Sunday, June 30, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Paul and I have been working very hard to teach certain aspects of our faith to Matthew. We have a set of prayers that we recite every night before bed, we say grace before meals, we read books with religious themes, and we try to talk through some important elements of the Mass with him each Sunday morning. For the most part, our little sponge has been pretty good about absorbing what we are trying to teach. One of my favorite parts about putting him to bed is hearing him say: "Peas God help Matthew be a gooood boy!" Puts a smile on my face every single time.

However, as can be expected from his mixed-up, crazy little three-year-old mind, he often misunderstands or misinterprets our lessons.

His biggest mix-up? Thinking that he is the child Jesus.

For example, we have a beautiful painting in our home of the child Jesus being lovingly cradled by Mary. Every time Matthew spies that painting, he points to it and declares: "Look at Baby Matthew! Baby Matthew is so cute!"

I try to correct him and say: "No Matthew...that's Baby Jesus and his mother Mary!"
But of course, he knows better: "No Mommy, NOOO! That's baby Matthew! A picture of Baby Matthew! And that's you too Mommy! That's YOU!"

While I'm flattered that he draws a parallel between me and the Blessed Mother, I can guarantee that I am nowhere near as beautiful and saintly as she!

This theme continues further when we are at Mass and he spies all the depictions of the child Jesus. Apparently, to him, our parish is heavy into honoring the "Baby Matthew." Imagine how thrilled he was last Christmas to discover an entire manger scene, complete with cows, donkeys, and sheep, all with "Baby Matthew" at the center. What a bloated little ego he must have!

It's no wonder at the conclusion of Mass every Sunday Matthew normally declares: "I had fun at church, Mommy!"

The recipe I wanted to share with you is a simple little salad that we have been throwing together lately. It is easy, delicious, healthy, and satisfies that ever-present craving for all things Buffalo Chicken that I have been having for about a year now. It's a bit healthier than eating straight-up wings because we remove the skin from the chicken before tossing it with the sauce. Plus, chicken drumsticks are normally $0.62/pound at our store, making this a fairly inexpensive meal. I included instructions for making an Avocado Ranch that pairs wonderfully with this salad. However, regular ranch dressing or even a blue cheese dressing works wonderfully in a pinch! This is one of our favorite summer salads.

Matthew does not eat it in salad form. He prefers his drumsticks perfectly intact. He does, however, enjoy carrots and lots and lots of cucumber on the side!

Buffalo Chicken Salad
dressing recipe adapted from Smells Like Home

For the Chicken:
8 Chicken Drumsticks
Salt/Pepper/Garlic/Chili Powder
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot
2 Tablespoons Butter

For the Avocado Dressing:
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise (we use Hellman's Light)
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 small bunch of chives
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Salad:
Chopped Romaine
Shredded Carrots
Fresh corn off the cob
Sliced Red Onions
Blue Cheese Crumbles or Shredded Cheddar
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Celery

To make the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a wire cooling rack over a baking pan that is completely covered in foil. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss the chicken legs with as much salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder as you want. I tend to use about a teaspoon of each. Place the chicken legs onto the wire rack and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until tender and cooked through.

While the chicken is baking, blend all the dressing ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the salad.

Whisk together the Frank's Red Hot and melted butter. Leave at room temperature.

When the chicken is finished, allow to cool briefly. Using two small spoons, remove the meat from the chicken and discard the skins. Place chicken in a medium bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the hot sauce mixture over the chicken and toss to coat completely.

To assemble salads, place some romaine lettuce on plate and top with desired vegetables. Add the sauced chicken on top and drizzle everything with the avocado ranch dressing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

My family loves enjoying pastries for breakfast. Cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, quick breads, scones, and muffins all pair beautifully with a gigantic mug of coffee and a crossword puzzle. However, oftentimes I need to serve scrambled eggs or some other protein-rich food on the side otherwise the meal will not sustain us through the morning.

That's why I was stoked to discover this scone recipe. It is a much heavier spin on the breakfast scone since the batter is stuffed full of rolled oats, dark chocolate, and peanut butter. The peanut butter provides a nice protein punch, the dark chocolate brings some extra antioxidants, and the rolled oats guarantee that this breakfast treat sticks-to-your-ribs. It's practically a health food (ha!). I enjoyed that the scones were not too sweet and very hearty. They also satisfied my endless peanut butter craving for the day.

I had to throw a random picture in of my littlest cutie!

