Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tortellini Caesar Salad

I was in a sorority my first two years of college.

Well, sort of.

It was a sorority/fraternity program set up by my church (so, you know, none of that hazing, drinking, panty-dropping, girls-gone-wild stuff), which has since been disbanded. It makes me kind of sad to think that it's no longer around, because I made some particularly wonderful friends for life before I moved on.

I also got well acquainted with this salad.

It was affectionately known as the "Psi Salad" (fitting, as we were in the Psi chapter of the sorority), and it was served all. the. time. All I remember about the girl who used to bring it is that her first name was Emily. I feel like I should probably remember more about her than that... so I feel bad. Ish. But she probably doesn't remember me either, right? Anyway, the point is that it's delicious, and you should make it.

It's pasta salad meets caesar salad, and it brings joy to my heart, and to my tastebuds. What really makes it is plenty of black pepper, so don't skimp! I like it best when it's had time to chill overnight, so start the day before your event -- this makes the day of more relaxed, too!

Tortellini Caesar Salad

1 pkg. frozen cheese tortellini
1 pkg. romaine hearts bagged salad mix
1 tomatoes, seeded and diced
caesar salad dressing of your choice
caesar croutons (or whatever croutons you like best that don't clash with caesar dressing)
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions, drain and rinse under cold water. Drain well again.
Combine cooked tortellini with some caesar dressing (a few tablespoons, or enough to coat) and refrigerate for a couple of hours or up to overnight. (I usually choose to do this the night before.)
When ready to serve, toss tortellini with lettuce, tomatoes, dressing, and croutons until well combined. The amount of dressing is up to you, but you'll want to make sure everything is coated pretty well. Add salt and pepper to taste -- the pepper is the most important part, so use a generous amount. Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Sometimes I'll toss together everything but the croutons and let it hang out in the fridge for a while to let everything get friendly, but that's not necessarily necessary.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quick Chocolatey Granola Bars

Hello. My name is Kristyn and I have a problem.
I'm addicted to the Chocolate Chip Chewy Coated Granola Bars from Trader Joes.

These ones. Right here.

They have become a complete obsession.

It's disturbing how quickly a box of these puppies can disappear. For real.


And it's not like I don't go to TJ's on a regular basis, because I do. I go a lot. But it's not enough -- I need granola bars, stat!

So in the time it would have taken me to drive to TJ's and back, I can have an entire pan of these ready at a fraction of the cost. And the biggest bonus is that I can pack in as much chocolate as I want. Or I can add pretzels or raisins or nuts or whatever my heart desires.

They have it all: chewy, wholesome, toothsome, and, most importantly, extra chocolatey.

Quick Chocolatey Granola Bars
adapted from Lauren's Latest and Rachael Ray Magazine

1/2 c. coconut oil (butter can be substituted)
1/2 c. honey or corn syrup
2/3 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. crispy rice cereal
3 c. quick oats (you can use regular rolled oats if you run them through the food processor or blender, otherwise your bars may not hold together very well)
2 c. mini chocolate chips, divided

In a large saucepan, combine coconut oil, honey, brown sugar, and salt. Melt together over medium heat, cooking and stirring until consistency is smooth and sugar is no longer grainy.
While that's cooking, combine crispy rice and oats in a large mixing bowl. Remove brown sugar mixture from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over oats and cereal, and stir to coat. Once well combined, gently stir in 2/3 of the chocolate chips. Carefully press this mixture into a 9x13" pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over top and press down gently. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.
Certainly, you can cut them however you like, but I cut mine into 16 equal by cutting down the middle lengthwise, then cutting down the middle crosswise. Then cut those halves in half, and those halves in half, giving you two rows of bars about 1.5x5" Did that make any sense?
I highly recommend getting a bench scraper for this application. Nothing cuts bars more cleanly or easily.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Say "Challah"!

I think it's remarkable how becoming a parent changes you. It seems like it changes everything for a while. I feel like now, after almost a full year has passed since I became Mommy, I have finally returned to myself again.

