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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Irish Soda Bread

Every year I go to make my annual Irish Soda Bread, and every year I make the same mistake. You'd think I would have learned by now, right?

Every year, I plan to make my Soda Bread. I think about how delicious it's going to taste, about seeing that unique "x" cut into the top, about the sweet raisins in dough. When I've done my food shopping for the week, I'm always proud of myself for remembering the raisins. I don't really eat raisins so they're never a pantry staple, so the fact that I've added them to my shopping list and actually remembered to buy them is pretty impressive for me. So here we go...ready to make that bread. I scan the recipe and BAM...there it is...buttermilk. Yes, in addition to raisins there's another unique ingredient this bread needs and its buttermilk.

I promise I'm not making this up, I forget this every year and have to make a special trip bake to the store just for this. Maybe writing about it in this detail will make me remember next year?

This brings me to something else, I don't know why I only make this once a year. This is a GREAT bread. It's incredibility yeast, no waiting to rise. Just mix everything together, do a little light kneading to get the right shape, then bake! It also has a refreshing sweet flavor unlike any other bread. This makes a great snack with coffee or even a breakfast item.

The spoiler is about this, the "soda" in here is baking soda. As a kid, I always thought I was eating bread make with actual drinking soda, when I learned it was just a leavening agent I was pretty bummed. Honestly, I'm still kind bummed it's not a super cool bread made with soda.

- 4 cups flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup raisins

1. Heat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don't have parchment, I just greased the bottom of my pan so the bread won't stick.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt with an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low until the butter is combined.

3. Lightly beat the egg in the buttermilk and with the mixer on low speed pour into flour mixture. Mix the raisins in a tablespoon of flour and add into the dough.

4. Flour your counter-top and your hands. Dump the dough on the flour and lightly knead a few times until you get a round loaf. It will be very sticky at first so make sure you have enough flour so it doesn't stick to your hands.

5. Place the loaf onto the baking sheet and cut an 'X' into the top with a serrated knife. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. I only needed to bake 50 minutes and it was done perfectly.

Source: Barefoot Contessa

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Roasted Broccoli Twice Baked Potatoes

So something really big happened: I became an Aunt!

My older brother and his sweet wife welcomed their beautiful little girl into the world in the wee hours of the morning on March 5th. We are all completely smitten with this little girl. Since I have my daughter, who is somehow now 17 months old, I know what those first few weeks are like with a newborn. During this time you're in total survival mode. You're doing just enough so that all of you are fed and surviving, and everything else comes in a very distant after thought. Those weeks I felt like I was sleep walking, it amazes you how you're able to function on just a handful of sleep hours that you get sporadically through the night. So it goes without saying, cooking during this time felt like I was being asked to make Thanksgiving dinner every.single.night. Not only are quick and easy meals a necessity, but also meals that make for great leftovers for lunch...or for some much needed nourishment at 2am when you're feeding a newborn for the second time that night.

Twice baked potatoes have lots of filling cheese, but these guys have savory roasted broccoli and garlic to really pack in the flavor. Scale this recipe up as much as you want to make a bunch of potatoes and store them in the fridge, a quick pop in the microwave or about 10 minutes in the oven warms them back up for that leftover meal.

Oh, you'll notice below there's a bit of a cheat. I use the shortcut of microwaving the potatoes first. By all means, if you prefer to pre-bake instead do that. But this is supposed to be the quick time-saver version so throw those potatoes in the microwave and make it easy on yourself!

Roasted Broccoli Twice Baked Potatoes are a savory and filling meal that can be used as a side item to a larger meal or eaten alone. Make enough to save for leftovers for a quick and easy lunch! 

Recipe below yields 4 twice baked potatoes.

-2 cups chopped fresh broccoli florets (remove as much of the stem as you can using only the floret)
-2 tablespoons EVOO
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Russet potatoes
-2 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons milk
-2 tablespoons cream cheese
-3 tablespoons sour cream
-fresh shredded sharp Cheddar cheese for topping

1. Heat oven to 450. In a bowl combine the broccoli, EVOO, and sea salt. Stir to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. Then reduce heat to 425 and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350.

2. While the broccoli is baking, pierce your potatoes several times with a fork. Microwave for 11-13 minutes. They should easily be sliced with a knife when they are done. 

3. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Carefully slice open the potatoes length-wise and scoop out the potato and spoon into the bowl on top of the butter and cream cheese (the heat helps them melt). To make it easier to spoon out the potato without splitting the skin, I take my knife and cut all around the perimeter to make a guide of where to scoop. Doing this prevents you from scooping directly onto the skin of the potato.

4. To the potato bowl, add the sour cream and milk. Mash until combined, just enough so that the mixture is smooth but some small lumps are OK, you're not looking for a mashed potato texture you just want it to be mostly smooth with all of the ingredients incorporated. If the mixture is too stiff, add little bits of milk until you get a smoother consistency. Lastly, fold in the broccoli and garlic. Sitr lightly so you don't break up the florets too much.

