it. Tonight I hit it right on. I also found that the flavors in the salad were just right to serve alongside the soup.

    Butternut Squash Soup
    (adapted from this recipe)

    2 t butter
    1 small onion, chopped
    3 medium carrots, chopped
    2 medium potatoes, cubed
    1 medium butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and cubed
    1 (32 fluid ounce) container chicken stock
    ½ t white pepper
    1 t salt
    ground pepper and shredded cheese to top

    1. Melt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, carrot, potatoes, and squash 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour in chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
    2. Transfer the soup to food processor, and blend until smooth (you’ll probably have to do this in several batches). Also, I found I left a little bit of the stock out to make sure the soup wasn’t too runny. Return to pot, add salt and white pepper and simmer for a few minutes.

    Sprinkle with cheese and serve with warm french bread and salad listed below.

    Spinach, Blue Cheese & Pear Salad
    (slightly adapted from a recipe from Keisha Brown)

    2 T water
    1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
    1 T olive oil
    1 T honey
    2 t Dijon mustard
    1/4 t pepper
    1 pear, cut lengthwise into 15 slices
    8 c torn spinach
    1/4 c sliced red onion
    crumbled blue cheese

    Combine first 6 ingredients. Stir with whisk. Place dressing over pears. Add to bowl filled with spinach and onions. Sprinkle blue cheese on top.