Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fig, Pistachio, and Gorgonzola Crostinis

I'm a morning person.  I love waking up at the crack of dawn to putter around my kitchen.  After I engage in some light puttering, I work on some homework. Then I go to yoga class.  Then I come home and do more homework and maybe watch some New Girl.  My morning routine is pretty important to me.  If I skip any part of this routine, I sometimes feel like my whole day is shot.  I'm in a really bad mood and I can't concentrate.  I think maybe that's not normal, maybe I'm just weird--I don't know! Anyway, there is one thing that always happens at yoga, every day.  The instructor informs us all that it's important to keep a balance, in yoga and in life.  I think this is actually really good advice, and it's sort of become part of my morning routine to hear it.  Keeping the balance in yoga is hard.  You might fall on your face while attempting a headstand or scorpion pose.  Keeping the balance in life is harder.  

These crostinis are sort of like the yogis of the snack world--they have that all important balance between sweet and salty.  The figs will satisfy your sweet craving, while the pistachios pack a salty punch!  They're a pretty easy snack to make.  They are also pretty easy to snack on...until every single one is gone.  This is a serious problem with tiny, bite size food.  But, I digress. 

First, you'll cut the figs lengthwise into slices.  Then, shell the pistachios and blanche them in some boiling water for just 15 or 30 seconds--this will make them super easy to peel.  Peel off the skin so they become a bright green color.  Then throw them in the oven for just a few minutes, maybe five, at 400 degrees to make them taste nutty and crunchy. While that's happening, you'll make a quick balsamic reduction.  I made mine with a little agave nectar to make it a bit sweeter, but adding some honey would do the job too. Cut some bread into 2x2 inch squares and toast it up!  Sprinkle the pistachios, gorgonzola, and figs over the bread.  Then drizzle the balsamic reduction over everything, and viola! Tiny yogi snacks!  And maybe once your sweet and salty cravings are satisfied, you'll achieve the inner balance you need to do the perfect headstand!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vanilla Thimbleberry Mini Pies

Hi there! I have so missed all you delightful people.  I promise I didn't just abandon you willy nilly--I was studying in Granada, Spain last semester.  I can't wait to tell you all about it.  I even have an awesome recipe straight from my host mom's kitchen to share with you later.  But chances to spend my own time in the kitchen were few and far between.  That was mostly ok, because my host mom, Manuela, was an amazing cook.  But as much as I miss Spain and everything that was magnificent about it, one thing I LOVE is getting to putter around my own kitchen again.  First I wanna show you some pictures from my trip, plus I baked you some tiny pies!  Can we be friends again?

This is my incredible host family.  Marian, me, Katie (My roommate), and Manuela.

After my program ended, my boyfriend came out to visit me in Granada, then travel to Croatia for one last week before the adventure ended.  This is a view of Dubrovnik, Croatia from a ferry we were on.  

The Alhambra, Granada's most famous attraction.  It might be my favorite view ever- When you get up higher, it's sillhouetted against the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Some of my lovely friends in front of the Alhambra.
(This is one of my friend Morgan's pictures.  Check out her rockin' awesome blog!

 Sahara Desert, Morocco.

 Lagos, Portugal.  

 My favorite store in Granada, filled with colorful lanterns.

Looking up into the Albaicyn, the Arab Quarter or Granada.  Many of the houses and buildings here are remnants from when Granada was the last Muslim-ruled part of Spain, hundreds of years ago.

There are so many things I wish I kept you guys up to date on, but since I fell so far behind, I just had to pick a few pictures of my favorite places and memories.  I hope you liked them!  Did all that photo viewing make you hungry?  Good, because I've got some pies for you.  Vanilla Thimbleberry Mini-Pies!  

