Peach Crisp

It’s peach season, people, and peaches are one of my favorite things on the planet. I eat them fresh like crazy, but sometimes you just need to bake something, am I right? So here’s a recipe for peach crisp that is easy and dee-lish. My first bite made me go, “day-yum.” Emphasis on the “yum.” Plus it’s easy. Bonus!

Peach Crisp

4-5 cups peaches, chopped (skin left on)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Instructions

Make the crisp topping: mix together the flour and brown sugar. Add the butter, cutting in using a pastry cutter, two knives, or a food processor. The mixture should be the texture of fine crumbs. Stir in the walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Toss the peaches, flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Transfer peach mixture to an 8×10 baking pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the crisp topping over the fruit, covering the entire surface. Bake on the center rack for 30-35 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit juices bubble up through the topping.


Cucumber Boats; or, Some Experiments are Bound to Fail

I went to my little vegetable garden last night and came back with a basket of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. I knew just what to do with the cherry tomatoes: Vegetarian Tortellini Salad. (I admit, I’ve been largely subsisting on this dish lately. I just can’t get enough of it.) But as for the cucumbers, I was a little overwhelmed. I’ve been pulling cukes out of the garden for weeks now, and I’m a little (read: really) tired of eating them raw as slices. And the cukes I picked last night were enormous; there were 3 I couldn’t wrap my hand around, and they were probably as long as my forearm.

I looked for a few recipes online, but most were more involved than I was willing to try last night. Some called for cream cheese, which I love, and I figured I would make something up. Thus, my version of Cucumber Boats.

It was not my finest dish.

It was easy to prepare and sounded tasty. I had high hopes. Some experiments are just destined to fail. Here is the recipe. If you have a great cucumber recipe, send it over. Please. I’m begging you.

Cucumber Boats

1 medium cucumber
about 2 tablespoons cream cheese
Italian Herbs*

Cut the ends off of the cucumber, and slice lengthwise. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with the herbs. I just kept adding more sprinkles of herbs until it looked pretty good and…herb-y. Liberally smear the herbed cream cheese into the hollowed-out cucumbers.

*I have a little jar in the spice drawer called Italian Herbs. Pretty sure it’s basil, oregano, maybe parsley, etc.


Carrot Cake Cupcakes

My sister’s favorite kind of cake is carrot cake, so for her bridal shower I decided it would be nice to make carrot cake cupcakes. I’d never made carrot cake in any way, shape or form before, so I scoured the internet for a recipe that looked simple and good.* Dear ol’ Martha Stewart came through for me. My first time making carrot cake cupcakes turned out to be a banging success. The cupcakes were moist, sweet and spicy, and a huge hit with all the guests.

*It’s my strong belief that the best dishes – whether a main course, breakfast, or dessert – are made from simple, whole ingredients. You won’t find many ingredients in my kitchen that can’t be found at the local Cub Foods.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

1 pound medium carrots, peeled and shredded (I did this by hand with a cheese grater)
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional; I used them and liked it)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Cream cheese frosting (recipe to follow)
Shredded toasted coconut (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and raisins. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted into centers come out clean, 23 to 28 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks, 10 minutes. Turn out cupcakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen for up to 2 months in airtight containers. Frost cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (recipe below). Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature, and sprinkle with toasted coconut (recipe below), pressing gently to adhere.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups (1 lb.) powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.

Toasted Coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut evenly on a baking sheet with a rim. Toast, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 10 minutes (or longer if a darker color is desired). Transfer sheet to a wire rack; let coconut cool completely.


Vegetarian Tortellini Salad

For the record, I’m not a vegetarian. But I do love veggies, and many of my favorite recipes are lacking meat. This one happens to be a ‘vegetarian’ option – and I hope that won’t put off any meat-lovers out there (in fact, you could probably add meat if you really wanted to). Trust me on this recipe; it’s tasty, super easy, and totally versatile. I ate half of it for dinner, then brought the rest to work for lunch the following day. It was equally delicious warm and cold.

I found the recipe online, and when I realized I only had about half of the ingredients in my house, I decided to make it anyway, using whatever I could find, similar to my Simplest Stir Fry. The recipe below reflects the way I made the dish. The original recipe also called for olives, artichoke hearts and endive or romaine lettuce. Though these ingredients would have probably been delicious, I didn’t have them, so I improvised. It worked out well, which makes it clear that this recipe can really be tailored to fit your tastes.

