Monthly Archives: February 2011

A Quick Bite

I haven’t had much time to try new recipes recently. (Haven’t you heard? It’s midterm season.)

So, I’ve been mass-producing baked potatoes (which are easily reheated in the microwave). And consuming them with such fervor that, by the time it occurs to me to take a picture, my potato is merely a shell of its former self.

I like this recipe a lot. Sometimes I even massage my potato with garlic powder and pepper, in addition to the oil and salt. It likes that.

Mmm, brain food.

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Chocolate Coconut Crispies

Laura won my giveaway–here she is with the prize:

Two dozen chocolate coconut crispies.

Every family has one dessert that inspires such excitement that every member is willing to sneak into the kitchen for a peek, even at the risk of being assigned dish duty.

This cookie recipe is that dessert at my house.

We’ve affectionately deemed them “crack” cookies. (Actually, there are several cookie recipes that we’ve determined are worthy of the title, which can get confusing if one doesn’t specify which “crack cookie” recipe is being referred to.)

Regardless of where we are in the house, we come trailing in for a taste of the dough. For this reason, I imagine, my mom has always doubled the recipe.

We return to our respective posts briefly, ears perked for the sound of the timer beeping promisingly. Then, the accompanying springing noise of my mother returning her recliner to its original position, her footfall from living room to kitchen, her careful removal of the baking sheet from the oven.

We rush casually from our rooms, pour generous glasses of cold milk, and dive in.

Divine.

Chocolate Coconut Crispies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown packed sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled**
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut

1) Preheat oven to 350. Beat softened butter in a bowl, then add both sugars and beat for two minutes. Add egg and beat until creamy.
2) Pour in melted chocolate. (**You can also use cocoa: three tablespoons of cocoa and one tablespoon of butter for every ounce of baking chocolate needed.)
3) Stir in flour, baking powder and baking soda until just combined. Add oats and coconut.
4) Drop slightly rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool briefly on the pans before removing to a storage container.

Valentine’s Day Giveaway Winner

Congratulations, Laura! You won my Valentine’s Day giveaway with your comment.

Email me at meghanaprichard [at] gmail [dot] com to collect your prize! (Oh, and happy belated birthday.)

Thanks to everyone else for participating. It was great to hear from many of you for the first time. I’m hoping to do more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned!

How the winner was chosen: I numbered each individual comment/tweet on Word. I then went to Random.org, put in the range of numbers, and it chose a number from within that range for me. The comment/tweet that corresponded with that number won.

Butternut Squash & Mushroom Turnovers

Every once in a while, I experience a pang of homesickness for London. After all, nine months have passed since I cried my way from Notting Hill to somewhere over the mid-Atlantic and grinned my way from that point homeward. I’m totally allowed to wax nostalgic if I so choose.

In the midst of that dreary, gray weather, the sardine-packed Tube, and the labyrinth of stairs and hallways that defined my university, I found myself. My friend Maria said it more succinctly than I ever could:

When I first met you, I had the sensation that you were kind of a baby … in the sense that there was so much potential waiting to come to life. I only “knew” you for four months but during that time, I felt that you grew up a lot and, like with me, London is still crawling its ways into your soul and heart and brain and self and it’s still helping you grow up to this day. And I mean growing up as a full individual, not growing up to become the ‘grown-up’ with a job and a house and a husband. You can grow up to that, but grow up to yourself first.

Isn’t that a lovely sentiment? In many ways, London brought me to this blog, to this moment, because while I was there I used food to bring me home. Now that’s some kind of wonderful symbiosis.

And now I’m bringing myself back to London through the delightful medium of pastry dough.

In case you were not previously aware, the English are a savo(u)ry-pie-and-pastries people. Shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, pot pie, pie-pie. Frankly, I’m shocked/disappointed that we didn’t all run around in pastry crust like pigs-in-a-blanket, simultaneously shielding ourselves from cold and combating hunger.

English food is misunderstood, really, but wrapped in the comforting arms of flaky pastry, it comes out juuuuuust fine. (That’s more than I can say for the reputation of American food in other countries. Our few redeeming qualities include cupcakes, depending on whom you ask.)

This turnover recipe reminds me of London in all the best ways. Warm and buttery, with a surprise inside. Perfect for cold days in particular.

Butternut Squash & Mushroom Turnovers:
One 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 leeks, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 tablespoon dried thyme
14 ounces puff pastry, thawed
1 1/2 cups goat cheese or gruyere or a combination
1 egg, beaten

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the squash on the sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake for about 25 minutes, until softened and starting to brown.
2) Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil, add the leeks, and cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the thyme and cook for 2 minutes.
3) Season with the butternut squash with salt and pepper and toss with the butternut squash in a medium-sized bowl.
4) Using the same baking sheet, line with parchment paper. Roll out puff pastry dough on a floured surface until it’s about a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Cut pieces of pastry into squares, place a tablespoon or two of squash and mushroom mixture into the center of each, and top with cheese.
5) Brush beaten egg around the edges of the squares. Fold the pastry dough over to form triangles and crimp with your fingers or a fork.
6) Place completed turnovers on the baking sheet and brush with more egg. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until pastry dough is golden brown.

By the way, you have exactly 59 more minutes to enter for your chance to win free baked goods. Uhh… why wouldn’t you? Bathing suit season is still months away.

