Tag Archives: Daughter of Invention

Cardamom Browned Butter (I’m Really Proud of This One!!!)

January 2013

I usually don’t boast when sharing recipes, but when it comes to this butter experiment, I feel entitled to brag!

Cardamom Browned Butter

I searched a few combinations of “browned butter” and “honey” and “cardamom,” and the most immediate results were recipes for cookies, streusels, cakes, etc, but what I wanted was that flavor combination in a butter. Just butter. I left Google momentarily, and I experimented. Once you try this flavor packed butter, you will understand why I feel entitled to boast about this experiment! After making enough for yourself, this simple, flavorful butter would make a great gift in a little jam jar for someone who deserves a little jam jar of heaven.

Browned Butter with Honey & Cardamom

Ingredients

1 stick organic, unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 Tablespoon clover honey

Directions

Heat a skillet or saucepan on medium heat. Add the sliced butter, whisking frequently.

Continue to cook the butter.

Once melted, the butter will foam up a bit, then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat and place on a cool surface to help stop the butter from cooking further (and to prevent from burning).

Pour the browned butter into a small container.

Add the honey and cardamom and stir to combine.

Set the butter aside to cool and set.

Voila!

Embracing Failure: An Apple Crisp Of Sorts

October 2012

Want to talk about failure?

No? You’re probably not alone. Most people don’t want to talk about failure. I happen to be a person who fears failure quite a bit, maybe even runs away from it, maybe even runs quite fast and quite far away from it. BUT the beauty of this big, wide world is that it is FULL of people and examples and conversations that have taught me failure isn’t the end. The beauty of this big, wide world is we are capable of changing how we fit in it. I am learning failure is just the brink of decision making; it teeters between settling and determining, between defeat and discipline.

A failed body image can transform into a culinary embrace. A failed marriage can become a display of strength and a fresh start. A failed yoga class…is the one I don’t attend for fear of “failing.” A failed business might be the very best example of how to start the next. A failed apple crisp can still be a crisp…of sorts!

I have a book, whose title I shall not mention, filled with pie, tart, crisp and crumble recipes. Being that it was fall, I thought it would be lovely to bring an apple crisp to the dinner party I was supposed to attend that night. The problem with the recipe I was referencing was the inclusion of the volume of the topping, as a whole, right above the total for the light brown sugar. Was I supposed to add all of those measurements together? They were in the same block of the ingredient chart, so I assumed yes. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I stared at a bowl containing an obvious abundance of brown sugar already mixed with the other ingredients.

Not to panic. An abundance of brown sugar isn’t the end of the world, but it could very well mean a trip to the dentist, so I developed a new plan. I compensated with butter! I added lots more butter, thinking I could turn the crumble into a crust, but when I pre-baked the “crust,” it began to melt and slip away from the pie plate. FAIL FAIL FAIL!

I had a mess of apples, ooey, gooey, spiced apples sweetened with the reduction of their juices. I had a melted crust. Slightly discouraged, I decided the slip ‘n slide crust could be an ugly but delicious base. I poured the apples atop the “crust” and returned the mishap to the oven, where it all began to bubble over the pie plate. I stared and stared at it, thinking of all the wasted ingredients, all the meaningless photos, and the failed attempts at winging it. The waste factor kept nagging and nagging, so I tried a scoop….not too bad. I tried another spoonful…not bad at all!

I stirred the juicy, apple mess into a container to take to the dinner party. I whipped cream into a Kraken Rum whipped cream, which incidentally had the very best consistency I have ever whipped to date! I offered a bit of an excuse when I presented the warm, apple mess to the table, and you know what happened to my failed crisp? It disappeared!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
-Thomas A. Edison

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Batter Resplatter

September 2012

Ambitious retreat.

When I think of the special cabin in the woods, I think of eating, conversing, wandering, sitting, talking, eating, sitting, warming, reading…. With the slower pace and simpler agenda, I consider each meal an opportunity for a brand new creative endeavor. I let the seasons inspire and try the recipes I’ve stored patiently in my arsenal. The meals link other aspects of my cabin memories, so heating leftovers doesn’t seem to do justice to the special cabin (instead we pack the leftovers for our return dinner). I tend to be overly ambitious in my menu planning, but sometimes a small measure can twist a leftover into the new experience I seek to create.

As my special one waffled his way through the large bowl of batter for our first brunch, his hunger and patience proved to be inversely proportional. Since we had plenty of waffles to eat, I saved the batter for a resplatter, in the form of pancakes, the following morn. Granted, this does not make me the Picasso of pancakes or a kitchen trailblazer by any means, but let this remind and with any hope, slightly inspire. With the addition of roasted kuri squash and a new whipping of cream, we had a new meal with half the steps and risked waste less.

“Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.”
-Mark Twain

Much like this avocado egg or these harvest nests, these ham cups are a blank canvas awaiting your cravings and creativity. In my case, I used leftover root vegetables from the previous night’s dinner, with a sprinkling of salty cheese, as the secret surprise ingredients beneath the egg top. Mushrooms and leeks would be delicious, par example.

Ham Cups

Ingredients

Organic Maple Ham
Local/Free-range eggs
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Veggies of choice
Cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Line each muffin cup with a slice of ham, letting it ruffle up the sides.

Crack an egg into each, sprinkle with a bit of cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Serve immediately, on their own on a plate or set in small dishes for extra support.

Who wants a pancake,
Sweet and piping hot?
Good little Grace looks up and says,
“I’ll take the one on top.”
Who else wants a pancake,
Fresh off the griddle?
Terrible Theresa smiles and says,
“I’ll take the one in the middle.”

-Shel Silverstein

Batter Resplatter Pancakes

This Pumpkin Waffle Recipe + Leftover Roasted Red Kuri Squash = A Brand New Pancake!

Whipped Cream

1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons AITA Snap

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form. Add the Snap liquor and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

enjoy!

A Chance to Celebrate!

July 2012

When my next oldest sister made arrangements to take off  three weeks fromwork for a family vacation, her employer told her, “consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” Though her employer’s words were masking an impending stinginess with vacation days, his phrasing was right! She had indeed experienced the trip of a lifetime. Her winter planning resulted in a three-week-long road trip from the Philly area to Nebraska and back, from sister (me) to sister (the middle one) with a brother in between.

She and her three kids stayed at an inn converted from an old prison. They walked the Gateway Arch. They stared up the seemingly infinite facade of the Sears Tower (and stubbornly called it the “Sears Tower”). They clung to tubes behind a boat in Iowa. They went to the Pony Express station in the tiny, Midwestern town where I entered the world. They presidents immortalized in stone. They followed plans and changed courses spontaneously. Fortunately for me, I was a convenient stopping point on both legs of the trip. My sister’s birthday fell right in the middle of their wanderings, which meant their return to Pittsburgh called for a cake!

Incidentally, this was also the cake that convinced me to buy an air conditioner. You’ll note I added “melted white chocolate” to my cake batter. Though it did make for a subtle sweetness, this choice was both an experiment and the result of the ridiculous temperature of third-floor living in the height of summer. Feel free to use solid chips, should you live in a kitchen that doesn’t melt your chocolate and liquify your coconut oil. As I learned, this cake requires a lot of almond flour, so stock your cupboard accordingly should you want to this cake to be completely gluten free. That was my intention, but after all, life requires frequent changes, and I am the daughter of invention!

Blueberry Almond Cake
(makes 1-9inch bundt cake)

Inspired by this recipe on the beautiful Roost blog, though I veered at the many forks in the road.

Cake Ingredients 

4 1/2 cups Bob’s Redmill organic almond flour
1 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

6 eggs (local/free-range)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cups honey
2 tsp pure almond extract
2 tsp organic vanilla extract

3/4 cup white chocolate, melted
1 pint fresh blueberries

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9-inch stone bundt pan.

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl.

Whisk wet ingredients in a separate bowl then add to dry ingredients until a smooth batter has formed.

Stir in the melted white chocolate.

Gently fold blueberries into batter and pour into greased pan.

To prevent the cake from browning, cover with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the tinfoil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes.

Flip cake onto a cake stand or plate and drizzle with glaze.

Coconut Butter Icing

Ingredients

8 oz Neufchatel cheese (rBST free)
1/2 cup organic mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup wildflower honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Use an electric mixer to combine all the ingredients until thoroughly combined and creamy.

Garnish

Top with fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, raspberries)!

And remember…

Just because a cake is rather regal, doesn’t mean you have to be! Go craaaazy!

Happy Birthday Tosha!

Frozen Berry Dessert, Part Deux: The Delivery (sans celebrities this time around)

July 2012

My fascination with food is not limited to the how. I’m curious about the who, the what, the where and perhaps most importantly, the why. We associate memories with food. We bond over food. We pass our stories as we pass our plates, and we make friends via our tastes. I already showed you the how for a very memorable frozen berry dessert. It was a failure of sorts, but the revisions succeeded in a way that utterly surprised me! However, the dessert’s story did not end there. I was making that dessert for a summer Sunday-the type of summer Sunday that perfectly reminds me of the happiness growing underfoot!

