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For Christmas, Nate surprised me with a quick long-weekend trip to San Francisco over MLK weekend. He considers SF his “hometown” because he was born there- never mind that his parents moved to the east coast when he was 3 months old.

If you try to tell him that he’s from Delaware, he will vehemently deny it. I used to ask him why it was so important for him to be “from” San Francisco, but now that I’ve been there I can see why he’s so adamant about it being his birth place. It’s a beautiful city with equal parts beach, mountains, forests, suburbs, city. It has a little bit of everything.

view of SF from the Rock.

On Saturday we went to Alcatraz. The audio tour was beyond cool. If you haven’t been, you must go! We also visited the ferry building with its amazing food, the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, the Wharf where dozens of sea lions come to sunbathe, and the picturesque Land’s End walking path with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunday morning we ventured out to Muir Woods, hoping to get there before the crowds. I think it could be one of the prettiest, most serene places I’ve ever been. There’s something about a damp, shady forest that I find so relaxing…not to mention how amazingly fresh it smells!

I don’t know about you, but my sense of smell is my strongest sense and I find myself smelling everything. It’s a little weird, actually, the way I smell any new thing I encounter. For some reason I feel the need to assess a smell even if I know it’s going to be a bad one. Maybe I’m part dog.

Though nothing will even come close to the smell of that cool damp forest, odors emanating from the kitchen come a close second ūüėČ While this soup isn’t the most fragrant thing I’ve ever cooked, it smells pretty darn delicious on a cold winter’s day, warming the room (and your belly!) right up.

It’s a very light soup, lighter than I’d imagined. I served it with some Cheddar Dill biscuits (recipe on Friday), but perhaps it would be best as a first course or a very light meal with some crusty bread.



Winter Vegetable Soup with Lentils

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

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serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup brown lentils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco) or more to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1 ¬Ĺ teaspoons salt, and ¬ľ teaspoon pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread, biscuits, or as an appetizer.

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Ok, no more pasta recipes for now.

In fact, I’m switching to an entirely different food category. No more dinner…on to snacks! Everyone likes snacks.

I made these little beauties as a appetizer before our New Year’s Dinner.

These taste¬†exactly¬†like¬†Cheez-its. I know they don’t look the same but I promise they taste identical.

I adapted this recipe from Food52– The original recipe called for smoked paprika but I didn’t have any and didn’t feel like buying any so I used regular old paprika. I’m sure the smoked one would have added a different taste but then they would have tasted like smoked Cheez-its and that’s not quite the same.

I added quite a bit of cayenne as well. I loved how spicy they were but Nate wasn’t such a fan of his mouth tingling, so go easy on it if you have a sensitive fiance.

My only issue with these adorable little things is that they’re so tiny that rolling the dough into like 40 little balls is kinda of time consuming…and annoying. But if you have them time, then it’s totally worth it.

I hope you’re having company over soon because you need to make these! Or maybe you just want a snack. Either is fine.


Cheese Crackers

Barely Adapted from Food52

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Makes about 40

1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (I used whole wheat panko)-*note these are not regular breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment.

Put flour, butter, cheese, cayenne, paprika and salt into food processor and pulse till completely blended and a ball forms. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Add panko and process in small pulses (as few as possible) to incorporate panko into dough.

Scoop small balls of dough (about 1/2 teaspoon) and roll in the palm of your hand. Place on cookie sheet and flatten with fork or spatula. (You can also roll the dough out about 1/2 inch thick and use small cookie cutters.) Sprinkle the tops with smoked paprika and more salt if desired.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until the bottom is lightly browned and the crispettes are cooked through.

Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

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Ok, ok, I know I just posted a pasta recipe, but I promise this one is way different. Maybe as opposite as can be.

The other pasta was creamy but this one is buttery.

The other pasta had ham but this one is vegetarian!

The other one had a little escarole but this one is chock full of tasty mushrooms.

I used some crazy long spiral noodles for the other one, but this one uses rotini. Yum.

See, I told you, they’re completely different.

I’m always trying to stay semi-healthy around here. I’m also always looking for recipes that I can make and get on the table at a reasonable hour after I get home from work. This recipe fits the bill on both accounts!

And because I’m sure you all just got finished gorging yourselves on holiday foods, and have all made your new years resolutions, I’m hoping this recipe will be much appreciated.

The flour in the recipe is what thickens it, and there is enough butter to give it a richness without adding tons of calories.