My sisters Adrienne and Sophie came for a visit a couple weeks ago and I enticed them to go for a casual 14-mile stroll with me and Baby Emma one morning. We brought these scones with us to enjoy at the halfway point and they provided just the extra boost we needed to finish off the remainder of our jaunt. However, they did not save us from forming blisters on our feet. I think Sophie is still a bit peeved at me for making her walk so far.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
adapted slightly from Baked Elements

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (not quick or instant)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together in a large bowl the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until it becomes pea-size (I like to use my fingertips to just rub the butter into the flour mixture - it's easier!).

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg yolk. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk mixture, then add the peanut butter. With a spatula, gently fold the ingredients together until everything begins to come together. Add the chocolate chips and knead into the mix with your hands. Be careful not to overmix.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and pat into a disk with an 8-inch diameter. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl and then brush over the entire surface of the disk. Cut into 8 wedges with a sharp knife, but do not separate.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until the scones are golden brown (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out with just a few moist crumbs attached). Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes, then re-slice and separate them. Let cool completely or serve warm. These will keep beautifully in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. They also freeze well!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Five Favorites: My Turn!

Over the past few weeks, I have devoted a "Five Favorites" post to each member of the family. Today, it is my turn to share with you five things that I'm digging right now!

I am going to preface this list by saying that my family is always at the top of any list of favorites. I love them more than anything. I mean, I better love them - I normally have at least one family member clinging to me during the day. Normally, I look something like this:

Emma was having a particularly fussy day and refused to stay in the baby carrier. So I looked silly walking around holding my baby while sporting an empty baby carrier strapped to my waist. I am cool.

Anyway, onward with my list!

Photo Credit
1. Peanut Butter

I was never a big peanut butter fan. In fact, I pretty much hated it until I was nursing my newborn son and then I began craving it! My love for peanut butter has not subsided and I often turn to peanut butter loaded snacks to fuel both my daughter's long nursing parties and my cardio-intense workouts. Recently, this peanut butter smoothie recipe has been a favorite of mine in the morning. I usually split this into two servings, one for me and one for my little Matthew:

Peanut Butter Smoothie

2/3 cup milk (or almondmilk)
1 banana, frozen
1/4 cup quick oats
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup ice

Put everything into a blender or food processor and let it do its thing until everything is smooth. Enjoy with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

Photo Credit

2. Frozen Yogurt

Alright, I have to try my best not to make everything on this list all about food but I am loving how there are now little frozen yogurt shops everywhere. Due to my milk allergy, I have a very hard time enjoying ice cream during the summer. I still love it but can only enjoy it if I pop a pill and even then I still end up with some painful stomach cramps. However, frozen yogurt is much more gentle on my tummy (must be all those extra probiotics). I was so excited when a Menchie's frozen yogurt shop finally opened nearby last summer. Paul was not quite so excited since he thinks all those weigh-your-own-mix frozen yogurt shops that are fairly ubiquitous nowadays are a bit of a rip-off. He also tells me that they are very much a fad and will all disappear within about ten years. I hope he's wrong.

Photo Credit

3. Masterchef

Don't make fun of me. Watching this show every Wednesday night has been my secret guilty pleasure. I quickly rush putting the kids to bed and then Paul and I run downstairs, jump on the couch, and settle in to watch two hours of the most corny, obnoxious, and slightly-lame food competition ever. But we love it. The only bad thing about it is watching other people make and eat food always leaves us hungry and inevitably searching through the refrigerator and pantry for something to snack on. Even if we are not really hungry. We're all set for tonight, though. Paul made a Chicken-Liver Pâté and is planning on breaking it out while we watch the show. If this blog goes silent for a while, you'll know that I probably contracted food poisoning from that pâté.

4. Baby Girl Clothing

Dressing little boys is kind of boring. You stick them in a polo shirt paired with either jeans or khakis. Done! Little girls are so much different because their clothes are so much more FUN! I have so much fun getting Emma ready for the day and whenever she has a "blowout" I am almost ecstatic to have an excuse to change her into a completely different outfit! Paul watched the kiddos so I could do a little clothes shopping for myself last weekend and I spent 80% of my time happily perusing the baby girl clothing. And buying more outfits for little Emma was definitely not on my to-do list. Everything is just so cute, petite, frilly, and PINK! I am loving all the little sun dresses and ruffle skirts. It is so hard to resist buying more outfits because realistically Emma is constantly growing and won't be in a given size for very long!

