Monday, January 12, 2015

Marvelous Zuchinni Muffins. Tops like a sugar cookie, bottoms like a crumb cake.

It's amazing to me that just now, with Sawyer edging towards 17 months, I JUST now feel like I have control of my life again. And that said, now that he's in his second round of teething - that's even debatable most days.

Yet I feel kind of giddy that last Friday evening after a crazy workday, I managed to dream up this recipe and have it turn out as well as it did. It's so classic - I have no less than a couple hundred cookbooks and yet I couldn't find the trusty zuchinni bread recipe I made last. So I wrote down what I thought would work, set out the butter and eggs and went to bed, thinking I'd likely be tossing my experiment the next day. Quite the contrary - I don't think I'll make zuchinni bread or muffins from another recipe for a long time to come.

You can dress these up for winter with a hit of orange zest (or a grating of fresh ginger) or for summer with some lemon zest or just make them exactly as is. I do have to tell you, they are more of an adult muffin recipe as they have a nice mildly salty bite to them. Kris and I love a little salt in our sweets and in my opinion, the flavor balance here is perfect. But it gives them a more complex taste than most super sweet muffins - not that this bothered Sawyer Lee in the least. He LOVES them and to say he is picky is an understatement.

I hope you make them. The crust gets this amazing sugar cookie/oatmeal cookie texture while the center is dreamy and fluffy and soft. Eat them warm (micro the leftovers) with a pat of butter.

Marvelous Zuchinni Muffins
If you set out the butter and eggs the night before so you can literally whip this up in the morning in a half an hour. I was too lazy to get out my electric hand held mixer so I just whipped the butter an oil together by hand with a whisk. Totally worked but no doubt the hand held would be faster.

1 stick salted butter, room temp (leave out the night before morning of baking)
1/2 cup oil (I use Spectrum Canola/Coconut blend) though vegetable or canola would work
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using table salt, 1/2 teaspoon)
2 eggs, room temp and beaten
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup grated zuchinni, pressed with a towel to remove excess moisture
1/2 cup chopped pecans
20-24 muffin liners, optional, or baking/nonstick spray

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and oil with a handheld mixer until smooth. Add in the sugar and cream again until well blended.

In a separate (smaller) bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold into the sugar/oil/butter mixture in three additions until combined. Stir in the eggs then vinegar, zuchinni and pecans.

Fill prepared muffin tins (either lined with muffin cups or sprayed with nonstick spray, number depending on size of your muffins tins but usually between 20-24) 3/4 the way full and bake at 375 for 15-17 minutes, just until tops are very light gold and cake tester comes out clean/with crumbs rather than wet batter when poked down the center.

Serve right away with butter or let cool completely and store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pork and Cauliflower Stir Fry for the Workin' Folk

Happy New Year Y'all. Mine has already started off with a bang. Work's crazy. Toddlers are crazy. Oh and all that holiday eating and drinking has left me feeling less than virtuous. Enter the stir fry. Chock full of veggies and about a million miles away from cheese-laden holiday casseroles. Not that there's anything wrong with cheese-laden casseroles, we just need to take a break from one another for a little while.

The beauty of this recipe is you can prep all the veggies and even the sauce in the morning and store them in the fridge until you're ready to make it. I bet you could even do this the night before.

Hope your new year is starting off wonderfully.

Pork and Cauliflower Stir Fry

Veg to prepare and store ahead (or use right away):
1 large shallot, sliced into thin rings
2 green onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped or cut into strips (I like one red and yellow)
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (to cook faster)

Sauce (mix the following together and chill in a small airtight container or use right away):
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup soy sauce (use low sodium if you are sensitive to salty food)
1/3 cup sake
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (I like brown rice)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Also needed:
Canola/peanut or oil of choice (I like Spectrum non GMO canola/coconut blend)
1 pound lean ground pork
1 cup rice combined with 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock in a medium stockpot with lid - bring to boil then reduce heat to low and let cook for 10-12 minutes, fluff with a fork and set aside
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Red pepper flakes, optional

To make stir fry:
Add just enough oil of to lightly coat bottom and sides of a wok or large cast iron skillet, turning to help coat. Heat over medium/high heat and allow to warm through for one minute.

