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October 30, 2019

Halloween Thumbprint Cookies

I know Halloween is the one time a year when most people are drowning in candy. Working at a candy company is like that year-round, which is why I'm so excited to finally share a recipe to help use it all up. There's only so much you can eat straight from the wrapper (or sneak from your kids' baskets), so recipes that upcycle candy and can be shared with even more people are so useful, especially this time of year. Pretty much everyone has had a Hershey Kiss cookie, but why not extend that to all chocolatey treats? I'm not just saying that because I work for Mars... there's just something magical about buttery cookies topped with oozy melting caramel and salty peanuts from a Snickers bar or gooey nougat in a Milky Way. Whatever your favorite candy is, I'm sure it will be even better on top of a warm, delicious cookie. That is assuming your favorite candy is something puckeringly sour or gum or something, in which case I'm not sure we can be friends since chocolate is clearly superior.


I clearly love thumbprint cookies since they translate so well to any occasion, even for passover. There's a little more leeway with recipes when you can actually eat gluten, but I still go for a basic buttery sugar cookie dough here to let the candies stand out. It's a pretty stiff dough with not as much sugar as you'd expect, which allows the thumbprints to maintain their shape and not be sickeningly sweet when topped with lots of candy. I do use a mix of regular white sugar and light brown sugar for just a hint of molasses-y flavor that makes chocolate chip cookies so good. The trick is to roll the balls and make the indents before chilling the dough, so they're easy to pop in the oven and don't spread too much. You may still need to re-indent the cookies after baking, but these should keep their shape better than most other doughs.


The hardest part of this recipe is deciding when to add the candy on top. In many thumbprint cookie recipes, you can add the filling before baking, since jams tend to hold up pretty well. However, candy would melt past the point of recognition and ooze everywhere. It's a delicate balance between waiting until the cookies are cool enough to avoid melting the candy too much but are still warm enough to let the chocolate melt a bit and stick to the cookie. I find that letting the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet and another 2-3 minutes on a wire rack leaves them just warm enough for the candy toppings.


Now for the candy itself. The original purpose of this recipe is to use up whatever Halloween candy you have lying around, so really any chocolate candy will do. I'd avoid very sour things as well as very chewy things (you wouldn't swallow gum plain, so why would you swallow it with a cookie?), but if you really like fruity flavors with your sugar cookies it could be worth a shot. I'll also advise against using M&Ms since the candy coating prevents the chocolate from melting and adhering to the cookie. Some of my favorites to use were all sorts of Snickers bars, Milky Way, Twix (gotta have that double cookie action), and, of course, Dove Promises, especially the filled ones. Hershey Kisses and Reeses would also be great, but I'm not looking to be a traitor if I bring these to my office. I always have candy filling up my entire apartment since it's basically part of my job description, but use whatever you have or whatever you can snatch up in the Great Annual November 1 Candy Sale, one of my favorite days of the year.


2 Sticks Butter, Softened
⅓ Cup Sugar
⅓ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups + 2 T Flour
1 T Cornstarch
½ tsp Salt
Candy

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes or until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt, then stir into the dough.

Scoop the dough into 1T balls. Roll firmly, then press an indent into the center of each cookie. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375F and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Transfer the dough to the prepared sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until just golden around the edges. Press the centers down as necessary. When cooled slightly but still warm, press the candy into the center of each cookie. Set aside to cool completely.

Makes 24
Recipe Adapted from Sugar Spun Run

October 11, 2019

Sweet Potato Lentil Chili

I'm about to turn on the heat in my apartment, and I'm thinking of doing my big seasonal clothing swap in my closet this weekend. It may not be as bad as Denver's 60 degree drop in 24 hours, but October finally hit and it's definitely chilly outside. That means I'm ready for cozy soups and hearty chilis, and I will eat them bundled up in my cute sweaters and fuzzy blankets with my cat as sunset creeps earlier and earlier.


Matzo Ball Soup is my go to and Southwest Chicken Chili is a family favorite, but I'm always looking for more recipes to add to my files. This chili is plenty filling and warms you right up, plus it's accidentally vegan, not that anyone would know unless they asked. Yes, this is one of those unicorn recipes that tastes delicious, suits all sorts of dietary restrictions, and is ready in under an hour. I'll wait while you grab your grocery list.


A lot of times I have multiple steps in my soup recipes to sear of the meat and saute the veggies just so to build the proper layers of flavor. This recipe is basically an exception, since you only saute off one batch of veggies (specifically the onions) then add everything else right in. You don't even have to cook the onions first if you're pressed for time. If you do want to do the onions separately and maybe add a little more flavor with another step, you can cook off some bacon or ham at the very beginning, plus it makes a great snack if you can't wait for the chili to finish.


