Granola Bars

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I had to travel for the first time since Alice was born… alone. My heart literally broke just thinking about this trip. The tldr: I survived. But I missed my girl so much. Besides the emotional part of traveling, I also had to figure out pumping while on the road. (This is probably not the intro you were expecting to my favorite granola bar recipe…) Thinking I’d need whatever help I could get to up the production on the road, I made granola bars so I could make sure to eat my oats every day. I found this recipe on… SURPRISE!!! Smitten Kitchen! Sharing my adjustments below. These turned out absolutely delicious, I would just recommend you keep them refrigerated as much as possible.

 INGREDIENTS:

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats

1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350 degreesF. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. I used:

  • dried cherries
  • sliced almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • coconut flakes
  • walnuts

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares.

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Strawberry Cakes Forever

Sometimes you just need a pink cake. I’ve never been a very “pink” girl and it could be related to having a baby girl last September… but recently I’ve been very comfortable with a rosy palate. When I saw Smitten Kitchen’s Pink Lady Cake I knew I needed to try it. I hate processed strawberry flavors but if it’s natural — and this cake is — I’m in. I ended up finding a different recipe to work off though as I wasn’t okay with THREE cups of sugar in the batter alone, and #noregrets.

Why did I bake a cake in the middle of March? I started a book club through a Facebook moms group (ed. note: it’s crazy how all of a sudden when you have a baby you’re like okay now I’m cool with new internet friends) and I hosted the first month. Inspired by the book cover’s color motif & my raspberry kisses blowing baby I gravitated to strawberry cake recipes and found this one by Sally’s Baking Addiction. Plus, do I really need an excuse to make cake?

IT. WAS. DELICIOUS. And beautiful! With no food dye! I don’t even like cream cheese frosting and I 100% endorse this recipe.  Adapted directions below, I wouldn’t change a thing next time I whip this up, which I will.

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup reduced strawberry puree
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice (my addition for coloring the cake which it did not! but tasted great so I’m not changing a thing)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries
  • one 8-ounce block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Make the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. All you do is put all berries in food processor and then drop the puree into a sauce pan and heat gently for 30 minutes. It should reduce by half.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Butter parchment paper cut for 9-inch cake pans.
  3. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
  4. Using mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk *just* until combined. Do not over-mix. Whisk in 1/2 cup of reduced strawberry puree, making sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick. If desired, stir in the juice.
  5. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried berries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. Set aside. In a large bowl using a mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar, berry powder, 1 Tablespoon milk, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy.
  7. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake keep its shape when cutting– it could slightly fall apart without time in the fridge.

PS: I do recommend the book we read, The Heart’s Invisible Furies. It was a sad story following a man’s life in Ireland, but it still made me chuckle at times. Long read. But good. Not the best choice for a mom’s book club (we don’t have time to read much beyond The Happy Sleeper (GET IT)) but still brought a few new moms together!

Truffle Mac and Cheese

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When you turn 30, you get a party and truffle mac and cheese. Last Saturday we celebrated Madison’s 30th in style – a cocktail attire affair in a beautiful DC apartment with the best of friends. There was dark chocolate cake, cheesecake, champagne and yes… truffle mac and cheese.

This recipe is really easy to make, especially if you have a Cuisinart to help shred the SIX cups of cheese you’ll need. Madison was more than happy to help with this, and even posted an Instagram video to show how much he loved grating the cheese -offering to cut the cheese whenever needed. #jokes

This photo is actually the leftovers – hope it still looks appetizing! 🙂 We have a *few* friends who will vouch for this recipe and next time we have a craving for mac n’ cheese I’m pulling out this recipe for sure.

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound pasta such as cavatappi or elbows
  • 2 tbs black truffle oil
  • 5 tbs unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, scalded
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated 
  • 5 1/2 extra-sharp white Cheddar, grated 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and truffle oil in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.

Add the pasta into the pan and stir until combined. Pour it into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.

Place the garlic, parsley and panko in a bowl or plastic bag and mix. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.

This recipe is adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s recipe.

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Pan-Roasted Chicken With Pineapple-Chile Glaze

Best Chicken Dish EverWith all the attacks on bacon recently [note: ate bacon for breakfast] and FDA warnings on eating too much steak [ note: Shake Shack is still my go-to hangover food] I decided we needed some better chicken recipes.

Guys, this is it. My first attempt at finding a more interesting chicken recipe won. Literally, after eating this dinner I couldn’t get this song out of my head. Thank you, thank you, Bon Appétit.

Of course, I made a couple adjustments – see below for my take on BA’s recipe that you need to make tomorrow for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices fresh pineapple, ½ inch thick
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • tablespoons paprika

Directions:

  • Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Mix cayenne and half the paprika in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with spice mixture, pressing to adhere; season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Cook chicken, skin side down, until browned and beginning to crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and add pineapple slices to pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Place chicken on top. Transfer to oven and roast about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring chile, garlic, pineapple juice, vinegar, brown sugar, and remaining paprika to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until thickened and syrupy, 10 minutes.
  • When chicken is done, brush with glaze and roast just until glaze is bubbling, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve chicken and pineapple with any juices from skillet alongside.

Spicy Chicken DinnerThis recipe is spicy. Use less cayenne if you can’t handle the heat. But if you like spice, trust me this is great. I paired the chicken with a kale caesar salad to cool it down a bit. Just a bit.

Enjoy,

V