Photo Credit
5. Frank's Red Hot

I began craving everything Buffalo Chicken while pregnant with Emma. But not Buffalo Wings. I really dislike those mainly because they are so messy to eat. I'm talking Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches, Buffalo Chicken Pizza, Buffalo Chicken Salad (making that for dinner tonight!), or just loads of Frank's Red Hot all over my eggs, sandwiches, toast, etc. (The Buffalo Chicken Pizza craving in particular was horrible when I was about 32 weeks pregnant. We received an ad from Papa John's with a ginormous picture of their specialty Buffalo Chicken Pizza on display and I would just stare at it, mouth watering, for a good while before Paul snatched it away and broke me from my trance). Paul shares my love of this stuff so we are forced to keep a huge gallon-sized bottle in our refrigerator because we go through it so quickly! I have no idea what it is about buffalo sauce that makes me long for it so but apparently this craving is here to stay!

Okay, so most of my Five Favorites were about food. Big surprise considering cooking is my hobby...

Check out Moxie Wife for more awesome Five Favorites posts!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Five Favorites: The Husband Edition

This Wednesday, I am featuring my dear husband Paul in my Five Favorites Post. Paul is an awesome Dad, engineer extraordinaire (he just received his PE license!), and the best friend this girl could ever wish for! These are the five things that Paul is loving the most right now during the beautiful month of June!

1. Weber One-Touch Gold Charcoal Grill

I bought Paul this Weber grill for Christmas. Many people might consider this a tease since grilling and barbecuing is typically not on the brain during the cold winter months, but Paul immediately was outside barbecuing a turkey soon after unwrapping this gift. Over the past couple months, I have barely spent any time in the kitchen preparing meals as he is more than willing to grill anything and everything he can think of! Sometimes this is an incredible blessing while at other times Paul grilling means that the kitchen is even messier than if I had cooked a 7-course meal indoors. How does he do it?

2. Texas Instruments Voyage 200 Graphing Calculator

Paul is a genius when it comes to performing complex engineering problems that often require him to draw from his vast knowledge of both calculus and physics. His trusty calculator is not only an invaluable tool in aiding him with his mathematical quandarys but also a sort of toy for this engineering nerd. On Father's Day, instead of choosing to relax with a good book or go see a movie in the theater, all Paul wanted was to sit in silence and work through a few calculations for a design project he has in the works. I left him to it for 5 long hours and he emerged quite pleased, relaxed, and satisfied with his work. He had fun and that's all that counts. I definitely married a geek.

3. The Bar Book

This lovely book contains the formula for just about every cocktail you can imagine. I gifted it to Paul for Christmas because he was always trying to recreate mixed drinks with less than stellar results. I figured if he owned a book on the subject he might be more inclined to actually follow the designated proportions and produce some drinks that were actually enjoyable. Since Christmas, Paul has been shaking up some delicious concoctions. He still tends to like cocktails that contain tequila (ewww!) but has decided that his favorite drink of all time is a Sidecar Martini (classy!).

4. Pub Cheese

I have spoken before about Paul's passionate love of all things cheese so it should come as no surprise that he is obsessed with this spreadable snacking cheese! Paul used to pick up some spreadable "cheese food" from the local dollar store on occasion and I was appalled to discover while perusing the ingredient list that it was composed of mostly oil, water, and many flavor additives and contained less than 2% actual cheese. This Pub Cheese, however, is made only from cheese, cream, and milk and tastes a heck of a lot better than that other stuff. Paul's favorite way to enjoy this is with some Townhouse Buttery Crackers.

A super flattering picture of Paul going crazy for his Pub Cheese.

5. Cowbell Imperial Milk Stout by VooDoo Brewery

Paul has been absolutely obsessed with this milk stout since he first tried it a couple years ago. Unfortunately, it is exclusively available on tap and usually only during the winter months of January through March. Not to mention, we normally have to drive a good 30 minutes to the actual brewery to enjoy a glass. I have tried it and have to agree that it is certainly unique and incredibly tasty. He was craving it the other day and actually called the brewery to see if there was any way that they had a reserved batch he could get his hands on. They informed him that there are a couple pubs in the Philadelphia area that are still serving it at this time of year. Paul actually considered planning a trip to Philly in order to visit said pubs. I quickly put a cork in such ridiculousness, but it goes to show how much he likes this stuff.


As an addendum to this edition of Five Favorites, I would like to say Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband. He really is the best. Just ask Matthew what his favorite time of day is and he will quickly reply: "When Daddy comes home from work!" We love you, Paul!