The onions, garlic, and jalapeno are cooked first until fragrant. Another way to jazz it up (besides the bacon or ham, of course) is to add some bell peppers here too. After that, you add in the tomato paste and all the spices. There's nothing crazy, just some chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder. You should already have them all in your pantry, and if not I highly recommend buying them since you'll use them in plenty of other recipes too.


As with pretty much all my recipes, you can adjust the jalapeno and spice levels to suit your taste or even sub in a spicier pepper if you're feeling bold. I let those spices toast for just a minute until they become fragrant to boost the flavors even more. After that, you just stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, and veggie broth and let it all simmer together until tender. The keys here are to use petite diced tomatoes with green chiles for bite sized tomato pieces with some extra kick and dice the sweet potatoes fairly small so that they're also bite sized and cook quickly and evenly. If you can't find any petite diced tomatoes with green chiles, just use two cans of petite diced tomatoes and a small can of diced green chiles. You can also swap in your favorite bean (or add in a few kinds) and add in any other miscellaneous cans you have rolling around in your pantry that could go well. This recipe is extremely fast and flexible, so go forth and retreat into hibernation this fall.

1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
2T Tomato Paste
1 T Chili Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 10oz Cans Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 14.5oz Can Kidney Beans, Drained
2 lbs Sweet Potatoes, Peeled & Diced
1 1/2 Cups Lentils
4 Cups Vegetable Stock

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until tender and fragrant. Add the garlic, jalapeƱo, and salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, lentils, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender and the lentils are al dente.

Serves 6-8
Recipe Adapted from Brewing Happiness

September 15, 2019

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies

We're only halfway through September, and everyone is already obsessed with pumpkin everything, Halloween costumes, and the 3 crunchy leaves on the sidewalk. I do love fall, but I don't think I'm quite ready to fully immerse myself in the pumpkin-spiced, dark-at-4pm cold. It's still 80 degrees outside! I need to ease myself into fall, which is why these maple brown sugar cookies are perfect. Maple is great all year round, but it reminds me of fall in particular. It pairs really well with all sorts of other fall flavors (apples, pumpkin, pears, and spices, just to name a few). Here, I'm keeping it simple with just maple and caramel-y brown sugar so the maple flavor really shines through. It's a great first hint of fall flavor without fully committing, and it's the perfect treat for kids, coworkers, or just yourself for surviving the awkward summer-to-fall transition.


Cookies are generally pretty easy to make, and this recipe is no exception. You don't even have to soften butter since you have to melt it all anyway, which gives you the perfect excuse to brown the butter for that extra caramelized, nutty flavor. The melted butter gets mixed with the brown sugar, then you add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla followed by the dry ingredients.


Since one of the main flavors is brown sugar, I only use brown sugar here, no white sugar since the maple syrup also adds some sweetness. The brown sugar helps keep the cookies soft and chewy, too. What gets tricky is that the maple syrup is some extra liquid that you usually don't have to account for in cookies. I compensate by adding some extra flour, chilling the dough, and also knowing the limits of just how much maple syrup you can cram into the cookie itself. About a third of a cup is good to balance flavor and texture.


However, you can still get more maple into these maple cookies. One option is to use maple sugar, but that's expensive and would take away from the chewy brown sugar. My preference is to make a maple glaze, which is only two ingredients and can be slathered on to your maple-obsessed heart's content. It makes transport a bit difficult, so I'd either frost them just before serving or far enough in advance that they have time to set and dry in the open air a bit before storing. These cookies are soft and chewy but also cakey, so you could also sandwich them with some of that frosting for the extra maple flavor but easier packing.


1 Stick Butter, Melted & Browned (Browning Optional)
1 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Cups Flour
2 T Cornstarch
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

Glaze:
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 - 1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together. Add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then add to the dough.

Scoop the dough into balls and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm.

Heat oven to 375F and line cookie trays with parchment. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until just set.

For the glaze, whisk the maple syrup and powdered sugar together. Drizzle on the cooled cookies.

Makes 32
Recipe Adapted from Sugar Spun Run

August 25, 2019

Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Judging by the crazy spike in traffic in the past week and the Halloween decorations looming in Target, it's back to school season. I know everyone's schedules got a lot more hectic, and it's already easy enough for me to cave and just get food delivered, meaning that the need for easy but tasty dinners is much higher. Meals like this roasted pork dish only take an hour, make me feel super fancy, and make enough to feed the whole family and/or make leftovers for the next couple of days. They're perfect for weeknight cooking when you want something delicious, reasonably healthy, and in your stomach before Bachelor in Paradise is on.


Regular pork tenderloin is already a great starting point, but this filling really kicks it up a notch. It starts by sauteeing some onions, then adding mushrooms, garlic, and spices. This step is critical because mushrooms contain so much liquid. It's better to cook it all off now than have it all seep out from the pork during roasting. Fresh herbs will enhance the flavors, but dried ones will still taste great.


