lahmahjoon (armenian lamb pizza)

lamb pomegranate pizza 3

Pizza was the first thing I cooked after having the baby. I’d prepped the dough, made the sauce, shredded the cheese, and sliced the pepperoni before going to the hospital, but even so, three days after giving birth, putting it all together and sliding it into the oven was about all I could handle. I was grateful that my mom and mother-in-law cooked the rest of the meals that first week.

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It’s over a month later, and now I’m actually able to make a pizza with toppings that require chopping and pre-cooking. This pizza isn’t difficult, and it’s one of my favorites for when I want something nontraditional. I have a bottle of pomegranate molasses that I impulse-bought from The Spice House, but I think you could just add twice the amount of pomegranate juice and let it reduce. I often don’t like cinnamon in savory recipes, but the flavor blends in perfectly here.

lamb pomegranate pizza 2

We still took turns eating while the other soothed the baby, but at least we got to eat something that wasn’t made specifically because it takes well to freezing. We’re making progress! And I’m grateful, because it means more meals like this.

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Lahmahjoon (Armenian Lamb Pizza) (adapted from Eating Well)

See here for baking instructions using a baking steel.

I used a slicing tomato instead of plum tomato because Dave did the shopping and I forgot to specify which type I wanted. But you should use plum tomatoes if you can.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
8 ounces ground lamb
½ teaspoon salt
4 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound prepared pizza dough
⅓ cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Place a pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven; heat the oven to its highest setting, at least 500 degrees. Line a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the lamb and salt, and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, and pepper.

3. Divide the dough in half. Stretch a portion of dough to a 10-inch round; lay it on the parchment paper. If necessary to even out thick areas and fix the shape of the dough, pull the edges to an even circle. Spread half of the lamb mixture over the dough, then top with half of the feta and pine nuts.

4. Transfer the pizza on the parchment paper to the heated stone. Cook until the bottom of the crust is spottily browned, 6-7 minutes. Use the metal spatula and pizza peel to remove the pizza from the oven and transfer it to a cooling rack. Sprinkle half of the parsley evenly over the pizza. Cool for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.

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rhubarb sour cream pound cake

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The newborn stage hit all of us hard – including the baby, who apparently found life outside the womb to be unsatisfactory. I was grateful for a freezer full of dinners, although I did manage to do some simple baking – chocolate chip cookies, pound cake. My favorite recipes, made almost more for the comfort of going through the motions, of feeling like me, than to have a delicious dessert to share and enjoy.

rhubarb pound cake 1

I’m hesitant to put this in writing, but things are a little better now. We’ve figured out how to calm the baby’s cries (usually), she smiles and even sometimes coos, and we’ve learned to adapt to a routine where nothing is really routine. For example, I learned the hard way, when a pissed off hungry baby had to wait to eat until the cookies I’d just put in the oven were done baking, that I can’t bake unless Dave is home to take things out of the oven if necessary. Also, it’s best if I divide up the baking as much as possible; for one cake I made recently, I had the measured dry ingredients and the baking pan sitting by the mixer for almost a week until I finally got a chance to mix it all together.

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This cake was slightly more impromptu, only because the days before I baked it had gone so fast I couldn’t make time to prepare the ingredients. Fortunately, the baby had a particularly sleepy day on the last day of the weekend, and I was able to mix and bake a cake. She woke up hungry when I was doing the final mixing of the dough, so Dave did his best to soothe her while I rushed to get the cake in the oven. I left myself a bit of batter in the mixing bowl to enjoy after the nursing session. After this last month, I definitely deserve a treat.

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Rhubarb Sour Cream Pound Cake (rewritten and slightly adapted from Cook’s Country)

16 servings

The original recipe is for cranberries (fresh or frozen), but I’ve found that rhubarb and cranberries are interchangeable in baked recipes like this. I also doubled the recipe so I could bake it in a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan.