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” ~ James Oppenheim

(A summer Sunday can be downright torturous for a dog who has eyes only for saaaaaausages!)

If we don’t make time, summer’s golden ears will quickly disappear, and grills will enter dormancy.

If we do make time, we might use more butter on golden kernels than we should, just because it’s fancy butter. We might sip more sangria than we should, just to reach the wine-soaked, sangria peaches, bursting with the flavors guarded best by local growing.

If we don’t make time, we might miss the show (sometimes the show is a little racy)…

If we do slow down, we might see what a cold beverage can do to a lady on a hot day. ;P

If we do slow down, we can learn more of our own food story from those who taught us, and we can pass it to those who who care to share it.

If we do slow down, the sky might put on a show in our honor. In our case, the Pittsburgh sky sure was feeling fancy!

The show transitioned to flickering candles and second rounds of adult root beer floats then a downhill stroll to fall asleep to the hum of a fan.

May your hot oven be worked minimally. May your frozen desserts refresh you maximumly! May you enjoy summer’s best hues and lights until a quiet stroll leads you peacefully home!

Frozen Berry Dessert & How A Failed Meringue Led To A Celebrity Encounter

July 2012

The Agenda:
A BBQ/Potluck on one of the best decks in the city, hosted by a loyal and true friend.

The Plan:
A more summery version of this maple mousse pie.

The Fail, the EPIC FAIL:
The mousse pie recipe has a meringue component. Oh that meringue! I totally bombarded it with hot honey, and the poor, fluffy cloud didn’t stand a chance! It collapsed like an uncapped air mattress under a sleepy soul.

The Recalculation:
I pride myself on being the Daughter of Invention, but try though I did, the meringue had failed. There was no salvaging the eggy mess, so I had to “click” undo a little farther back into my history. What I had was a perfectly good crust, a fresh fruit puree and a new idea borrowed from the very woman who inspired me to improvise- my mom. What I didn’t have was more heavy cream. What I did have was my special one’s car!

Recalculating Route…:
To Whole Foods! To the dairy aisle! (I also tried to buy an air conditioner at Home Depot, but that effort lingered on the fail side of the spectrum).

The Moment That Made Me Grateful the Meringue Had Failed So Miserably:
As I walked to retrieve a cart, I saw a tall man with thick, thick, thick glasses and dark hair. Could it be…no…but…is it? His voice even sounded familiar as he spoke to his shopping companion who was retrieving a cart. She looked familiar as well! It was them! It was! My heart raced a little bit and fluttered with glee.  I worked up the courage to be that dorky fan girl and approach them in the produce aisle.

The Celebrity Encounter:

“Excuse me, I have to ask. Were you in Party Down [ie: one of the best shows ever!!!]?”
“Yeah…yeah, I was, and so was she [points to Kristen Bell as she picked berries].”
“It was such a great show! It got me through the winter! You guys were amazing!”
“Thanks, thanks very much! I’m Martin.  What’s your name?”
“Quelcy.”
“Nice to meet you, Quelcy.”

I was blown away by his sincerity and humility. Not only had he introduced himself, but he had taken the time to ask my name, repeat it, and furthermore, he had pronounced it correctly! I asked about the rumors of a comeback movie, and he said they had to keep pushing the writers! Meanwhile, the two of them were in Pittsburgh “to pick up some food at Whole Foods” and to shoot a movie together. Between Anne Hathaway in my yoga class and Party Down cast members at Whole Foods, Pittsburgh is becoming quite the little Hollywood.

The Uplifting Moral of the Story

Have you ever noticed how most life lessons have at least one kitchen counterpart? Susan Sarandon (and others probably) said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.” Had I not failed my meringue but persevered with my dessert, I wouldn’t have had the serendipitous encounter in the produce section. Silly as it may seem, that little twist in my day really set a positive tone for my week. On top of the encounter, my friends really enjoyed the dessert.  All in all, I am a really lucky girl, and it pays to appreciate these moments in life!

Coconut Walnut Crust

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts
3 Tablespoons organic light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 Tablespoons organic coconut oil
1 teaspoon organic almond extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the walnuts on a parchment lined baking stone, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, brown sugar, nutmeg and almond extract until the nuts are finely chopped.

Add the coconut oil, and pulse to incorporate.

Press the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan in an even layer.

Refrigerate until firm.

