Just stopping by (with bars)

Thank you all for your kind support of my foray into vlogging and the blog birthday wishes! You’re all just swell :)

So, usually when I share a recipe, I attempt to also include some whimsical/marginally amusing little story. Or a theme. Or pictures of Baby Neph. Today, however, I don’t have much to say. Some people came over for dinner (my Grandpa Norm and his wonderful lady friend Sandy, if you care to know), on their way to an event (the Indianola Hot Air Balloon Classic, if you care to know), and I made peach and blueberry bars. They were delightful. So here’s the recipe, and I bid you adieu!

(Don’t get mad at me for this lazy post. I’m working very hard on dainty cookies for a ladies luncheon. Details coming your way, all in good time.)

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Peach Blueberry Bars

Bottom crust and crumble top:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp (1.5 sticks) cold butter
  • 1 beaten egg

Filling:

  • 4 c. diced peaches
  • 1 c. blueberries
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel the peaches if you prefer (this will be easier if you cut a shallow “X” on the bottom of each one, drop them into boiling water for a few seconds, and then drop them in cold water), and dice them. Mix the peaches with the rest of the filling ingredients. (Note: if your peaches seem really juicy, you might add a little extra flour for extra thickening power.) Mix the crumble ingredients in a large bowl, using a pastry blender or a fork, until the butter is in very small pieces. Press about two-thirds of the crumble mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Spread the fruit filling over the crust, and then sprinkle the remaining crumble on top. Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes.

Lawyers, Plums, and Honey

THE BAR EXAM IS OVER! THE BAR EXAM IS OVER! (UNLESS I DIDN’T PASS BUT WE WON’T THINK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW.)

Sorry, I’ve been doing a lot of practice questions recently, and I found that when I would read these questions my brain liked to speak in all caps. (For example, “YOU ARE ESTOPPED FROM MAKING THAT CLAIM, JERKFACE” or “HEY DETECTIVE STABLER, THAT’S A @#$%^&* CUSTODIAL INTERROGATION, ARE THERE SOME WARNINGS YOU’D LIKE TO GIVE FIRST?”) It might take me awhile to return to normal. You know, as normal as I ever was.

In anticipation of my triumphant return to this cozy little virtual kitchen, I conjured up a cake recipe one night shortly before the exam when I probably should have been studying. It’s an upside-down cake (to match my priorities). I love upside-down cakes because there’s a big “ta-DAH!” at the end when you turn them out of the pan. And couldn’t life always use a little bit more “ta-DAH”?

This cake would be vegan but for the honey, because I guess honey isn’t vegan, right? You could always replace the honey with sugar, maple syrup, agave, or some combination. I’ve just been wanting some honey-flavored cake ever since I saw a commercial for that new Winnie the Pooh movie. I took the recipe for the bottom part pretty much verbatim from Eat, Drink, and be Vegan, which is magnificent, FYI. There is a whole hummus chapter. A whole chapter!

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(File photo. I like to pose with all my favorite cookbooks.)

Here’s the bottom, soon to be the top:

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I greased the pan, traced and cut a circle of parchment paper to line it, and greased the paper for easy removal and minimal fruit-stickage. Once the plums, sugar, and almonds are in place, mix up your batter, pour it carefully over the fruit so as to not disturb your pretty arrangement, and get that business in the oven!

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When you’re ready to turn it out, get some heavy-duty oven mitts and a pretty plate. Put the plate on top of the pan, flip, and carefully peel off the parchment paper.

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Lovely! AAAAAAAHHHH THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN STUDYING. The recipe is below. Have a glorious weekend…..and congrats to all of you that just survived the bar (and those of you in other states that are aaaaaalmost done)!