5. Place the empty potato skins onto a baking sheet. Spoon the potato and broccoli mix into the 4 skins. Top with shredded Cheddar cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Spiced Walnut Granola Crumble

Your morning yogurt is about to change forever.

Yogurt is great and all, but let's agree it's a bit boring and the one-note texture leaves a lot to be desired. It needs crunch. It needs texture. Might I say, it needs this Spiced Walnut Granola.

This is one of those recipes that just popped into my mind as I was going through the ingredients I had on hand and working with recipes I've already made. Let me tell you, the mix of crunchy chopped walnuts mixed with cinnamon, sugars, and nutmeg and baked until crispy is so addicting. This makes a big batch so it's perfect to make on a Sunday and have it for the week. And if I'm being honest, my husband and I found ourselves just snacking on this over the's that good.

Spiced Walnut Granola Crumble is made with the mixture of chopped walnuts, sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg combined with melted butter and baked to perfection.

-1/2 cup quick oats
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup chopped walnuts
-1/4 cup dark brown sugar
-1 tablespoon white sugar
-5 tablespoons butter, melted
-1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, sugars, and spices. Add in the melted butter and stir until all the dry ingredients are wet. Lastly, add in the vanilla and stir.

3. Pour the crumble onto a baking sheet. It's ok that this will be a mix of larger chunks and then portions that are small pieces. Once it bakes you can break up the larger pieces into more of a crumble. Bake for 15 minutes.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Energy Bites

Dinners get a lot of attention, don't they? It's all about the dinner. What are you making for dinner? What are we having for dinner?

Quick and easy dinner recipes are sought after. And I get it, I'm there with you. I'm always searching for new ways to make quick, easy, and nutritious dinners for those weeknights after a long day of work. But breakfast and lunch need a little attention to.

Who eats a good breakfast every morning? I know no one is whipping up a well-balanced breakfast at 6am before your way into work. If you are, I applaud you and you deserve a medal. I think most of us hit the coffee first, then maybe search for a bagel or a packaged granola bar. Yogurt is a good idea, but I've always needed something solid to get me going in the morning and for me yogurt is more of a mid-morning hold-me-over-til-lunch snack. So, if you're needing an energy-packed quick and easy breakfast that you can eat in the car or bring to work and eat at your desk, breakfast energy bites are for you.

I'm obsessed with dark chocolate bars and chopping them up for recipes. I love the variations in sizes and the dark chocolate flavor is so rich it helps to town down any sweetness. These dark chocolate almond butter energy bites are everything you need to get you out the door in the morning. Ground flaxseed, chia seeds, almond butter, and did I mention dark chocolate chunks? The ground flaxseed almost takes on a cinnamon-like flavor it was so warm and was the perfect match for the richness of the chocolate. Make these on Sunday and you'll have your grab-and-go breakfasts for the week!

A note about the recipe, you can buy ground flaxseed or do it yourself. I preferred to buy the seeds and put them in my Nutribullet to create the powder.

Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Energy Bites are a quick and easy breakfast or morning snack with coffee. Packed with energy rich flaxseed and chia seeds these are so easy you'll want to make these every week!

-2 cups quick oats
-1 cup almond butter
-1 cup chopped dark chocolate (I use Lindt 72% Dark Chocolate)
-1/3 cup honey
-1/4 cup ground flaxseed
-1 tablespoon chia seeds
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine the oats, almond butter, vanilla, and honey. Stir in the ground flaxseed and chia seeds. Lastly, stir in the chopped chocolate. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

2. Once chilled, remove from the fridge and roll into balls. Towards the end it might get a little sticky as the warmth from your hands warms the mixture. If you need to, pop the bowl back in the fridge for a few minutes and then finish up rolling the last of the bites.

I like to keep these in the fridge, the coolness is refreshing and the chocolate chunks get an extra crispiness.

Adapted from: Two Peas and Their Pod

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka is the perfect weeknight dinner. The sauce comes together in the time it takes to cook the pasta and in less than 30 minutes you have a bursting with flavor pasta dinner on the table.

A home cooked dinner in less than 30 minutes? Yes please!

Let's face it. No one has the time or energy to whip up involved dinners every night. At the end of an exhausting work day I want to relax and unwind, but I also don't want to eat snacks for dinner or resort to ordering takeout...again. So meals like this really save the day. There's very little chopping, nothing too complicated, and it makes enough for leftovers. Eat this meat-free, or if you have a little extra time and energy on a weekend you can cook up some chicken and add that for a little extra heartiness.

The vodka in the dish brings out the tomato flavor, the actual alcohol will cook off. However, if you prefer to remove the alcohol entirely you can absolutely do that.

-3/4 of a 16oz box Penne Rigate (yes, this is how I measure pasta. It's not perfect, so if you want more or less you can cook however much pasta you want. I find that 3/4 of the box is what I typically cook. This gets us a dinner for 2 plus leftovers.)

