Shortbread Cookies

I constantly wear three hats…mom, employee/manager and food blogger.  There are times when I even get confused as to what hat I am wearing.  Like the other day when I told one of my employees something that was meant for my children – or when I am in a stressful meeting, and I just have to pull up a food photo just to put a smile on my face. I try though and keep my three lives as separate as I can, and I find great pleasure when I figure out that other people have multiple lives as well.

For many years I worked with a woman who like me at the time, also worked part-time.  That is not an easy task where I work, and I was lucky enough to do that for five years when my children were very little.  I remember when she decided to leave the company, I just assumed she would be back to consult, as many people often do that are looking for more balance in their lives.  I ended up running into her months later – and that’s when I found out her true passion was food.  She started working for a woman in charge of cook-book events.  I was so jealous…what an amazing job.  Just recently, this same woman started a new venture called Book Larder.  She has an amazing line-up of cook-book authors coming to speak, and I can’t wait to see the vintage cook-books in the store.  Congratulations Lara, and best of luck on your new adventure!

As I sit here and write this on the first night of the jewish new year – I wish everyone a sweet and healthy new year – and may you all find your passions, and wear as many hats as you can balance…whatever they happen to be.  Now go and enjoy these delicious Shortbread Cookies – with homemade raspberry jam thanks to Bon Appetit – yum!!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 10 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons (about) raspberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms. Whisk egg and yolk in a bowl; add to flour mixture; stir just to blend.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure dough by 2 tablespoonfuls and roll into balls. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 2″ apart. Make an indentation in center of each ball; fill each with 1/2 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies until golden, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For a printer-friendly version, please click here:  Shortbread Cookies

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Blueberry Cake

I know that blueberry season is over, but this cake is just too good not to share.  This summer when we were back east visiting my family, my mother served her blueberry cake for dessert one night.  This blueberry cake is always a huge hit – especially the cinnamon sugar topping that is spread thick and evenly over the top before baking.  For me, that is the best part.  It is super sweet and crunchy, and just plain wonderful.  My younger daughter is definitely the sweet tooth of the family – the more sugar the better.  Where as my older one is pretty balanced, everything in moderation.  Would you believe that this topping was too sweet for my younger one??  She made me cut off the top every night this was served – and my older one was right there begging for the leftovers – it was hilarious – complete role reversal.

But, there was something about this cake that never hit me until this visit.  It is completely dairy free – and it is amazing.  So, what did I do with that bit of information?  I made another as soon as we got home, and my trying-to-be-dairy-free-husband who is obsessed with cinnamon, was so happy.  It was so nice to be able to make a dairy-free somewhat decadent dessert for a change that he could enjoy as well as the rest of the family – that is, except the topping, that my younger one gladly gave to her older sister.  If only her older sister would remember that the next time she doesn’t like something sweet…

Ingredients

Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries (can be fresh, then frozen just to mix in)

Topping

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preparation

To make the cake, beat the eggs in a mixer until foamy.  Add the sugar, orange juice concentrate, oil and vanilla and beat well.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Add to the egg mixture, and mix until combined.  Fold in berries.  The batter will be thick.  Pour into greased and floured  9 x 13 baking pan.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon together to make the topping.  Pour evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake at 350 for approximately 55 –60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the loaves is removed clean, about 45-50 minutes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Cake

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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

Late again…I swear I will get back to my regular rhythm this weekend.  Maybe if I keep telling myself that it will happen?  I decided to abandon the messy kitchen, or making lunches for the girls tomorrow just to post this entry.  I figured if I didn’t do it now, it would never get done, so here it goes.  Don’t worry, they will have lunch to eat at school, it just might be very late before I get to it…