Also, just to continue with the wedding updates that some of you enjoy…Nate and I had engagement pictures taken back in November and the photographer Jodi Miller did an AMAZING job. If you guys wanna check them out, head on over to her blog! After seeing how great these turned out, I am SO excited to see the shots she gets of the wedding ūüôā


Pasta with No-Cream Mushroom Sauce

From TheKitchn

You can print this recipe from the original link

Makes enough sauce for almost one 1-lb box pasta, depending on how saucy you like it

1 1/2 ounce package wild mushrooms
1 cup chicken, vegetable or beef broth, boiling
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter, divided
3 8-ounce packages of white button or portobello mushrooms, washed and chopped
4 large shallots, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped sage
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions

Crumble the dried mushrooms into a glass bowl or measuring cup and pour the boiling broth over them. Let steep for at least 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the drained liquid. Mix the drained liquid with the white wine.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped button or portobello mushrooms and let sit, without stirring, for about four minutes or until they have thoroughly browned on one side. Stir and let them cook on the other side – again, without stirring – for about four minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, sage and steeped wild mushrooms. Turn the heat to low, and cook until they are all fragrant and soft.

Add the second tablespoon of butter and, when melted, add the flour. Stir rapidly, letting the flour thicken with the butter into a paste. Have a whisk ready! Slowly pour in the mushroom broth and white wine, whisking rapidly. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until the mixture thickens. It should thicken to the consistency of a thick gravy.

Add the chopped parsley, stirring until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over pasta with plenty of fresh Parmesan.

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It’s January and I finally had a moment free so I joined up with my favorite bloghop group for a new ingredient/flavor of the month…January is #citruslove¬†month!

This month’s recipe comes with a nice little story attached…let’s just say Thursday was not my day:

I woke up with vertigo. As soon as I rolled over to get out of bed, the room was spinning. It happens to me now and then so I wasnt too concerned, but there was no way I could get out of bed and to work so I called in sick. I tried to go back to sleep to get the spinning to subside. By midafternoon I was feeling a bit better.

I knew the date for posting my #citruslove recipe was this weekend and since it was early afternoon I figured today was the perfect day to cook up some citrusy dinner since I normally wouldn’t get home from work for another few hours. I had an idea in mind for a lemony pasta. I also had leftover sour cream and ham that Nate’s mom sent me home with after New Years. I thought they could all combine into a tasty dish.

Nate came with me and we did some grocery shopping and after catching up on my Teen Mom 2 (oh come on, you know you watch it too), I got started on dinner.

Things were going well until I started zesting the lemon. I had a brand new zester, but as any of you who have used one know, you have to apply a lot of pressure to the fruit to scrape the peel off.

*this is where you might want to skip to the end if you’re not good dealing with blood…

I was just about to finish zesting the lemon when I pulled a little too hard and the zester decided to zest the side of my palm instead. At first I just felt pain but then I looked down and it was a deep slice gushing blood. I get lightheaded when I see blood, especially if it’s my own. I screamed for Nate while running cold water over it. I then applied pressure with a paper towel while I sat down and attempted not to faint.

Nate desperately wanted to help and asked me what to do but I was too light-headed to answer. I finally laid on the bed with my feet up and managed to instruct Nate where I *luckily had butterfly bandages in the linen closet. I would never have bought these but, being the pack rat that I am, I saved them from when my parents were moving out of their condo. Since Nate was unsure and I was too freaked out to think, I did what I do in any emergency, I called up my mom ūüôā

My mom calmly talked me through what Nate should do and Nate very adeptly sealed up my wound. I don’t know what I¬†would have done if I had been alone!

After laying down for a while and making sure the wound was bound enough to stop bleeding, I was determined to finish this meal. I sat on a chair in the kitchen while instructing Nate how to make the rest of the pasta since there was no recipe. Luckily most of the chopping was done since Nate isn’t a fan of using knives. Mind you, Nate has never cooked a meal from scratch.

All-in-all he did an awesome job and dinner was delicious! So that just goes to show you how easy this meal really is ;)…and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful, helpful and sweet fianc√© (and a mom who remains cool and collected in a state of emergency!).

Don’t worry, no blood got onto the pasta ūüėČ

Be aware that this pasta is very lemony, so steer clear if you’re not a lemon person. ¬†That being said, Nate and I both thought this may be the most delicious pasta I’ve ever made! Yep, I’m willing to make a statement that¬†bold!

The tart lemon perfectly complements the richness of the sour cream and makes the whole dish seem “light.” Neither Nate nor I are usually a fan of creamy sauces but this one was perfect!