Lots of things went by the wayside when I got pregnant including one little project I had just started: The Daring Bakers Challenge. Each month, a group of bloggers take that month's challenge to bake something more demanding than usual. I loved it while I was participating, but it soon became too much for me and I had to set is aside for a while.

Just after shaping, ready for second rise.
This month seemed like good timing to get back in the game. For weeks, my husband had been requesting French Toast for our Friday night Breakfast for Dinner, and I had been on the hunt for challah bread at my local grocers, with no success, and I had resolved to just make my own. So imagine my delight when this month's Daring Bakers Challenge turned out to be challah!

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

After 1 hour rise, brushing with egg wash for that perfect golden crust.

I picked the easiest recipe I could find, and I am so pleased with the results! I mean, look at it! It came out beautifully browned with a thin crust and was soft, and sweet inside. I had to hold myself back from eating it right out of the oven -- it smelled so amazing! I'm telling you, there is no smell quite as pleasant as bread baking in your oven. Best air freshener in the world!

Fresh from the oven!
And, for the record, the French Toast we made of it was fabulous. But I loved the bread plain with some homemade raspberry jam from a good friend (thanks, again, friend!).

Easy Challah

4 c. (500 gm/20 oz) all-purpose flour
1 c. warm water
1 pkg./2¼ tsp. rapid rise/quick rise/highly active yeast
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water (egg wash)

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl, and set aside. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer) combine water and yeast, allow to sit 5 minutes until foamy. (Mine never did get super foamy and things worked out fine anyhow, just saying)

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture to the water and yeast mixture, and beat until well combined. Cover with a dish towel, let stand 30 min.

Add two eggs to the dough, beat again. By hand or with your dough hook, knead in the remaining flour mixture. Knead
approximately 10 minutes.

Transfer to oiled bowl, cover, let rise one hour. Punch down dough, and knead for about 3 minutes. Divide dough into equal parts and roll into long strands to shape as desired (3, 4, or 6 strand braid -- I stuck with a simple 3-strander).

Place loaves on parchment covered or greased cookie sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise
one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush loaf with egg wash.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake until
golden crust forms (mine took about 15-20 minutes, but yours might take as long as 30).

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Speaking of Printables...

I'm happy to announce that I have added printer-friendly links for my most popular recipes! By and by, I'll get a link up for every recipe. If there's one you want on the quick-fast, just leave a comment or send me an email and I'll get right on it.

Happy long weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cute Kitchen Printables Round-up

I love a good printable, and thanks to Pinterest I have a way to find some really fun ones!
The following are a few of my recent favorites, so click over to them if you like them, too, and leave the creators some love!

Menu Planner Printables from Artsy Fartsy Mama
I've made no secret of my strong recommendation to make a weekly meal plan. This will make it even simpler to get started or stay on track.

DIY Sourdough Starter Printable from Armommy
Not only will she teach you to make your own sourdough start, you get a cute (and super functional) printable out of the deal. Bonus!

Printable Jam Labels from Packagery
Love these! I can't wait to preserve something to put these on!

Kitchen Art Printables from Over the Big Moon
Four adorable works of art to brighten your kitchen decor.

DIY Magnetic Conversion Charts from Martha Stewart
Print these off and mount them on magnetic backing for easy reference anywhere you stick it. Leave it to The Martha.

Lemon Recipe Cards from I Still Love You
Melissa Esplin of I Still Love You (ISLY) is a fantastic artist whom I actually knew in high school, though she may not remember me. Aren't these recipe cards darling?!

Printable Vintage-Look Recipe Cards from Love vs. Design
I won't lie, these might be my favorites of the bunch -- so perfect. You had me at vintage-look.

Happy Printing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blackberry Lemonade Bars with Hazelnut Shortbread Crust

When we accepted my husband's job offer and decided to move to Oregon, I started researching the area. Of course, being the food enthusiast that I am, I wanted to know what kinds of things grew here, what Oregon was known for. Did you know that Oregon produces 90% of US domestic hazelnuts? It was news to me. (Not THE most interesting tidbit, but news to me all the same.) And everyone knows that Oregon is known for its blackberries.