The one problem with the stuffing is that you need something to stuff it in, in this case the pork tenderloin. It's already so perfectly round and ready for roasting, and it can be a bit intimidating to cut it up and tie it back together. There are plenty of videos to make butterflying a bit more approachable, but essentially you're going to make one cut down the length of the loin, open it up, and make two more lengthwise cuts, one on each flap. It's helpful to take a meat mallet to the butterflied pork loin to make sure it's all even (especially at the seams), plus it makes it even more tender.


Once your pork is butterflied and your filling has cooled, you're going to spread the filling along most of the pork and roll it up, just like you would with cinnamon buns. Unfortunately, pork won't adhere back to itself like dough will, so it's best to use butcher twine or toothpicks to hold it together. Searing it prior to roasting will get some great color on it and help keep its shape. You'll still need to finish cooking the pork in the oven so it cooks through, but that frees up your searing skillet to make an irresistible pan sauce. Add a bit more garlic to the pork fat, deglaze with white wine, and stir in some chicken broth and herbs. Again, fresh herbs will brighten things up but dry herbs will work in a pinch. Once it simmers and reduces while the pork finishes cooking, stir in a splash of cream for some velvety richness and a little bit of luxury on a crazy weeknight. Serve it up with simple sides like some veggies and a mound of mashed potatoes and you've got quite the impressive dinner (the pan sauce makes a fantastic gravy).


1 Yellow Onion, Diced
8 oz Mushrooms, Sliced
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 1/2 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1 1/2 lbs Pork Tenderloin
1 Cup White Wine
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Cup Cream

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add the mushrooms and 3 cloves garlic. Season with 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Saute for 6-8 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Seat aside to cool.

Butterfly the pork and pound until thin. Spread the mushroom mixture evenly on the pork, leaving a 1-2" barrier along one of the long ends. Roll tightly and use butcher twine or toothpicks to close.

Heat oven to 400F.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Wipe out the skillet, then add some oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and roast for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, pour most of the fat out of the skillet. Add the remaining 2 cloves garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Deglaze with the wine and simmer for 3 minutes or until reduced. Add the chicken broth and remaining 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the cream and heat until warm.

Serves 4-6

August 15, 2019

Thai Steak Salad

My main qualm with salads is that so many of them have no substance. They're just piles of sad wilted vegetables that don't actually fill you up, so you end up bingeing on exactly what you were trying to avoid later in the day. The key to making a salad you enjoy eating is to add stuff to it that you enjoy eating and slather it in a good salad dressing. This salad has both juicy marinated steak and a bright homemade dressing that pairs perfectly with it. You can dress it up with whatever extra veggies (or fruits) you want for a hearty salad to keep you going throughout the day.


The steak is the component that takes the longest, but that time doesn't really count since most of it is just leaving the steak to marinate. The marinade consists of coconut milk, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and sweet Thai chili sauce. It's sweet, spicy, salty, and savory, so it should hit all the notes you're looking for in a meal.


Since it needs at least two hours to soak up all the flavors, you can prep it with your dinner and grill it before bed to take to work for lunch the next day, or you can prep it in the morning and grill it when you get home for a basically ready-to-eat dinner. Flank steak cooks up very quickly, just a few minutes on each side, and it stays incredibly tender with enough time in the marinade. Other steaks could work too if you have other preferences or another cut is on sale, just make sure it's a grilling steak and not a braising one like brisket.


The salad dressing highlights the flavors of the steak marinade without tasting too similar. It includes mangos, limes, sriracha, and spices for another sweet, spicy, salty, savory (and sour) blend of flavors. What makes the dressing so special is that the mangos are roasted, enhancing the natural sweetness and adding a hint of char to match the crust on the steak. A blender or food processor is key here, since the mangos need to be pureed until smooth and the olive oil needs to be fully emulsified for a creamy, cohesive dressing. The trick to emulsifying the dressing properly is adding the oil very slowly, basically just a trickle as you keep the motor running. If you're short on time, you can go with your favorite store-bought dressing, but as with the steak most of the time involved is pretty hands-off, and a blender or food processor makes the actual mixing a cinch.


The salad itself is very simple, just some greens, leftover mango, thinly sliced onions, and whatever else you feel like adding, maybe some shaved cucumbers or carrots. Anything you don't really want to eat can be easily hidden under the steak and the dressing. I caught my dad eating the dressing with a spoon, so you can throw your oldest, saddest veggies that have been buried in the back of your fridge all week and this will breathe some new life into them.