This month’s #citruslove is brought to you by the following lovely hosts:

Astig Vegan ~ Richgail
Baker Street ~ Anuradha ~ @bakerstreet29
BigFatBaker ~ Erin ~ @BigFatBaker
CafeTerraBlog ~ Terra ~ @CafeTerraBlog
Cake Duchess ~ Lora ~ @cakeduchess
Georgiecakes ~ Georgie ~ @georgiecakes
Hobby And More ~ Richa ~ @betit19
Mike’s Baking¬†~ Mike ~¬†@mikesbaking
Mis Pensamientos ~ Junia ~ @juniakk
Oh Cake ~ Jessica ~ @jesshose
Simply Reem ~ Reem ~ @simplyreem
You Made That? ~  Suzanne ~ @YouMadeThatblog

Please join in on the #citruslove¬†fun by linking up¬†any¬†citrus¬†recipe¬†from the¬†month of January 2012. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #citruslove¬†event! The twitter hashtag is #citruslove¬†:).

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…(Powered by Linky Tools)

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Ham and Escarole
Recipe by me

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serves 5-6

1 medium head of escarole< roughly chopped
1 lb pasta
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbsp miced garlic
zest and juice of one lemon
8 oz. sour cream
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups diced cooked ham
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as directed. When pasta is al dente, add escarole and cook one minute. Reserve 2 cups pasta water (for thinning sauce out later) and drain pasta/escarole.

While water is boiling, melt butter in a large saucepan. When butter is melted, add onions and cook til soft, 5ish min. Add garlic and cook until garlic begins to brown.

Add lemon juice to pan and stir to get any stuck bits off bottom. Add sour cream and parmesan and stir to combine. Add ham and continue to cook until it’s warmed through. Salt and pepper.

Add pasta/escarole to saucepan and stir to combine with sauce.  If necessary, thin sauce out with some of reserved pasta water to help pasta get coated.

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Originally I started this blog because I loved the idea of being able to share my favorite or newly-discovered recipes with others. I love that you can usually know that if a recipe is posted on a blog, it’s a good one and making it won’t be disastrous.

But in posting to my blog for the past 11 months (WOW, has it really almost been a year since I started this thing?!), I realized it has an even better purpose. It has become a place to which I can go to find my favorite recipes and keep things organized.

Before putting in fridge...

For the past couple years, I’ve started new traditions about things that I make on certain occasions. One of those occasions is Christmas Day when I bake cinnamon buns. Last year I scoured the internet searching for a bun that could be made the day before and simply baked in the morning. I combined several recipes, pulling the best parts of each: dough, filling, frosting. They came out perfectly.

So I was upset this year when I realized that I had printed out the recipe last year but hadn’t written it down to save anywhere. I, luckily, had an email trail of when I sent it to Nate and his mom to check it out.

This year, I wanted to share this amazing recipe with you…and now I know that next year when I go to bake these tasty treats again, I will be able to find the recipe in the spot where I now have all of my favorite recipes listed, my blog ūüôā


Overnight Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Frosting

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makes 1 dozen rolls

Dough:
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs

Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons butter, softened

Frosting:
4 oz.  cream cheese, softened (1/2 of an 8 oz container)
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 Tbsp milk

Preparation:
Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of flour, salt and eggs; stir well to combine. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10x 14 inch rectangle. Lightly brush the far edge with water. In a small bowl combine the filling ingredients and sprinkle/spread evenly over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log (it should have the length of the long side) and seal the seam.

Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces; place the pieces in a greased 9×13 inch baking pan, or 12 inch deep dish pizza pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight. *note that they can be put in the fridge for longer than just overnight. I usually put mine in around 4pm.

The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes-1.5 hrs. I think that they’re better if they sit out for longer than 30 min because they still have to rise a bit. Don’t expect them to rise a ton sitting out, as they do most of their puffing up while in the oven.

Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine the frosting ingredients; set aside. Spread the frosting over the rolls when they come out of the oven. Enjoy hot out of the oven!

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This month’s challenge was to make sourdough bread! I had heard terms thrown around in the past about sourdough “starters” but had no idea what this actually involved. It’s pretty gross, actually. You basically mix water and flour together and let it sit in a warm place for a while, while “feeding” it every day to keep it alive and well. It ferments and bubbles, and eventually becomes so aerated and bubbly that it takes the place of yeast in the bread recipe!

