Janet here: College kids are not known for their culinary taste — Ramen noodles anyone? — but when I mentioned to S, who is at his second year at Wake Forest University, that I was planning to send him another installment of the ridiculously easy brownies I made last week (see recipe here), he said a variation on this theme had appeared on his school website.
Apparently the author of this recipe had heard about the Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip phenomenon started by Picky Palate (and blogged about here), and decided to try her version. It involves less from-scratch baking — we are talking college students here my friends — but I made them anyway and am happy to report, they are, as S would say, dank — and that is the supreme college compliment.
So if you’re looking to whip up something for a care package or just need a fast dessert for a bake sale, consider these. I guarantee you’ll get comments.
Wake Forest Oreo, Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes
1 box brownie mix
1/2 cup peanut butter
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the cupcake tin. Make the brownies as directed on the box.
Smear about 1 teaspoon peanut butter onto an Oreo, stick another Oreo on top of it and place the stack in the bottom of each cupcake hole.
Add brownie batter to each cupcake spot about two tablespoons at a time, giving the batter a chance to dribble over the sides to fully cover the Oreos.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25- 30 minutes, depending on your brownie mix directions.
Yup, that’s it.
So, if you’ve been reading at all lately then you know I have really strong and fond feelings about “The Family Dinner” by Laurie David and Kirsten Uhrenholdt. And, though summer has decided to finally peak out from behind the clouds here in the Bay Area as of late, I know for many of you–ok, probably MOST of you–thoughts are turning to fall. The recipe I offer today from David and Uhrenholdt’s cookbook just oozes fall. It’s warm, it’s hearty, and it features apples and, whether you’re finally basking in the warmth of the sun or giddily lapping up crisp autumn air, it’s sure to be a hit.
Did I mention that it’s easy? Because it is. And everyone in my family ate it to boot.
Apple Cider Chicken
with Caramelized Onions and Apples
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs, trimmed, each piece cut into 2 pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, cut into wedges
3 slices of bacon, chopped
2 tart apples, peel left on, cut into wedges
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
method (makes 4-6 servings)
In a large bowl, combine the apple cider, salt, rosemary, and chicken. Set aside.
preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large ovenproof nonstick pan, drizzle the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion wedges and bacon. Saute over medium heat until the onions are wilted and golden. This will take 10-15 minutes. Now add the apples and saute until they start to soften around the edges and get a bit of color as well, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the chicken, reserving the apple cider for later. Toss the chicken pieces in the flour.
Remove the apples and onions from the pan. If you need to, add a drizzle of olive oil to the same pan. Over medium heat, lightly brown the chicken. You might have to do this in two batches.
When all the chicken is golden, add the apple cider vinegar and the reserved apple cider. Stir well, add the chicken stock, bring back to a simmer, and then pile the apples and onions on top (this is just vanity–the dish looks better this way).
Stick the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
Janet here: I know I’ve been a bit of a casserole stalker in recent weeks of Faith Durand‘s new cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Casseroles, but I can’t help it. Every damn thing I make is killer. (See squash casserole here or her broccoli, cauliflower and onion one here.)
This artichoke and spinach casserole is yet another example. Thanks to the addition of ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan it seems sinfully close to eating a dinner of artichoke and spinach dip (not that I’ve ever considered doing that). The recipe is officially called a tian, which means nothing to me and seemed a little like the debate surrounding a fruit crisp or crumble. I did a little research, though, and it appears a tian originated in Provence and that it’s a casserole that contains cheese and grains and is usually topped with bread crumbs.
The bread crumbs thing should be in this recipe but as you can see from the recipe, mine doesn’t. That’s because I cleverly put the whole thing together — with a lovely layer of garlic bread crumbs on top — popped it all in the oven and realized five minutes later as I was cleaning up the kitchen that, oops, the rice was still sitting on top of the stove. I quickly took the dish out and just mixed the rice in, meaning my bread crumbs were now inside the dish.
It did not ruin the taste one little bit. G, the son who for most of his young life refused to put a single green thing into his mouth, had seconds. ‘Nuff said.
Spinach and Artichoke Tian with Garlic Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup short grain white rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 16-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 12-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained (I used canned instead and it was just fine)
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
ingredients for bread crumb topping
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13 baking pan.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the rice. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain. Set aside (but don’t forget about it!).
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is golden and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for another few minutes, or until the garlic is golden and translucent.
Pat the spinach and artichokes dry with a paper towel. Combine in a large bowl with the ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Fold in the drained rice, cooked onions and garlic, and then the eggs and nutmeg. Spread in the baking dish.
To make the bread crumbs, whiz the garlic, salt, pepper, bread crumbs and Parmesan in a food processor until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over the casserole and drizzle with additional olive oil.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until firm and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
The leaves are beginning to turn and we’ve had enough touches of cooler weather here in the Northeast that I’ve started thinking soup. I got into soup in a serious way last winter. Our middle child, G, was living with us at the time and was on a health kick that included lots of fresh fruits and veggies. So he was really interested in soup, too, particularly to pack for lunch at his job.