10 large eggs, at room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3½ cups (17.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ plus ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅔ cup sour cream
½ cup milk
28 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups (17.5 ounces) granulated sugar
2 cups (8 ounces) finely diced rhubarb
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour (or spray with baking spray) a 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, 1½ teaspoons salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and milk.

2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the granulated sugar, then increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to beat for another 3-4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium; gradually add the egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then continue to mix on medium speed until evenly mixed; the mixture will probably look curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the sour cream mixture, another third of the flour, the remaining sour cream, and the remaining flour. Mix until almost combined, with a few streaks of flour remaining.

3. Toss the rhubarb with the powdered sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the rhubarb to the batter and use a large rubber spatula to fold it in until the rhubarb is evenly incorporated and the batter is thoroughly mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 1½ to 2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack; cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack. Cool the cake completely, about two hours, before serving. Tightly wrapped, the cooled cake can be stored for up to three days.

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passion fruit meringue tart

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My original goal was to post this before Valentine’s Day – passion fruit, get it? But instead, I had a baby just a few days before that. And despite what everyone had told me about how difficult the newborn stage is, I’m surprised to find the newborn stage is, indeed, difficult. It seems like most of my days are spent bouncing on an exercise ball, as that’s the best way to keep this tiny creature from screaming in my ear.

baby hazel 1 day b

Needless to say, I haven’t been doing much cooking. I’m thankful to JanuaryMe for providing a very well-stocked freezer, not to mention all the other people who have cooked meals for us. Dave and I take turns eating while the other bounces.

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However, today, I baked a cake! A simple cake that I prepped as much as possible yesterday, but I still got to turn butter, sugar, and flour into a sweet treat. It was glorious.

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Still, I think it’s going to be a while before I make a dessert that involves multiple components. This tart is back from my friend’s cancelled party. I took it to work instead, but not before setting aside a slice for myself. It was such a great combination of tart filling and sweet topping, creamy curd and crisp crust. I’m looking forward to stable days of getting back into more elaborate baking, but for now, I’m grateful for any quality time I get to spend with my mixer.

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Passion Fruit Meringue Tart (crust recipe from Dorie Greenspan)

8-12 servings

I get passion fruit concentrate from amazon.

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

Passion fruit curd:
4 large eggs
3 egg yolks
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
¾ cup passion fruit concentrate
6 tablespoons cold butter
¼ teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon salt

4 large egg whites, room temperature
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

1. For the crust: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut, with some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk with a fork and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds; the sound of the machine working will change. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl to incorporate any unmixed dry ingredients.

2. Grease a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.

3. Center a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and fit the foil, oiled side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 8 more minutes, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

4. For the curd: Heat the passion fruit juice in a double boiler until hot but not boiling. Whisk the eggs and yolks in a medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot passion fruit juice into the eggs, then return the mixture to the double boiler and cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to a spoon, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cold butter until it’s incorporated; stir in the vanilla and salt, then pour the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium nonreactive bowl. Spread the curd evenly over the prepared crust.

5. For the meringue: Beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; until sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks. Add vanilla and salt; continue to beat meringue to stiff peaks.

6. Pipe the meringue over the curd. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Serve immediately or chill for up 8 hours.

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butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli with sage browned butter

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On that fateful homecoming from visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving, this is what I’d planned to have for dinner. The ravioli were already filled and formed in the freezer, just requiring a quick drop in simmering water and a trip through a skillet of butter. But coming home to disaster made even that seem overwhelming; instead, we ate toppingless chili from the freezer in between shop-vaccing up buckets of water.

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These are still in the freezer, and at least that’s one advantage of this mess. Actually, my freezer is stuffed to the brim now. In the absence of any other outlet for that stereotypical late pregnancy nesting urge, I cooked. I cooked until the freezer in the rental house was overflowing, then I transferred some meals to our home freezer, and cooked some more.

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We’ve moved back home now, but there’s plenty of work to do before the house is back to normal. I have a feeling I’ll be very, very grateful to have a freezer full of food once I have a newborn on top of a million house chores. This meal, combining some of my favorite ingredients, will be saved for something special – maybe the day we get doors installed.

