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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brownies (from scratch!)

I had to bake something at the last-minute for work recently and only had about an hour, so cupcakes were out.  Usually I just whip up brownies in this situation, but I didn’t have any brownie mix on hand.  Then I realized – I could make these from scratch!

I pulled out my trusty Joy of Cooking and found a recipe for Brownies Cockaigne.

First, I melted butter and chocolate in a sauce pan, then set aside to cool (I was crunched for time so I stuck it in the fridge).

Once they were cooled, I beat 4 eggs and salt with a wire whisk…

Until foamy:

I whisked in sugar and vanilla, then stirred in the chocolate mixture and flour until just combined.

I poured into a greased pan and baked for approx. 30 minutes.

Before it cooled, I dusted with powdered sugar – pretty!

This is a quick, easy recipe and only needs 7 ingredients – in my opinion, it was pretty comparable to the Ghirardelli boxed mix I usually use!

Brownies Cockaigne (from Joy of Cooking)
1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 large eggs
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

·         Preheat oven to 350
·         Melt butter and chocolate together in small saucepan. Cool completely.
·         Beat eggs and salt until foaming.  Add the sugar and vanilla and mix well.
·         Add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until just combined.
·         Add the flour and stir until just combined.
·         Pour into a greased 13”x9” pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
·         Place on wire rack to cool and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Bon app├ętit!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweet Finds at Target

I don’t get to Target often; I hate dealing with the crowds and the parking lot and the lines.  But I went last Sunday to pick up a few things I needed and, as always, swung through their “Dollar Zone” on my way in.  You can find really cute things in this section if you’re willing to weed through all of the plastic placemats and children’s toys.  I found some items I was excited about and decided to share them with you!

This black and white bakery box ($1) was the perfect thing to send my donation to Bloggers Bake for Hope in:

How sweet is this magnetic memo pad ($1)? 

And these gift bags were 2 for $1 – I love the bright patterns, and it’s always good to have non-holiday-specific gift bags around.

Have you had any great finds at Target lately?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Honey Butter

I decided to make a honey butter to go with my homemade whole wheat bread.  I had this jar of lemon honey left over from a trip to Italy last fall (I know, I know, I’m so cosmopolitan!) and decided to use it.

This is pretty easy – just beat a stick of softened butter with 1 heaping tablespoon of honey and ½ tsp sea salt, and refrigerate until firm.


It’s an easy way to add some extra flavor to bread, dinner rolls, etc.  If you’re really fancy, you can even form it in a butter mold for a special event.


Honey Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 heaping tbsp honey
½ tsp sea salt

·         Beat all ingredients together until blended. 
·         Refrigerate for one hour, or until firm.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Homemade Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Another item on my “to-do” list is homemade bread.  Since I was making soup, I decided to make fresh bread to go with it!  I found a simple recipe on King Arthur Flour to try.
I gathered my ingredients – pretty straightforward.  I didn’t have dry milk, so I substituted ½ cup of milk (room temperature) for ½ cup of water.

I stirred together all of the ingredients – this was difficult, and I ended up doing a lot of it by hand.  It didn’t seem to affect the bread at all J

Once the dough was fairly well mixed, I kneaded it on a greased wooden cutting board for 8 minutes.  No pictures of this, but boy were my arms tired!
I placed the ball of dough into a lightly greased bowl and covered with a towel, then let it sit for 1 hour.

It puffed up quite a bit – though hard to tell from this picture.  I should note my kitchen was very warm.

I then shaped the dough into a log and placed it into a greased loafed pan.  I covered the pan loosely with greased plastic wrap, and let it sit for another 1 ½ hours.

At this point, the dough had puffed up quite a bit! 
I baked for 40 minutes at 350 degrees, then removed it to a wire rack to cool.  I also rubbed the top crust with butter.

Once it was completely cooled, I sliced it and topped it with a honey butter (recipe to come later!) and ate it with my vegetable soup.  This was a great, simple recipe for my first time trying bread, and I’m excited to bake more kinds of yeast bread in the future!

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
½ cup lukewarm water (minus 2 tbsp)
½ cup nonfat milk, room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 heaping tablespoons honey
3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 packet active dry yeast, dissolved in 2 tbsp of the ½ cup water
1 ½ tsp salt

·         In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir until combined.
·         Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 8 minutes,
·         Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow the dough to rise about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
·         Shape the dough into an 8" log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9” x 5" loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or till the center has crowned about 1" above the rim of the pan.
·         Preheat the oven to 350°F.
·         Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning.
·         Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. If desired, rub the crust with a stick of butter; this will yield a soft, flavorful crust.
·         Cool completely before slicing.
·         Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vegetable Soup

The weather in Boston lately has not been very spring-like (well, I guess it has been spring-like for Boston… which is not known for typical spring weather!).  It’s been gray and rainy and damp.  Fun!  I was deciding what to cook for the week and found some soup recipes from an old issue of Martha Stewart Living.  As you may remember, soup is on my “to do” list so I decided to try a vegetable soup, based on what I had purchased at the vegetable store that weekend.

This is adapted from the “Autumn Harvest Soup” recipe in the October 2010 issue. 

The most time-consuming part of this was the prep work – first, I chopped up 5 carrots and 4 stalks of celery, then mixed them with minced garlic and basil.

I chopped up 2 sweet potatoes.

And a head of kale.

And some green beans.

Then I pulled out my other ingredients.

I heated 1 tbsp of olive oil in my dutch oven, then added the carrots, celery and garlic.

Once the carrots & celery began to soften, I added sweet potatoes, tomato sauce, water and vegetable broth.

I brought that to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered for 15 minutes.  Next I added the kale, green beans and cannellini beans and simmered that for 15-20 minutes.

I topped this with some grated parmesan cheese, per Martha’s suggestion, and voila!  I also ate it with some homemade whole wheat bread, which I’ll post about later this week.

This soup was much easier to make then I expected, and it made a lot – I froze several batches for days when I don’t feel like cooking.  This soup is great because it’s not too heavy, but it’s very filling. 

Not to get all preachy, but it was great to eat this soup knowing everything that went into it was fresh.  Unlike some canned varieties, which contain ingredients I can’t even pronounce!  It’s obviously a little more work than heating up a can of soup in the microwave, but it makes several batches and is well worth the extra time (in my humble opinion) J

Vegetable Soup
1tbsp olive oil
5 small carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp basil
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 head kale, chopped
½ LB green beans, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 cans cannellini beans
¾ cup tomato sauce
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
Grated parmesan cheese (to top it)

·         In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil. 
·         Add the carrots, celery, garlic and basil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, approx 8 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
·         Add the tomato sauce, vegetable broth, water and sweet potatoes.  Bring to a boil.
·         Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
·         Stir in the kale, green beans and cannellini beans; simmer for 20 minutes.
·         Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!