Steak:
1 1/2 lbs Flank Steak
3/4 Cup Light Coconut Milk
1 T Sesame Oil
2 T Soy Sauce
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 tsp Grated Ginger
2 T Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Sweet Chili Sauce

Dressing:
1 Mango, Diced
Chili Powder, To Taste
1/2 Cup + 1 tsp Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Sriracha, To Taste

Salad:
6 Cups Mixed Greens or Arugula
1 Mango, Diced
1/2 Onion, Thinly Sliced
Cucumbers, Carrots, etc.

For the steak marinade, combine the coconut milk, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and chili sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add the steak, toss to coat, and let sit 2+ hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 400F.

For the dressing, spread the mango onto a greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the chili powder (start with 1/4 tsp) and toss with 1 tsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes until caramelized. In a food processor, blender, or using an immersion blender, pulse the mango, lime juice, sriracha, and salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil and blend until smooth and emulsified.

Cook the steak on a hot grill or grill pan until cooked to the desired temperature, about 4 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing against the grain. Meanwhile, toss the greens, diced mango, onion, and other veggies together. Serve with the sliced steak and the mango dressing.

Serves 4-6
Recipe Adapted from How Sweet Eats

July 30, 2019

Peach Salsa

I spent the last week in Atlanta, and literally the only thing I wanted to do when it's that hot and humid was to cozy up as close as possible to the air conditioning. Of course, I had to occupy my time somehow, which usually means cooking. However, as I've found out with my woefully inadequate wall AC unit in Chicago, avoiding using the oven or stove is the key to success with summer cooking/overall survival. Now that I'm back in Chicago, I'm trying to make snacks for the 4 hours of Bachelorette this week and keep my apartment under 80 degrees, so heat-free recipes are definitely the way to go. And with all the ripe Georgia peaches I scavenged last week (well, purchased legally from Costco), peach salsa seemed like the best course of action.


When you incorporate a sweet fruit into a salsa, there's a lot of directions you can go in. My first instinct was to do a dessert salsa with all sorts of fruit and maybe some sweet cinnamon sugar dusted chips. Unfortunately, my family may have overdone our Costco trip and we were drowning in tomatoes and onions. Fortunately, those still pair well with peaches if you know what you're doing.


It's all about the balance between sweet, savory, and spicy, so you need ingredients from all the categories in both the chunky part and the dressing part. You can adjust the proportions depending on your personal preference, how ripe your produce is, and, of course, the natural sizes of the ingredients because it's basically impossible to get exact weights of anything. I aim for about a pound of tomatoes, a pound and a half of peaches, and bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno to taste. Remember that knife cuts do matter here because what you see when you're cutting is what you get when you're eating. Nobody wants a giant chunk of raw jalapeno (at least anyone I know of) or a piece of tomato you can barely fit in your mouth. Yes, some bits may get squished and produce can be naturally uneven, but try your best for even cuts.


The dressing is a combination of lime juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper. You can also add some chili powder or other seasonings if you're feeling a little spicy. As with the fruit and veggies, you can adjust the proportions to taste, especially given how much the sweetness of peaches can vary, even when they're in season. The flavors will keep improving if the salsa sits overnight, so don't worry about browning because the acid from the lime juice will keep everything bright and fresh.


The last piece of advice I have for making this salsa involves the peaches themselves. Peaches seem to have a very short window when they're in season, and even then it can be tough to find perfectly ripe ones. Luckily, you can harness the power of science to ripen the peaches yourselves, and it's all because of a helpful gas called ethylene. No, you don't have to go buy any big tanks or fancy equipment, just a paper bag. Fruits like peaches release ethylene naturally to self-ripen, so closing them off in a paper bag out of direct sunlight traps the gas and ripens them faster. To really speed things up, throw in a banana too. I don't think the banana would be a particularly good addition to the salsa, but if it gets you good peaches it's worth the investment.

1 1/2 lbs Peaches, Diced
1 lb Tomatoes, Diced
1 Small Bell Pepper, Diced
1/2 Red Onion, Minced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
Cilantro, Optional
2 T Lime Juice
2 T Olive Oil
1 T Honey
Tortilla Chips

Combine the peaches, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Add cilantro, if using. Whisk the lime juice, olive oil, and honey together, then season with salt and pepper. Drizzle onto the salsa and toss to combine. Chill overnight if possible, tossing occasionally. Serve with tortilla chips.

July 2, 2019

Apple Pie

If you already have an apple pie recipe you plan on making for July 4th (or any other event this summer/this year/the near or distant future), throw it out. Keep the apples and all the other ingredients, but throw away the recipe. If you don't have any apples or pie-making ingredients, go out and buy them right now. I 10000% guarantee this is better than any other recipe out there, and all my friends and family agree. There's two components for a perfect pie, the filling and the crust, and this recipe has perfected both. The crust has to be crisp and flaky, not susceptible to becoming soggy from the filling, which has to be moist and tender without being too liquidy. A scoop of ice cream really takes it over the top, so trust me when I say this is exactly what your summer barbecues are missing.