Since we've been here for over half a year now, I've noticed that blackberries and hazelnuts pop up together frequently in these parts. Hazelnut crusted chicken, Pancakes or waffles with hazelnut blackberry compound butter -- yum! So in that spirit, I have had that combo on the brain, wanting to make something fun to celebrate our new locale.

One of the first recipes I pinned on Pinterest was Raspberry Lemonade Bars by Annie's Eats. As always, her photos are drool-worthy, and her recipe got me thinking that blackberry lemonade is also yummy. From there, the hazelnut crust came to mind, and these bars were born!

And I'm glad they were because they're delightful! They bring to mind a lazy summer afternoon, which is precisely what you need this time of year, when nature likes to tease with summer sunshine one minute and torrential rain the next. {sigh}

Blackberry Lemonade Bars with Hazelnut Shortbread Crust


for the crust
adapted from Epicurious

1 c. whole hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
13 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

for the filling
adapted from Annie's Eats (who adapted it from Sophistimom)

3 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. flour
3 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. strained blackberry puree
6 egg whites
2 eggs
1 1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
powdered sugar, for dusting

Make the crust first. Preheat oven to 350º. In the bowl of your food processor, combine hazelnuts and sugar, process until nuts are finely chopped. Add in flour and salt and process for 5 seconds or so to combine. Add butter and process until dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Press into parchment-lined 13" x 9" baking dish, being sure to make it an even thickness throughout. Bake for 22-23 minutes.

While the crust is baking, assemble the filling. Combine four, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, whisking to blend. In a separate bowl, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, and blackberry puree. Add the eggs and egg whites to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Then whisk in the lemon juice mixture until smooth.

When the crust has been pre-baked, immediately pour filling over top and place back in the oven and bake until center is just set and no longer jiggles when shaken; 35 - 40 minutes. Let cool to room temp, then chill well (for at least two hours).

When you're ready to serve them, carefully tug up the parchment, pulling out the bars in one big piece. (You may want to gently loosen any areas not contained by the parchment with a butter knife.) Place on a cutting board or mat, and slice into squares. Dust with powdered sugar.

What do you like to make using local ingredients? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Well, wish me luck.

For the next 12 days, my little man and I will be making a pilgrimage back to Utah to visit family and friends -- sans hubby. I'm nervous, but excited.

I haven't forgotten about you guys, though. I've got a killer dessert recipe lined up for later this week, and a couple of fun posts next week, too! Meanwhile, get out there and enjoy the beautiful spring weather!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spinach and Avocado Pesto

Green is so much more than a color in the modern vernacular.

Sometimes I wish that wasn't the case, because as a color, green is one of my favorites, and I miss the simplicity of life without multiple cultural meanings behind practically everything.

I'll be candid, I don't like to think too much about food. Are you the same way? Someone says the name Michael Pollan and my fingers head for my ears. (It's involuntary, I swear!) And I love TED talks, but I rarely like to listen to the ones about food. I like what I eat. I don't want to change. I don't want you to tell me what is wrong with what I'm eating. I don't want to hear the word organic (especially until we all come to a consensus on what, precisely, that means). I don't want you to dictate to me how close to my house my food should have been grown. Essentially, I don't need an extra helping of guilt with my meals.

After forcing myself into listening to a bunch of TED talks on the matter, I do, however, feel that I need to rethink what I eat to a certain extent. I'm not really a "food philosophy" kind of person, and therefore have no interest in declaring allegiance to any food "movement".
I would rather not eat pesticides, so I can get on board with organic produce to that end, but I'm not about to be obsessive about it. I agree that cattle contribute to global warming, so I eat less beef than I used to. I eat less meat, period. I would rather not eat "pink slime", so I'm being more careful about the quality of beef that makes it to my table when we do eat beef. I love to eat locally, but that's easy to do in Oregon or California -- less simple back home in Utah,  or other places where the growing season is shorter and more volatile or intense.