Have you ever noticed that food always tastes more delicious when it is free?  It always amazes me that when I take the girls to CostCo, they eat everything – every little sample that they give out – and they love every bite.  As soon as I buy it and serve it to them at home, they won’t eat it.  I have learned my lesson – they can eat whatever they want when we go there, but I never buy anything I wasn’t planning to buy before I entered the store.  I have to admit, at work – when there is food lying around in the kitchen, it really doesn’t matter what it happens to be, I will eat it.  Yes, because it is free.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit a long time ago.  This was one of those recipes that sat in my pantry for months upon months, waiting for me to find the right time to make them.  As I have mentioned before, only half of my family loves cheesecake, and this is an expensive recipe to make unless you are planning to eat the whole thing.  I wanted to make sure I brought it somewhere it would be eaten.  So – I brought it to our block party.  I have to admit they were pretty awesome – cheesecake and caramel, two tastes that belong together. They were gone pretty quickly, so I think everyone else felt the same way – but then again, they were free…

Ingredients

Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil  spray
  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground graham  crackers (from about 17 whole graham crackers)
  • 2 tablespoons  sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground  cinnamon
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks)  unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 3 8-ounce packages  Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup purchased dulce de  leche*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla  extract

Glaze

  • 2/3 cup purchased dulce de  leche*
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) heavy  whipping cream
  • Fleur  de sel

*A thick, sweet sauce made from caramelized sugar in milk or  from sweetened condensed milk; available at some supermarkets and specialty  foods stores and at Latin markets.

Preparation

Crust

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with  nonstick spray. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.  Add melted butter; stir until coated. Transfer crumb mixture to pan. Press  evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes.  Cool completely on rack.

Filling

Blend cream cheese and sugar in processor until smooth and  creamy, about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add  eggs 1 at a time, processing 3 to 5 seconds to blend between additions. Add  dulce de leche and vanilla; process until blended, about 10 seconds. Spread  batter evenly over cooled crust. Bake until just set in center and edges are  puffed and slightly cracked, about 38 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool  completely.

Glaze

Heat dulce de leche and 3 tablespoons cream in microwave-safe  bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by  teaspoonfuls if too thick to pour (amount of cream needed will depend on brand  of dulce de leche). Pour glaze over cooled cheesecake; spread evenly.  Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour (glaze will not be firm).

DO  AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill.

Cut cheesecake lengthwise into 4 strips, then crosswise into 6  strips, forming 24 bars. Sprinkle bars with fleur de sel.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

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Arroz Con Pollo

Well, we had our few weeks of summer, then fall hit with a vengeance.  It is strange how quickly it came this year – although, what I think really happened was that summer was just not long enough.  Usually by this time I am happy for the clouds to come back, but this year was an exception.  I would have been happy with a couple more weeks of sun – shhhh – don’t tell anyone, I constantly tell people I hate the sun, which is why I love it here so much…

I am hoping that this will be the week I can catch up on stuff – things have gotten so out of control, I am even off schedule on my blog postings.  I just know I will get back to normal soon (let me keep dreaming).  I feel like all I have been doing is baking recently, so I am happy to post something different for a change.  Chicken and rice, a staple in my house – especially when fall arrives.  I love changing things up a bit though, and this recipe definitely did just that.  I found it in the Sunday Pacific NW Magazine by Greg Atkinson – which I adapted to suit the needs of my family, who do not necessarily love very spicy food.  This was delicious, and the kids loved it – especially the sausage.  I will definitely make this again…knowing that I have many more cloudy days ahead of me before summer comes again.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch discs
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice such as jasmine or basmati
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 generous pinch saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 cups green peas, fresh shelled or frozen
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Preparation

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the sausage pieces in the olive oil until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, lift the sausage out of the oil and keep nearby.

Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown them in the oil left in the pan, turning once to brown evenly on both sides, about 5 minutes in all.

Lift the chicken out of the pan, and in the oil left behind, sauté the onion and pepper until the vegetables are soft and the onion is beginning to brown. Stir in the rice, garlic and smoked paprika, then pour in the beer, the fire-roasted tomatoes, the water and the saffron threads. Bring the liquid to a boil.

Put the sausage and chicken pieces back in the pot, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer until the rice has absorbed the cooking liquid and the chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

Five minutes before serving, stir in the peas and the parsley, cover the pan and let the finished dish rest undisturbed until the peas are heated through.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Arroz Con Pollo

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Plum Kuchen

What a week, and it isn’t over yet…ugh.  I am staring at the mound of bills and papers on my desk at home, just wondering when I am ever going to get through everything – let alone the emails in my inbox that just keep piling up.  If I owe you a mail, I am not ignoring you, I swear.  I hate these types of weeks.  After a week like this, I need an entire day just to bake.   It is the only way I can get through it.  I have already decided what I am making this weekend…and I can’t wait.  The swimming pool closed last weekend, which means fall is here – and fall baking is my absolute favorite.

