February 5, 2016

January 2016 iPhonetography

The first month of 2016 is in the books!  We had a pretty uneventful January, since we all seemed to pass the same cold back and forth since the last week of December.  Ryan started swim lessons (and loves them!), we were snowed in for a weekend, but otherwise, nothing too exciting.  Lots of time spent experimenting in the kitchen with a baby on my back — basically my favorite way to spend an afternoon!

As usual, here’s a roundup in pictures of how we spent the past month.  Many of these come from my private Instagram account, but you can follow along on my public account here.

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1) Another New Years Day in Philly, another Mummer’s Parade to see the string bands, this time with a baby!
2) Ryan received a set of these Elemnosqueeze Blocks for the holidays, and they are fantastic.  He loves squeezing them, chewing on them, and knocking them over - I love building crazy, structurally unsound towers thanks to the grippy sides.  Highly recommend!
3)  We bought a double stroller for our nanny share.  First trip out and both babies were out like a light!
4) Nine months old!
5) Dog walk with friends turned into “dog lays on ground and refuses to move.”  Oh, Dreidel.
6) As mentioned above — a snowy afternoon in the kitchen with a sleeping baby on my back is basically my favorite thing in the world.
7) Happy baby.
8) It snowed.  A lot.
9) Obligatory baby in two feet of snow picture.
10) Dreidel has been more and more interested in Ryan lately, and Ryan just can’t get enough of her.  I love watching their friendship develop.
11) Frozen river and a snowy walk home from work.
12) More dog and baby shenanigans.  Whatever toy Dreidel has, Ryan wants to play with it as well.
13) I spent last weekend decorating cookies for a baby shower I’m co-hosting in DC this weekend.
14) More cookies, when I realized the first ones were probably too big to fit into favor bags…
15) I’m going to be so disappointed if Ryan’s first word isn’t “guacamole”… followed shortly by “steak burrito, please.”  This kid loves his Mexican food!
16) Post swim lesson family photo! 

February 4, 2016

Chocolate Pancakes with Peanut Butter Ganache

So.  Valentine’s Day.  It’s all fun and games and cute little cards with candy when you’re a kid, but as an adult, it’s a pretty polarizing holiday.  Is it a day to celebrate romantically with your loved one… or a stupid made-up holiday commercialized to sell cards, chocolates, jewelry, and expensive price fixe restaurant menus?  

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I tend to fall somewhere in the middle and enjoy celebrating with friends — kind of like the adult version of the elementary school class party.  A few years ago, I made hippo-themed cards and sent them to my friends.  Last year, I was in DC right around Valentine’s Day for my spa-day-instead-of-a-baby-shower celebration and brought white boxes tied up with red twine, containing pink m&m cookies and red vanilla sugar cookies for all my friends who celebrated with me.  (Sidebar: in the M&M cookie post, I mentioned that I had pink m&ms left over from a prior baking project — those would be the m&ms I purchased before our anatomy scan ultrasound, which informed me that I’d be baking cookies for my family with the blue ones!).

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This is all a way to say that I may celebrate in fun ways with my friends, but my husband and I definitely don’t celebrate the romantic side of Valentine’s Day.  No gifts, no dinners out, at most perhaps a card, given to each other and signed from the dog, generally with some kind of pun about puppy love.  This year, he’s on call over Valentine’s Day weekend, so there won’t even be any fun pancakes… like, perhaps, these chocolate pancakes with peanut butter ganache - the true way to my husband’s heart.

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But since Valentine’s Day is on a weekend this year, YOU should make these.  Yes, they’re sinfully rich and decadent… but they’re also pancakes!  And there’s some whole wheat flour in there!  So it’s a totally reasonable choice for breakfast!  Show someone in your life (your spouse, your parent, your child, your roommate) how much you love them and bring them some chocolate pancakes for breakfast.  Sprinkle them with powdered sugar, pour on the ganache, top with a few miniature chocolate chips… or just go totally nuts and pile on a scoop of ice cream.  Mmm… ice cream.  (Heart shape optional.)