So these thimbleberries.  One thing about them.  They are cute.  They are tiny.  They are delicious.  They are ridiculously hard to pick.  I didn't know they existed until the other day when I was hiking with my boyfriend.  We were actually looking for Porcini mushrooms without a lot of success when we stumbled across this wonderland of thimbleberries!  I was prepared to finally experience my childhood dream of living off the land like the boxcar children, filling a basket to the brim with fresh berries and taking them home to create a delicious breakfast.  It turns out the boxcar children may have had it more difficult than I originally anticipated.  After two hours of struggling to free myself from viney foliage growing on the side of something that may or may not have qualified as a cliff to pick the enough of the world's tiniest, most fragile berries to fill a mason jar, I have a lot more respect for anyone who leaves their home in the car of a train at the crack of dawn to forage for berries just to feed their family of 12.  Props, boxcar children.  I could probably never live like you.  What I'm trying to say here is that unless you're an expert forager, maybe just keeping an eye out for thimbleberries at the store is the thing to do. And if thimbleberries aren't a thing at your grocery store either, almost any other berry will be delicious in these pies.  Ok, so now that we've got our berry situation figured out.  Down to business.

Vanilla Thimbleberry(Or whatever kind of berry your heart desires) Mini Pies

Grease a muffin tin.  Preheat the oven to 350.  I just made a basic pie crust for these.  My favorite way to make it lately is using the rule 1,2,3.  I use one part water, two parts fat, and three parts flour.  For the fat, I use half butter and half shortening.  Ugh, math.  I don't like it.  Anyway, I know you guys have your own crust recipes you know and love. Roll out the crust and cut out pieces to put inside the muffin tin.  You can store this in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, until you're ready to use it.  When you are ready, bake it for 20 minutes, or until it starts to brown. For the vanilla cream, I used Martha Stewart's recipe.  While that was refrigerating, I made the berry mixture.  One cup of berries, one tablespoon lemon juice, and two tablespoons sugar, or to taste. Thimbleberries are so fragile that I really only had to stir them a little with the other ingredients until they became the perfect smooth texture.  Depending on what kind of berry you use, you might need to put the berries, lemon juice, and sugar in a pot on the stove and heat them up while stirring until they become a little more manageable.  Now everything's ready to be put together!  Spoon the vanilla cream about a third of the way up into the pie cups.  On top of that, spoon the berry mixture another third of the way up.  Add a top crust if you want!  If you don't want a crust on top, you're done and you can take the mini pies out of the tins once they're cool!  If you do, put the crust on and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, but watch it to make sure the berries don't boil over.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Orange Almond Biscotti

I wanna talk secret identities with you.  You know, like superheroes and stuff.  When I was a kid, I sometimes thought about how awesome it would be to live a normal life by day, returning to my superhero lair-located under the sea in a giant anemone and accessible only by submarine, obviously- at night. I'd squeeze into a colorful bodysuit (preferably made from the shiniest pleather available) complete with matching cape and face mask.  I'd practice my catch phrase in front of the mirror a little bit.  It would probably be something like "You better believe it!" or "LUCY SMASH!" Then I would fight some serious crime. 

I sometimes still think about this, actually.

The life of a superhero would be hard.  You probably wouldn't get very much sleep.  I'm sort of afraid of the dark, to be perfectly honest.  A superhero would have to have nerves of steel.  You don't just go walking around in an abandoned tire factory at night knowing full well that some kind of villain is lurking around unless you have nerves of steel.  You could trip on your cape.  After considering this, I realized that I probably wouldn't be the world's most successful superhero.  I turned my attention to cookies.

I used to think that biscotti had a secret identity.
Biscotti's secret identity was less superhero and more supervillain. Think about it.  When you want a cookie, only a cookie will do, right? Biscotti disguises itself as a cookie, but I've found that a lot of the time it's more like a really old piece of bread that makes your teeth hurt.  And what is more villainous than being forced to eat old bread when all you want is a cookie?
Today I was feeling forgiving.  I gave biscotti a second chance.  And I am so glad that I did!  This stuff is crunchy, but not so crunchy you will break your teeth.  Just the right amount of crunchy.  It's flavorful,  and it makes your kitchen smell amazingly delicious and orangey.   The chocolate-dipped half is perfect for your sugar craving- the almond, orange, and chocolate all compliment each other so excellently.  The plain half is perfect for dipping in your tea after a hard day of fighting crime.

Orange Almond Biscotti
Recipe from Baking Illustrated 
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  

Mix 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream 4 tbsp softened butter and 1 cup sugar until smooth.  Beat in two eggs, adding one at a time.  Stir in 1/2-3/4 cup toasted and chopped almonds and 2 tbsp zest from an orange.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly, until everything is just mixed together.