Last weekend my neighbor dropped off a huge bag of plums from their tree.  I am pretty sure they are not bakers – and they do not know I have a blog – but I figured I had no excuse not to make something with all those plums.  I saw a recipe a while ago in Cooking Light for Plum Kuchen, and made it soon afterwards – and it was surprisingly delicious.  I don’t even like plums, but the cake had a layer of caramelized sugar around it, and the plums basically baked right into the batter.  It was pretty awesome.  I even made it for my family when I was visiting them back east, and everyone seemed to love it (or else they were just happy to have me bake).  I barely made a dent in the plums they gave me, so can you guess what I am baking this weekend?

Ingredients

  • 6 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 pounds plums, quartered and pitted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cardamom in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cut in 4 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine milk, vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into a 9-inch round metal cake pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange plums in a circular pattern over batter.

Combine remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, lemon rind, and allspice in a small bowl, stirring well. Place remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 30 seconds or until butter melts. Stir into sugar mixture. Sprinkle plums evenly with sugar mixture. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Cool in pan 1 hour on a wire rack. Cut into wedges.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Plum Kuchen

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Strawberry Cobbler

Today is such a significant day – not for food, but for life.  This day 10 years ago was one of the saddest days I can remember, and what followed in my life a few days later changed my life forever.  I remember getting into my car a little after 6am PST to drive to the gym before heading to work, and they were talking about how an airplane just hit the World Trade Towers.  I was shocked, and immediately called my husband to turn on TV.  Both of us very naively just assumed it was an accident – but then not too long afterwards, it happened again.  I knew then it was not an accident.

At this point I was at the gym watching for myself on the television screens.  I was in awe, I loved those buildings, I had visited the top deck many times, and it was one of my favorite places to visit in NYC.  I kept thinking about the people inside, and how they were all going to get out.  I thought about the people I knew that worked around that area, hoping they were safe.  When the towers came down, it just about killed me.  What killed me more though was how little people understood out in Seattle the true magnitude of what had happened.  Most of the people I worked with had never visited these buildings.  I barely made it through the day, it was all I could think about – and that lasted all week.  I walked around in a haze, my heart going out to all the people who lost someone, and to the people of NYC whose city was invaded.

Saturday of that week, I learned that I was pregnant with my first daughter.  Unfortunately I wasn’t even happy about it at the time, I was just too consumed with what had happened that week.  Eventually my mind shifted to our new baby, and away from the World Trade Towers, but it took a while.  When she was born, it was love at first sight – and to this day, I am reminded of the wonderful gift I received that week, when so many people were suffering.

This recipe was all her idea – I wanted to make a cobbler, but she wanted a strawberry dessert – so she convinced me to try a strawberry cobbler.  I looked for a recipe, but found nothing, so instead, I used one from the Mixed Berry Cobbler in Bon Appetit and adapted it heavily.  This was outstanding, one of the best cobblers I have ever made.  I loved the strawberry color all baked into the crust – it was sweet, and delicious, the perfect summertime dessert.  I am reminded daily of the wonderful gift I received that week – although my heart goes out to the people who continue to suffer…

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 7 cups (1 3/4-2 pounds) fresh strawberries (halved if  large)

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for surface
  • 1/4 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1/2 cup chilled whole milk plus more for brushing
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preparation

Filling

Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400°. Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add strawberries to bowl and toss to coat.  Transfer berry mixture to a 2-quart baking dish about 2″ deep. Set aside to  macerate while making dough.

Dough

Whisk 1 1/3 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal  forms. Add 1/2 cup milk and stir just until dough forms. Gather dough into a  ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead 5 or 6 times, then  pat or roll dough into a 9×6″ rectangle. Cut dough in half lengthwise, then  crosswise 3 times, forming 8 rectangles. Arrange biscuits 1/2″ apart over fruit.  Brush tops lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until fruit is bubbling and biscuits are just cooked  through and golden all over, about 35 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes;  serve with vanilla ice cream.