Plum Upside-Down Cake (serves about eight)

  • 2 plums, sliced into wedges (I would err on the side of under-ripe, since you’ll be baking them)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar (or a little less)
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds
  • 1 c. flour (I used all-purpose, but I bet you could use whole wheat pastry flour for a more wholesome, breakfast-y result)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c. almond milk
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan, line it with parchment paper, and grease the paper as well. (Better safe than sorry, I say.) Arrange the plum slices in the bottom of the pan, and sprinkle with the almonds and brown sugar. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl, whisk together the almond milk, honey, vanilla, oil, and lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk until smooth. Pour the cake batter on top of the plums, and tilt the pan a little bit to distribute evenly. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes (mine got a little toasty-looking on top so I draped a piece of foil over it for the last 10 or so). Let the cake cool for 5-10 minutes, run a knife around the edges to loosen it, turn it out onto a plate, and peel off the parchment paper. Mine was still a little gooey in the middle, but in a good sort of way.

Treasures from times gone by…

It has been a little over a week since I moved into my parents’ basement, and I have made some spectacular discoveries.  For example, feast your eyes on the dress I wore to Jefferson-Scranton High School’s junior-senior prom, circa 2003:

Yes, it totally still fits, thank you for asking.  It just doesn’t zip, which is a minor detail.  A strategically-draped shawl, a few safety pins, and BAM, I could be ready for my very own royal wedding in ten minutes, tops.

(Oh, by the way, isn’t my mirror charming?  My sister-in-law painted it for me many, many years ago.  She’s all kinds of brilliant and artsy!)

I also found……drumroll…….

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My very first cookbooks!  Do you remember the American Girl dolls?  I swear, everybody I knew when I was a tiny little Darcy had one of those dolls, and about fifty outfits for it.  I was not into the dolls, but I was really into the cookbooks.  They came in a set of five: Molly (World War II era), Kirsten (pioneer girl), Addy (escaped from slavery on the Underground Railroad), Felicity (daughter of the Revolution), and Samantha (hoity-toity turn-of-the-century girl with a butler).

They’re full of historical information and easy recipes one could make with adult supervision, AND in the back of each one there are detailed instructions for throwing a theme party.  Molly’s book, which was my favorite, was set in 1944 and had instructions for throwing a “patriotic slumber party.”  Here’s a tip:

Uhhh, sure.  Or, how about you just don’t invite fun-haters to your patriotic slumber party?

Here are two of my favorite recipes from Molly’s book.  They’re both really easy, but the first requires a knife and the second requires a hot oven, so if you are not an adult, please find one to supervise you.  I definitely waited until my mom was home for the hard parts.

Frozen Fruit Cups (adapted—barely—from “American Girls Pastimes: Molly’s Cookbook”)

Makes 8-12 small cups (I used 8 oz. cups and made 9)

  • 1 c. orange juice
  • 15 oz. can of crushed pineapple in its own juice
  • 1 small (about 11 oz.) can of mandarin oranges, drained and coarsely chopped
  • about 3 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2-3 bananas, sliced
  • 1 1/2 c. club soda

These are not rocket science, obviously, as the recipe came from a cookbook for elementary school-aged children.  But they are delicious, and a great refreshing snack for summer.  I used to make them all the time and eat them while swaying in my mom’s hammock with a Babysitter’s Club book.  Feel free to substitute whatever fruit you like, your favorite juice, and 1 1/2 cups of something fizzy (the original recipe calls for ginger ale, which is good, and I’ve also used 7-Up).  Stir everything up in a large mixing bowl, ladle the mixture into small cups, and freeze.

Raisin Bread in a Can (adapted from “American Girls Pastimes: Molly’s Cookbook”)

This recipe didn’t have a lot of fat in it (because, as explained in the front of the book, Molly and her mom were conserving for the war effort).  It also only had one egg, so I went ahead and made a few adjustments to vegan-ize it.  To bake, you need a clean, empty coffee or juice can—about 45 ounces.  You could use a loaf pan, I suppose, but where’s the fun in that?

  • 3/4 c. white flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts, leftover from my rapture cupcakes)
  • 1/3 c. raisins
  • 1 flax egg (Mix 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water in a small bowl, and allow the mixture to thicken for 5-10 minutes)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/4 c. almond milk
  • 1/4 c. molasses

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, nuts, and raisins.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the thickened flax egg, canola oil, almond milk, and molasses.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well-combined.  Grease a large, clean tin can (about 45 ounces), and pour in the batter.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  After an hour, place the can on a rack to cool.  When it’s cool enough to handle, loosen the bread from the sides of the can with a butter knife and try to shimmy the bread out of the can.  If you’re having trouble, use a can opener to open the bottom of the can and carefully push the bread out.