It was just the excuse I needed to expand my soup repertoire, which before this had mostly been potato leek soup (mighty good I might add) and the obvious vegetable. Then I discovered roasted vegetables and our soup lives changed.
I roasted cauliflower, I roasted broccoli, I roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots. I roasted just about anything I could get my hands on, added some broth and spices and every single time had a lovely, slurpable soup.
If you’ve ever been a little reluctant about experimenting with food, ie stepping outside the recipe box and adding a dash of this or a spot of that, soup is a great way to start. I don’t know what it is about roasting that makes everything taste better, but it just does. So grab your favorite vegetables and get going. I hear it’s going to be cooler and rainy this weekend…just right for some soup.
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced in half and in two-inch pieces
3 red peppers, seeded and cored, cut into slices
1 cauliflower, cut into roastable pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
chili powder to taste
3-4 cups (or so) of chicken or vegetable broth
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut up the veggies, place them in a roasting pan. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and chili powder and toss until the vegetables are well coated.
Bake for 20 minutes. Then toss and bake another 20 minutes until the vegetables are well roasted. Let them cool a bit.
Place some of the vegetables in a blender with some of the broth. Puree to your desired consistency. Do this until all the vegetables are pureed. Then add as much broth as you want to create soup of the consistency you like. Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary.
So, I was going to post about a chicken dish. I had big plans to make this apple cider chicken with roasted onions and apples for dinner tonight. But then I didn’t pull the chicken from the freezer in time and our microwave kicked the bucket this morning, so instead we found ourselves staring at a frozen hunk of meat at 5 o’clock. Maxine has to eat by 5:30 or else all hell breaks loose, so doing some sort of slow thaw under hot water was simply not an option.
So, we did what we city folk do when there’s a culinary malfunction. We piled our kid into her stroller and set out, meandering a few blocks from home to eat slices of pizza and drink pints of beer (ok, Max wasn’t invited for that last part) and draw on the giant chalkboard all at our local pizzeria.
And you know what? It was awesome in that way that unexpected breaks are.
But stay tuned. Because really, I’ve got plans for that chicken and I’m pretty sure they’re going to pan out mighty tastily.
So mostly Rachel and I are about cooking from scratch and all that. But let’s get real: Sometimes you’re pressed for time and guess what? You need a little help. Well, here is a dessert that is going to earn you KUDOS from anyone who eats it and how you made it is your little secret.
This comes compliments of the Intern of Wonder at my day job — Rebecca. We would hire her every summer because she’s an amazing intern and because she finishes every job we give her in about five minutes when we think it’s going to take most of the summer. BUT she also always makes some fantastic sweet goodie at the end of her time with us so, yeah, she basically has an internship for life as far as I’m concerned.
Last year, she made lemon squares that were AWESOME. This summer she made peppermint brownies that were to die for. (People in another department who were lucky enough to have them called them crack brownies.) So I asked her for the recipe assuming — incorrectly — that is was made from scratch. Instead, it involves a packaged brownie bit. I’m not saying this is a problem. I’m just warning you in case you’re a purist or something.
Having eaten these, I am not.
Rebecca made hers with Peppermint Patties. They were fabulous. I went the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup route. I’m not bragging here but they were equally fabulous. Next up could be Heath Bars…or what do you think? Let your imagination go wild.
Peppermint — or Fill in the Fabulous Filling Blank — Brownies
2 Family-sized boxes fudge brownie mix
1 large bag York Peppermint Patties or enough Reese’s Peanut Butter cups to fill the space or whatever is your particular sweet delight
Other ingredients listed on the brownie box (eggs, oil etc.)
Prepare one box of family-sized brownie mix as you would for normal brownies. Grease a 9×13 in. pan and pour the mix in to make a thin bottom layer.
Place unwrapped patties (or your filling of amazingness) about 1/2 in. away from the edge of the pan and each other, making a layer of peppermint(or whatever). Don’t crush or cut the patties, and don’t push them to the bottom of the pan; just set them down lightly.
Prepare the second box as you normally would and pour it evenly over the top of the patties.
Bake according to the directions on the box for the “thickest” brownies. The ones I made took about 50 minutes.
Let cool, cut, and serve… then try not to go back for seconds!
Maxine, your mother is a wonderful human being who really loves you and is a terrific mother. But she has this one genetic flaw: Apparently she has mutant taste buds that tell her broccoli and cauliflower taste bad. As someone who eats broccoli multiple times weekly and thinks it is perhaps the best veggie ever grown, I find it a little hard to believe your mother came out of my body. (I assume this genetic flaw is from the Reynolds side of the clan, along with premature gray hair and height deficiencies.)
Anyway I’m here to tell you that when (note that was not an if) I make this casserole for you from Faith Durand’s new cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Casseroles, you are going to love it and, therefore, broccoli. It’s just the truth. Nana wouldn’t lie.
1 head broccoli, chopped, florets only about 4 cups
1 head cauliflower, florets only, chopped about 4 cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions, diced
3 teaspoons salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
for the bread crumb topping
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9X13 baking dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the broccoli and cauliflower in the pot for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash together in a large bowl until soft. Drain off any additional water. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cook for about 10 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and golden. Add the chives, stir for about a minute and remove from the heat.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Then stir them into the mashed cauliflower and broccoli. Stir in the cheese, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, pepper and finally the onion mixture. Place in baking dish.