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Chocolate Pancakes with Peanut Butter Ganache
Makes 12 Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •  1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt.  Stir in the melted butter, vanilla, milk, and egg until just combined.  The batter will be lumpy.  Gently stir in the miniature chocolate chips.
  2. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat.  Lightly butter the surface.
  3. Scoop out the batter in 1/4-cup increments and evenly space on the griddle.  Cook until pancakes start to bubble on top; then flip and cook for an additional minute.  Repeat with all batter.
  4. To make the peanut butter ganache, combine the chopped chocolate and peanut butter in a small heatproof bowl.  Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until simmering, about 3 minutes.  Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and peanut butter, and let this sit for 2-3 minutes.  Once the chocolate is mostly melted, stir until the ganache is smooth.  Pour over the pancakes.

Chocolate pancakes peanut butter ganache

February 2, 2016

Creamy Artichoke Dip

In case you live under a rock (or perhaps, in another country), the Super Bowl is this weekend.  Like many (most?) Americans, there’s probably a good chance you’ll attend some sort of party and gorge yourself on all sorts of delicious food.  I thought I’d offer up one healthy option to bring to the table: a creamy, ever-so-slightly spicy, artichoke dip.  Aside from the artichokes and pita chips for dipping, you probably have everything you need for this right in your kitchen, and with the aid of a food processor or blender, it takes all of 5 minutes to make.  

IMG 2245 creamy artichoke dip

Don’t get me wrong - I love all the cheesy, gooey, bad-for-you dips and party foods, but it’s nice to have something slightly less artery-clogging at parties, right?  Thing of this as your vegetable side, paired wth the wings and pizza and jalapeƱo poppers (and look, peppers are a vegetable, too!).  And if you’re looking for more “traditional” Super Bowl party food, i’ll offer up these suggestions —pulled pork, spinach and artichoke dip, chili bean dip, caramelized onion dip, and for dessert this crowd-favorite chocolate chip cookie dough dip — but I highly suggest you give this easy dip a try as well.  As an added benefit, it’s also vegan and gluten-free, so grab some appropriate crackers or pita chips, and you have something to offer your friend’s roommate’s girlfriend, who you didn’t realize was a vegan (I was a Girl Scout many moons ago, and the “be prepared” logo always carries to my parties!).

IMG 2248 creamy artichoke dip

So, who are you supporting this year?  As a Steelers fan married to an Eagles fan, I don’t really have a vested interest either way, so I’ll be cheering for the good food!

Creamy Artichoke Dip
A Bunsen Burner Bakery Original Protocol

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 ounce) jar artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt and freshly grond pepper, to taste
Directions:
 
Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender.  Process to make a smooth paste.  If the resulting dip is too thick, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to thin.  Scrape the dip into a bowl and serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, or crackers.
 
Creamy artichoke dip

January 29, 2016

Coconut Braised Chickpeas and Spinach


It's winter. It's cold out, and there's snow on the ground (an awful lot of it, if you live in my neck of the woods -- or urban jungle, as the case may be here). The days are short (but getting longer!), you're in full on hibernation mode. Now think about dinner.

IMG 5766 coconut braised chickpeas and spinach

What comes to mind as a perfect winter meal? Some sort of slow-roasted chicken or beef? A heavy pasta dish? Many people must think that way, since Food and Wine has an entire section on "Winter Comfort Food" which is full of dishes like chili, beef stew, veal goulash, beef pot pie, and something called macaroni and "many" cheeses (which sounds amazing, obviously).

IMG 5756 coconut braised chickpeas and spinach

I'd like to offer up an alternate option as the ultimate winter comfort food; in fact, it's probably my favorite thing I've made so far this winter. It also happens to be meat, dairy, and gluten free, but I promise, you won't miss any of those.

IMG 5773 coconut braised chickpeas and spinach

Hearty chickpeas and fresh spinach, simmered with warm cumin, smoked paprika, and spicy ginger. Stir in a little sun-dried tomato pesto for that bright, intense tomato flavor, followed by rich and creamy coconut milk. Serve it over a baked sweet potato (or not - it makes a great lunch on its own), pair with some spicy roasted cauliflower, and you have my definition of a perfect winter dinner. No meat, dairy, or gluten necessary.