Housekeeping: the address for the blog is now http://shesingsatthetable.com, not http://shesingsatthetable.wordpress.com.  Update your Google readers (or whatever you kids use to read your blogs these days) accordingly, pretty please.

Also, thanks to my web designer/13-year-old niece, you can now “like” She Sings at the Table on facebook—see the link on the right side of the page.  That’s all for now—have a marvelous week!

Dreamy Strawberry J.D. Jello Shots

(That “J.D.” is for Juris Doctor because I am now officially a doctor of the law!  In an upcoming post, I will get all nostalgic about how much I loved law school, perhaps post some pictures of graduation festivities, and share a recipe that has….you know….vegetables or something in it.  But…..first things first.  Read on.)

I got my hair cut the other day, and the stylist was just the most delightful fellow.  We talked about judicial retention elections, curl-enhancing hair products, and the Pioneer Woman.  He also did a really bitchin’ job on my hair, and when I left he proclaimed that it looked “super hot” and I would probably meet the man of my dreams that very day and reel him in with my tousled waves.  (That didn’t happen, FYI.  I did go out for lunch after and have a really good salad, but I wouldn’t say it was the salad “of my dreams.”)

Stylist Man also dropped the following culinary knowledge bomb on me: You can make Jello shots in hollowed-out strawberries.  WHOA.  Just let that sink it.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a lot to do this week, because, well, I sort of feel like it’s my calling to test this sort of thing out and report my findings to you good folks.

You need the following:

1) One .30-ounce box of Jello.  Choose your favorite flavor—I went with strawberry for obvious reasons.

2) As many strawberries as you want to fill.  I did about 2 pints and still had some leftover Jello that I just poured into a baking dish.

3) Vodka.  I recommend whatever variety is on sale.  I used lemon-flavored vodka, which added a little zing.

4) Some sort of small, sharp kitchen instrument for hollowing out the strawberries.  I used an apple corer.  I would think you could also use a paring knife, a teensy melon baller, or a grapefruit spoon.

5) Some friends that also don’t have a lot to do this week.

Put the vodka in the freezer, and then deal with your strawberries first, so your vessels are ready and waiting.  Cut a slice off the bottom, so they’ll stand up, and then slice off a bit of the top and hollow them out as much as you can without breaking them.

You’re not going to get a huge cavity here, but that’s OK.  Smaller Jello shots are more dignified.  (Or you could just eat more of them, I suppose.  I’m not here to dictate your life choices.)  Line the strawberries up in a pan so you can fill them and refrigerate them later.

Prepare the Jello according to the package instructions, but instead of the cup of cold water you’re supposed to add at the end, add a cup of vodka.  Pour a little bit of the Jello mixture into each strawberry (a liquid measuring cup works well here), and then refrigerate until set.

Hot tip: you don’t want the strawberries all falling over when you move the pan to the fridge—that would be quite sad—so try setting the pan in the fridge first and carefully pouring the mixture into them that way.  If you have some extra after filling the berries, just pour it into a baking dish or those tiny little plastic cups, in the grand tradition of undergraduates everywhere.

About 2 hours later, the verdict: they are attractive, refreshing, whimsical, and just the tiniest bit dangerous.  In fact, I would even say they are the Jello shots of my dreams.

Tough bananas

There is a certain professor at the law school who has a name for what a court will give you if you go to it asking for a remedy it doesn’t have the power to grant: a “Writ of TOUGH BANANAS.”  Well, every time he says this I think to myself, “That seems kind of harsh.”  If I were a judge, I would never issue a Writ of Tough Bananas.  I would issue a Recipe (nay, Wrecipe) for Delicious Banana Bread.

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I think every good citizen should have a foolproof recipe for banana bread, so if you don’t have one, get ready to write this down!  This recipe was my Great Grandma Pearl’s, and I have no idea why it’s called “St John’s Banana Bread.”  Maybe Saint John baked when he wasn’t baptizing?