My problem with many of the ideas that are out there is that they are answers for we elite few who have the luxury of worrying about what kind and quality of food ends up on the table instead of if there will be food at all. And while it's great to be mindful about what we do for ourselves, it's only a small part of the equation in my book.

But I certainly don't have the answers, and I admire those who are working out a vision for making the world a better, and better fed, place to live -- no, thrive.

If, like me, you are plugging your ears and singing "la la la can't hear you!" when you encounter these kinds of food debates, I encourage you to take a breath and listen to some of the ideas out there. Decide where you stand -- or at least decide what you won't stand for any longer -- and make a few changes or get involved in whatever way your conscience dictates. My only specific recommendation is moderation. It's the safest bet in almost every situation.

Here are a couple of my favorites to get you started:

[Steps down from soapbox]
Now, on to the main event...
Delightful, fresh, summery, free of oils of any kind; This is what I offer you, in pesto form. (Is there a more delicious form to take than pesto? I submit that there is NOT!) As a bonus, this dish is delectably green. How "green" you wish to make it will depend upon how you choose to source your ingredients, about which I promise to pass no judgement.

I literally crave this pesto.

You probably will, too.

And considering how many healthful ingredients are on the list, I think you can safely step away from that side of guilt we were talking about earlier.


Spinach & Avocado Pesto
adapted from Giada DeLaurentis via Food Network

1 lb. long ribbon pasta, such as fettucine, papardelle, linguine, etc.
2 ripe, medium avocados
3 Tbsp. lemon juice (1 lemon) or lime juice (about 2 very juicy limes, maybe 3)
1 c. lightly packed basil
3 c. lightly packed baby spinach
1/2 c. skinned, toasted almonds
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 c. grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
grape tomatoes (optional)
cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions in well salted water, reserving some (a cup or so) of the pasta water before draining.
While the pasta is cooking, get out your food processor and load it up with the avocado, lemon/lime juice, basil, spinach, almonds, and garlic. Pulse until quite smooth, then add parmesan, and process again. Taste and add salt and pepper to suit your taste.
In a large bowl, toss pasta with pesto to coat, adding reserved pasta cooking water as desired to thin the pesto to the right consistency. (I usually end up using about 1/4 c. pasta water, but sometimes it takes a bit more.)
Distribute among plates or bowls, adding tomatoes and chicken if you wish.
Can be served warm or at room temperature, making it great for picnics, potlucks, or traveling.

Baby Bryce Approved!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Foolproof Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Once upon a time, my husband left for a summer internship in Ireland.
Oh my, was that a long summer.

But I had big plans:
I was going to ace my two summer courses! I was going to focus more on my little blog! I was going to bake a rhubarb pie!

I don't think any of those things really happened in his absence.

I've moved forward with my life since then; the hubs came home, I finished my degree, we had a beautiful, amazing, delightful baby boy, and I've found more focus on my blog. But I still hadn't made that rhubarb pie.

That changed this weekend, when I was given some beautiful rhubarb from a neighbor.

My history with pie crust has been short and tragic. I've always wanted to make great pie -- there's just something about a well-made pie that makes your chest puff up with pride, you know? But can I just say that whoever coined the phrase "easy as pie" lied like a rug?

By way of a new friend, I found Lucinda Scala Quinn's recipe for very forgiving cream cheese pastry. It was easy to make and easy to work with, making my odds for success exponentially higher. In addition to ease of use, this crust came out flaky and delicious. I'm sold!

You could certainly use any crust you prefer, but if, like me, you're a novice pie-maker, I highly recommend this cream cheese crust. Because if I can do it, you can, too. (Which I think is really why I write this blog.)

The filling is from the incomparable Deb Perelman at smitten kitchen. Hers is one of the first blogs I started following, and is still one of my absolute favorites. Every recipe is so precise -- I just knew it would be foolproof. The only change I will make when I make it again is to cut the fruit into smaller pieces, since I don't prefer a chunky texture.