I know science would say otherwise, but I prefer to see the making of whipped cream akin to the making of magic. Suddenly cold, heavy cream turns into fluffy clouds.  The bowl of clouds holds the imagination if you stare and allow yourself a spoonful of creativity while the mixing blades spin. What do you see, friends..?

Whipped Cream Filling

Ingredients

1 pint organic heavy cream, chilled
8 oz organic Neufchatel cheese
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup wildflower amber honey
3 Tablespoons Kraken Rum (or the like)

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream and the Neufchatel cheese until soft peaks form.

Add the vanilla, honey and rum and beat until combined.

Scoop the filling onto the crust, and spread evenly.

Fruit Filling

3 cups cherries, pits removed
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

Puree the cherries and blueberries in a food processor. Either set the fruit puree aside or strain to drain off some of the excess juices.

Add the fruit in dollops, and use knife to swirl the fruit with the filling.

Freeze until the top begins to set slightly. Remove from the freezer, and add the fruit garnishes. Return to freezer, and freeze until firm.

Garnish

4-5 large strawberries, sliced
Blackberries to your aesthetic liking

The revised and rather improvised dessert remained in the freezer until the kielbasa was grilled, loaded with fixins on a bun and eaten with corn on the cob and fancy butter. The dessert remained in the freezer while the band played atop a neighborhood hill. The dessert remained in the freezer until the happy neighbors returned to the deck with the beautiful views of a sky changing from blue to pink.  Stay tuned, and I’ll show you what that all looked like.

-QTK

Lobster By Night/Lobster By Day

Lobster by Night
March 2012 

It had been a while since the two of us had gathered at my dining room table, so I proposed a date of the domestic sort.  As I began menu scheming, I turned to the stained and tattered pages of my trusted America’s Test Kitchen magazine, through which I have faithfully been working.  When I saw a lobster recipe with the words “lazy man” in the title, I found that weekend’s winner!

Yes, that is frozen lobster.  I love him (↓), and I love a special dinner, but I was in no way prepared to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws! Sorry friends.  Not this time!  My other justification was this- if I am going to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws, I’m not going to cut up the meat and bake it in a gratin.

The recipe had me with this opening description…

Lobster is a classic choice for an elegant dinner for two.  Most people boil or steam their crustaceans and serve them whole with a side of drawn butter.  While there’s nothing wrong with this simple, traditional approach, fumbling around with a cooked lobster, hammering down on shells and poking around for meat isn’t exactly a tidy affair.  I wanted a refined lobster dinner for a couple that delivered the sweet, rich flavor of lobster and didn’t require a bib to eat.  - Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen Books

Lazy Man’s Lobster for Two (By Night)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen magazine

Filling

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
8 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
12 ounces lobster meat (frozen), chopped coarse
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
Yakima smoked salt
Pepper

Topping

1 slice high quality wheat bread
3 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon minced sage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Filling

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the thyme and cayenne.

Whisk in the broth and cream and simmer until the liquid has thickened and reduced to ¾ cup, 10-12 minutes.

Off the heat, add the cooked lobster meat and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture evenly between two 2-cup gratin dishes (or similar baking dish).

For the Topping

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Combine the bread crumbs, the pecorino, sage, oil and paprika in a bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the gratins.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Salad

Goose Creek Farms Mizuna
2 champagne mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
green peas

Dressing

Juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

My own personal mixologist shook up one of my favorites:

Buffalo Trace bourbon
AITA Snap
Peychaud’s bitters
Dried cherries rehydrated with bourbon

Well, he actually shook up TWO of those for me!

Lobster by Day

The recipe said “Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two,” but that “two” would have to refer to two rather large and very hungry New Englanders as far as I can tell.  Accordingly, “two” for us meant two meals, and our leftovers  transformed into a delicious brunch!

Babies’ first ever poached eggs (a team effort in progress)…

Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two (By Day)

(from the bottom up)
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Speck
Cahill Irish Whiskey Cheese
Leftover Lazy Man’s Lobster (see recipe above)
Poached eggs (from local/free-range eggs)
Smoked black pepper

Leftovers are just new opportunities I say, so Happy Leftovers!

ps:  That’s some leftover Post Patty’s Brunch French Toast on the other side of the plate.  It was quite the morning in the dining room!

How Did Valentine’s Dinner Become Plan B The Morning After?

February 2012

I did put a lot of effort into crafting a special Valentine’s Day Observed dinner.

I did not put all the lemony, minty, chèvre and ricotta filling into the heart shaped ravioli shells.

