Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Hunting

Yesterday was one of those fall days that shine above all the other fall days.  It was sunny and warm but there was still that nip in the air that reminds you to appreciate this because this sunshine is going to be snapped out of your pretty little hands at any moment.  It was the perfect day for baking cookies, roasting squash and pumpkin for soup, and for visiting the pumpkin patch.  You know, fall-y things.

Jenny and Chloe met us at our house and after 10 minutes of wrangling little girls, moving car seats and running back into the house "one more time" to grab a forgotten item, we were off to the Pumpkin Patch (which isn't actually a pumpkin patch, but it still makes for some great photo ops.)

The pumpkin pickings were rather slim since I was a total slacker and didn't get my act together until the day before Halloween to get us there.  I was rather surprised though at how many other slackers were out there, they made me feel way less guilty.  Hey, misery likes company, and procrastinators like company justifies our slacker-ness.

Getting two Littles to pose for a picture together is nearly impossible...

...but once in awhile you score big with a kid-hug.

We let the girls roam for awhile and pick up and set down (um, drop) every single pumpkin in the "patch."

We headed back to my house after, ate some pizza, drank some wine and let the girls play.  This was the perfect way to round out our long weekend.  Oh, life is good when you have good people by your side!

Happy Halloween out there!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have no idea why, but our local health food store released their coveted recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe they thought people wouldn't actually make them at home (they were wrong, I did), or that they would still profit because people would buy the ingredients there (they were right, I did).  But, whatever their reason for doing this, I am going to hide this recipe in a locked box buried in a secret location, save it on my computer and I am also going to share it on here.  I am doing these things in fear that they will realize their mistake and come ask for their recipe back.  These cookies are that damn good.

My husband loves these cookies more than any cookie on the planet, I am pretty sure.  So, I suspect that we'll have these on hand at all times from now on.  I'm not going to complain about that, because they are almost my favorite cookie on the planet too (but most cookies are my favorite cookies on the planet so these tie).

As cookies go, I whipped these up in about 10 minutes.  But, because of the new trick I recently learned I had to be patient and let them sit in the fridge overnight before I baked them.  (Every time I've written about this I feel incredibly whiny and feel there is nothing to be done about it because its so unfair that I have to wait overnight to eat my cookies!)

I love to bake cookies and freeze them so we always have a quick dessert on hand.  Someone told me recently that its better to freeze the cookie dough and then bake them straight from the freezer. I think this is because you have oven fresh cookies every time, but I'm curious if there's anything more behind this theory.  I decided to do an experiment with these cookies so I put a ball dough in the freezer and an already baked cookie in the freezer.  In a week I am going to bake the dough and defrost the cookie and do a taste test.  This may or may not be a ploy to fit more cookies into my diet, but in any case, stay tuned!  I'll report back next week!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


Adapted from Good Food Store recipe


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (heaping) slivered almonds
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Bittersweet chocolate for drizzling


In the bowl of a stand mixer beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla extract and beat until combined, about 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.  Gradually add flour to butter mixture on medium speed until just combined.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for at least 3 hours, or overnight. 

Preheat over to 350F.

Roll into 2-tablespoon sized balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack. 

Melt bittersweet chocolate in the microwave until completely melted and smooth.  With a spoon or toothpick, drizzle the chocolate over the cookies and then set aside until the chocolate hardens.

Eat it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chickie Casserole

This weekend was a busy, crazy blur.  A very very fun blur, but blurring can be exhausting!  So, Sunday night the last thing I wanted to do was be on my feet cooking for another hour.  Yes, sometimes even I don't feel like hitting the pots!  So, I went looking for quick inspiration, and found a recipe in Cooking Light that I loosely based this recipe on.

I love recipes that are versatile and quick*. And healthy! Its fairly low in fat and calories and gets a huge flavor boost from a hit of Swiss cheese on top. Scrumptious! Oh, and this is a ton 'o food.  It made enough for me to have leftovers for 3 days.  No offense chickie casserole, you were delicious and very good to me, but its time for something new tomorrow.  Ta ta!

*disclaimer: this is quick to assemble, but it does need to bake for 45 minutes. So, you know, quick and then not quick.

