Monday, March 17, 2014

Thin Mint Chocolate Tart

How was your Pi Day?  We had a party and there was much pie and good friends.  What more could one want?  Nothing, there is nothing more anyone could want.  My mom has her master's in math, so Pi Day is basically celebrating my family heritage, you know?  One of our friends observed as he was leaving that we and the party were, "A little bit nerdy, let's be honest; really sweet; and you always want to come back for more."  Pretty apt, I'd say.


Janssen and her family also stayed over one night last week.  It was so fun catching up and eventually all the children even slept. (wink)  In anticipation of Pi Day, I naturally had to make pie for dessert.  I've made this chocolate tart several times before and it's always been delicious, but decided to hack it a bit.  Mint seemed just right for St. Patty's Day (WHICH, by the way, we have a snow day today.  It is beyond amazing, I can't even tell you the level of excitement I felt at 5am when I realized Dan's work was cancelled).

Once I finally started making it after much distraction and bed-putting, it took about 15 minutes to throw together.  And was delicious.




Thin Mint Chocolate Tart

Crust
One sleeve Thin Mints (half the box)
4 T butter, melted

Filling
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Softly whipped cream, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Finely grind Thin Mint cookies in food processor.  Mix in melted butter until moistened.  Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of 9" tart pan.  Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until lightly puffed.

2. Combine chopped chocolate and heavy whipping cream in a medium saucepan.  Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove saucepan from heat.  Whisk eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl to blend.  Gradually whisk half the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture to temper until smooth.  Whisk egg mixture back into the rest of the chocolate mixture until smooth and blended.  Pour filling into crust.

3. Bake tart until filling is slightly puffed at edges and center is softly set, about 30-40 minutes.  Transfer to rack.  If you can wait, cool in pan 20 minutes, then remove tart pan sides and let cool completely.  Otherwise, scoop it directly out of the pan and serve with softly whipped cream.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Blueberry Banana Chip Bread


(First things first...happy happy birthday to my witty, ambitious, kind, gorgeous sister!)

Confession time...I'm not always a ginormous fan of banana bread.  I know!  Evil.

They're just usually too...banana-y?  I don't know.

Anyway, this basic version of this was the first version I ever made myself (we got this cookbook for our wedding) and I loved it.  I added blueberries and chocolate chips and coconut because, why not?  The blueberries do make it rather crumbly and moist, but when has that ever been a bad thing when it comes to quickbread?  I've made 3 batches in the last week, so I think that should tell you all you need to know.




Blueberry Banana Chip Bread

1 3/4 cups flour (I've also done half whole wheat, which I love)
2 1/4 t baking powder
3/4 t kosher salt
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 t grated lemon zest
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 large mashed bananas
1/2-1 cup chopped pecans
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
Butter or spray for greasing

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with butter or spray (I often make it in mini loaf pans because I prefer the higher ratio of crust to soft interior).

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter with sugar and zest until soft and creamy.  Add 1/3 of four mixture to butter mixture and stir until incorporated.  Repeat, adding remaining flour mixture in 2 more batches.  Mix in eggs and banana and stir until well blended.  Gently fold in pecans, chocolate chips, coconut, and blueberries.

3. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s) and smooth the top.  Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour for a full loaf or 35-40 minutes for mini loaves.  Let cool on a wire rack and serve.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One Outfit: Winter to Spring

The weather here in DC has been playing with all of our minds and closets.  On Saturday, it was a gorgeous 60 and sunny and we took a long family walk in just our shirtsleeves.  And then today it snowed.  I was more than a little bitter (although I started to forgive it just a little for at least being those big, gorgeous, soft snowflakes).

Since this time of year is so fickle, I like to think of outfits that can easily bridge the seasons.  Here's one example!



WINTER
 

Shirt: J.Crew Factory; Vest: Land's End Girls' Vest; Jeans: Forever 21; Scarf: H&M (similar); Purse: J.Crew (similar); Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington; Socks: Uniqlo; Shoes: Old Navy


For the winter version, I buttoned up the vest and added some decidedly cool-weather colors.  Burnt orange socks, chunky mustard scarf, booties, and a warm leather bag are perfect for colder temperatures.