Add the ground pork and cook, stirring frequently for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Kill the heat as you transfer the pork to a holding plate or bowl and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and turn the heat back onto medium/high.

Add the veggies (do not season with salt if using regular soy sauce) and sauté, using your spoon to disperse them over as much of the surface area as you can to help sear them. Cook and stir for about 7-10 minutes until you have a good sear on the veg and the cauliflower seems mostly cooked.

Return the cooked pork into the pan and pour over the prepared sauce. Crank the heat up all the way and stir everything to coat in the sauce and let it reduce and bubble away for a couple of minutes.

Serve over the prepped rice.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or red pepper flakes if desired.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Homemade Gingersnaps with Lemon Zest Sugar

Merry Christmas you guys! This year has been so crazy that I hope for some calm or at least more organized chaos in the new year. That said I feel so blessed I shouldn't even complain about a darned thing. My family is healthy. My baby is almost 16 months and full of piss and vinegar. Tomorrow he will wake up and be present enough to realize it's Christmas! I can't wait.

In the meantime I leave you with a new favorite cookie recipe from the cookbook, Baked Occasions. It's a gingersnap recipe and I promise you it's the easiest, most unfussy yet delicious recipe I have ever made. No mixer required and the dough will sit on the counter without getting too soft or weird should you get caught up in other holiday (or life) nonsense.

In fact, it's the PERFECT recipe if you want to make cookies (or have to) but forgot to set out the butter to soften or thought ahead for any other fiddly bits that baking often requires of you. You might even have everything on hand to make them!

Merry Merry, sweet people.

Gingersnaps with Lemon Sugar
* I used large decorating sugar versus granules - colors are even more beautiful!

Lemon Sugar Coating:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon

Dough Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (or a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

How To:
For the lemon sugar, place the sugar 3/4 and lemon zest in a shallow bowl. Stir together, being sure to break up any clumps of zest and set aside.

For the dough, preheat the oven to 325. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and canola oil until combined. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the molasses and whisk again until fully incorporated.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Use a heavy wooden spoon (and/or very clean hands) to fully combine everything well.

Use a small (1/2 inch) ice cream scoop (or a melon baller) to scoop small scoops of dough from the batter. Mix with your hands into rounded balls, roll them in the lemon sugar and set on the prepared cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until just crackled on top and beautifully spread out. Let set on sheet for a few seconds before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Will keep for 3-4 days in airtight container.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Corn, Sausage & Leek Chowder. A warm hug in a bowl.

If I was one of those organized people who hosted holiday open houses with Vince Guaraldi playing in every room and Mistletoe hanging above the doorway, I'd serve this soup. Comforting yet not too rich with its brothy stock laden with all kinds of textures, it has everything going for it. And that's before you add toppings!

You can use sweet sausage instead of spicy but I love a little heat against the sweet corn. And if you want it 'meatier' feel free to up the sausage to one pound. I find the ratio below makes this a perfect guys and gals soup though. The dudes feel like they're eating a hearty meal and us gals can still hold our head up and say we had soup for dinner. But if you're in the camp of 'mo sausage, mo betta' cheers to that.

Maybe one year I'll be organized enough to actually host that holiday party of my dreams. Until then I'm just happy knowing I already have the perfect recipe.

Corn, Sausage and Leek Soup
* This soup is great to make ahead and tastes amazing reheated.
* I can't stress rinsing your leeks thoroughly enough. This is best to do once you've halved them lengthwise so you can get the water in between the leaves where fine grit hides.
* Serves 6.

3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, loose
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 med sweet onion, chopped
3 leeks, white and light green (not tough) parts only, well rinsed, halved lengthwise then chopped into thin strips crosswise
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
pinch pepper
10 oz frozen corn
32 oz low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Chopped Fresh cilantro, for serving
Tortilla chips, crushed up, for serving


In a large dutch oven, break up the sausage with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat until cooked through and some bits have become nice and brown and crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove sausage with a wooden spoon and set aside.

