I’m not really sure when Easter was reduced from celebrating the life and resurrection of Jesus to dying eggs with vinegar…and even further to stuffing plastic eggs with sugary treats…but I think that slippery slope has had an everlasting effect on Americans. Eggs and Easter are alliteratively associated (haha…ya like that?…I’m an English teacher, give me a break. Okay, I’ll stop).
So a few days ago on Easter, I woke up very early so that I could poach myself and my husband some eggs for breakfast before church.
When I was growing up, one of the most exciting breakfast treats was my dad’s poached eggs. This was a collaborative effort between my parents, and it was a highly elusive breakfast, because my mom had to make bread AND then my dad had to decide to poach some eggs, all in the same weekend. But when it happened, it was so great! In fact, I like this breakfast so much that it’s what I requested on the day I got married. (Weird, right? You’d think I’d go for chocolate chip pancakes given my choco-obsession…)
Growing up, there were few pleasures so simple as eating a fresh slice of my mom’s white bread spread with butter. The bread would release whirls of steam when she cut into it…the butter would instantly melt into the warm surface…and my slice would be gone in about 10 seconds flat.
Apparently, when my mom and dad got married, she made sandwich bread every week, rather than buying Wonderbread at the store. Unfortunately, waning free time (er…and probably the neediness of two small children) ultimately demanded she stop this tradition, but we still lucked out every now and then. In fact, my favorite thing about snow days was that my mom would make several loaves of bread and my brother and I got to enjoy the most delicious sandwiches EVER for a week or so.
By the way, in case you don’t know anything about snow in Richmond, VA, where I grew up, let’s just say that the mere prediction of snow causes mass insanity among the natives. Everyone simultaneously panics–no one would dare risk their lives driving in snow–and races to the store to buy every loaf of bread, gallon of milk, and carton of eggs in existence. Because naturally, the 1 inch dusting of snow that covers the lawns and trees and just maybe the streets of Richmond will prevent anyone from buying such commodities ever again.
My mom is much more sensible than that, having grown up in Long Island, and so she contents herself to fill the house with the most delicious smell that was ever created: fresh, homemade bread.
I have been on a mega scone kick lately. It all started a few months ago when I got together with several of my work friends for brunch. I brought cinnamon swirl scones…and loved them so much that I made them again the next day. And then I made scones again the week after that. And then it was clear that I was obsessed.
I first became interested in scones after a trip to England a bit over a year ago. I had seen several references to scones with clotted cream on cafe menus, but somehow I never managed to try them (maybe because the word “clotted” doesn’t strike up a lot of confidence within me…). But when I began my recipe project, making the perfect scones was high on the list. I tried to make clotted cream, too, but after several lengthy and failed attempts, I gave in to the cold truth that the right kind of cream (unpasteurized) is simply not sold in the U.S., and you can’t make proper clotted cream without it.
The good thing that came out of all that disappointment was a fantastic recipe for scones, compiled from a lot of reading and several different recipes.
Scones are a great treat for any time of day (as I proved to myself repeatedly during my manic scone-making phase); the only problem is that they are not exactly the healthiest baked good on the block. So when I was tasked with bringing snack to one of my MEd classes, I decided to tinker with the scone recipe I usually make and try to improve its health factor.
It’s the time of year when I start thinking a lot about my waistline (er…actually, when isn’t it that time of year?). I’ve been going to a lot of events lately where I eat a lot of carb-rich foods (also known as: my favorite). If you are anything like me, not only are those calories difficult to resist, but also they head straight toward creating a muffin top. Not cool.
So, take a break with me! Enjoy the simplicity of vegetables.
This is a salad I like to eat for lunch. It reminds me a little of a restaurant appetizer because of the large chunky tomatoes and how few ingredients there are total. You can easily increase or decrease the quantity depending on how hungry you are or how many people are eating with you, and it will still only take 5 minutes! I love how I feel after eating something light like this for lunch. And, if you are particularly hungry, this salad goes great with a slice of whole grain bread and a bit of cheese or some Greek yogurt.
When I was in middle school, I used to stay at my grandparents’ house after school. Now, before you jump to conclusions, my grandparents weren’t the spoiling type; they were a little more like my parents with extra experience. I diligently did my homework, they tolerated my endless hours of clarinet practice, and my grandfather taught me HTML so I could create my own webpage about how much I loved Hanson. Yes. You read that last thing correctly.
My grandparents are pretty much amazing (well…whose grandparents aren’t?). I could wax on about all of their creative genius accomplishments, but instead, I will tell you about Nana’s blondies.