SPRING


Shirt: J.Crew Factory; Vest: Land's End Girls' Vest; Jeans: Forever 21; Necklace: c/o ShopBlueBirdBride; Purse: J.Crew Factory (similar); Bracelet: Old Navy (similar); Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington; Shoes: Tretorn (similar)


To take the same outfit into springtime, I basically took the brighter, springier versions of all the colors.  Burnt orange became coral, mustard became sunshine yellow.I rolled up the sleeves, opened the vest, and added a bright, fun necklace.


How do you take your outfits from winter into spring?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 10 Essentials of a Vegetarian Kitchen

When we were putting together our registry before getting married, I was inexplicably thrilled to register for a melon baller.  I have no explanation for this.  In the nearly 6 years we've been married, I think I've used that thing once.  And that was only because I felt guilty.

Even with cooking most days, I find I tend to use the same instruments pretty frequently.  Here's a little list of some of the things I find most useful, not including staples like can openers and measuring cups/spoons.

You'll note that my beloved Kitchenaid is not on there.  Especially since I make my pizza and bread dough by hand, I really don't use it much for cooking, and mostly just for baking.

Another glaring omission: my food processor.  Reason?  I forgot.  Until after I'd put everything together, and it was nearly midnight.  I'm sorry.  But just know - I LOVE MY FOOD PROCESSOR.  I had (have) a mini prep that, for years, I thought to be sufficient (and it it is perfect for pesto and such).  But my food processor!  I just got it maybe 6 months ago and it has improved the quality of my kitchen life immeasurably.  Grating cheese?  A breeze.  Putting together a quick pie dough when I don't feel like crumbling the butter by hand?  Takes two seconds.  It's the best.

Without further disclaiming, the top 10 essentials of my vegetarian kitchen:





1. Wusthof Santoku Knife - If I could pick only one kitchen item to keep, it would be this knife.  Although I have several other excellent knives, this is the one I reach for 90% of the time.  If you only have one knife, get a great chef's knife.  Beyond that, I'm rather fond of my small serrated knife, paring knife, and bread knife, all from Cutco.  I also love this big ole cutting board from Ikea.  Plenty of room for all my veggies and all the scraps.

2. A Roasting Pan (I think this one is pretty, although mine is some random old metal one) - Not just for carnivores.  Because what else do you do with all those random CSA veggies but roast them to death?

3. A Pizza Stone and Peel (again, not ones I own but look nice) - With how often we eat homemade pizza, it's really nice having these on hand.

4. A Microplane Grater - Grating cheese is, by far, my least favorite kitchen task.  I loathe it.  The good stuff always breaks and you always have that little nubby end and always are thisclose to tearing apart your fingers.  I finally got one of these about a year ago and I still don't like it, but it is SO much more tolerable.

5. A Large Pot - Nothing is worse than realizing halfway through cooking that your pot is too small. This All-Clad 4-qt. one is almost always big enough and has been my bread and butter.  It is almost always the one I reach for and still looks brand new.  It's the best.

6. A Cast Iron Pan (similar to ours) - A random old cast iron is one of the very few kitchen things that survived from Dan's bachelor days.  The great thing about cast irons is that they need not be fancy or expensive.  Any cheapo version is probably fine if you season it well yourself, and they just get better and smoother with age.  I love our 12" one, and it's great as a nonstick pan or for caramelizing onions or, my favorite, for making crispy grilled cheese.

7. Kitchen Shears - Not sure where kitchen shears had been all my life, but they come in handy in so many ways I never realized.  Cutting up clementines for the baby, cutting greens/herbs, etc. etc.

8. Spatulas (don't you love the yellow?)- Somehow, no matter how many I have, I never have enough spatulas.  I love having a big ole wide one for flipping things, a metal one for heavier duty jobs, a small cookie one, and several silicone ones for stirring and sauteeing various veggies (I prefer the inflexible ones to the bendy ones both for veggies and baking).

9. Blender and Immersion Blender - Look, if you made me choose, the immersion blender will always win.  It's just the best for soups and that's slightly more important than smoothies.  BUT!  We make a lot of smoothies and I don't really prefer making them in single serve portions.  So I looove having a really terrific blender, as well.  We had that immersion blender up until a few months ago when it gave up the ghost and we got a slightly cheaper model of the same brand.  It's WAY less powerful and I will probably go back to my beloved standby soon enough here.

10. Slow Cooker - My fave.  Love her.  Also, loved paying $20 at Target on Black Friday for it.


What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?
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