I did have a lot of egg yolks leftover from making the special Valentine’s Day cakewich.

did not see any reason to leave the cozy house the next, wintry morning (at least I think it was wintry…regardless, I was content to stay put).

I did see a reason to use the previous night’s flavor combinations and leftovers in a new way. You don’t come to look like this without a bit of creative resourcefulness!

Plan Brunch…what did you think I meant?!?!

Lemony Leftover Scramble + Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w/ Whiskey Whipped Cream

You might notice the above egg scramble has quite the bright, golden hue.  It’s not the trick of photo enhancement.  No sir.  No ma’am.  It is the trick of an abundance of egg yolks excluded from a special cake batter.  These eggs might not be the poster child for a low fat lifestyle, but they were incredibly, edibly good, as the branding has taught us!

Egg yolks + a few whole eggs (all local/free-range)
Leftover ravioli filling
Speck (leftover from a certain heart shaped charcuterie spread)

Do you have to make the other recipes first, in order to create this scramble?

Nope!

My point is- use your leftovers creatively!  Trust your instincts and take a few risks!  The result may pleasantly surprise you!  These eggs were a one-of-a-time, delicious whim and maybe even a metaphor for life?

As for the pancakes, we started from scratch with the previous night’s flavors still on our minds.  I’m so lucky to have a Valentine who becomes a pancake flipper in the morning light!

Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
w/ Whiskey Whipped Cream 

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups organic cornmeal (Bob’s Redmill)
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs (local/free-range), separated
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
1/3 cup all natural ricotta cheese
1/2 stick organic, unsalted butter, browned
1 cup strawberries,

extra butter for pan

Directions

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg yolks, and lemon zest to blend.

Stir buttermilk mixture and almond extract into flour mixture until evenly moistened. Gently stir in ricotta cheese.

In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With a flexible spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter just until they are incorporated.

Stir in the browned butter.

Gently fold in the strawberries.

[This is the part of the recipe I happily ignore and substitute my talented boyfriend to make up for my flipping inabilities]

Place a nonstick griddle or a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat; when hot, coat lightly with oil and adjust heat to maintain temperature. Drop batter in 1/2-cup portions onto the griddle and cook until pancakes are browned on the bottom and edges begin to look dry, about 2 minutes; turn cakes with a wide spatula and brown other sides, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Coat pan with more oil as necessary to cook remaining pancakes.

Serve pancakes as cooked, or keep warm in a single layer on baking sheets in a 200° oven for up to 15 minutes.

Serve with whiskey whipped cream, sliced strawberries and pools of pure maple syrup!!!

Whiskey Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
Generous splash of Wild Turkey
1-2 Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup

For the Whiskey Whipped Cream

Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

As always… Enjoy!

Pancakes, Pals and Peace for Whitney

February 12, 2012

This snowy, cold, gray, pre-Valentine’s Day Sunday was only meant to be a brunch for bringing friends together.  The line up included my special someone (of special pancake flipping importance on this brunching Sunday), the lovelies who gather around my table quite frequently, my old friend and Brazilian host, Thiago, and Omar, my new neighbor/the man who gave me my bakery experience.  That snowy Sunday was only meant to be what most great Sundays are meant to be:  good food, good laughs, good coffee, good friends, good memories.  This Sunday brunch was all of those, but it also took on an historical importance based on the events of Saturday afternoon/evening.

Nina texted me a seemingly random question, “can we listen to Whitney [Houston] during brunch tomorrow?”  I hypothesized maybe this choice was the next logical step after my Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou musical selections, but I still asked why she would make such a request.  “She just died a few hours ago.”  Thus this Sunday brunch came to include the pancakes and pals, as planned, and a WHOLE LOT OF WHITNEY!  We literally listened to Whitney for hours, and I had a nagging desire to watch The Bodyguard the entire time.  Rest in peace!

Omar said he was craving pancakes.  I’m always in the mood for brunch foods that absorb maple syrup, but this specific brunch request highlights my odd kitchen flaw:  I suck at flipping!  Luckily, I have a partner in pancakes, and I swear, I do like him for more than his pancake flipping abilities (though, that is a pretty strong reason for liking someone).

Running a bit behind schedule (let’s be real, we were clearly in the all out “lunch” portion of the day, but I stand by the “brunch” categorization) meant whipped cream beaters for the licking.  The pinks and reds were a nod to Valentine’s day, and those bows were an homage to Whitney herself!

The final additions came to the table while the expert flipped the last pancakes.  I made a bright orange side of roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and spices.  The coffee was hot, and the drinks were about to be bubbling.

