Monthly Archives: June 2011

Kitchen Therapy

Somewhere in the middle of a nearly deserted interstate highway in rural southern Indiana, I thought I lost my driver’s license. It was intense, purse-clawing panic. You know, the kind where you empty every pocket, unzip every zipper again and again, pick your way through all the old receipts, even the ones with wads of used gum in them. Nowhere to be found.

Curse words. You better believe they were flying. Everywhere.

I could almost see the scene play out in my head – stepping up to the beer cart at a minor league baseball game in Lexington, Kentucky, tossing my out-of-place, out-of-state ID down onto the counter wet with foam poured off plastic cups, fiddling with money, fussing with change, and walking away hands full of frosty beverages but NOT important things like that silly little plastic card.

I *needed* that card. Two reasons.

1. I was on my way from Lexington to Chicago (with no stop at home) where I was to attend a bachelorette party for one of my best gals the next evening. If there’s one thing you need to party at Rush and Division, besides excellent defense against handsy drunks and a fistful of cash, it’s ID to prove you’re old enough to be there. If I didn’t have my license, I was going to miss all the fun!

2. It was my old license, from my old state, with my old address on it. Do you realize it would be dang near impossible to get a new license, in my new state, with my new address on it without that old one?

Hi, I’m Screwed!

I demanded my husband pull over on the side of the road so I could trade my purse-clawing (that was getting me nowhere, *obviously*) for luggage-clawing. It had to be in my suitcase. And I would stand there and litter the side of that highway with my dirty underwear until I found it.

Imagine my relief when I reached into the back pocket of the jeans I’d been wearing the previous night and pulled out what I was looking for. I almost dropped to my knees. Thank everything that is holy and more. I had the damn thing all along, it was just wasn’t where it belonged.

After that – oh, and the vacation, the rich and decadent food, the beds that weren’t my own, the staying up too late, the partying with my friends, the drinking too much, the trying to maneuver a cooler down the aisle of a Metra train which is much tougher and more exhausting than one might think – I needed a little bit of kitchen therapy. A little R&R for this road weary traveler.

So I gathered my mixing bowls and ingredients, stood with silent purpose alone in my sanctuary, the quiet interrupted only by tiny bursts of sound. The click of the oven while it preheats, the crack of an egg on the counter top, the swish of a knife through a ripe summer berry.

Ahhh. Perfect peace. Recovery. Me time.

Until that got boring. Then I turned up the tunes and belted out a few choice numbers while I used my whisk as a microphone, which is way better than a hairbrush, thankyouverymuch. Only then did I know I’m officially back in my element. Home.

Eric and I have had a very busy couple weeks here as of late. Traveling and celebrating and sightseeing and eating and drinking and what not. When we finally arrived home, I was craving something fresh and homemade but I didn’t want to spend *too* much time making it. A little time was okay. I just really wanted to get to the catching up my DVR and eating it part. Enter this Strawberry Summer Cake.

This is one of those simple, in the oven in 10 kind of recipes. My favorite kind! An entire pound of fresh, summer strawberries are nestled on top of a golden, buttery yellow cake and the entire thing is topped with a generous sprinkling sugar. The berries melt into the batter while the cake bakes, creating juicy, pudding-like pockets of goodness, all while the sugar caramelizes and forms an irresistible crunchy crust on top. Served with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream, the contrasting textures in this cake make for a extraordinary dessert with almost no effort. It’s the perfect end to a big neighborhood cookout, a day at the lake, or just an ordinary weeknight dinner. If you’re a strawberry lover, you’ll love this.

Deb mentions she thought the original recipe for the cake may have been a tad on the sweet side. Since I’m one who believes there is such as thing as too sweet (gasp!), I went ahead and knocked back the sugar. I measured out the full 1 cup for the cake portion as directed but then took 2 tablespoons out of that 1 cup to set aside for the topping. So in the end, I had 1 cup of sugar total for the entire recipe, not 1 cup plus two tablespoons. Make sense? Great! Okay, time for dessert!