-2 garlic cloves
-1 tablespoon butter
-2 tablespoons flour
-2 and 1/2 cups light cream
-1/4 cup tomato paste
-1/4 cup vodka
-1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pepper
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Boil the pot of water and cook the pasta.

2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large pan melt the butter over medium-high heat. With a zester, zest in the garlic cloves and cook until lightly browned. Add the flour and whisk to form a paste. Turn heat to medium and add the light cream, tomato paste, vodka, and basil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, then add the grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. At the very end, if sauce has thickened a bit too much add a small ladle of the boiling pasta water to thin out the sauce. Never add more cream, add the pasta water to thin out a sauce.

3. Drain the pasta and pour into the the sauce pan. This is my trick for only having to clean one pan, I always pour the pasta into the sauce pan and not dump the sauce into the pasta pot creating two dirty pots and pans. I also never dump ALL the pasta at once, I start with about half then keep adding until I have as much pasta as I want. Garnish each plate of pasta with a little extra Parmesan cheese.

**Leftover idea alert!! Before tossing the pasta and sauce together, I like to remove about 1/2 of a ladle of the sauce and pour it into a small bow. When I reheat my leftovers for lunch heat this reserved sauce and pour over the leftover pasta and stir, it gives life back to the dish as if you just made it!**

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

No Bake Dark Chocolate Cookie Dough Truffles

Serious question: is there anyone who doesn't love the taste of raw cookie dough?

Come on, we all do it. Ya know, taste the cookie dough before we bake it? We totally push out of our minds that old salmonella risk thing for those sweet moments of raw cookie dough bliss. There's only been one time in my life when I've listened to that warning, and that's when I was pregnant with Lilly. But once she was born, right back to eating raw dough every time I was baking.

But boy do I have a treat for you. A safe way to eat raw dough right here. Since these cookie dough truffles have no egg we can all indulge as much as we want without a single worry of a foodborne illness. I love...LOVED...the ones I topped with sea salt. It was the perfect combination of dark chocolate and salty.

A note about the presentation of these, when you dip them in the melted dark chocolate and place them back in the fridge to harden you're going to get some chocolate that pools underneath each truffle. For photography purposes, I used my knife and broke those edges off but there's no reason why you have to do that...the more dark chocolate the better!

These little guys would make the perfect addition to a party. Bring these as a dessert and watch them disappear!

No bake cookie dough truffles are an easy and whimsical dessert. Now you can enjoy the taste we all love of raw cookie dough without the risk of eating raw dough. You can eat these plain, or top them with rainbow sprinkles or seat salt. Recipe below yielded 15 truffles.

- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups dark chocolate, you can use dark chocolate morsels or dark chocolate bars like 70% Lindt

1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a bowl mix the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Slowly stir in the flour and white sugar and mix until it reaches cookie dough consistency. I've had to use my hands towards the end in a kneading fashion. Stir in the mini chocolate chips. Form into truffles and place them on the wax paper pan and freeze for 15 minutes.

2. Over a double boiler melt the 2 cups of dark chocolate. Once the chocolate has completely melted keep the flame on low as you begin to dip the truffles. Dip the  frozen cookie dough truffles in the chocolate until completely covered then place back on the wax paper. The method that works for me is using a toothpick to spear the balls and dip into the chocolate and use a spoon to spoon the melty chocolate over top. Top with sprinkles, sea salt or leave plain. Place in the fridge until the chocolate has set.

Adapted from: I Heart Naptime

Monday, February 18, 2019

Pesto Pizza

Ok total honesty here, I am totally not in the mood tonight to write a lot. So this is going to be short and sweet, but hey it's all about the recipe anyway, right?

Mini pizzas are my go-to when I want a quick and easy dinner, but still something hot and homemade. While I love a fresh dough crust, premade crusts are such a convenient time-saver and dressed up the right way they can be quite good! I love that these crusts get extra crispy, nothing I hate more than a soft whimpy pizza crust.

This pesto pizza is topped with diced cherry tomatoes which help add a lightness to the pesto cream sauce. Keep these ingredients on hand and next time you're "this close" to ordering take out, just whip up a few pesto pizzas!

As noted in a previous recipe, the cooking times below are based on using mini pizza crusts. If you get fresh dough or a different crust you'll need to adjust the cooking times according to the package instructions.

-3 mini pizza crusts, I like Mama Mary's
-1/2 tablespoon butter
-1 1/2 tablespoon flour
-1 cup light cream
-4 tablespoons jarred pesto sauce
-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
-8 oz package of shredded Mozzarella cheese (you won't use all of it, just enough to cover the pizza)
-cherry tomatoes, diced

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter then whisk in the flour to form a roux. Pour in the light cream, then stir in the pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese. Simmer until slightly thickened.

3. To assemble to pizzas, spoon pesto sauce and spread leaving an edge for the crust. Top with a layer of Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 9 minutes, then broil on Hi for 1 minute to brown the top.

4. Garnish with as many diced cherry tomatoes as you like and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. I like a lot, the cool taste adds a refreshing lightness to each bite.