There are a lot of methods out there for making apple pie filling. There are so many types of apples, a million ways to cut them, the decision to pre-cook or not, and all sorts of other ingredients you can throw in. For my perfect pie, I peel, core, and slice the apples fairly thinly. No big halves or small dices, just eighths or sixteenths depending on the size of the apples. I go with Granny Smiths for that tart-sweet balance and ideal texture after baking (no mealiness allowed!).


Even the best cut apples can yield a dry or liquidy pie if not treated properly. I messed up countless pies but my family kept requesting them each year for Thanksgiving, and it's a good thing they did because I figured out that macerating the apples is the key to success. Macerating sounds pretty intimidating, but it just means tossing the apples in sugar and letting them sit for a bit to draw out the moisture. The water wants to dilute the sugar, so it is pulled out of the apples in only 15 or 20 minutes. Enough moisture stays in the apples for a pleasantly saucy, juicy filling without making the crust soggy or spilling all over your plate. The macerated apples are drained then combined with a bit more sugar, flour, yummy spices, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. At this point, the sugar is just to taste depending on how tart your apples are. The flour soaks up the extra juice to form a velvety sauce. Of course you need spices and salt to round out the flavors, too. The lemon enhances the tartness, helps break down the other ingredients, and just balances all the flavors.


The pie crust is my basic recipe, as always. It's a flaky all-butter crust that can stand up to the apples and still form a lattice, if that's what you're going for. The main tricks are to keep the butter (and really all the ingredients plus the finished dough) as cold as possible and handle it minimally to avoid overworking it. I make a double batch so I can do a bottom crust and a top crust, though if you're going for a lattice and don't have much practice you may want to make a triple batch so you have plenty to work with. Regardless of how you choose to decorate the pie, there's no need for blind baking since it will be the oven for a while just to cook the apples.


I start the pie in an extra hot oven to almost shock the dough with heat, locking in the shape and keeping it extra flaky. Of course, if you kept it that high the dough would burn and the apples would be raw, so I lower the temperature to let the pie finish cooking evenly. You may still have to cover the edges of the pie to keep them from burning, since tender apples and a perfectly golden crust are definitely worth the trouble. As hard as it is, I do force my family to wait a few minutes for the pie to cool before digging in so it's slightly less messy. Honestly, it's easiest to cut after sitting in the fridge overnight. While nothing beats a hot slice of pie with a big scoop of ice cream, this pie is great at any temperature and you should give it a try at least once, even if you think your grandma does it better.


1 Double Recipe Sweet Pie Crust Dough (See Below)
3 lbs Granny Smith Apples (8)
1/2 + 1/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Flour
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
Pinch Cloves
1/4 tsp Salt
1 T Lemon Juice

Split the pie dough in half and roll each to about 10" in diameter. Press one round into a greased 9" pie plate. Cut the other into strips to form a lattice. Chill until firm.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Toss in 1/3 cup sugar. Set aside for 20 minutes, then drain off the liquid.

Heat oven to 425F.

Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, flour, spices, and salt together. Add to the apples with the lemon juice. Transfer to the pie crust, top with the lattice, and crimp the edges.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425F, then lower to 375F and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the apples are tender, covering the edges as necessary.

For the crust:
Pulse 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor until combined. Add 2 sticks chilled and cubed butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine two egg yolks with two tablespoons of cold water and add in. Pulse until it begins to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Makes 1 9" Pie
Recipe Adapted from Pillsbury

June 26, 2019

French Onion Chicken

If you haven't been keeping up with my Instagram account, you should know I crammed a dozen of New York's top spots into a 48 hour trip and basically doubled in size. Now that I'm back home, I'm trying to cook more since I ate at enough restaurants to last through the rest of the year. I'm getting creative with some basic cuts of meat, like boneless skinless chicken breasts. They can be bland and dry and tough if you don't cook them right, but I found a way to keep them tender and juicy and flavorful. I personally consider this the epitome of health food because it's covered and vegetables and low-carb, meaning I don't feel guilty eating this with a big pile of mashed potatoes on the side.


This recipe is essentially a quick French onion soup thickened to a gravy for the chicken, which is then smothered in cheese and baked until hot and bubbly. A big skillet is the key to the dish so you keep building the layers of flavor and also don't have to wash too many dishes. The onions go in the pan first with a bit of butter, and they're sauteed until tender. I add some beef broth, which I swore I would never do with a poultry dish (it's actually a long-running debate within my family, especially for Thanksgiving). However, it's basically required for any good French onion soup, so I'll let this one go.