Vegetarian Tortellini Salad

7 oz. cheese-filled tortellini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered*
1 large handful fresh sugar snap peas or green beans
1 large handful red pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into small bits (be generous)
1/4 cup shaved fresh Parmesan cheese**
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper

Fill a mixing bowl with ice and water and set aside. In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Flash the green beans in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes to blanch them. Pull them out with a slotted spoon and submerge them in the ice bath to stop them cooking. Leave in for a minute and then drain them thoroughly. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside. In the same water, cook the tortellini per package directions. In a small saucepan, blanch the red peppers the same way as the peas. While tortellini is cooking, combine tomatoes, peas, peppers, cheese and olive oil. When the pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly. While still warm, toss the tortellini in the bowl with the other ingredients so it soaks in the oil and flavors. Right before serving, stir in basil. Add ground black pepper to taste.

*I had about a handful of grape tomatoes and three (yes, three) cherry tomatoes from my garden. I quartered them and tossed them in. I wish I’d had more, but that’s life.

**I didn’t have any Parmesan, not even shredded. I did have feta, and it was really good. Next time I’ll plan ahead and have Parmesan, because it goes so well with tortellini.


Simplest Stir Fry

This is a recipe that is based totally off taste.  You can adapt it to use your favorite veggies or sauces…or to use whatever happens to be in your refrigerator at the time (which I often did during college). Here’s what I usually do, without measurements because you can use as much or as little as necessary, depending on how many people you need to feed:

Simplest Stir Fry

Frozen chicken breast, thawed and chopped into bite-size pieces
Broccoli
Red bell pepper
Sliced mushrooms
Chopped carrots
Sugar snap peas, sliced in half
Soy sauce*
Basmati rice

Cook the rice as directed on the package. While it’s cooking, put the chopped chicken in a skillet with some soy sauce. Chop your vegetables. When the chicken is nearly cooked through, add your veggies and a good amount of soy sauce. Saute until the veggies are hot but not mushy. Serve in a bowl over the rice.

This is seriously the easiest meal to make, and it’s really fast, too. If you don’t have the time or inclination to chop all of your vegetables, you can also use frozen veggies. The recipe is very adaptable, so you can switch up the ingredients or sauce and make it a lot without getting tired of eating the same thing over and over.

*I once got a fantastic ginger-garlic sauce that was meant for stir frying. It was fabulous, though I’m sure it gave me appalling garlic breath. In any case, use whatever flavors you like. You can even throw some orange or lemon zest in there for a little citrus kick.


Nutella Chip Cookies

Writing about Chocolat made me want something full of chocolate-y goodness. Naturally, I thought of one of my favorite recipes of all time: Nutella Chip Cookies. I found this recipe on a fabulous blog called Love and Olive Oil, and when I tried it, I fell in love.

First off, if you don’t know what Nutella is, get out. Just kidding. What you should really do is go get some Nutella (it’s usually by the peanut butter at the grocery store) and give it a try. When I talk about Nutella with people who have not tried this wonderful concoction, I usually get the response, “ew, don’t they eat that in Australia?” No, people, that’s Vegemite. Completely different. Nutella is a chocolate-hazelnut spread best enjoyed with a spoon, straight from the jar. Or in Nutella Chip Cookies.

If I had to express these cookies in pseudo-mathematical terms, I would do so like this:

Nutella Chip Cookies > chocolate chip cookies

Or perhaps like this:

chocolate chip cookies + Nutella + some sort of magical transformation that must occur when the Nutella combines with the rest of the batter = Nutella Chip Cookies.

Nutella Chip Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Cream butter with an electric mixer about 1 minute until smooth. Add in both sugars. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes), scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the egg and vanilla. Then add Nutella and mix until well combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix just until the dough is smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Using a small ice cream scoop (or a teaspoon), form the dough into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.* Bake 6-7 minutes** or until set. Let cookies cool about 5 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

*I do not use a parchment-lined baking sheet. I might spray some Pam on the baking sheet, if I remember.

**I have found that it usually takes 9-10 minutes to bake fully (and still have a soft chewy center).


Blueberry Oatmeal Scones

Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word “scone” in this recipe. These are not dry biscuits that require a 10-second dunking in coffee to prevent them from sucking all the moisture from your mouth as you chew. No, these scones – for lack of a better term – are moist, and full of blueberry goodness. They should be called Disappearing Blueberry Scones, because practically as soon as they come out of the oven, they’re gone. Plus, they’re hearty enough to offer a filling and lasting breakfast on their own.

Blueberry Oatmeal Scones

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
3/4 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries, or frozen blueberries, thawed
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional*)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Stir the oatmeal, flours, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two forks and cut in the butter with the flour mixture until crumbly and well blended. Stir the milk into the flour mixture until just combined. Mix in flax seed and cinnamon, if desired. Add a splash of milk if necessary to maintain wet dough consistency. Lightly stir in the pecans and blueberries. Divide the dough into 6 to 8 balls, and place them on the greased cookie sheet. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

*The cinnamon is a killer addition, seriously. One day I decided that cinnamon sounded like it might be good in the scones, so I tried it. Totally worth it. Plus – bonus! – it makes the kitchen smell even better while these beauties are baking.