To the dutch oven, add 2 tablespoons salted butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Allow the butter to melt then add the onion. Cook stirring often for 3 minutes then add the leaks. Season with coriander, salt and pepper and continue cooking and stirring over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the leeks are super soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Stir in the corn, chicken stock, and cooked sausage and raise heat slightly so the soup comes to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes, then reduce heat to low and stir in the half and half. Taste for seasoning. If it's not the most delicious thing you've ever eaten, it needs more salt so make gradual adjustments until it is.

Serve with chopped fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar and or/any other toppings you see fit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork Tikka Masala with Tomato, Coconut Milk and Cilantro


This is my new favorite thing to make and eat. I usually keep a bag of chopped onion in my freezer which makes this something I can put together in five minutes in the morning before work.

The following statement may officially make me the lamest person on the planet but remembering that dinner is already made when the work day comes to a close and I get that panicked feeling (baby needs a bath! I need a bath! What are we eating? Why is my underwear on the TV?) is the best. thing. ever. As they say a baby changes everything.

Two notes: I actually like sushi rice with this (rinsed before cooking) but any variety would work. Also this freezes beautifully even with the rice included.

Slow Cooker Pork Tikka Masala with Tomato, Coconut Milk and Cilantro

Ingredients/How to:

To a slow cooker, stir together and cook for 4 hours on low:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds thin cut boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut against the grant into thin 1/8 inch thick strips (you can often buy it already prepared this way or have your butcher do this)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika or curry (I prefer curry but both are great)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Big handful cilantro (no need to chop) plus extra chopped for garnish

After 4 hours, stir in the following and cook another 30 minutes while you make 2 cups of prepared rice:
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 (14 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

After 30 minutes, turn the cooker off and stir in:
1 tablespoon honey

Serve over rice and with additional cilantro for garnish.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles

Every mama, daddy and/or working person should have this recipe up their sleeve. You can make it ahead and just reheat the meat in the microwave and serve in lettuce cups whenever you need dinner asap.

I add hoisin at the end for a little sweetness but you could add some sriracha for more spice or both. Of course you could leave out the noodles but I just love them in this. They add some body and depth and a toothsomeness. To put it bluntly, I'd have a hard time calling these wraps 'dinner' without them.

To make this gluten free just be sure to use gluten free soy sauce, noodles and check the other condiments involved for gluten.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles

2 teaspoons grape seed or vegetable oil or olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin 1/2 inch strips
1 pound ground chicken thighs
2 large portabello mushrooms, diced
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
couple dashes garlic powder
1/3 cup green onions, chopped plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon Mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
6 oz rice noodles, boiled and drained (or rice if desired)
2 tablespoons chopped raw cashews
1 head Bibb lettuce, or whatever kind of lettuce you like to use as wraps (leaves cleaned and separated)
2 tablespoons Hoisin, optional and/or some dashes Sriracha or red pepper flakes, optional
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

How To:
Add the oil to a large nonstick pan and heat over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add the ground chicken, breaking up gently with a wooden spoon. Season with a couple of pinches salt. Cook for 2 minutes, then add in the mushrooms, ginger, garlic powder and green onions. Cook until chicken is cooked through - about 8-10 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the Mirin, soy sauce, and vinegar. Once the chicken is cooked through, add in the Mirin mixture and bring to a boil, stirring for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the hot burner. Gently stir in the rice noodles and 2 tablespoons hoisin and/or sriracha if using (or red pepper flakes) then the cashews.

Serve in lettuce leaves and garnish with additional green onion and/or cilantro.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Sawyer Lee.

