I woke up this morning thinking about baking cookies.  That’s probably a sign that I should go on a juice cleanse or something of that nature so I can rid my thoughts of brown sugar, vanilla, and molasses.

It’s not the actual eating of the cookies (of course, I won’t deny 1 or 2 warm ones right from the oven), I more so enjoy the making of the cookies.  I’d rather cream butter and sugar together until fluffy than do anything else on an early weekend morning.  Sifting flour and folding in chocolate… yes please.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simplified Feast 2

Brown butter and a little sprinkle of sea salt makes these cookies rise above the rest.  Plus, the recipe is from Joy the Baker.  If you don’t know her by now, I recommend you head over to her blog and start reading.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simplified Feast 1

Brown butter is delicious and nutty.  Definitely worth the extra bit of stovetop time and pan swirling.  The milk solids in the 1/2 c. butter are browned over medium heat and create the most beautiful flavor.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simplified Feast 3

Not too flat, not too fluffy.  Crunchy edges with a chewy center.  Just the right amount of salt and sweet.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simplified Feast 4

Enjoy your Sunday and go bake some cookies!

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe slightly adapted from The Joy the Baker Cookbook
Yield:  About 24 cookies
 

Ingredients:

1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon molasses

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle on top

 

Method:

1) Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
2) Place half the butter (8 tablespoons) in a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling it in the pan occasionally. It’ll foam and froth as it cooks, and start to crackle and pop. Once the crackling stops, keep a close eye on the melted butter, continuing to swirl the pan at intervals. The butter will become fragrant, and brown bits will form in the bottom. Once the bits are amber brown (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or so after the sizzling stops), remove the butter from the burner and pour it into a small bowl, bits and all. Allow it to cool for 20 minutes.
3) Beat the remaining 1/2 cup butter with the brown sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth.
4) Beat in the vanilla and molasses.
5) Pour the cooled brown butter into the bowl, along with the granulated sugar. Beat for 2 minutes, until smooth; the mixture will lighten in color and become fluffy.
6) Add the egg and egg yolk, and beat for another minute.
7) Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, beating on low speed just until everything is incorporated.
8) Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
9) Scoop the dough onto a piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Flatten it slightly into a thick disk, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to begin baking, preheat your oven to 350°F, with the racks in the center/upper third.
10) Scoop the dough in 2 tablespoon-sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Each will weigh about 1 ounce (28g). Leave about 2″ between the cookies; they’ll spread as they bake.
11) Sprinkle the cookies with sea salt, to taste — as much or as little as you like.
12) Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to rest on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving them.
13) Serve warm; or cool completely, and store airtight at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

 Enjoy!

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Summer Garden

August 24, 2014

With August coming to a close, I thought I’d do a post showing some pictures of our backyard harvests.  I should just call this the Summer of Tomatoes, because we sure had A LOT of them.  Most pictures are from my Instagram page.

At this point, I’ve stopped trying to tame the weeds.  All of our zucchini and yellow squash plants have withered away.  I also now let Mother Nature do my watering for me, because truthfully if you spend more than 5 minutes in the garden, any exposed skin is attacked by mosquitoes.

Right now, we’re receiving bountiful amounts of jalapeno peppers, 3 kinds of tomatoes, okra, mint, and basil.  I have plans to make pesto as soon as I can dig my stash of pine nuts out of the freezer and dust off the food processor.

I’m now looking forward to homemade soup, roasted brussels sprouts, and the crisp days of Fall.

garden 8

 

garden 7

 

garden 6

 

garden 5

 

garden 4

 

garden 3

 

garden 2

 

garden 1

Forget everything I’ve ever said about a good banana bread.  I think I’ve finally found the most delicious version that uses up your ripe bananas sitting on the counter.  Behold, a cake with just enough banana taste, speckled with crunch poppy seeds and slathered with cream cheese frosting studded with real vanilla bean.

I think it tastes best refrigerated and with a hot cup of black tea (with honey and a splash of milk, of course).  Just be sure to check your teeth after, those poppy seeds are sneaky.