I have this giant pile of bananas because they were left over at a 5K I helped out with last Saturday.  (I was originally going to run the 5K, but……they needed help signing people in and, uhh, I had a big meal the night before.)  I am very opportunistic when it comes to free produce, so I scooped up as many as I could carry.  It never hurts to have overripe bananas in your freezer, my friends.  They are perfect for baking, smoothies, and BANANA SOFT SERVE.

Normally I would try to take this recipe and decrease the sugar, add some whole wheat flour, etc.  But there are a few cards in my recipe file I just don’t mess around with, and this is one of them.  I follow it to the letter, and it never lets me down.  (Except for the fact that my mom clearly wrote “4 mashed bananas” on the recipe card, and that’s crazy talk.  It’s 2—see the recipe below.)

This is so easy there’s really no need for step-by-step photos.  Just do me a favor and DON’T forget to butter the top of the loaf and sprinkle it with sugar right after you take it out of the pan.  This step is mandatory, and if you skip it, both Great Grandma Pearl and I will be very disappointed.

Oh, and one final note—if you have two loaf pans and a plethora of bananas, you might as well just double the recipe.  It’s no extra work, and then you could give a loaf away to someone.  I think banana bread is the perfect baked good for gift-ing—it’s easy to transport, most people like it, and it just says “Hey, I think you’re really neat and you deserve a good breakfast and/or snack.”

St. John’s Banana Bread

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large, overripe bananas, mashed (You want a little over a cup)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and continue mixing until well-combined.  Fold in the dry ingredients, and then the mashed bananas.  Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for one hour* at 350.  Remove from the pan immediately, butter the top of the loaf, and sprinkle with sugar.

*I usually bake this for the full hour, but you might want to check it at around 55 minutes or so.  If you over-bake, you really will have Tough Bananas, and that would be a shame.

Onward and upward!  Until next time, fair friends.

Burlington banoffee

I’m back from spring break in Vermont with my gal pal/kindred spirit Kristin—it was marvelous!  We did lots of adventuring and took in some pretty scenery.

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We also made time for important things like sitting on the couch while watching Sister Wives and eating dessert.  Kristin pointed out on 3/14 that it was “Pi Day.”  While I don’t care about pi, I do care about pie, and I’ve been wanting to try the banoffee variety for awhile.  (“Banoffee” = mash-up of “banana” and “toffee”—it’s a British thing, I think.)

We made the banoffee pie for a little gathering to watch the finale of The Bachelor, and thank God we did.  I’ve never watched the show before….but I must say that the “After the Final Rose” special was pretty emotionally taxing.  I mean, if two beautiful people who got engaged after a contrived, videotaped six-week courtship are struggling to make it work, is there hope in love for the rest of us?  This is the kind of thing that’s easier to ponder while eating pie.

Here’s the link to the recipe we used.  It worked like a charm.  Only alterations: store-bought graham cracker crust instead of homemade, and 3 sliced bananas instead of four.  Oh, and I sprinkled mini chocolate chips over the top, because when did that ever make anything worse?

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(I don’t have a picture of the finished product, but I assure you it was very cute.)

Today I set out to create some banoffee-inspired blondies.  They turned out really well, and, because they don’t involve a can of sweetened condensed milk, they won’t violently attack your blood sugar quite like the pie.  Note: I used store-bought toffee bits in these, but you could go to this link and make your own!  That would be a nifty little project, huh?

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Banoffee Blondies (makes 12 bars)

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c. white flour
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c. toffee bits (plus some extra for the top)
  • 1/2 of an overripe banana, mashed with a fork
  • optional chocolate chips to sprinkle on top

Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Cook and stir for 4-5 minutes (there will be a lot of foam) until it’s golden brown.  (Browning the butter creates the caramel-y flavor that will put the “offee” in your banoffee.)  Take the pan off the stove and allow the butter to cool for a few minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the browned butter and brown sugar.  Then add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the flours, salt, and soda and mix until well-incorporated.  Fold in the mashed banana and toffee bits.  Press the dough into a greased 8×8 pan and sprinkle the top with extra toffee bits and a few chocolate chips if desired.  Bake at 350 for about 17 minutes.