Chickie Casserole



1 lb ground chicken
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1" cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese


Preheat oven to 400F.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add ground chicken and spices.  Cook, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.  Remove chicken from pan.

Add olive oil and then onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes or until mushrooms start to become tender.  Add potatoes and salt and cook until potatoes begin to brown, about 6 minutes.  Add chicken and broth to pan and remove from heat.

Pour mixture into a lightly oiled casserole dish and then top with Swiss cheese.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and cheese begins to brown.

Eat it!

MAKE AHEAD: After pouring chicken & potato mixture into casserole dish, cover and put in fridge until ready to bake.  Grate cheese over the top just before putting in the oven.  Bake as directed above, adding additional minutes as necessary until cooked through.

Monday, October 24, 2011

GNIPL and Vegan Cookie Pie

GNIPL - /nip-pull/ - acronym for: Girls Night In Pot Luck; definition 1. a Saturday night when awesome women descend upon a home, scrumptious food in hand to eat their faces off 2. a Saturday night when women descend upon a home and drink wine, talk, dance and laugh their asses off.

This was my Saturday night...GNIPL (acronym coined by my friend Kate).  There is something about girlfriends that can turn your heart and head around in an instant.  I was having a rough weekend, missing my husband something fierce and feeling rammy and cooped up in the house because of the rain.  I felt whole and renewed at the end of the night, albeit tired after calling it a night much later than I am used to.

I am positive that most of the problems in this world could be solved if people sat around and ate amazing food, sipped wine and topped off their night with a decadent dessert...and of course lots of laughter. 

Crispy Kale & Tofu, Falafel, Pumpkin Hummus & Homemade Applesauce

Mmm, mm, mm...lucky me for having such awesome girlfriends/cooks in my life. We ate until there was little chance of fitting anything else into our tummies; and then we ate dessert.

The next day I found myself staring at an enormous bowl of chickpeas, since I had soaked too many from the falafel I made for GNIPL.  Hmm...what could I do with these?  Well, heck, why not make a chocolate chip cookie pie?

Mind you, this was not my idea, but a brilliant idea nonetheless.  I found the recipe here on Chocolate Covered Katie's blog.  You will not believe how good this tastes until you try it yourself.  I brought it into work today and didn't tell a soul what was in it.  It got rave reviews from all...then a bunch of dirty looks when I fessed up.  But...then more raving.  So go ahead and make.  Its "healthy" chocolate chip cookie pie, but so good you'll never miss the flour, butter or eggs.  Go ahead and try it!  I double  triple dog dare you!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

By Chocolate Covered Katie (minor adaptations made)


2 cans (500 grams) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup applesauce (I used sweetened, and then reduced sugar from original recipe)
3 T canola oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/4 cups brown sugar 
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Put all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until very well mixed . Stir in chocolate chips and pour into an oiled springform pan.  Bake for 35 minutes or until well set and pie pulls slightly away from the edge of pan. Let cool 10 minutes on wire rack and then remove from pan.
Eat it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Garlic Rosemary Focaccia

This bread is a staple in our household for just about any meal. 

What should we have for dinner tonight?  Chicken, broccoli and, oh, how about that focaccia bread?  ,

What should we have for breakfast?  Mmm...maybe we should make fried egg sandwiches on that focaccia bread!

Do we have anything to snack on?  Ooo, that focaccia bread would be good toasted with a bit of cheese and avocado on top!

This bread is very versatile, but my absolute favorite is the garlic and rosemary with a sprinkling of sea salt on top.  I have made this focaccia with kalamata olives and parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and sage and I have even turned this into a simple pizza topped with pesto, tomatoes and and mozzarella. 

I'm posting this at request from my hubby who is literally sick to his poor little tummy from the very sub-par cafeteria food he's been eating for the past two months.  He is going crazy for a taste of good food and home and has found someone on the Army base that has a functioning oven.  Its still in hot debate whether he or I make this bread the best.  The copious amount of olive oil he slathers onto the top of this probably negate any of the health benefits of the garlic (or the health benefits of a reasonable amount of olive oil), but ohhhhhhh is it amazing.  Therefore, Mace, I am declaring you master of this bread!  Go bake it for your classmates and show off your mad bread-making skills!