For the topping, mix he breadcrumbs with the salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread evenly over the vegetable mixture in the baking dish. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
So, for a few months now I’ve been doing something. I haven’t been talking about it, not wanting to jinx myself or proclaim commitment before it actually takes root. But, after surviving my first Bikram yoga class last night, I am here to announce that I have become an exerciser.
If you don’t know me, you’re probably unimpressed. If you do know me, though, then you know that I’ll take an elevator up one story. I like sweat, but only the kind that comes from lying in the sun for hours and definitely not the kind that comes with a pounding pulse and heavy breath. Or so was the case for my entire life before this summer.
I’m not sure what happened exactly. Maybe it was the structureless-ness of not being in school and not having a steady job. Maybe it was having a toddler and realizing how intensely frustrating that can be and how that frustration can just build and build and build inside until I want to explode. Or maybe it was an existential desire to reclaim my body after pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, a nearly two year period that is both deeply grounded in the physical and also deeply grounded in the body of a different being. Whatever it is, something happened and, after myriad invitations from my friends Thea and Cheyenne to join them at yoga class, I went.
And I’ve kept going. I thought I would need markers to keep myself plugging along, but after I met my first goal/reward (go for a month and then you can buy your own mat and stop renting one from the studio and then daydreaming about what sweaty beast was facedown on it before you), something clicked. Yoga started to become something I genuinely looked forward to. I started to crave that feeling of having inventoried my body, of having felt it and been deeply connected to it. And then, a few weeks ago, as I lay on my mat in the darkness of the closing Savasana, my body ringing gently along with the singing bowl, I felt myself do something I had never done before.
I thanked my body.
I thanked it for the years it carried me despite my best efforts to deter it. I thanked it for carrying Maxine and birthing her, for healing while summoning the strength to sustain her life. I thanked it for marking pleasure and pain, for scarring, for slowing me down and pushing me along. I thanked it for bringing me to class that night.
And I meant it, in that deep, deep way where gratitude spreads out in an unending expanse, settling into every molecule, gently touching the component parts while simultaneously recognizing a glorious whole.
That was my first transformative moment with yoga. The second happened last night after my first Bikram session.
Bikram is brutal. In 110 degree heat, for 90 minutes, my body and I went someplace I would have said we would never, ever go and CERTAINLY never go voluntarily. But there I was–there WE were–body and mind completely committed, working together, vibrating in the heat. I have never sweated so much in my entire life. NEVER.
When I got home from class, I was still soaked through. My hair and clothes were completely drenched and I couldn’t stop smiling. The breakthrough isn’t the workout, though. The breakthrough came after I showered.
John very sweetly made dinner so it would be ready when I got home. When we sat down to eat and he put a heaping bowl of pasta in front of me, for the first time in my entire non-kid life, I didn’t relate to it from a place of guilt. No, I dogged it.
Pasta has been one of the last hold-out foods for me from my years of struggling with eating. I have, for whatever reason, not been able to undo the equation that pasta=bad. I see it and cringe. I avoid it whenever possible. Pasta has been the stuff of straight-up nightmares for me for well over a decade.
So, as I sat there and inhaled the steaming bowl of pasta last night, the thanks that I started on the mat during Savasana a few weeks ago, was made complete. I happily offered my body fuel, a thanks for what it had just done with me and a launching of our next round of activity.
I love, love, love eating breakfast out. It’s an oddity of sorts because it’s not like I make a big breakfast at home. No, I eat — and have eaten — yogurt just about every day for, oh, decades. (I used to only eat one kind — Dannon coffee, still my yogurt of choice — but I have expanded my repertoire to include Stoneyfield organic in recent years.)
Anyway, my second favorite breakfast thing is brunch. Maybe it’s because, like breakfasts in restaurants, brunches are slower. You’re not supposed to do anything but sit there for a while, talking, relaxing, maybe even having a bloody Mary or two. You give yourself permission to slow down and that’s a wonderful way to start the day.
Peter’s cousin and husband, Kerry and Hal, stopped by last weekend for a quick visit after dropping their daughter back at college. They were slated just in time for brunch so brunch it was.
I tossed together some fruit salad, brewed up a batch of coffee and made some delicious scrambled eggs (with shallots, lox and a little 1/2-and-1/2, delicious!). And we topped it off with this terrific blueberry crumb coffeecake from the Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook. Regular readers know I’m a BC fan. It’s rare one of her recipes fail me. If you’re looking for an easy coffeecake that will win rave reviews, try this one. And have a mimosa for me.
Blueberry Crumb Coffeecake
ingredients for the streusel
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups flour
ingredients for the cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
For the streusel, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.
For the cake, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. I used a hand mixer, but BC recommends using an electric mixer with a paddle on high for 4-5 minutes until light. Reduce speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Then add the vanilla, lemon zest and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Then fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula until completely mixed.
Spoon the batter into the pan. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake 40-50 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar (if you want. I didn’t; it seemed like overkill.)