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting from Simplified Feast 1

This recipe makes a small, 8×8-inch cake that’s about 1.5 inches high.  It’s the perfect size to have a taste of something sweet, but not feel overwhelmed by the quantity of cake still left over.

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting from Simplified Feast 2

What you see is what you get for the cake; A little bit of butter, turbinado sugar, SOUR CREAM (AH!), 1 egg, mashed banana, poppy seeds, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking soda.  Easy peasy.

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting from Simplified Feast 3

This  frosting was something of a first for me.  I had never bought, split, and scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean before.  If you’ve never done it, I recommend you splurge and try it.  Super fun and oddly satisfying.  The black specks swirled in the frosting make everything worth it.

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting from Simplified Feast 4

Here are the notes from The View from the Great Island blog, where I got this recipe.  She describes this cake better than I ever could: There’s a lot going on in this simple, old fashioned cake.  What makes it special?   A more pronounced than usual banana presence, for one thing.  The poppy seeds add crunch and visual interest, and then the tangy cream cheese frosting gives it a final zip.  And real vanilla bean makes anything special.”

 

Banana Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Slightly adapted from The View from the Great Island
Yields: 1 8×8-inch cake
 

Ingredients:

Cake:

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large egg

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup poppy seeds

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Milk for thinning the icing

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×8-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Cream the butter, sugar, and sour cream together in a medium bowl with electric mixer.  Beat in egg, mashed bananas, and vanilla.

Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda into the wet mixture.  Mix together just until combined.  Fold in the poppy seeds.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for about 25 minutes until a toothpick just comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, mix together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla seeds until smooth.  Add 1 cup of sugar, stir until combined, then add remaining cup.  Thin if needed with milk and mix until you have a thick, creamy, spreadable frosting.  Spread onto the banana cake in an even layer.  Cover cake and store at room-temperature or in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

In perusing recipes for a beef marinade for grilled kebabs, I wanted something a little different tasting, but not using ingredients too far from my culinary comfort zone.  After reading lot of reviews and ingredient lists, I stumbled upon Alton Brown’s recipe for Spicy Beef Kebabs.  They turned out to be DELICIOUS, but not as spicy as the name suggests.

Over all, Alton’s blend of spices, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil makes a pretty tasty marinade that would work well for both beef and chicken.

Spicy Beef Kebabs from Simplified Feast 1

Minced garlic, smoked paprika, ground cumin, ground turmeric, kosher salt, and ground black pepper are added to a bowl.

I forget how vividly yellow/orange turmeric is.  Did you know it can be used a natural dye?  A few years ago, I dyed shirts and it worked perfectly, but was a little messy.  This would be a fun thing to try:  Natural Turmeric-Dyed Tablecloth

Spicy Beef Kebabs from Simplified Feast 2

The spices are then whisked with red wine vinegar.  Next, while whisking constantly, a slow stream of olive oil is added.  Now, we have a vinaigrette/emulsion/amazing marinade for our cubed beef sirloin.

Spicy Beef Kebabs from Simplified Feast 3

The beef is tossed in the marinade, covered, and left in the refrigerator for a few hours so that magic can happen.

Spicy Beef Kebabs from Simplified Feast 4

After beef has marinated, the cubes are threaded onto skewers while the grill heats to medium-high.  If you’re using wooden skewers, don’t forget to soak them in water for at least an hour or two… otherwise, you’ll have a burnt catastrophe on your hands.  I think metal skewers are best.

Grill kebabs for 2-3 minutes per side, 8-10 minutes total.

Spicy Beef Kebabs from Simplified Feast 5

I made some simple grilled vegetables, too.  There’s no real rhyme or reason for these veggies, what ever you feel like having, chop it up and throw it in!

I used a zucchini, yellow squash, small onion, green bell pepper, and a Japanese eggplant.  I think about the size of a veggie that would fit nicely on a fork and chop everything the same.  Mix veggies with chopped, fresh herbs, minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add mixture to a preheated, round grill skillet/basket that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Stir occasionally and cook until tender and slightly charred on edges, 15-20 minutes.