A side note: Most of the bread recipes I post I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  But, any bread recipes can be done by kneading the dough by hand unless otherwise noted.  If you knead your bread by hand you will want to approximately double the kneading time.

Photo courtesy of my sister Kellie
**This recipe was updated 12/27/11 after some very successful adaptations and also adding weight measurements.  Trust me, it might be unbelievable, but its so much more delightful now!**

Garlic Rosemary Focaccia


1 Tbsp dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
3 T. Olive Oil
4 cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour
6 cloves finely chopped garlic (alter to your taste, we love garlic, but this amount might be overkill for some)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (again, alter to your taste), plus more for sprinkling
Olive oil, for brushing
Sea salt, for sprinkling


Combine water, yeast  and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Once the yeast has dissolved and looks foamy add salt, 3 tbsp olive oil, 3 cups (420 grams) flour, garlic and rosemary.  Mix on low speed until combined and then increase to medium speed, adding up to 1 cup (140 grams) of flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic, approximately 5 minutes.

Transfer dough to a well oiled bowl, oil the top of the dough and then cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise approximately one hour, or until doubled in size, and the dough does not spring back when indented with your finger.

Remove dough from bowl and punch down to remove the air bubbles.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and roll the dough into a rectangle on the sheet.  Cover and allow to rise 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425.  Brush dough with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.  Prick the dough with the tines of a fork all over, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned.  Brush with more olive oil when it comes out of the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 

This is best eaten warm on the same day it is baked, but will last a couple days if you don't eat it all in one sitting.  My preference for day old bread is to toast it. 

Eat it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bonus Visit

Do you want to know when and where this picture was taken?  Last Sunday, in the Minneapolis airport.  I don't want to brag or anything...wait, yes I do...I have such an awesome family.  Their devotion never ceases to amaze me.  My sister Sarah pulled her girls out of bed at o'dark thirty on a Sunday morning and my Mama and sister Kellie did the same with themselves, in order to meet Anna and me during a four hour layover.  (I am sure my dad would have been there too if he wasn't in Tanzania volunteering on a mission trip with his he's cool!)

What a treat to see them...a "bonus visit" is what I said to my mama was sad to say good-bye.  Wait... wasn't I on my way back from visiting my mom?  Yes.  I call my biological mom, Momma; and my step-mom, Mama (see the subtle difference in spelling?).  The whole step-mom title just doesn't work for us...she is so much more than a step-mom, she is a mom of my heart.  I am so lucky to have two such devoted and loving mothers in my life.


It was such a treat to get these hours with my sisters, mama, and nieces.  I yearn for a day when we can be nearer to each other, and bonus visits are dinner in the middle of the week rather than a few hours at the airport.  But for now, we'll take what time we can get.  And if its $.75 rides at the airport with coffee and bagels, I'll take that any day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Annamazing Cookies

I am constantly on the search for the perfect cookie recipe.  I know some people are crazy over molasses cookies or snickerdoodles, but they don't do much for me. The perfect cookie recipe must contain one essential ingredient: chocolate.  It can be dark, milk, white, bittersweet, whatever...but it must have chocolate.  If nuts or oatmeal are added to said cookies, I will go absolutely wild.  Cheering, high fiving and maybe even a heel-click is sure to ensue.  The one exception to my cookie-chocolate rule is peanut butter cookies, but they will be the recipient of above celebration plus a back flip if they happen to also contain chocolate. 

I found this recipe in my new favorite baking cookbook flour by Joanne Chang.  This woman knows her stuff and everything I have made has turned out incredible (Plum Clafouti); these cookies were no exception.  These cookies have chocolate, they have oatmeal, they have nuts (which happen to be pecans, my favorite nut in the world) still my heart...they have coconut.  I know coconut is one of those love it or hate it ingredients, and I happen to think coconut is akin to ambrosia.  A delicacy for the gods.