The chicken itself is pretty simple: just get some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pound until even and fairly thin. I know you can buy thin chicken breast cutlets, but those are usually far to thin for my taste and overcook pretty much instantly. I try to keep mine maybe 1/2" to 3/4" thick so they can get nice and brown on the outside but stay juicy in the middle.


You can sear the chicken in the same pan as the onions, as long as you take the onions out first so they don't burn. The gravy is also made in the same skillet so you can take advantage of the chicken drippings. A few spoonfuls of flour will thicken it into a roux in just a few moments. The onions go back in the skillet along with more beef broth. It should become a nice smooth gravy as soon as it comes to a boil, then I add some fresh herbs for some extra flavor. Once it's the right texture and flavor, the chicken can go back in. As everyone knows, the best part of any French onion soup is the cheese on top, so I pile it on each piece of chicken. My personal favorite here is Swiss, but the traditional route is Gruyere. Really any good mild melting cheese will do, so provolone and mozzarella are some more approachable options.


The chicken really only needs to bake for a few minutes depending on how thick you pounded them out ahead of time. The real goal here is to get that cheese all brown and bubbly (and of course make sure the chicken is cooked so nobody gets salmonella). The dish doesn't really take all that long to make, but if you wanted to prep it ahead of time a good pause would be after you assemble the skillet but before you bake it off. Chicken straight from the fridge will obviously take longer to heat up and cook through than if you had cooked the dish in one go, but it only took me about 10 minutes in the oven. It's still doable for a weeknight dinner, and the leftovers are even better.

2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Medium Yellow Onions
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 T Butter
1 1/4 Cups Beef Broth
2 T Flour
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
8-10 Slices Swiss Cheese (or Gruyere, Mozzarella, or Provolone)

Heat oven to 400F.

Slice the onions in half, then cut into thin crescents.

Melt the butter in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 4 minutes or until translucent. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and 1/4 cup beef broth, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until very tender. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness, about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat on the skillet to medium-high. Add the chicken and sear on both sides until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Add the flour to the pan drippings over medium heat and whisk until smooth. Add the onions, then stir in the remaining 1 cup beef broth. Bring to a boil, then season with salt, pepper, and the thyme. Return the chicken to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over each cutlet. Top with two slices of cheese. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is golden brown.

Serves 4-6
Recipe Adapted from Creme de la Crumb

June 10, 2019

Blueberry Cobbler Cookies

Blueberry season is upon us! Well, almost, but given the insane number of buckets my family always lugs home after berry picking each summer I have to start planning early. Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits to bake with because they're so versatile. They work for pies, frozen treats, smoothies, all sorts of breakfasts, and pretty much anything else you can dream up. I rarely see them in cookies, though, so I made it my personal mission this summer to do some sort of blueberry cookie. Well, mission accomplished. I cook those tasty berries down to a jammy consistency, pile them on top of buttery vanilla cookie dough, top it all with crumbly streusel, and bake them into the perfect treat: the irresistible taste of a fresh cobbler with the convenience of a cookie.


The jam is extremely simple, just blueberries, sugar, and a squeeze of lemon juice. That all cooks down for about a half hour until the berries burst and turn nice and thick. This will make more than you need for these cookies, but it won't keep as long as a jar of store-bought jam, especially if you don't can it properly, so use any extra within a few days. It would be great on top of ice cream, spread onto toast, or used to dip these cookies in for maximum blueberry flavor.


All good cobblers need good streusel, and these cookies are no exception. This one consists of sugar, brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon, flour, and lots of butter. It comes together in seconds and should be perfectly crumbly. If it's a little dry, add more butter, and if it's a little wet, add more flour. You can add more cinnamon to taste, too.


The cookies are also easy to make since a simple sugar cookie is all you need to highlight the tart berries and sweet streusel. It starts by creaming softened butter and sugar together until fluffy, adding an egg and plenty of vanilla, then stirring in the dry ingredients. I scoop them into small balls and roll them in more sugar for a little extra texture and pop of sweetness. You can use your thumb or a small measuring spoon to press an indent into the center of each cookie, then fill each pocket with that tasty blueberry jam. The streusel goes on top, then the cookies go in the oven. When they're just golden on the bottom, it's time to eat. They're fantastic hot and fresh, or you can top them with a scoop of ice cream for a delectable summer treat.


Filling:
1 1/2 Cups Blueberries
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Lemon Juice

Streusel:
3 T Sugar
3 T Brown Sugar
Pinch Cinnamon
Pinch Salt
1/2 Stick Butter, Melted
2/3 Cup Flour

Cookies:
1 3/4 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
2/3 Cup + 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla

For the filling, combine the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small pot. Simmer over medium heat until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

For the streusel, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the butter, then add in the flour.