Spicy Beef Kebabs from Simplified Feast 6

Remove kebabs from the grill and cover with foil.  Let them rest 2-3 minutes before serving.  The beef and veggies pair great with cooked couscous, brown rice, or roasted potatoes… and a cold beer!

 

Spicy Beef Kebabs with Grilled Veggies

Recipe slightly adapted from Alton Brown, Good Eats 2005
Yields:  2 servings, 4 skewers
 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. boneless beef sirloin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

 

Method:

Cut the beef into 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch cubes and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, paprika, turmeric, cumin, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.  While whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil.  Whisk to combine.

Add beef cubes to marinade bowl and toss to coat.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.  Thread the meat onto the skewers leaving about 1/2-inch in between the pieces of meat.  Place on the grill and cook, with lid lowered, 2 to 3 minutes per side, 8 to 12 minutes in all (8 minutes for rare and 12 for medium).  Remove from the heat to aluminum foil, wrap and allow to rest for 2 to 3 minutes prior to serving.

Enjoy!

It’s August and tomatoes are everywhere; in stores, at Farmers Markets, and in particular, on my counter tops from the garden.  We have two types of cherry tomato plants that are producing beautiful and juicy fruits everyday.  The bowls on the counter finally over-flowed, so I decided to make a simple roasted tomato sauce.

7 ingredients, 1 hour, and a 325 degree oven.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 1

Fresh chopped basil, olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, kosher salt, balsamic vinegar, and of course…. Cherry tomatoes.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 2

My basil is abundant, too.  So fragrant, delicate, and beautifully green.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 3

Most of the tomatoes I used were Sun Golds and a few other types, for which I do not know the names of.  Any combination will work.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 4

All ingredients are mixed together in a dutch oven and roasted.  Mine were in the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 5

This sauce is not a typical tomato sauce, as it’s more of a thick olive oil base with tomato skins than a smooth red sauce.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 6

Summertime in a bowl!  It’s sweet and bursting with flavor.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce from Simplified Feast 7

I paired my sauce with al dente spaghetti, but you could also eat it with slices of fresh, crusty bread.

 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Yields:  1 1/2 – 2 cups
 

Ingredients:

1 pound, 6 ounces cherry tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

2 teaspoons packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Mix together tomatoes and garlic in a dutch oven or nonreactive 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Whisk together oil, vinegar, basil, brown sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Drizzle over tomato mixture.

Bake until tomatoes are softened and caramelized, about 1 hour.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Sauce can be stored in refrigerator up to 5 days; let cool before storing.

Enjoy!

This past Sunday, I visited my fiancé’s family farm.  We made friends with the neighbor’s donkey, waived to grazing cows in the field, and picked corn and wild blackberries, all in the sweltering heat of a mid July day.

I’m not sure if these “wild berries” that I speak of are technically wild raspberries or blackberries.  Either way they are abundant right now.  Rather than eating the fresh picked berries right away, I opted to save them for making a simple, Summertime crisp.  This is by far my favorite dessert in the Summer months.  Warm, in-season fruits and a crispy, sugary, oat topping with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… now we’re doing good things.

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 1

The wild berries get rinsed, drained, and picked through.  We picked about 1 1/2 cups on Sunday, which was just enough.  I had some blueberries (1/2 cup) and 5 black plums (halved, pitted, and chopped) on hand, so those were thrown in, too.

The great thing about a Summer crisp is that can use almost any type of berry or fruit.  Strawberries, pears, cherries, nectarines… you name it!

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 2

Brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, and a few spices are whisked together in a bowl.  The oat topping mixture gets incorporated with cold, cubed, unsalted butter.  Break the butter up with the oats until the butter is the size of small pebbles or oat flakes.  Then add chopped walnuts, if you’d like.

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 3

Toss a generous handful (about 1 cup) of crisp topping into the plum and berry mixture.  Toss loosely with your hands.