P.S. I do have some Vermont maple syrup—I promise there will be some sort of maple-themed creation within the next few days and I’ll be sure to report.  (Unless it’s gross.)

P.P.S. If you happen to be looking for a beautiful, fascinating novel to read you should definitely check out Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  I finished it on the plane yesterday and cried my eye makeup clean off.  So….maybe save the last 100 pages or so for the privacy of your own home if you don’t like weeping around strangers.

Blueberries for Cal

Let me tell you the tale of a wonderful vacation day.

I woke up and my parents were already at work.  I lazed around and read for awhile.  Then, I packed up some homemade graham crackers (recipe here)…

…and a few other essentials…

…and drove myself to daycare.  My sister-in-law watches 3 babies plus my always charming baby nephew during the day, and now that I’m home I was eager to go assist.  (And by “assist,” I mean “make a mess in the kitchen and make myself scarce whenever somebody smells like their diaper needs attention.”)  The plan was to recreate a favorite snack of Mr. Baby Nephew (also known as Cal):

When I arrived, the man of the hour was not at all excited to see me…

…but my new friend Carter was happy to hang out in the kitchen with me and observe the cooking process.

I based these Nutrigrain-ish bars on this recipe.  I un-veganized it, because I had butter instead of Earth Balance and no ground flax to make a flax “egg.”  I also cut a little bit of sugar, and swapped blueberries for the apples.

First things first: the jam filling.  This stuff was simple and would be great on its own with yogurt, ice cream, pound cake, etc.

Next, dry ingredients:

Then add the butter and wet ingredients, and smush (technical term) until you have a crumbly mixture.

Press half of the mixture into a 9 x 9 pan, spread the blueberry filling over that, and crumble the rest of the oat mixture on top.

While it’s baking, tend to any adorable babies that happen to wake up.

And 30 minutes later, voila:

Blueberry Nutrigrain Knock-offs (makes about 16 bars)

  • 1 1/2 c. oats
  • 1 c. flour (I used 1/2 c. white and 1/2 c. whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar (honey would probably work also)
  • 2 tbsp. almond milk

For the jam filling:

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. water
  • juice of half a lemon

For the jam filling: In a small saucepan, cook the blueberries and sugar over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often.  As you stir, smash some of the berries against the side of the pan.  When the 20 minutes are almost up, add the cornstarch and water and continue to stir for a few more minutes.  Then, take the pan off the heat, add the lemon juice, and let the jam cool.

For the bars: Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Then add the wet ingredients and the butter, and smash with a fork until the mixture is crumbly and well combined.  Press half of the mixture into a 9 x 9 pan, spread the jam filling evenly, and crumble the rest of the oat mixture on top.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, and let cool before cutting into 16 squares.

Note: I think this is my favorite of all the things I’ve posted on here so far–so you should definitely give it a try.  It would also lend itself well to lots of variations–see the link to the original recipe for a list.

After the blueberry project, I helped my sis-in-law and another of the daycare charges make some cookies for the big kids to decorate after school…

….and then I came home for Zumba.  It doesn’t get any better than that, dear readers.

If I don’t get back here before the weekend–happy holidays!

Leftovers and Plyometrics…

They don’t mix.  By that I mean that you should not eat leftovers of several sublime and butter-centric Thanksgiving dishes for lunch and then later attempt to complete a workout DVD entitled INSANITY: Pure Cardio.

That said, if you’re looking for a way to undo some Thanksgiving damage, or just happen to be interested in picking up some really good workout DVDs, I would definitely recommend the Insanity program, which I got used on Amazon for much less than they sell it for on the terrifying infomercial.  I don’t do the workouts 6 days a week, as suggested on the lovely motivational wall calendar that came with my DVDs, but I do try to do one of them once or twice each week.  It’s “high intensity interval training,” and it HURTS. SO. GOOD.  There are four workouts that are about 40 minutes each, and then four longer, more difficult workouts that I have never tried because I think they might kill me.  Something to aspire to, I guess.  Below, my lovely friend Christina and I prepare to “Insanitize” in my apartment.