To Sawyer on your first birthday,

Today you are one year old. I’m so excited and overwhelmed by what you’ve already become at just a year old that I’m at a complete loss as what to write. And I’m a writer. I could say that I love you so much that even on your fussiest and most teething and non-napping days I still consider myself the luckiest person on earth. I could say that when you flash me your quick, yet deliberate toothsome smile when you’re learning something new or something’s tickled you – I want to die. Right then and there. Go out on the highest of highs. See ya, earth! I won at this shit!

I could say that when I watch you dig into my spice drawer and pick out what strikes your fancy then crawl around with it like Tiny Tim on all fours so astoundingly fast - ‘clack! – clack! – clack!’ - I have the most morbid thought that if you just stayed that size the rest of your life, that would be beyond cool with me.

But I need to tell you more. Having you added the onus of wanting to be a better person myself. To set the best example I can for you. So I started a list of some guiding principles that I now aspire to in my life. I hope to drill them into you as much as myself. Thanks for that, Bubbas Bear.

Be kind.
To everyone - the old and young, the strong and weak, the shiny and the lackluster, even those who are unkind. The fact is nothing is more attractive on a human being than kindness. 

Love with your whole heart.
It will get bruised and broken along the way but try to keep it wide and open. Remember to look for the light in others. And when someone shows you only darkness, move on from them. The world is filled with kind, loving, big hearted people. Don’t waste time on the rest.

Happiness is a hobby.
When you find what makes you happy, stick with it. When I was six years old I was head over heels in love with horses, reading, writing and fashion. I love the same things to this very day. For your dad it was music. And judging from your current obsession with your daddy's drum sticks and tapings of ACL Live, it might also be yours. A hobby that you love is instant happiness at your finger tips whenever you want or need it. So when you find yours, stick with it. (This excludes masturbation. Please have sex with someone aside from yourself when age appropriate. *Also I just said 'tapings' which you will undoubtedly have no idea what I'm referring to when you're old enough to read this. Really dating myself here. We don't even 'tape' anymore - we hit a button on the remote. Maybe by the time you read this we will just think what we want to record and it will lodge itself in our brains somewhere for us to retrieve later at will.)

Look where you're going.
Literally and figuratively. Your dad and I are both specialists at eating asphalt so I need to drill this into your head early and often. Look where your feet are landing. 

In the figurative sense, I don't expect you to have your life figured out by your early teens (I always felt this pressure and hated it.) But start thinking of a master plan for yourself. Do you want to travel? Do you want to move to a small town in Idaho? Do you want to raise sheep? Run for governor? Play rock shows? Be a barista? I don’t care what it is as long as it’s something you feel in your bones you should be doing. And on that note…

Take pride in your job.
Whatever it is. Do it right and represent yourself and your parents well. I look back at certain odd jobs I did as a teen and feel horribly embarrassed. I had no pride. I was lazy. And I will never forget it. It haunts me. So if you take something on – do it right. Or don’t do it.

Open doors for ladies.
Car doors, elevator doors, building doors, all doors. This will help you more than you will ever know with the fairer sex. Wait -  is ‘fairer sex’ not PC anymore? Fuck it. Also don’t cuss. It’s ugly. Seriously. Like I said I’m still a work in progress.

* Also if you end up liking dudes I will still love you. Though based on how much you flirt with anything with boobs I suspect you're a ladies' man. But still if not – I support you. All the way. Now let's go shopping!

That said, there's no woman on earth worth letting treat you poorly. That's not a lady by the way.

This last one is the hardest to follow through with. Don't judge people. You don't have the right and nobody asked you. You don't know where they've been and how they got there. And if you can avoid making judgments of others, maybe you'll get spared a little judgement along the way.

Above all remember this - you are loved beyond measure. I love you. Your daddy loves you. Your family loves you. God loves you. Hell even the devil loves you. You're better than Christmas, first concerts, first kisses, cake, pie, ice cream and House of Cards rolled into one. You will forever be the one who showed me that there is no limit to the amount of love a person can hold in their heart. My heart - tonight and every night since you were born - overflows with happiness, gratitude and awe.

Happy birthday Sawyer Lee.