Chang recommends in all her cookie recipes to chill the dough overnight to allow the flavors to meld.  I was curious whether this really makes a difference because I have read other recipes that do the same.  So I did an experiment and decided to bake one batch after 4 hours of chilling and another after 18 hours.  You know what?  She's right.  Those darn pastry chefs, they know their stuff.  This is good news and bad news.  Good news, because the cookies that chilled overnight were noticeably better.  Bad news, because now when I make cookies I need to think ahead and be patient and wait for my cookies overnight.    Hmph.  So unfair.

I learned a lesson about reading a recipe all the way through.  You'd think after countless surprises halfway into recipes that I would learn to do this, but come on this was just cookies!  I decided to double the recipe because it said it only made 18 cookies.  18?  That's not nearly enough!  So, I doubled away and made enough cookie dough for a small village.  It turns out that it makes 18 cookies that are 1/4 cup each.  I think my poor Kitchenaid almost had a heart attack, that motor was working hard!  Also, 1/4 cup cookies are a bit large for my liking because you can only eat one without feeling guilty.  I like to be able to eat two or three cookies before the guilt sets in, so I did standard 2 tablespoon sized balls.

These cookies are quite thin after they bake, probably because of the amount of butter in them.  The recipe called for flattening the dough into a disk before baking, but I found that it made the cookies much too flat.  The second go-round I left them in ball form and they turned out much better.  A lot less spreading.

The bonus of chilling the dough overnight was that I had a helper this morning.  Oh, how I hope this girls loves to bake with me as she grows!  And since these were the first cookies she's ever "helped" me with, I am going to go ahead and name them after her.  One of our favorite nicknames for her: Annamazing.

Annamazing Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Adapted from flour by Joanne Chang

Makes approximately 30 cookies


1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place pecans on baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes or until fragrant.  Set a timer and keep a close eye on them, as they will turn on you in a heartbeat.  Allow to cool and then chop.

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream butter and sugars  on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  (You can do this by hand or with a hand mixer, but up the time to 8-10 minutes.)  Stop the mixer and scrape down bowl several times during mixing.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, oats, baking soda and salt.  Add chocolate, coconut and chopped pecans and stir to combine.  On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined and evenly mixed.  Cover bowl with saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator over night or at least 8 hours for best flavor.  If you are short on time, these will still be good if you bake them right away, they'll just have more defined flavors if you let the dough chill longer.  The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container.

Preheat oven to 350.  Drop dough in 2 tbsp sized balls onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges and still slightly soft in the middle.  Allow to cool on pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing with a spatula, they cookies are fragile while they are still piping hot.

Eat it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nothing in the World Like a Nana

These two have had a special bond since the beginning.  There is something about a grandma and grandbaby that is different than any other relationship I've witnessed.  I can't put words to is just simply amazing.

It has been such a joy to share my daughter with my mom, and to finally understand that connection between a mother and her child, even through the roughest spots of our lives.  Through Anna, I can understand so many things about my relationship with my mom.  Like, how even in the very depths of pain, despair and hurt we continued to love each other.  And how being with your mom, even at age 32, still feels like home.

Anna loves her Nana.  And even when its been months since they've seen each other, she remembers her.  When they meet again Anna always greets her Nana with smiles, full body kicks of glee, and this past visit, with a snuggle hug and a head laid gently on her shoulder.  And Nana loves her Anna.  Anna has given her a new energy, and a genuine happiness I am not sure I've seen since my childhood.

My mom lives far away on the east coast.  Its a long exhausting day of travel for either of us.  But, we've been lucky enough to see each other many times over the past year since Anna's birth.  We've been making that effort because its important to both of us, and most importantly Anna.  

We just spent the past week with Nana and my heart feels full after sharing this time with my daughter and Momma.  We laughed until our bellies hurt and tears were streaming down our faces.  We nourished each other; I nourished her with food (of course) and she nourished me with stories from my babyhood.  And we got to spend time just being together.  This is what I forget when I get caught up in the whirlwind of life.  I forget about slowing down and breathing in the people I love, nourishing them, belly laughing with them and truly enjoying their company.  I am grateful we had this quiet week, three generations strong, to reconnect and pour on the love.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Plum Clafouti

I photography skills are in serious need of a lesson, and also a good camera.  I am working on it.  But, I can't help but blog away anyway, and you'll just have to suffer through these hideous pictures to get to the good stuff.  I say this because this dessert was ugly.  And the camera just made it uglier.  Nothing makes me crazier than trying a new recipe and having it come out of the oven looking like garbage.  But, as we are all taught as little peeps: don't judge a book by its cover.  I am so glad I wasn't Judgy McJudgerson that day, and instead just looking for a quick way to use up a ton of fresh plums given to me from a friend's tree (thanks Jen).  