In the background, you can just make out the face of Shaun T, Insanity instructor and world-class hottie.  In most of the videos he takes off his shirt about halfway through the workout, and I have to say…it really gives you the will to carry on.

In food-related news, it was a wildly successful Thanksgiving back in DSM!  I chopped, I stirred, I sauteed, I ate SO MANY SWEET POTATOES, and I did not study for upcoming exams.  (There will be pleeeeenty of time for that later, after I come out of my sweet-potato coma.)  The company was great as always, and the food was excellent.  It is a true honor to sous-chef for Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Kathy Lane.

Then, I slept for a very, very long time.  I don’t understand this whole “Black Friday” thing, and would really only get myself out of bed at 3 a.m. if someone was selling deeply-discounted completed law school finals.  Although I did buy this plate at an antique stand in the afternoon (because it was cheap and it speaks the truth)…

….I generally think Black Friday should be for laziness and creativity in the realm of leftovers.  Here are a couple of ideas for your cranberries and leftover dressing:

Cranberry Salsa

My Aunt Rhena brought this to the Thanksgiving dinner and we promptly made her copy down the recipe.  It’s really unique and fresh-tasting–serve with crackers and cream cheese.  Note: it’s definitely spicy, and will get even spicier the longer it sits, so you may want to start small on the jalepenos and add more later if you want.

  • 1 12 oz. package fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3/4 c. green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 jalepenos, with seeds (or without, if you want less heat), chopped

Dressing:

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

I had some of the salsa on Friday night on top of salad greens, and it was a welcome departure from all the mushy comfort food I housed the day before.  Next up, stuffing remix!

This was the hastily-improvised vegetarian dressing my mom and I made: wheat bread cubes, walnuts, dried cranberries, sauteed onion and celery, and vegetable stock:

The very next day, it made another appearance in the form of what we’ll call “Thanksgiving Frittata.”  This will serve 2.  First, preheat your oven to 400 and throw the leftover dressing (this was about a cup, I would say) into a frying pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Using an electric mixer or a whisk, mix up 2 eggs, 2 egg whites, about 1/4 cup cottage cheese, and about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Then, after the dressing has been in the pan for just a couple of minutes, pour the egg mixture over it.

Leave it on the stovetop just until the edges start to set up, and then put the pan into the oven for about 7 minutes.  When the eggs are set, sprinkle with something green (because everything looks better with a sprinkle of green), slice, and serve.

That’s it–I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

I turn a year older and use every dish we own…

Bear with me, folks–this could be a long one.  It was my birthday this past week, and my brother’s birthday the day before, so naturally I cooked about a thousand different things and left piles and piles of dishes in my wake.

I got the birthday off to a bang-up start with some pumpkin-flavored oatmeal and a little Criminal Procedure reading (because the rights of the accused are no less important on the day you turn 25, people).  Here are most of the ingredients–including my trusty rooster canister full of slow-cooking oats–lined up and ready to go.

I put the following into a small saucepan and cooked and stirred for 5-6 minutes:

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. almond milk
  • 1/4 c. canned pumpkin
  • about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • a small pinch of nutmeg

After I took the oats off the heat, I drizzled them with honey and topped the whole concoction with some pumpkin seeds and a spoonful of peanut butter.  (Breakfast without peanut butter is kind of like a year without a birthday, in my opinion.)

With a start like that, I don’t see how this year can go wrong.  The rest of the birthday was lovely as well, and included apple-picking, apple turnover-eating, and dinner and drinks with a bunch of wonderful friends.

When I finished class for the week, I drove to Des Moines for some family-style celebrating.  One of my older brothers has his birthday the day before mine, so I usually feel the need to show up and bake a communal birthday cake.  I love going to my parents’ house for a lazy Friday evening and Saturday.  Everything there is so pretty and un-cluttered (i.e. no textbooks and dirty laundry piled everywhere).  For example, my mom is some kind of plant whisperer, and has all kinds of gorgeous blooms going on at any given time.