Appropriately enough, it was Thiago’s aunt who introduce me to the little touch of fancy a cinnamon stick can bring to a coffee.  Gingerbread can bring a little touch of the sentimental if you shape it just right…

A Rosy Salad

Roasted beets
Grapefruit
Blood orange
Fresh sprigs of mint, chopped

Serve with chocolate balsamic dressing, which I first served as part of a Swedish accented brunch and more importantly, that chocolaty sauce also pairs really well with pancakes!

Organic Pomegranate & Cranberry Sparkling Sodas + Prosecco and a slice of lemon because the cocktail is clearly prettier that way.

Whole-Wheat Cranberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Homemade Whipped Cream

Cranberry Sauce Pancake Filling

Ingredients

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
Fresh juice from 2 small lemons
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
½ cup organic light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
cinnamon
nutmeg

For the Cranberry Sauce

Combine the cranberries, wine, water, lemon juice and zest in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to heat until cranberries begin to pop.

Add the brown sugar and spices.

Continue to simmer until mixture thickens.

Allow to cool.

Drain and reserve liquid. Add cranberry sauce liquid to pure maple syrup to serve with the pancakes.

Whole-wheat Cranberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups organic yellow cornmeal (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup organic light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups soured milk*
1 Tablespoon almond extract
1 stick organic, unsalted butter, browned
**Cranberry Sauce (recipe above)
Pure maple syrup + reserved cranberry sauce liquid

*This is another practice I gleaned from my mom.  Rather than waste some milk you wouldn’t drink, bake with it.  In the event you have managed your milk consumption in a timely fashion, you can use regular milk or buttermilk for extra flavor.  

For the Panckaes

Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, four, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.

Add milk, almond extract and the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Beat until smooth.

Mix in browned butter, and then stir in the cranberry sauce.

Add 1/2 tablespoon melted butter to large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet, spacing apart.

Cook pancakes until golden brown on bottom and some bubbles begin to break around edges, about 2 minutes.

Turn pancakes over; cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer pancakes to baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm.

Repeat with remaining batter, adding more melted butter by 1/2 tablespoonfuls to skillet as necessary.

Serve pancakes with cranberry sauce maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Whipped Cream
(this goes quickly!) 

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to use.

The Jono Cakes Special (left):  Dollop of Whipped Cream + Chocolate Balsamic Sauce
The Quelcy Cakes Special (right):  Dollop of Whipped Cream + Cranberry Maple Syrup (I am sincerely addicted to excessive quantities of pure maple syrup)

Apparently Nina and Deanna had done extensive Whitney research the night before via youTube.  This led to Nina trying to portray Whitney’s rather emaciated stages.  Without any disrespect, that impression led to quite the comedic outbreak.  Time for Omar and Thiago’s initiation to the With The Grains Brunch Tradition… bring on the GIF FILE!!!  There’s also some magic, since Jono had to leave early and Deanna came a bit late.  GIF Magic!

Another round of coffee, conversation and lots of laughter…

Whitney Houston
We will always love you!
August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012 

World Nutella Day Commemorative Brunch

February 5, 2012

Someday I’ll have a calendar marked with all the quirky, commemorative food “holidays” (does that calendar already exist somewhere?).  Last year, I discovered I had just missed World Nutella Day, but I did what any modern girl on a mission might do:  I marked my Google calendar and let technology take care of the rest for me!  Last year, I also discovered what I had always thought was the result of a flash of French brilliance was actually an Italian invention.

Fast forward to 2012, and my calendar reminded me I had a celebration in store!  When Italy is due kudos, it’s my time to queue Nina, the best gift Italy ever gave me (albeit it via America, but she does have the passaporto)!

I am not one to argue against the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnut, but I do have a few objections to some other items on the Nutella ingredient list.  Thus, I made my own version…my own “rustic” version (my food processor is a bit on the tired side) and then put it in between layers of panettone bread for a really rich flavor and an additional nod to Italy.

Look what happens when we pretend!!!
(click on the image ↓ below ↓ to see us in action!)

We channeled the best of Italy- the curvaceous women of Fellini films, donned our sunglasses for a spell and proceeded to pretend we were sitting at an Italian cafe.

Little trays with a view certainly help the Sunday morning game of pretend…

Brunch beverages…

One Village Coffee (with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, perhaps?) and a cinnamon swizzle stick for a touch of fancy and spice!

Blood Orange Bellini and a toast… to our inner Sophias!