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Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese, and Pancetta Ravioli with Sage Browned Butter

Serves 8 as a first course or 4 as a main course

I made my pasta using this method and the following ingredients: 5 ounces flour, pinch salt, 1 egg, 2 egg yolks, and ½ teaspoon olive oil.

6 ounces pancetta, diced into ¼-inch cubes
1 onion, diced fine
1 small butternut squash, peeled, diced into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
5 ounces goat cheese
pinch nutmeg
2 ounces (1 cup) grated parmesan
8 ounces fresh pasta, rolled to the second-to-last setting on a pasta roller
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
12 sage leaves, sliced

1. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl. Drain the fat in the pan into a small bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon of fat back to the pan and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned around the edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer the onions to the bowl with the pancetta. Add another 1 tablespoon reserved pancetta fat to the pan; add the squash. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Use a potato masher to lightly mash the squash, then transfer it to the bowl with the onions and pancetta. Add the thyme, goat cheese, nutmeg, parmesan, and additional salt to taste to the bowl; stir to combine.

2. Place one rounded tablespoon of filling every 2 inches along the length of a pasta sheet. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wet the pasta along the long edges and between the filling. Fold the pasta sheet lengthwise over the filling, pressing around each ball of filling to seal the two layers of pasta together. Use a pizza cutter to cut between the filling to form squares of ravioli. Store the ravioli on a dry dish towel. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. (Ravioli can be formed several hours in advance and covered and refrigerated or can be flash-frozen, then transferred to freezer bags and frozen for several weeks. Do not defrost before cooking.)

3. In a large skillet, brown the butter with sage and a generous pinch of salt. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a tablespoon of salt and lower the heat until the water is at a lively simmer. Boil the ravioli in small batches for about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the ravioli from the cooking water to the butter; simmer and shake over medium-high heat until the ravioli are evenly coated. Serve immediately, with additional parmesan if desired.

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confetti cake

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Because I don’t have enough to keep me busy between a house under construction and lugging around ten pounds of belly, I thought it would be a good idea to make my own baby shower cake too. What can I say? No one in my town can make a cake as delicious as I can.

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Plus it was fun to choose my own flavors and design. Somehow in the three big cakes I’ve made previously, I’ve never made a chocolate cake, which needed to be remedied. Two of the three other cakes I’ve made had additional frosting in between the layers, and I wanted to use a different filling. All of the cakes, including this one, used cream cheese frosting, because there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken.

Photo by Lisa Watson

The blackberry cake has been a favorite since I made it for a bridal shower, and then a few weeks later, for my birthday. The confetti cake I first tried right after one of the big baby shower cakes last summer. I found out about my friend/coworker/husband’s boss’s (who was also my baby shower host, who also took a lot of the pictures in this post) birthday just one day beforehand, and it was a big one, so it couldn’t be ignored. Even though I was feeling a little caked out, I loved this cake so much that I had two pieces and have been thinking about it since.

Photo by Lisa Watson

I assumed baking a tiered cake at 8-months pregnant would be a challenge, so I baked and froze the cake layers in December, in the 2-week window that we were home between drying out the house and when we moved out for construction to begin. It turns out that the big belly was the least of my issues; I did not expect to be working around contractors in a corner of the kitchen uncovered of plastic and washed of paint residue, but with my mom there to help, we actually got the cake finished in time to take Dave out for a birthday lunch before the shower.

Photo by Lisa Watson

I kept the design simple, but it fit in perfectly with the rustic decorations at my shower, which I loved. As a bonus, I didn’t have to do the worst part, the cutting of the cake. I asked a friend to do that while I gushed over adorable tiny pink clothes. Even better, I got to take home the leftovers – which made a great lunch, snack, and dessert the next day as we continued to coast through this crazy time in our lives as best we can.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Confetti Cake (from Cook’s Country)

12-16 servings

Cook’s Country recommends pulsing a portion of the sprinkles in the food processor, but I’ve never bothered. I filled the cake with raspberry filling and topped with cream cheese frosting.