DO AHEAD: Cobbler can be made up to 3  hours ahead. Rewarm at 350° if desired.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Strawberry Cobbler

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Pina Colada Sorbet

First day of school, and we made it…whew!  My older daughter started fourth grade today, and my younger one started kindergarten, what a milestone!  My older daughter was thrilled that she was given a low locker in the high school they moved her program into – and the cushion we brought in to put on the chair actually propped her up enough to reach the desk.  It’s the little things that count…  My younger one was ecstatic about her teacher, and the fact that I got to pack her a lunch today.  Even though her pre-school friends were split up into separate classrooms, she made a new friend today and was so proud.  Aside from the fact that the bus dropped my older daughter off an hour late, at least they picked her up this morning, which was more than other people could say.  All in all, it was a very good day.

Now, back to the weather, my favorite blog topic of late.  All summer we were waiting for the sun to come out, and in the last two weeks, we have not seen a cloud.  The schools are not air-conditioned, and those poor kids coming out of my younger daughter’s classroom, they all looked completely droopy by the end of the day.  The ice-cream man could have made a fortune coming by the school when the bell rang today.  Well, I didn’t have any ice-cream in the house – but this Pina Colada Sorbet from Cooking Light sure was perfect for a day like today.  The pineapple really made this sorbet, and I used very ripe, fresh stuff – as sweet as can be.  For a dairy-free dessert – this cannot be beat.  So – I asked both my girls today if they had any homework today – and they said, “No, but you do”…now I have to get back to the mountain of papers to fill out – lucky me!!  I thought they were the ones in school?

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cubed fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup cream of coconut

Preparation

Place first 3 ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth and sugar dissolves. Combine pureed pineapple mixture, coconut milk, and cream of coconut in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pina Colada Sorbet

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Cilantro-Scallion Bread

Today I finally did something that I have been wanting to do for years…I took a food photography class!!  When I bought my camera, I had all the good intentions of reading the manual – but there was that little problem called time.  I had no time, and every spare moment I had, I wanted to be snapping pictures, not reading.  So, instead of learning the correct way, I just learned by trial and error.  Up until today, I really had no idea what I was doing, but my pictures were turning out ok, so I just kept going.  Believe me, after one class, I am no means an expert, but at least I know what white balance is!!  I am so excited.

So back to this class, it was amazing, everything about it.  I took the class The Pantry, which I believe was started by Brandi.  It is also affiliated with this awesome pizza restaurant which is owned Molly and her husband Brandon.  All of a sudden the Seattle food world seems to be getting smaller and smaller…  The class was taught by a women named Ashley who takes photographs for Bon Appetit …and I met people like Holli, Stacy and Bray – I felt fortunate to be in the company of these talented women.

I am excited to start experimenting with what I learned…but in the meantime, I will post this fabulous recipe that I found in Bon Appetit.  These were quite easy and quick to make, for a yeast recipe that is, and they were delicious.  The girls both loved them, which was really amazing – since they pretty much stay away from anything green these days.  I will definitely be making these again, and next time I will take an even more striking picture…let’s hope anyway!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry  yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
  • 1 large egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (if you can find them)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for bowl  and brushing

Preparation

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour 1/2 cup warm  water (105°-115°) into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1  teaspoon sugar over; let stand until mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes.

Place flour, butter, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining  1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of a  stand mixer with dough hook attached. Rub in  butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat in egg, yolk,  and yeast mixture, scraping down sides.

Knead on medium speed until dough is soft and smooth, about 5  minutes. Form dough into a ball; transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover  and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine scallions and cilantro in a food processor  and pulse to finely chop. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; stir in all sesame  seeds and 3 tablespoons oil and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°. Roll dough into a 18×9″ rectangle. Spoon  scallion mixture evenly onto center and spread mixture to corners of dough.  Working from one short edge, roll dough rectangle into a cylinder. Cut cylinder  into 3/4″ dough swirls. Transfer dough swirls to prepared baking sheet; brush  with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cilantro-Scallion Bread

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