World Nutella Day Baked French Toast

I had some egg nog approaching its final days.  Being the daughter of invention, I used that egg nog for a really decadent milk source in the custard sauce.  Waste not, eat creatively!  Feel free to use regular milk instead.

World Nutella Day Recipe:  Baked French Toast

Ingredients

Organic, unsalted butter
1 loaf Panetonne bread in 1-inch slices,
1 cup homemade nutella
pure maple syrup
Goat cheese (Soignon), sliced
Mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa
3 cups organic egg nog
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Frangelico
1 Tablespoon AITA Root
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Generously grease a 9×9-inch baking dish with butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan.

Smooth a layer of homemade nutella over the bread, followed by maple syrup and the slices of goat cheese.

Use the remaining slices of bread to complete the top layer. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa.

Whisk egg nog, eggs, vanilla extract, Frangelico, Root, brown sugar and salt. Pour over the bread. You probably will have extra liquid, but make sure the mixture seeps into the top layer of bread.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares and serve with maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Homemade Whipped Topping

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons Kraken Rum

Directions

Step One:  Release the Kraken!

Step Two:  Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Step Three:  Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Step Four:  Heap onto French toast and maybe even add a dollop into your cup of coffee!

Felice festa di Nutella!

[Mi dispiace io non parlo italiano.]

Finale.

Home is Still a Wooden Table

December 2011

Christmas was fake presents under the tree meant to trick the eager openers before the real revelations.

Christmas was pajama traditions.

Christmas was a beautiful golden table.

Christmas was a plate of mom’s simple approach to beef and roasted chicken.

Christmas was my sister’s experiments with carrots and horseradish, potatoes and cheese and sweet potatoes with apple, apple butter and spices.

Christmas was a clean plate club

(and a little Ninja strike)!

Before I ventured into Philadelphia for city wanderings, Mom proposed we gather around the table again.  I simultaneously made a request and proposed a brunch challenge.

When my older sister visits from Nebraska, we always eat waffles, so even though she wasn’t in town, it felt like a waffle sort of occasion.  With lots of leftovers filling the fridge, I proposed my other sister’s apple butter and sweet potato experiment from Christmas dinner find its way to the brunch table… via waffles!

Mom filled the table, as she usually does when serving a meal.  Cinnamon rolls and fluffy scrambled eggs (I wish I had my mom’s egg making abilities) and my lemon cranberry thyme bread and fruit accompanied both the waffle experiment and a more traditional batch of waffles.

Mom pureed the delightfully spiced apples and sweet potatoes, so the flavors smoothly blended into each waffle bite.  I topped my grid of nooks and crannies with locally made apple butter for a real burst of fall and wintry flavors.

Reds, greens, yellows and a touch of turquoise really brought us together on a sunny, cold morning for a delicious moment around the table.  Though I generally dislike the vagueness of the word, the morning was, well, it was just nice!

Dear The South, I Miss You. (Chocolate Pecan Pie w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream)

June 2011

It was time to celebrate the June birthdays at my day job, and though I was pretty freshly returned from my Southern Sojourn, I was already missing the South.  Accordingly, I rather selfishly picked the theme, so I would, in the least, vicariously return to my road trip state of being.  The party did not disappoint.

(Click on the above image to see the party pictures)

I even propose that it was our best fulfilled theme so far… fried chicken, fried fish, homemade cornbread, chess pie, buttermilk biscuits, beans ‘n greens, science ice cream (not so much Southern, but we are an R&D group, so science has to creep in somewhere) and this decadent pie by yours truly…

Southern Style Chocolate Pecan Pie
with Boozy Bourbon Whipped Cream
*makes two pies (one w/o cream for the kids, one w/ cream for the adults)

Crust

Leftover and frozen from the birthday pies
Keep frozen until the filling is ready.

Filling

2 cups local, pure, maple syrup
2 cups organic, light brown sugar
*1 ½ Stonyfield chai ice cream, melted
2 Tablespoons molasses
8 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
10  large egg yolks lightly beaten (local/free-range)
3 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 bar of Ghirardelli’s chocolate (72% cacao)

*Most pecan pie recipes will call for heavy cream.  Being very short on both heavy cream and time, I looked into the freezer at an ice cream option that was admittedly a little freezer burned.  Not wanting to waste it, the little tub had sat idly in the freezer door until this new daughter of invention moment!

Bourbon Whipped Cream

2 cups organic heavy cream
4 Tablespoons bourbon (Bulleit)
½ cup organic, light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the maple syrup, sugar, ice cream and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the butter and salt into the syrup mixture until combined.

Whisk in the egg yolks until they are incorporated.