My grandmother was very involved with outreach and local charities. She used to bake for church events and local food banks. And for me 🙂 The first time she gave me a blondie for my afternoon snack, I couldn’t even figure out what it was. All I knew was that it was chewy and caramelly and buttery and full of butterscotch chips, and I had to have another one. (Yes…I did often sneak seconds…maybe in that respect, my grandparents were the spoiling type, because they never said anything.)
It wasn’t until years later that I even heard the term “blondies,” and when I asked my grandmother for the recipe, she firmly denied ever having made such a treat.
Spring is such a funny season…one day it’s 70 degrees and sunny, and the next it is 40 degrees and raining cats and dogs. This week has been exactly that. And on a cold and rainy day, there is nothing better than a bowl of hot soup in my belly.
French onion soup has long been one of my favorites; it’s so rich, and the fact that it’s topped with a layer of cheesy bread is just divine. But, I’ve been a vegetarian (well…pescetarian) for about 7 months now, which meant that my old standby recipe for French onion soup was no longer an option.
So I set about finding a new recipe that I could serve to friends who were coming over for dinner. A lot of online commentaries mentioned miso as the key ingredient to a vegetarian version of this soup, but since I hate miso, I really wanted to get a recipe that didn’t call for it, since it would probably be better balanced. The one I found, from an old issue of The Vegetarian Times, turned out perfectly!
I am currently a Masters of Education student, studying to teach German. As such, I have to do teaching demonstrations for my classes a few times a semester.
This semester, one of my demonstrations involved reading a very short children’s tale with a class full of my non-German-speaking colleagues. Originally by Tolstoy (ironic, eh?), this story describes a man who is very hungry and keeps buying rolls (Kolatschen) to try to get full. He buys three and then finally switches to a pretzel, which fills him up immediately. And the moral of the story is that a good German man would start with the pretzel and not waste his money on biscuits.
The children’s book that the story came from also contains a recipe for the Kolatschen. Being the little baker that I am, I naturally decided to make the Kolatschen for my students.
A German recipe is a bit difficult to navigate when you are an American cook. I had to measure water in liters (yes, I did have to look up the conversion to cups), and my tiny tiny cooking scale proved much too small for 400 grams of flour. Alas.
But these little buns turned out well in the end, dense and chewy, a bit like bagels! I am posting the recipe here in both German and English.
I have been dying to make mascarpone brownies for years, ever since one of my good friends from college, Melissa, set them out in front of me during a movie night. I think I ate half of them…and I was hooked.
My friend has been baking her way into hearts and stomachs basically forever. In fact, she was my model when I first started to bake: be adventurous, and bake for every occasion, especially the made up ones. I have been on the receiving end of many of her delicious treats…and I wish I could say that this was her recipe, but in actuality, I lost that recipe in an email address swap and have been too embarrassed to ask for it a second time!
Nevertheless, these brownies are amazing. After I stuck them into the oven and geared up for my long wait, I scraped the remaining batter out of the bowl to the point where it looked like it had been washed.
Mascarpone, for any folks who haven’t tried it, is a creamy soft cheese, sweet like French chantilly, and oh so delicious. It is the hero of tiramisù and (so I am told by my husband) would make an excellent base for strawberries and cream.
I’ve always thought the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie was a bit silly. I mean, most people just love the one they’re with, right?
For years, I’ve ignored new recipes for chocolate chip cookies, because the cookies I grew up with, the recipe I’ve had memorized since I was 11, had no need for improvement. The cookies were soft, the chips were melty, and the flavor was rich and rounded. What more could a girl ask for?
I’ll tell you: butter. My beloved chocolate chip cookies have a Crisco base…and as I’ve become more invested in baking, I’ve also grown to realize that baking with shortening is not a virtue unless you are lactose intolerant or vegan. And I quickly discovered that replacing the Crisco with butter 1:1 resulted in a flat, sticky mess.
So what’s a girl to do?
When I was about to graduate college a few years ago, I realized two things with great dismay: 1) although I claimed to be an excellent cook/baker, the only recipe I really knew was for chocolate chip cookies; and 2) I was about to move out of my parents’ house, away from my mother’s stash of cookbooks and easy access to all my childhood favorites. How would I get cookie dough truffles once I lived hours away from my mother? How would I ever figure out the secret to making a clump-less roux?
So I set about collecting all of the recipes I knew I couldn’t live without, the things I knew I would one day need to make for my own children. I gathered together my favorite chicken recipes, the recipes for a dozen or more church potluck bar cookies…and I set out on my own.
But did I bother to bake/roast/sauté anything in my newly minted recipe binder?
I’ll give you three guesses.