Again, not the most flattering picture but one of my favorites from this year so far taken immediately after Emma Rose made her appearance. Notice the "Coach" sweatshirt that Paul wore just for the occasion. He really is the best labor coach - except for that one time when I was having horrible back labor and he tried to give me a massage. Somehow that made the contractions worse. I love you Paul!
Check out Hallie's blog to read through some other Five Favorites Posts.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TWD: Cheese and Tomato Galette

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of beautifully ripe and deliciously fragrant tomatoes. Although I could not stand them as a child, tomatoes have become one of my favorite mealtime staples. Unfortunately, during the winter tomatoes are pretty boring, tasteless, and expensive. Come January, I am dreaming of caprese salads, pizza margherita, tomato pies, and hummus sandwiches piled high with tomatoes. I was delighted when this recipe for cheese and tomato galette was chosen for the next Tuesdays with Dorie challenge because it is a perfectly elegant way to celebrate tomatoes and the beginning of summer.

The dough could not have been easier to throw together. While Matthew munched on a peanut butter sandwich and Emma entertained herself on her playmat, I quickly threw all the ingredients into a food processor, gave them a little whirl, and then formed the resulting dough into a disk. After chilling in the fridge for at least two hours, the dough rolled out easily. A mixture of Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, and sliced basil are tossed together and sprinkled over the dough and then topped with sliced tomatoes. I added a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper on top of the tomatoes before sliding the galette into the oven to bake for a scant 35 minutes.

Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy the galette as soon as it emerged from the oven because we had to rush off to watch Paul play in an epic softball game. I snapped a couple quick photos and then left the galette on the counter to cool. When we returned, I was surprised that the excess liquid from the tomatoes had not caused the crust to turn soggy. Rather, it was still firm, buttery, and very flaky. Paul enjoyed a slice of the galette immediately and declared the recipe a keeper. Given my love for tomatoes, this will definitely be a recipe that I will make again.

If you would like to make this galette, please pick up a copy of Baking with Julia. Check out the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see how the other bakers fared!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Marriage

Today, I am guest posting for the lovely Tess over at Little House in Chicago. I first met Tess when she was a freshman just beginning her studies at Notre Dame and I was a senior preparing to graduate. She was so spunky and fun to talk to and absolutely thrilled to learn that I was engaged and planning a wedding. Now, Tess herself is a newlywed, having married Frank, the love of her life, just a little less than two weeks ago. She asked a few married friends to provide some posts for her blog while she honeymoons and settles into life as a married woman! I wrote a little reflection on how important it is to continue to date your spouse even when other aspects of life (work, children, etc.) get in the way of making time for one another.

So please, head over here to wish Tess and Frank a heartfelt congratulations on their marriage. She has some pictures posted from her beautiful wedding that are simply stunning. While you are there, read through some of Tess' posts. She's an amazing writer!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Beautiful Burger Buns

How My Husband Plans a Menu

Paul: I want to make dinner tomorrow.
Me: Great! What are you planning on making?
Paul: I want to grill something.
Me: Ok.

*Paul walks to fridge, opens door and stares at contents for five loooong minutes*

Me: Did you have a stroke or something? What are you doing?
Paul: Trying to figure out what to make.
Me: We have burgers, chicken, pork chops, and Italian sausage in the freezer.
Paul: Hmmmmm...I see a pineapple.
Me: Ok.
Paul: I want to grill the pineapple.
Me: Ok.
Paul: I need to find a recipe that involves grilled pineapple.
Me: Why?
Paul: Because I really want to grill that pineapple.

 *Brief hiatus as Paul scours cooking magazines, grilling cookbooks, and the trusty internet for a recipe incorporating grilled pineapple*

Paul: Ah-HA! Found one! Burgers made with ground pork, marinated in teriyaki and other Chinese spices, and topped with bamboo shoots and grilled pineapple.

Me: Sounds interesting.

Paul: Yup! Now let's we have ground pork?
Me: No.
Paul: Scallions?
Me: No.
Paul: Bell Pepper?
Me: No.
Paul: Teriyaki sauce?
Me: No.
Paul: Water Chestnuts?
Me: No.
Paul: Okay, well then...we have a very extensive grocery list to make.
Me: So let me get this want to forget about using the ingredients we do have and go spend $20 at the store just so you can grill a pineapple?
Paul: Uhhhh...well I've always wanted to grill a pineapple.

My husband. Master Griller. Expert Menu Planner.

For the record, we had cheeseburgers that night. And they were excellent. He made the burgers, I made the buns.