Thumbprint Cookies & A Valentine’s Day Giveaway

I want to be a cynic about Valentine’s Day, I really do. I want to say that it’s a Hallmark holiday solely created to make up for 364 days of neglect. I want to say that it’s the cruelest form of torture for anyone who’s single.

I want to say that for those of us in relationships, it’s yet another day requiring careful consideration in the card department, in my case, perusing through cards of the clever, ironic, anti-establishment variety. (Yet as long as I participate in the latter behavior, regardless of the card’s source, Hallmark still wins. Tragic.)

From those first days of decorating a mailbox for the receipt of Valentines, however, I remember liking Valentine’s Day. It’s a nice reminder that I live a life surrounded by people I love, people who love me.

Furthermore, it’s one of those glorious holidays that encourages the consumption of sweets in larger-than-normal quantities. I’d always go straight for the chocolate in my glittery, Crayola-ed Valentine paper bag mailbox. (I shunned the chalk-candy hearts. Does anyone legitimately enjoy eating them?)

In honor of those exciting days of digging through Valentines, seeking out the best candy and overanalyzing the meaning of the line “Bee Mine” in the card from your crush, I’m doing my very first giveaway.

To enter, comment on this post answering the question: “What’s your best (or worst, if you’re into that) Valentine’s Day memory?” Make sure you leave your first name!

Wednesday night at 9 p.m., I’ll randomly select one lucky commenter as the recipient of either two dozen cookies or two loaves of bread. (Some options are here, here and here. I could also make something completely new. Winner’s choice!) You have until 8:59 p.m. on Wednesday (2/16) to enter.

You’ll also get one additional entry for tweeting the following:

I want to win a sweet treat from @pricharm! http://wp.me/p103ES-8o

Unfortunately, the giveaway only applies to those of you in the continental United States. I’m still a student, folks. I’ve got bills to pay.

If you’re feeling like doing a bit of baking yourself, these thumbprint cookies are a tasty departure from those traditional Valentine’s Day chocolatey affairs.

Thumbprint Cookies:
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for garnish
1 large egg
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod, or 1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup jam (I used peach, raspberry and mixed berry)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) In another bowl, beat the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly add in the flour, baking powder and salt.
3) Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie dough baller. Pour sugar in a shallow bowl and roll dough balls in sugar.
4) Place dough balls on baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1/2-inch deep. (Alternatively, make a heart shape like I did by making a “V” with your pinky finger.) Fill each indentation with about 3/4 teaspoon jam.
5) Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. (For even color, rotate the pans from top to bottom about halfway through baking.) Cool cookies on the baking sheets.

Simple French Toast

Despite being a carbaholic, I rarely buy bread. Sure, I make banana bread and cinnamon swirl bread from time to time, but if I didn’t bake the bread myself, I’d just as soon not eat it. (I find store-bought bread questionable in most cases.)

And, when I do buy bread, I almost always commit sacrilege by letting the bread get stale. Once a chunk of French bread has served its purpose sopping up sauce or soup, the remaining baguette inevitably ends up on top of my fridge, discarded and forgotten.

That’s where French toast comes in. (And croutons, but that’s for another day.) Even when the bread is so dry that I could sand furniture with it, the bread will still soak up egg. (BONUS: When the bread is that dry, the resulting French toast isn’t soggy, but just-soft-enough.)

It’s a miracle of nature that I will never take for granted.

Simple French Toast:
a few slices of stale bread
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon butter

1) Whisk eggs, milk, flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Dip bread in the dish to cover with the egg mixture thoroughly. (If your bread is really stale, like mine was, soak the bread overnight.)
2) In a pan on medium-low heat, melt butter. Add egg-covered bread slices. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side.
3) Top with anything and everything, like the combination maple syrup, slivered almonds, and a smear of cream cheese shown above. Probably could’ve worked some fruit in there somewhere…

Hot Fudge Sauce

So, let’s say it’s a Monday night. It’s 9 o’clock. You’re tired. You just left your amusing, but still mentally draining, three-hour course on the abysmal state of public education in this country.

You attempt to open your car door and are cruelly rebuffed. That’s when you realize that someone has hit it, while parked, at just the right angle to effectively prevent you from entering your car through the driver’s side door. A fender bender, to be sure.

You’re charmed. You slide into your seat through the passenger side, drive to campus police, file a report.

If you have dinner plans the next night, hot fudge sauce should be very deliberately added to the menu.

While photographing the hot fudge sauce in its pretty Bell jar the following day, you realize you’ve taken a self-portrait in its reflective glass surface. How appropriate.

You might also make and eat this hot fudge sauce if you’ve decided to spend February re-toxing. It’s chocolate month, anyway. Might as well make it count.

You might also eat this hot fudge sauce if you’ve been very, very good lately and have consumed 3+ green lentil “burgers” in a two-day span.

Recipe from the Italian momma of pizza and pesto fame. I’ll be sure to thank her for you.

Hot Fudge Sauce:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 squares/ounces of unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (6 ounces) evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1) Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan. When butter has melted, add chocolate and combine thoroughly until chocolate is melted.
2) Add sugar and milk, alternating while stirring. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and add vanilla.
3) Serve over ice cream. Store in refrigerator and reheat to serve.