Heat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

For the cookies, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the butter and 2/3 cup sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in the flour mixture.

Scoop the dough into 1" balls and roll in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Transfer to the prepared trays and press an indent in the center of each. Fill with the blueberry jam and top with the streusel. Bake for 12 minutes or until just golden.

Makes 20
Recipe Adapted from Joy the Baker

May 8, 2019

Pecan Praline French Toast Casserole

Brunch is a brilliant meal. Since it can be sweet or savory, it's really the best excuse to eat literally whatever you want. I went out to brunch at a local spot last weekend, and I decided on a waffle with cheesy hash browns. It's ok because the waffle used to be served with ice cream so really I'm being healthy. I also loved this particular brunch because there wasn't a wait (and also the great company). The main reason I would shy away from brunch is the fact that literally everyone else in the city has the same idea, and I'd rather not wait 2 hours for some pancakes when I could make decent ones at home. Brunch spots are going to be extra crowded this weekend for Mother's Day, so in my opinion it's worth trying to cook something yourself. I'm 100% sure your mom would love a homemade breakfast ready when she wakes up, especially if it borders on dessert and you don't forget to clean up after yourself. This pecan praline French toast casserole is basically breakfast bread pudding, and you can prep it the night before so all you have to do is pop it in the oven and wait for Mom to get up.


Like all good French toast recipes, this one starts with challah. It's a sweet bread made with eggs and fat, kind of like a sturdy brioche. French toast is actually best when the bread is a bit stale, so don't worry about picking up a fresh loaf. If the bread is stale, it's a little drier, meaning that it has more potential to soak up all that custard.


The custard consists of eggs, half and half, an extra splash of milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. If it sounds like what you would normally make for French toast, you'd be correct, though this may be a little more than you're used to making. You also have to let the bread sit overnight to soak it all up. When making normal French toast, the bread only cooks on the griddle for a couple minutes until golden and crisp, so it doesn't have much of a chance to dry out. If you poured the custard on the challah cubes and stuck it right in the oven to bake, you'd end up with dry bits of bread floating in a weirdly sweet, gelatinous pudding. Letting the bread sit overnight allows it to sop up all the liquid so that it stays moist (yes, I said moist) as it cooks through.


What makes this casserole extra special is the addition of pecans. I throw some chopped toasted pecans directly in with the bread so they're evenly distributed. I also make a 30-second homemade praline caramel concoction with even more pecans to go on top. That extra sugar seeps down into the bread pudding and also gets nice and crisp and caramelized for some nice textural variety. You can get more creative than just pecans, too. To make it more healthy/permissible for breakfast, you can add a handful of berries to the casserole before leaving it overnight. If your mom really wants a treat, though, you can take a hint from my local brunch spot and just throw some ice cream on top. My almost-stepmom would serve this with a big dish of grits casserole and a pile of bacon for a more well-rounded meal. The possibilities for this dish are pretty much endless, as long as you don't forget the card (and your mom gets to forget about the mess in the kitchen).


1 Large Loaf Challah or Brioche
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, Toasted
4 Eggs
3/4 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
4 T Butter, Softened
1 T Corn Syrup

Cut the loaf of bread into 1" cubes and transfer to a greased 7x11" baking dish. Toss with 1/2 cup pecans.

Whisk the eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour over the bread, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350F.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, remaining pecans, corn syrup, and remaining pinch of salt. Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and set.

Serves 6

April 30, 2019

Banana Upside Down Cake

I'm finally back home by myself after 10 days of hosting, traveling, and socializing. Also, it's basically May which means it's basically summer (despite that bout of snow we got over the weekend), so there's lots to celebrate. And the best thing to celebrate with? A cake, of course. This recipe is a great casual baking cake, since it doesn't require any fancy layering or frosting or decorating. The bananas speak for themselves, and the caramel seeps into every nook and cranny of the light and airy cake. A scoop of ice cream on top really makes it fantastic, especially when you're looking forward to summer.


Let's start from the bottom, although the cake is flipped over so I guess we're starting from the top. The caramel. Or carmel. However you want to say it, you'll be surprised just how easy it is to make from scratch. I'll admit it's not a true caramel, but heating butter and brown sugar together until thick and bubbly makes a pretty good sauce. A pinch of salt and a splash of rum round out the flavors for the perfect base for this cake (and also a sauce to drizzle on top of the cake and/or more ice cream).


The cake is a pretty standard vanilla cake, though it mixes up more like a Devil's food cake. There's no butter to soften or cream together, just oil and sugar whisked with eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. The dry ingredients are pretty basic too: flour, baking powder, and salt. It mixes up in a matter of minutes for a truly speed cake with all the flavor and fluff of a classic yellow cake.