Dividing the dough in half, shape 2 loaves on the baking sheet, about 2 in. by 13 in.  Bake until loaves turn golden-brown and start to crack.  

Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them for about 10 minutes.  While they are cooling, lower the oven's temperature to 325 degrees.  

Slice the Biscotti loaves diagonally with a serrated knife, about 1/2 inch wide.  You will end up with about 42 cookies.  Lay the slices on the baking sheet and return to the oven for about 15 minutes.  

For the chocolate coating, I just melted about 6 oz. of semisweet chocolate and half a tablespoon of butter.  Then I dipped the cooled cookies halfway into the chocolate and set them in the fridge for about 10 minutes.  

p.s. I don't have a great camera, so I usually just take my pictures with my iPhone.  This time, I used this really cool app called Toy SLR in hopes that my photos would look a little less pathetic.  What do you guys think?  I've been having a ton of fun playing around with it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Home Made by Yvette Van Boven

I'm a sucker for cute fonts.  Does that sound weird?  I guess it kind of is.  I think it's just that I like words, and I also like cute things, so words that look cute make for a winning combination!  If you are still feeling skeptical, I invite you to take a look at the movie Juno.  Would that movie have been nearly as delightful without all the interludes of artistic doodley fonts informing the watcher what season it is in a certain scene or what trimester Juno is currently in or whatever?  I think not!  But now even I can tell I'm just not making any sense.  Let's move on.  As I wasted valuable hours of my life shopping online for apartment things that I do not need and cannot afford, the super cute font/cover of this cookbook attracted my eyeballs.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Veritable Vegetable Paradise!

Things I did this week:
1. Wrote 5...thousand papers for class
2. holed up in a coffee shop all week with my face in my computer and a pastry in my hand
3. ate nothing but coffee shop pastries for dinner every single day
4. went to the twilight: breaking dawn midnight premiere (am I proud of this? I am not. I am seriously, seriously not. But omitting this from my list of the week's activities would basically be like telling a lie...and then I would have to live with the repercussions of that decision forever. The repercussions, I guess, being that you would probably never have to know where I was the night of Thursday, November 17, 2011. huh. Well, I guess what's done is done, and it cannot be untyped.)
5. wished it was thanksgiving break

Now, it is thanksgiving break! It really, really is! And let me tell you, it is everything I imagined it could ever be. I would make you a list of things I have done so far over break, but it would be less of a list and more of a statement that I slept for like 12 hours was beautiful. I kind of wanted to write a poem about it. Then I realized that would have been super weird and creepy, so instead I used my newfound energy this morning to cook up all the veggies in my fridge that I didn't eat this week while I was munching on chocolate chip scones in various cafes across Boulder. The pastry muncher strikes again! Anyway, after 3 sweet potatoes, 2 apples, a whooooole lotta carrots, and some zucchinis, scurvy has officially been averted!

In case you just powered through an "I'll sleep when I'm dead...which is now" kind of stressful week too, I wanted to share the recipes for the (kinda) healthy stuff I made with you. You know, to bring the bounce back into your step and the sparkle into your smile and all that good stuff(not that your smile doesn't totally does)--think of it as a "post chocolate chip scone binge, pre-thanksgiving stuffing binge" shock o' healthy greens and vitamins to your system.

Also, I made a playlist! It's for chillin' out, mostly. It contains none of the songs from the Twilight soundtrack, even though it's kind of good.

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Recipe from Epicurious
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, peeled, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 small carrot, peeled, grated
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel; sauté 1 minute. Add 3 cups stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Puree soup in batches in blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Ladle into bowls. Top each with sour cream and grated carrot.

Zucchini Carrot Muffins
Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen
Makes 6 muffins
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 large Egg
1 cup grated Zucchini
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whisk together sugar, oil, salt, and egg.  Add the zucchini and carrots.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, then add them to the zucchini and carrot mixture.  Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake at 375F for 18-25 minutes.

Sweet Potato Chips
3 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
(I kind of just winged the spices, it's really just however much you like)

Peel and slice sweet potatoes into very thin strips-- about 1/8 inch.  Mix olive oil and spices together, toss with sweet potatoes.  Place slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 375F until top begins to brown and look crisp, then flip the slices and continue to bake.  Remove when chips are crispy.