It’s pretty amazing, actually, that you can create something that’s alive from just flour and water. My starter became my little pet for the week, as I had to take good care of it, make sure it didn’t starve and wasn’t too cold or hot. It was my baby.

Unfortunately I didn’t plan it very well. You were supposed to grow your starter for 4 days and then make the bread on day 5. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to make it til I got down to Nate’s mom’s house for Christmas…so I stuck my starter in the fridge. I checked with the Daring Baker’s forum to make sure this step was ok and they assured me it was fine. I was just told to “freshen” the starter the day before I’d be using it.

On Friday I carefully packed up my starter to take to work with me, as I was going to be leaving on the train to Delaware directly after work. I knew it would be fine since it was meant to be at room temperature. The next night, in preparation for making the bread on Sunday, I freshened the starter. I think I must have added the wrong proportion of flour to water, though, as it seemed thinner than it was before. This was mistake #1 I think.

The next day I followed the directions, making the leaven and letting it sit for 4 hours to bubble. I think something happened in this step because 4 hours later I looked at it and there was no bubbling going on. I should have just given up here but I wanted to keep going.

I made the dough, but added 1/2 cup more water than I was supposed to. Oops! I tried to cover it up by adding more flour but knew this was the beginning of the end.

I left the dough to rest but it didn’t really bubble or increase in size. Because sourdough bread doesn’t use yeast, the doubling in size and aerating is kind of important. However, I knew I needed to finish what I started so I could at least get pictures of my sad attempt at sourdough…so I persevered.

When I went to put the dough on the sheet pan, I realized that it was waaay too thin and would never hold a loaf shape on a pan. I knew the bread wasn’t going to come out correctly at this point, but I put it in a cake pan instead and hoped for the best.

The bread did rise in the oven a bit, but for the most part it remained dense. When I took it out of the oven it felt like a brick.

In the end, the bread tasted a bit like sourdough but had a dense, doughy consistency rather than being light and airy. I kind of enjoyed it as I like doughy bread, but since it was most certainly not correct, I threw the rest out.

I thought about saving the rest of the starter to attempt it again in the future, but I really don’t think I have the patience. Hopefully the next challenge will go a little better!

Blog-checking lines: Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

This recipe is long and involved. Rather than type it all out here, I will link you to the Daring Bakers site when it’s up.

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Sorry I’m a little late with these cookie recipes. I realize Hannukah is today and Christmas is this weekend, but maybe you’re a baking procrastinator? I hope so. But you see, I’ve been a busy girl. I found my perfect wedding dress this weekend! And I think bridesmaid dresses too…and I picked a florist. I feel very productive ūüôā

Anyway, whenever I’m creating my list of cookies/candy that I will be making for my annual holiday cookie-baking, I try to get a good assortment of flavors.

I feel that it’s necessary to have at least one “seasonal” item, like a spice cookie, something fruity, something nutty, and most definitely¬†something chocolate.

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my cookie-making. Although I love trying new recipes, when it comes to baking the cookies, I don’t usually have the time or energy to try a new recipe and risk it turning out awful. ¬†Because the cookies I’m making this year are mainly just for Nate and a few lucky friends, I figured what the heck!

For the chocolate cookie, I usually default to a recipe my mom discovered a few years back called Chocolate Truffle Cookies. They are even more delicious than their name implies. But since I wanted to branch out a little bit this year, I went with a different cookie I found in my mom’s recipe box called Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.

I wasn’t sure what they’d taste like, but the picture on the notecard indicated a pretty presentation. I think I must have made the cookies a bit bigger than intended, because they took longer to cook, but the result was like a crispy, chewy brownie! It’s going to be a tough call deciding whether I should make these again next year or go back to my old favorites. Luckily, I have 365+ days to decide ūüôā

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
From my mom’s recipe box

Print this recipe!

makes 4 dozen

2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
4 egg whites

Sift flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl

In med sized saucepan, combine chocolate and oil on low heat, stirring frequently until just melted. Remove from heat, let cool slightly.

Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla til well blended. Using whisk, beat in egg whites until no lumps of brown sugar remain.

With spoon, gently stir chocolate into dry ingredients just until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 2 1/2-8 hours until firm.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease pans.

Put remaining confectioner’s sugar in bowl. Dusting hands with additional sugar, roll dough into 1″ balls. Dredge in conf. sugar til heavily coated. Arrange on sheets 1 1/2″ apart. Bake 8-10 min til almost firm when tapped. Let stand 2 min. Transfer to wire rack with spatula.

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