This is the best, easiest recipe for hamburger/sandwich buns out there. I have tried a couple different variations, all with good results, but this one can be thrown together in the shortest amount of time. They turn out beautiful, taste magnificent, and really do make a big difference in taste over those stale, store-bought buns (although those work wonderfully in a pinch!). I like to make a big batch of these to freeze for later so we can use them all summer long!

Beautiful Burger Buns
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

Note: For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.

3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the water, butter, and egg and combine everything using the dough hook at medium-low speed. Continue to knead until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 7-8 minutes. The dough should be slightly tacky/sticky, stretchy, and soft.

Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic and set it aside to rise until doubled in size, for about 1-2 hours. Gently deflate the dough and divide into 8-12 pieces. I found that dividing the dough into 12 pieces was perfect for 1/4 lb. burgers. However, if you are using the buns for pulled pork or just want big sandwich buns, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball and then place on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Carefully flatten each piece to approximately 3 1/2" wide if you divided the dough into 8 pieces or 1 3/4" if you divided the dough into 12 pieces.

Cover with plastic and let rise another 45 minutes-1 hour. The buns will look puffy, but not doubled in size. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

After the dough has finished rising, brush the tops of the buns with melted butter. Or you can beat an egg white with a little bit of water until frothy, brush the tops of the buns with that mixture, and then sprinkle on some sesame seeds.

Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Five Favorites: Matthew Edition

This edition of "Five Favorites" is all about Mr. Matthew and the things that currently make him giddy. This post will be linking up with many other wonderful blogs at Moxie Wife.

Matthew is our vivacious, energetic, and incredibly stubborn first born. This crazy little kid likes to get up early in the morning and chatters/runs around/drives his parents crazy pretty much nonstop until he finally passes out from exhaustion around bedtime. Lately, Matthew's five favorite things have been...

1) Trains. Matthew loves everything and anything to do with trains. The obsession began on his 2nd birthday when a dear friend gifted him with a Thomas the Train playset. Ever since, this little toddler will squeal with excitement at the sight of train engines, freight cars, train tracks, and anyone resembling Mr. Conductor. He sleeps with his trains and is convinced that his Daddy works at "the Dieselworks."

2) Pretzel M&Ms. Out of all the candy we have been using to try to entice Matthew into using the potty on his own, nothing has gotten his little behind into the bathroom quicker than these little chocolate-covered pretzel nuggets. Unfortunately, the second we finished off the bag, his potty training seemed to take a few steps backwards. We might have to pick up another bag at the store so our lazy son will try a little harder to familiarize himself with his porcelain throne.

3) Mr. Potato Head. After playing with this vintage toy at a friend's house a couple months ago, little Matthew has been enamored with Mr. Potato Head. We ended up buying him his own as a "gift" from Baby Emma shortly before her arrival and ever since then, the creepy thing has been a staple on his nightstand. He is very specific about how he wants Mr. Potato Head's face arranged. He wants nothing to do with the glasses, orientates the nose upside-down, and carefully places the eyebrows just below the eyes almost as if they were meant to be an odd little mustache. He gets very perturbed if anyone touches or tries to fix the facial arrangement he has carefully selected. Oh, and he does not call it "Mr. Potato Head." To him, it is a "Veggie Tale Head."

4) Hot Dogs. My child eats a disgusting amount of hotdogs. He begs for them whenever we are at the store and now that it is grilling season I am running out of excuses not to get them. They are cheap and he turns up his nose at most other meats. Plus, it's a super easy, quick dinner to just chuck in the microwave, nuke for a couple seconds, and then toss onto a plate with a couple carrot sticks (the vegetables make it a perfectly healthy meal, right?). The first time Paul grilled hotdogs for Matthew, the kid ended up consuming four. For the record, I was not present to temper his consumption and Paul got an earful for it later.

5) The Beach. Matthew has come a long way from that tiny little baby who was deathly afraid of water. Now, his favorite place to hang is the beach. He loves to dig in the sand, throw rocks in the water, look for fish, and chase seagulls. As soon as the weather started to finally warm up after a chilly winter season, he got out his little green plastic bucket and shovel and asked me: "Mommy...I go the beach?" I could not resist. We all packed up and headed to the beach even though it was still a nippy 58 degrees. The little kid dug in the sand and tossed stones about until my frozen toes could not take it any more. I may have had to drag him back to the car. The kid just does not realize that he has many, many beach days ahead of him this summer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

TWD: Savarin

I'm finally back on track with the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group. Even though I was all geared up to make Madeleines and Savory Brioche Pockets, I just ran out of time and was unable to get either recipe made by the time posting Tuesday came and went! Not to mention, I type a lot slower nowadays...