STRAWBERRY SUMMER CAKE (Recipe Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Martha Stewart)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie plate, a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, or a 9- or 10-in springform pan. 
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Measure 1 cup sugar and then remove 2 tablespoons of sugar from the measured cup to set aside for topping. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 cup (minus the 2 tablespoons) sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Lower the mixer speed and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until just smooth and fully combined.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as close together and in as close to a single layer as possible (there will be some overlap). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  4. Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with whipped cream. Store cake, loosely covered at room temperature, for up to 2 days. Serves 8 to 10.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Honey Teriyaki Chicken Skewers with Scallion Brown Rice
Two Years Ago: Raspberry Peach Mini-Loaves
Three Years Ago: Peach Ice Cream

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Filed under cakes, desserts, fruit

Bean Me Up

A few weeks ago there was a wonderful gathering of food bloggers in Atlanta for a yearly conference known at BlogHer Food. As the Twitterverse popped and sizzled with exciting tweets from conference goers makin’ friends, takin’ names, soaking in swag and learning from the best, I found myself, as one might imagine, quite jealous.

I wanted to be one of the cool kids who does cool things with cool people. Perhaps for the first time EVER. Cool people go to conferences. Obvs.

Of course, there is one slight problem. If I were to attend a conference like that I believe my name tag would read:

Hello, my name is:
The Most Socially Awkward Person in the World
Author of: A Mediocre and Mostly Forgettable Food Blog

I’m really not good at things like…talking to people I don’t know. I’m thinking something like a blog conference would involve a lot of that. And here I thought all bloggers are quiet, sensitive, writer-types full of angst and adjectives.

No? Just me? Okay, got it.

I’d probably spend the entire weekend standing in a back corner staring down at my phone like I’m texting Big and Important People when really I’m just checking the extended forecast. Again.

Even so, I do wish I could have attended for no other reason to meet one my absolute faves who just happened to be there. I would have spotted her across a room, awkwardly called out BRANNY! even though that’s totally not her real name.*

*She would have turned around though. We all call her that. ‘We’ being all us food bloggers. 😉

Branny is kind of fantastic. And I kind of have a tiny girl crush on her even though we’ve never met. She and her husband live on this amazing farm where they learning all about the wonderful world of horses. How cool is that? She also cooks up some of the most unique (and mostly vegetarian) eats of the web. The way she combines different cuisines, unique ingredients and bold flavors into tasty veggie dishes even her meat-loving husband adores is straight up genius. She’s creative, funny, and has a heart as big as the sun. I’m pretty proud to say I “know” her! 🙂

I sure am glad she’s around because, if left to my own devices, there is no way I would have discovered the awesomeness that is sweet potatoes and black beans smashed together and stuffed into a tortilla. Thank you, Branny, introducing me to these wonderful Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos!

These are so good. With just a few ingredients, all of which can be prepped ahead of time, these tasty treats are becoming one of my favorite quick dinners. The ingredients are so simple, but the combination of sweet potato and black bean is so flavorful. The sweetness of the potato plus the smokey bite of cumin and kicked up coriander makes the filling really stand on it’s own without the typical burrito add-ins like rice and cheese. The leftovers are perfect for freezing and make a great lunch on the go. Thanks again, Branny, for another great meatless meal to add to the rotation. Oh, and also for being awesome. 😉

SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN BURRITOS (Recipe Source: As seen at Branny Boils Over, originally adapted from a Moosewood recipe)

*I didn’t have burrito-sized tortillas on hand so I rolled them up taquito style in taco-sized tortillas. Whatever you’ve got around works.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.5 cups cooked sweet potato, cubed (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 8 tortillas (whole wheat preferred, not what I had on hand this time around)

DIRECTIONS:

Pulse the onions and garlic in the food processor. Add onions and garlic to a skillet and cook on the stove top with coriander, salt and cumin until softened.  Return ingredients to food processor with cooked sweet potatoes and beans. Add lemon juice.  Pulse to combine.  Stuff the mixture into tortillas and roll up. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden and hot all the way through; about 30 minutes.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: One of my absolute favorites – Tequila Lime Tart!
Two Years Ago: Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce
Three Years Ago: Fried Vermicelli with Green Onions

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Filed under vegetarian, veggies