Assembly is way easier than a fancy layer cake. I spread most of the caramel on the bottom of a deep round cake pan. It should have cooled down from when it was cooked, but if it's too thick to spread just heat it up on the stove for a minute or two until it thins out again. I slice about four very ripe bananas long-ways and fan them out in a single layer on the caramel, flat-side down. You'll probably need to break a couple into pieces for maximum coverage, or you can cut them the other way into coins. The cake batter goes on last, and I tap it on the counter a few times to get out any big air bubbles.


The cake bakes until a toothpick comes out clean, then I invert it onto a fancy plate so you can see all the caramelized bananas and the extra caramel drips down into the cake. It is especially delicious when served warm (even better with some ice cream on top), so no need to wait until it cools down completely. It will cut better if you can stand to wait a few minutes, but it's still better than waiting to cool completely and spreading on layers of frosting. I can't stress this enough: if you want a quick, summery cake to snack on instead of working on your summer bod, this is the way to go.

4 Bananas
1/2 Stick Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
1 T Rum
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Oil
2 tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
1 Cup Buttermilk

Heat the butter and brown sugar together in a medium skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add a pinch of salt and the rum. Set aside to cool.

Heat oven to 350F and grease a deep 9-10" round cake pan.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and remaining salt together. Combine the oil, sugar, vanilla, egg, egg yolk, and buttermilk. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Cut the bananas in half lengthwise. Pour the caramel into the cake pan, then add the bananas cut-side down. Top with the cake batter.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert.

Makes 1 9-10" Cake
Adapted from Food52

April 18, 2019

Passover Almond Crinkle Cookies

I don't think these are what my grandma had in mind when she set out to perfect her black and white cookie recipe. For her (and pretty much everyone else on the planet), black and white cookies mean a yellow cakey base with a schmear each of chocolate and vanilla frosting. Unfortunately, those aren't Kosher for Passover, which is looming ahead in all of its gluten-free, leavening-free horror. It's not my favorite holiday. We've been over this. But there are still a few good desserts out there that you can eat for the next few days, like some thumbprint cookies or naturally gluten-free things like sorbet. Adding to that list are these almond crinkle cookies, which are kind of like if you made a really dense, chewy macaron. They're sweet and almondy, and instead of a frosting or jam filling they get rolled in cocoa powder, which crackles as it bakes for a zebra-striped look.


 Because it's Passover, this isn't a normal cookie recipe. Instead of beating your butter and sugar together, adding the eggs, then stirring in the dry ingredients and any mix-ins, you prep your dry ingredients then stir in whipped egg whites and flavorings. That's it! No softening butter, chilling dough overnight, or making sure nobody sneaks a taste from the bag of chocolate chips (guilty).


The dry ingredients are just almond flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt. You're not allowed to have flour or leavening, which makes sure it stays simple. If you wanted an extra chocolatey cookie, you could experiment with adding cocoa powder to the cookie dough itself, but I personally just like the cocoa dusting on the outside.


The wet ingredients consist of whipped egg whites plus a bit of almond extract and vanilla. A stand mixer will make your life much easier here, but a hand mixer or even a whisk and some elbow grease will work in a pinch. You do only need to get them to soft peaks, so it's not as bad as it could be. You'll know they're done when they're foamy, opaque, and the tip curls or flops over immediately when you lift up the whisk. I transfer them to the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the almond and vanilla extracts as I stir it all together. Normally you would be extremely delicate in folding the whites into the dough, but here it will take a bit more force to get the dough to come together. I'm not saying beat the stuff into a pulp, but don't be afraid to get in there with your spatula and squish it together.


I'm normally a big fan of big cookies for that contrast between a soft, gooey center and crispy edges. However, these cookies are best as small bites since you don't want the outsides to brown too much before the center cooks through. You can always eat more cookies to make up for their small size, but you wouldn't want to eat more cookies if they're burnt and raw at the same time. I use my smallest cookie scoop to make 1" balls, then roll them in cocoa powder and transfer them to my parchment-lined baking sheet. I did try some with powdered sugar and they tasted just fine, but for some reason they baked up all lumpy and misshapen when the cocoa-covered ones were perfectly round. For that reason (and because of my love for chocolate), I preferred the cocoa cookies but you can do either one or a few of each. They would be great along with some ice cream at your Passover seder, and you'll forget all about the matzo when you have these to snack on all week.


2 Cups Almond Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Egg Whites
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder and/or Powdered Sugar

Heat oven to 300F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the almond flour, sugar, and salt together. Whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until they reach soft peaks. Stir into the almond flour along with the almond and vanilla extracts.

Roll the dough into 1" balls, then roll each in the cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes or until crackly and set.

Makes 18-20
Recipe Adapted from Love & Olive Oil