Foolproof Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

for crust
1 c. (2 sticks, 16 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Process the butter, cream cheese, and cream in a food processor, electric mixer, or by hand to thoroughly combine.

Add the flour and salt. Process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.

Rub flour all over a rolling pin. Working with one dough disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface. Applying some pressure with the rolling pin, roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Re-flour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over, and continue to roll the dough from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 400º, and carefully transfer your bottom crust to a 9" pie plate. (I like to roll my crust gently over my rolling pin, then unroll it over the pie plate.) Gently mold your pastry to the pie plate, being sure there are no air bubbles.

for filling
3 1/2 c. (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 c. (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice or 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. quick-cooking (instant) tapioca
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

In a large bowl, stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon or cinnamon, salt, and tapioca. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter. Roll second half of pie dough into an 11-inch circle and cut decorative slits in it. Transfer it to center over the pie filling. Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp it decoratively.

Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool completely. When fully cooled (several hours later) the juices will gel nicely.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Swiss Oatmeal with Berries & Granola

I love eating oatmeal in the morning. My favorite are steel cut oats -- I love the chewiness. But as the weather heats up, I start wishing for cooling alternative to both my steel-cut oats and cold cereal. Enter Swiss Oatmeal.

Don't ask me what makes it Swiss. Wikipedia could probably tell you. I only know what makes it yummy. ... Um ... the ingredients do. (Make it yummy, that is.) Ingredients like vanilla yogurt, wholesome rolled oats, almond meal, and red ripe strawberries.

This couldn't be more simple, really. The night before you want breakfast (so... tonight, for example) throw this together and in the morning all you will have to do is slice some berries and you'll be in business.

Easy. Peasy.

What are you going to do with all the free time I've just helped you create?
Putting on mascara and using the bathroom by myself are high on my list, personally.

Swiss Oatmeal with Berries & Granola

1 1/2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. almond meal
1 1/2 c. vanilla yogurt (greek yogurt would be great, but regular works just as well. Nonfat is perfect, if that's what you like.)
pinch of salt
dash of cinnamon (optional)
berries -- strawberries are particularly good

The night before you want to have this, mix together oats, almond meal, milk, yogurt and salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, dish into bowls and top with cinnamon (if desired), granola and berries.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cinco de Drinko

So here's the deal, I don't drink. (Maybe you thought the title of this post must have been chosen whilst drunk, but there you would be wrong -- I'm just my father's daughter, and this is the sort of thing that makes me giggle uncontrollably.)

But even those of us who don't drink alcohol need a way to cool down -- be it from some spicy eats or just because the day is hot hot hot! (Oh baby hot hot hot!)

So, obviously the mocktail is where it's at for me and mine. If, like me, you choose not to imbibe, here are a couple of lime-y mocktails for Cinco de Mayo, or any other south-of-the-border-style fiesta.

Fresh Limes

A drink "coined" by my mother, who would make this for us in Utah's sweltering summer heat. I can't express in words how refreshing it is!

grapefruit soda (Fresca, preferred)
drinking straw

It does not get more simple, really, but you will not believe how the lime transforms the grapefruit soda.  Fill your glass with ice and pour in your grapefruit soda. To each glass, add the juice of half a lime. Toss the lime rind right in the glass, and stir it up with your straw. Enjoy!

*  *  *

Cucumber Lime Mint Spritzer

My mom would make this for our annual family Dutch Oven "cookoff" near the end of July. I kept asking her for the recipe for her "cucumber mint drink", and she kept telling me that there was no mint in it. Well, there is now, because it needed mint. I gather this is rather like a Mojito, only more cucumbery and 100% less alcoholic.

1 can limeade concentrate
1, 2 liter bottle lemon-lime soda
2 limes, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
several sprigs fresh mint
lots of ice

In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine limeade concentrate, soda, and ice. toss in your slices of lime and cucumber, along with your sprigs of mint, and stir. Serve with additional lime slices for garnish.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, amigos!