Birthday cake recipe selection was pretty easy this year, because I had just picked those apples at the orchard.  I used a Smitten Kitchen recipe yet again, and made just a few modifications to change it from pineapple upside-down cake to caramel-apple upside-down cake.  I swapped the pineapple juice in the batter for apple juice, added a half teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter, and omitted the rum.  I used a 10-inch skillet, as the recipe suggests, but it wasn’t cast-iron and still seemed to work just fine.  First, I peeled, cored, and sliced three apples.

I had four, just in case, but 3 was more than enough.  I’m not sure what kind these were, either, because we just kind of wandered around the orchard picking them indiscriminately…but my guess would be Jonagold.  Next, I made the caramel layer in the 10-inch skillet.

Then, I arranged the apples on top of the caramel in a spiral-y sort of way, overlapping the slices a little.

After that, I made the batter.  (Yes, this took awhile.  That’s why I made sure to create a special birthday-cake playlist before getting started.)

Now, if you make this cake (and you should, because it was gooooood), make sure you put the batter on in several dollops and spread it out CAREFULLY over the apples.  There’s no sense in ruining your artful arrangement of apple slices before the party even hits the oven.  Throw that skillet in the oven and bake as directed by Ms. Smitten Kitchen.  Check in about 5 minutes early–mine was done in a little less time than the recipe suggests.  When you’re done baking and have let the cake sit for 5 minutes, steel yourself for the inversion.  This is not for the faint of heart, or those without heavy duty oven mitts.

Say a little prayer if you’re so inclined, flip, and if a few bits stick to the pan there’s no need to swear like I did.  Just scrape ‘em up and put them where they belong.  And look at this beauty!

Before I could cut into it, though, the whole fam insisted on eating a proper dinner.  We had lettuce wraps–most folks ate a them with a ground chicken, veggie, and soy-saucey- filling, but I made a vegetarian filling that was pretty good.  I sauteed the veggies for a few minutes, threw in the sauce ingredients for a few more, and then we ate the filling in romaine, radicchio, and endive leaves, with a little rice on the side.  Here’s what I used:

  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • about 5 scallions
  • 1 small can water chestnuts
  • handful of chopped mushrooms
  • one diced yellow summer squash
  • about 1/2 c. frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger root
  • 1/4 c. peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • juice of half a lime

This was really good and definitely worth experimenting with some more.  I wouldn’t recommend the radicchio, though–the purple color is pretty but it’s kind of bitter when served like this.

So there you have it–one marvelous birthday in the books!  Now I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with a cold, so perhaps the next post will feature dishes brimming with vitamin C.  Farewell for now!

Saturday, starring watermelon

Although I am not very carnivorously-inclined myself, I do happen to be the daughter of a certified barbecue contest judge who, in order to receive his certification, had to swear a solemn oath to “spread the gospel of ‘cue.”  Because he takes this oath seriously, my dear old dad fired up his backyard smoker before I left for school and sent me back with enough “low and slow” goodness to feed several friends.

So I whipped up some black bean burgers and a few other things, fed some folks, and then scooted off for a night of fun and frivolity with my very dangerous friend Christina.

The crowd did a pretty excellent job of cleaning up the food.  However, I was left with an over-abundance of watermelon, so I decided to pull out my favorite knife this morning and see what I could do with it.  Here’s what happened with what I could find in my kitchen…

Watermelon and Peach Salsa

  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1 diced peach
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • juice from half of a lime
  • salt and pepper

I thought I was headed for failure as I mixed these ingredients together, but lo and behold–it’s pretty good!  Try it with some chips, or, if you want to get fancy, on top of some grilled fish.  I had it with a leftover black bean burger for lunch and it was totally two-thumbs-up.  Cilantro and/or a jalepeno might be nice additions.

Emboldened by my successful salsa, I then dumped another cup or so of watermelon into my blender.  I added maybe 4 ounces of riesling (the nice thing about hosting barbecues is that people sometimes leave wine in your fridge) and a couple splashes of lime-flavored club soda.  It blended up all pink and frothy and DELISH, but I don’t have a picture because, um, I drank it.  Sorry.