Scatter the pecans evenly in the pie shell(s).

Break the chocolate bar into chunks and disperse over the pecans.

Carefully pour the filling over the pecans.

Place the pie in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Bake until the filling is set and the center jiggles slightly when the pie is shaken gently, 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool for one hour, then refrigerate until set, about 3 hours to one day.

Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

For the Bourbon Whipped Cream

Place a large bowl in the freezer until chilled.

Remove the bowl, and add the cream, bourbon, sugar and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form.

Pipe onto one pie (the adult pie) and store additional cream for the big kids who dip into the kid-friendly pie.

When Baking Leftovers Combine, I am…

June 2011

I am the daughter of invention.

When I first changed my eating habits, I was excessively and naively vigilant.  I wouldn’t touch anything other than 100%, whole grains.  I tried to avoid fat (foolish, young Quelcy, fat is for all), my sugar intake was low, and I barely ate meat.  If that approach to eating sounds miserable, know that it was.  Eventually, I came to see food quite, quite differently for reasons that should ring clear throughout With The Grains.

However, in that epoch, my sister was extremely frustrated by my laundry list of “won’t eats.”  She told me to find a dessert recipe I would eat for the conclusion of our Thanksgiving meal.  Dessert is a very important course in our household, and she didn’t like taking no for an answer.

(Tosha probably washing dessert off my little baby body)

Though it seems like ancient history, this was the time pre-internet-inundation of recipes and food blogs offering solutions for every type of pickiness and dietary woe.  Still, I found a “healthy” pumpkin pie recipe with a whole grain crust and probably without butter (no longer my enemy, in fact, my old friend).

The big dessert moment arrived.  My sister presented the beautiful pumpkin pie with the healthy coloration of whole grains.  I appreciated her efforts to accommodate me and anxiously took my first forkful.  It took every ounce of reserve to chew and swallow that bite.  It was awful.  It was a spice pie with a pinch of pumpkin.  How could a pie be that awful?

My mother took a bite to help answer that question.   It was the nutmeg, the overpowering nutmeg, rendering the pie inedible.  My sister brought the recipe for my mom’s experienced review.  There was a costly typo, and what should have been a minor teaspoon or so of nutmeg was some outrageous, exaggerated quantity (instilling in me a healthy paranoia about posting recipes to the world wide web.  Dear Readers, I hope never to lead you astray resulting in a costly, spicy consequence).

I stared at my slice of pie really wanting to eat it for my sister’s sake, but there was no amount of mind-over-matter that I could muster for the sake of her efforts.  Nor did I want an entire pie to go to waste.  I looked at my mom, at my mother, the master of changing recipes according to the cupboards’ supply levels and asked, “Is there any hope for this tragic incident?”

There was so much more than hope!  There was an unrepeatable and overwhelming success!  In a typical, unassuming and humble manner, my mother mashed up that spice pie, muted its flavor and incorporated it into a pumpkin bread recipe.  I kid you not, it was the best pumpkin bread I have ever eaten, and it was a one-time occurrence, but it was a one-time occurrence I will never forget.

Not only did this incident exemplify my mother’s flexible (and delicious) baking style, but it instilled in the future baker, in me, a flare for the experimental.  I wasn’t scared of baking, and I definitely didn’t view that branch of the food world as one laden with rules, as most people do.

Thus, I owe my mother many thanks!  I owe my mother maaaaaaaaaaanny thanks actually, but for the sake of this story, I would specifically like to thank my mother for imparting in me a joy of baking that extends beyond rules and boundaries and converts mistakes into the best bread I have ever eaten.

Thank you, mom!

When Two Leftovers Combine, I am… a Planeteer?

It happens:  extra batters, extra icing, extra whipped toppings, etc.  It’s just a part of the baking game, or at least, my baking game.  What to do with them?  I channel my mother’s lessons and create something brand new.

When your leftovers combine, I am…

… mildly still obsessed with one of my favorite childhood cartoons (click on the image to see the theme song!!).  Have you noticed how heavy handed the Cold War theme is?  That element was completely over my head as a child.

I digress.

When Two Leftovers Combine

I had leftover icing from this birthday cake and leftover batter from this barter cake.

I also had some chocolate chips and pecans in the baking cupboard.

So I chopped the pecans…

and spread them across a buttered, 9×13 glass pan and followed with a chocolate chip layer.

Then I mixed the beet whipped cream and the chocolate batter and poured the vibrant result across the chocolate chips and pecans.

I baked the new creation and then gussied up a slice.

Then came the best part…I dug in!