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 4

Spread remaining crisp mixture evenly over the fruit.

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 5

Bake until fruit is juicy and bubbling, and the top of the crisp is slightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 6

Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp from Simplified Feast 7

It may not look so beautiful, but it sure tastes great.  Get out there and pick some berries!

 

Wild Berry and Black Plum Crisp

Slightly adapted from Joy The Baker

Yields:  1 8×8-inch pan, 6+ servings

 

Ingredients:

5 black plums, halved, pitted and quartered

1 1/2 c. fresh wild blackberries, rinsed and drained

1/2 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. packed light brown sugar

3/4 c. old fashioned oats

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Pinch of salt

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (optional, but recommended)

 

Method:

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place sliced plums and berries in a square 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, oats, spices, and salt.  Add the butter and toss the mixture together with your hands.  Break the butter up into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small pebbles or oat flakes.  This took me about 4 minutes.  Toss in the walnuts (if using).

Toss a generous handful (about 1 cup) of crumble topping into the plum and berry mixture.  Toss loosely with your hands.  Spread fruit evenly in the pan and top with the remaining crisp mixture.  Bake until fruit is juicy and bubbling, and the top of the crisp is slightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and serve with vanilla ice cream.  Crumble is delicious served warm and can be stored, covered, in the fridge and reheated in the oven or microwave for serving.

 

Enjoy!

This past week has been a trying one, to say the least.  The firm that I work for unexpectedly lost someone very near and dear to all of our hearts on June 21st.  Someone who I worked beside on a daily basis for over two years is suddenly gone from this world without notice.  Her name was Lisa and I miss her terribly.  No matter the circumstances, she always wore a smile on her face and would drop everything to help out wherever she could.

We would talk about family, cooking, and most of all… how much be both loved dark chocolate.  This recipe and post are for her, even though she will never read it.  I baked this bread two weeks ago and brought in a slice for her to try, knowing that she loved chocolate.  I was in a rush the morning I gave it to her, so I had written a little note on a Post-It explaining that I used an 85% cocoa chocolate bar and that there was millet packed inside the banana bread.  She thanked me gratefully and said “This will be perfect to have as my mid-morning snack with coffee”.  We exchanged smiles and I was out the door.  I never got to hear her feedback about the bread, but I can only assume that she enjoyed every bite as she sipped coffee and plowed through her emails and to-do lists from the day before.  A simple pleasure for a special lady.  I am truly glad to have gotten to know Lisa over the years.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Simplified Feast 1

I made a few modifications from the original recipe by including a few teaspoons of spiced rum and 1/4 cup of millet for some extra crunch.  A little rum never hurt anyone.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Simplified Feast 2

 

Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Simplified Feast 3

After a quick chop, mash, measure, and mix, you have a thick and ferociously chocolate batter.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Simplified Feast 4

In to the loaf pan it goes to bake for about 50 minutes.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Simplified Feast 5

Cool, slice, and indulge.  I loved the hunks of chocolate and crackly crunch from the millet.

Lisa

Cheers to Lisa, a wonderful mom and friend.  I will remember your kindness and smile forever.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

To print this recipe, click here for the PDF version
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields: 1 9×5-inch loaf 
 

Ingredients:

3 medium-to-large ripe bananas

1/2 c. salted butter, melted

3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tsp. spiced rum (optional)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. dutch-process cocoa powder

1 c. (about 6-8 oz.) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips

1/4 c. uncooked millet (optional)

 

Method:

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter or spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

Mash bananas in bottom of a large bowl.  (You’ll have a little over 1 cup mashed banana.)  Whisk in melted butter, then brown sugar, egg, vanilla, and rum.  Place baking soda, salt, cinnamon, flour, and cocoa powder in a sifter and sift over wet ingredients.  Stir dry and wet ingredients with spoon until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chunks and millet.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of break comes out clean.  (A melted chocolate smear is expected, however.)  Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature wrapped in foil.  Bread also freezes well.

Enjoy!