IMG 5774 coconut braised chickpeas and spinach

Oh, and did I mention that this is easy? Aside from pulling a potato in and out of the onion, a little chopping and some stirring is all that's required. In fact, I made absolutely everything for this, from the initial prep work right through photographing it, with a sleeping baby wrapped to my chest. He knows what's good, though -- those little eyeballs opened up the second I sat down to eat, and his little mouth popped open, waiting for a chickpea. I haven't discussed it yet, but we're doing baby-led weaning with Ryan, and it is truly the best. He's 9 months old and he eats absolutely everything we eat, in its original form (no pureeing things), and he loved this. Spicy cauliflower, sweet potato, and all - I'm pretty sure he ate close to his own weight. So I'm going to go ahead and call this an ultimate crowd-pleasing dinner, popular with babies and carnivorous husbands alike!

Coconut Braised Chickpeas and Spinach
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 1 large lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 pounds baby spinach
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • whole roasted sweet potatoes, for topping

Directions:
  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion starts to brown.  Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, smoked paprika, pesto, and lemon zest.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for several minutes, until the chickpeas start brown and are thoroughly coated with the onion and pesto mixture.
  3. Add in the spinach in several batches, waiting until the current batch has wilted before adding in more.  This will take 5-10 minutes.  Once all the spinach has been added, pour in the coconut milk and season to taste with additional spices and the lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until chickpeas are warmed and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  4. Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes.
Coconut braised chickpeas and spinach

January 27, 2016

Chocolate Bourbon Soft Pretzel Bread Pudding

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade (specifically, this blueberry basil bourbon lemonade). When life hands you too many soft pretzels you make… um… what, exactly? 

IMG 4659 chocolate bourbon pretzel bread pudding

I feel like an overabundance of soft pretzels doesn’t happen too much, so maybe we should start with the backstory. Every December, for the past 11 years, I’ve hosted our annual Chrismukkah party. It’s certainly morphed over time – the early years featured a beer pong table and “shot of the hour”; these days you’ll find our drink offerings have matured to rare craft beers, Four Roses, and small-batch gin – but the premise is always the same: come for good food, lots of alcohol, and all our favorite people gathered together under one roof. The past few years, one of my husband’s best friends has brought a party-sized tray of pretzel bites to the party (because when in Philadelphia…), which is always a big hit. But it’s a huge tray, and despite the number of people in attendance, there are always tons of pretzel bites remaining.

 

IMG 4671 chocolate bourbon pretzel bread pudding

 

Soft pretzels have a very limited shelf life, so every year there’s a rush to try to finish them off before they go stale, and we’re never successful. So this year, faced with a giant mount of soft pretzel bites, I decided to actually do something with them. But what, exactly? Croutons? Pretzel strata? Pretzel stuffing? All sound interesting, but I didn’t really need that many pretzel croutons in my life.

IMG 4672 chocolate bourbon pretzel bread pudding

 

Enter: the annual lab holiday party. Every December, we spend an evening at our PI’s house — he orders in food, we bring dessert. And hence, chocolate bourbon soft pretzel bread pudding was born. I’m not normally a huge bread pudding fan, but I loved this (probably thanks to the bourbon). The pretzels on the top stayed a little bit crunchy, the pretzels on the bottom were nice and soft, and the slight hint of chocolate paired so nicely. This defintely fed a crowd, but you could just as easily halve the ingredients and bake it in an 8x8 inch pan instead. While I made this specifically to use up soft pretzels, it’s absolutely worthy of acquiring fresh soft pretzels just to make this… just let them sit out for a day or two so they start to get a little stale.  Everyone loves the salty-sweet pairing of pretzels and chocolate, so take an unexpected twist on your bread pudding with some soft pretzels!

IMG 4683 chocolate bourbon pretzel bread pudding

 

Chocolate Bourbon Soft Pretzel Bread Pudding
A Bunsen Burner Bakery Original Protocol

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups cubed stale soft pretzels, packed
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla 
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the milk, eggs, bourbon, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add in the sugar, mixing to combine, followed by the soft pretzel cubes. Toss to coat the pretzels well and set aide for an hour or two. Periodically stir the pretzels while soaking, pushing them under the liquid.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, until the custard is fully set and the top of the bread pudding is crispy.
  4. Sprinkle the grated or chopped chocolate over top while the pudding is still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Chocolate bourbon soft pretzel bread pudding
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