However, I was thrilled to discover that Savarin was the next recipe in the rotation because it was such a straight-forward, uncomplicated recipe that incorporated pantry staples to create something so elegant and delicious.

The cake itself was a breeze to put together. A couple minutes in the mixer, a brief rising period, dumping the dough into a bundt pan, another brief rise, and then a quick 20-minute bake and the cake was finished! After cooling the cake to room temperature, I wrapped it tightly in plastic and let it sit on the counter overnight where it would be ready for us to soak, fill, and serve for breakfast the next morning.

I had a couple pounds of fresh strawberries in the refrigerator, so I chose to stuff and fill my Savarin with them. Luckily, I had some leftover raspberry syrup from a cake I had made for Emma's baptism a few weeks ago that I had stored in the freezer. We never keep Pear Brandy in the house, so I chose to skip that component, opting to toss the berries in a bit of kirsch instead. My husband was an excellent assistant and dutifully spooned the simple syrup carefully over the cake. It was the perfect job for him at such an early hour in the morning - he had not yet had his cup of coffee yet and thus his movements were rather robotic.

The finished Savarin was a sight to behold and a pleasure to eat. The cake perfectly absorbed both the simple syrup and the berry juices while lending its own pleasantly butter flavor. Neither to sweet nor too bland, the Savarin tasted indulgent yet sat light in the stomach. Paul enthusiastically declared, with a full mouth: "This is a keeper!"

If you would like to try baking your own Savarin, and I highly encourage you to do so, please pick up a copy of the book Baking with Julia.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Bars

How did you spend your Saturday night? Was it epic? Ours certainly was.

Both kids were sound asleep by 9:00pm and we were so excited to have a couple hours to ourselves to do whatever we wanted! Paul immediately suggested that we put in a movie, pop a large bowl of popcorn, and cuddle together on the couch. I agreed. But then the real quandry set in: choosing a movie to watch.

Paul wanted an action movie. Something with lots of violence, a minimal plot line, and zero character development. I preferred a good comedy. Ideally, a romantic comedy starring either Cary Grant, Colin Firth, or Hugh Grant. We both agreed that we were not in the mood for something depressing.

Paul headed off to the movie store, confident that he could find a happy compromise. He returned about an hour later declaring: "They have everything and nothing at the same time, but I think I found something you'll like!" He whipped out a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

"Ummm...honey. I thought we agreed that we didn't want to watch a depressing movie."
"I thought you read the book and liked it!"
"I did...but it was fairly depressing. It's all about a kid coping about losing is father on 9/11."
" is? That's horrible. I don't want to watch that!"
"Didn't you even read the description on the case?"
"Uhhh no. I just grabbed it."

So there we were without a movie to watch. Then we saw the stack of movies we rented for Matthew from the library to help with his potty training. In the stack was a copy of Mulan II. We both loved the first Mulan and had never seen the sequel. We decided to watch that.

About 10 minutes in, we realized there was a reason we had never seen Mulan II. We also realized that we did not want to waste another second of our life watching it. So we shut it off. By this time it was 11:00pm. We decided to call it a night.

When did we get so lame?

We should have spent our time whipping up another batch of these Rhubarb-Pie Bars. These are without a doubt one of my favorite ways to use rhubarb. They are so easy, so beautiful, and so wonderfully delicious, it is impossible to eat just one. First, a buttery shortbread crust is pressed into the bottom of your baking pan. While the crust bakes and cools slightly, the custard filling consisting of buttermilk, eggs, sugar, rhubarb, strawberries, and a touch of orange zest is quickly whisked together. Pour the whole thing over the par-baked crust, scatter a bit of shortbread streusel over the top, and bake until set! The result is a bar cookie with a flavor reminiscent of the best strawberry-rhubarb pie. Do not let rhubarb season pass by without making this treat.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Bars
adapted from Pink Parsley

For the Crust and Topping:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled

For the Fruit Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. strawberries, hulled and quartered
10 oz. fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix.  Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and add to the flour mixture.  Process until the butter is evenly distributed but the mixture is still crumbly, about 30-60 seconds.

Reserve 2 cups of the mixture to use as the topping.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan, and bake 12-15 minutes.  Cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sugar, buttermilk, flour, salt, orange zest, and vanilla extract.  Gently fold in the berries and rhubarb and spoon the mixture over the crust.  Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture evenly over the filling, and bake 55 to 65 minutes.

Cool at least 1 hour before cutting into bars, or scoop out of the pan to serve cobbler-style.