This dessert was soooooooo good. Like make your head dizzy good. And (I know I say this a lot) but it was super quick and easy to make. Besides the annoying job of pitting the plums, it took about 10 minutes to throw together and into the oven. 

I got this recipe from my newest favorite cookbook flour by Joanne Chang.  This cookbook was recommended to me by an old friend that I reconnected with on Facebook.  We both have a crazy passion for baking and I believe we both daydream about sugar, flour and butter all day long.  Thanks Katie for helping me to find yet another fantastic cookbook to blow my money on!

Plum Clafouti

Adapted from Flour by Joanne Change


1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
5 cups small plums, pitted and cut in half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Powdered Sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour melted butter into a 9 x 13" baking dish and swirl to coat.

Toss plums with 1/4 cup of sugar and then spread evenly in the baking dish.

Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, flour and salt.  In a separate large bowl whisk together the eggs until combined and then whisk in the sugar and flour mixture.  Once combined, whisk in milk, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Pour the batter over the prepared plums.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until brown and puffy. Set on wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, then dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.

This really is best eaten the same day but...I admit it...I ate some for breakfast the next day (don't tell Anna!) and it was still divine.

Now, go get your eat on!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meet me in St. Louis!

I've never had a reason to go to St. Louis, and feel fortunate that I've had the opportunity to visit not once, but twice, this fall.  The first and best reason is that I got to see my darlin' hubby.  Secondly, we got to spend an awesome two days with some of our very favorite people, the Morrisons (and their lovely French niece Iona). And we got to do these things in St. Louis which is a pretty happenin' town. 

Oh how I wish I was back in this moment! It makes
my heart ache with joy and longing.

Our first day we hit up the St. Louis Zoo which is FREE and a great place for the kids to roam, run and explore.  We meandered for most of the afternoon, had a scrumptious picnic lunch provided by Hope, and finally headed back to our hotel when the littlest ones were falling asleep in our arms. 
These three...

Sunday was spent at the City Museum which is an unbelievable playground for kids and adults alike.  This is an old factory warehouse that was renovated by artists in the community.  This place can bring out the kid in anybody...This isn't usually an issue with Mace, but we all had a blast.

We had time to spare on Monday, so decided to fill our weekend to the brim and headed to the Missouri Botanical Garden.  These gardens are amazing, the weather was unbelievable for October and we had a perfect sunny day to stroll, linger, walk hand-in-hand and just be together.  

Now, the very most important item when analyzing a town, food and drink!  St. Louis has a delicious up and coming micro brewery scene and Mace and I were in heaven!  We hit up Ferguson Brewing Company on Saturday night and were not disappointed.  They had a seasonal pumpkin ale that was unlike any pumpkin ale I've ever tasted.  The nutmeg, cinnamon and clove came out so distinctly behind the pumpkin flavor that it was like drinking pumpkin pie with a chaser of really good ale.  Oh my.  We got a growler to-go after dinner and spent the rest of the evening with the Morrisons in good cheer.  (We may or may not have gone back there for lunch on Monday, and Mace may or may not have gotten another growler to-go.)  Everyone loved their meals, which almost never happens at a restaurant and it was amazingly kid-friendly.  So kid-friendly in fact that they ran out of high chairs and Emmett and Anna took turns "lapping" it for the first part of our meal.  A couple other micro breweries not to miss are Schlafly and Trailhead Brewery which also have amazing beer and food.  Really wish we'd had more time to explore more of the culinary adventures of this city, but at least I know we picked some good ones.

Monday came too fast.  There is nothing in the world I love more than being with my little family.  It will feel like a novelty when Mace is home for good and we get to adventure together every weekend.  My heart was full to bursting with love at the end of our weekend...and then actually  did burst a little bit when we had to say good-bye.  To have this love in my life is such a treasure.  Lucky me.