6 large egg whites, room temperature
⅔ cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups (12 ounces) cake flour
1½ (10 ounces) cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, softened
¾ cup rainbow sprinkles

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray (or grease and flour the pans). Line with parchment or waxed paper and grease the paper.

2. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, add the butter, one piece at a time, until it is incorporated and the mixture looks like moist crumbs. Add all but ½ cup of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of the milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of bowl. Add the sprinkles, return the mixer to medium speed (or high for a handheld mixer) and beat 20 seconds longer.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 21 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 5 to 10 minutes. Invert and turn out the cakes onto wire racks; peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least one hour.

Photo by Lisa Watson

2015 favorites

I’m late on this, but with no end in sight to the flood repairs on our house, plus a daunting end in sight to being pregnant, I’m late on everything lately. Dave and I are getting by the best we can right now, but looking at last year’s recipes is a nice reminder of simpler times. Here are some of my favorites:

Beef Satay with Spicy Mango Dip
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This was so good, I made it again for the tiki-inspired meal my brother and I served on our family’s annual beach trip. It stood out even among a spread of crab rangoons, coconut shrimp, kalua pork, and a pitcher of tonga punch (plus a virgin version for me and the kids).

Poblanos Stuffed with Black Beans and Cheese
stuffed poblanos 3My standards for weeknight dinners are so high – delicious, healthy, easy, vegetarian or seafood-based – that it’s rare to add a new meal to our rotation. This one fits all of the requirements, and as an added bonus, it can be made ahead. I often make enough for two dinners and have it early in the week and then the night before we leave for a trip.

Confetti Cookies
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These cookies scream ‘birthday’ to me, but they’re also just a fun cookie – colorful enough to grab the attention of kids, and they taste just as good as they look.

Goat Cheese and Braised Lamb Shank Raviolilamb goat cheese ravioli 6I wish I had infinite amounts of time to make this every week. It’s one of the best things I ate last year.

Cheesecake Squares with Sour Cream Topping
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I love a grand and celebratory cheesecake, but this one can’t be beat for simple good flavor. It’s a childhood favorite that’s become an adulthood favorite.

Mai Taismai tai 6Dave and I have had so much fun making tiki a hobby, trying new drinks every week and sharing notes with my brother across the country. We struggled to find the perfect mai tai recipe and nailed it right around when I got pregnant. I’m looking forward to enjoying one of these next month.

Berry Jam and Chocolate Mousse Tart
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I love chocolate, but I don’t think I’m one of those chocolate people. I always want something to brighten it up, and a thick layer of berry jam is the perfect tart balance to lots of chocolate mousse.

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheesestovetop mac and cheese 8
I started making this last year as a pregnancy craving, but in this rough beginning to 2016, it’s become a comfort food favorite.

Slow-Ferment Pizza Dough
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Definitely the recipe I made more than any other this year. A quick mix on Monday night makes bubbly, crisp pizza Friday after work.

Lemon Cheesecake
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Macaroni and cheese and cereal have been my primary pregnancy cravings, yet somehow, I seem to have made cheesecake at every opportunity as well. That might not have anything to do with pregnancy and everything to do with how delicious and creamy cheesecake is. This one is one of my favorites; that lemon curd on top goes so well with the rich cake.

Honorable Mention: Transportation Cake
tranportation cake 1The coconut cake recipe I shared here is a light, moist, and coconutty, but what really makes this worth talking about is the decorating, which was so much fun that I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to make layered cakes since then – including my own baby shower.

Frankly, it’s been a rough start to this year, but soon enough, we’ll have a baby and hopefully a house to put her in, and we can start finding our new normal. I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

salted chocolate caramels

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It might be silly, but one of the things I was the most upset about when my house got flooded was that I wouldn’t be able to do all of the Christmas baking I’d planned. I didn’t enjoy sharing a hotel room with two cats who take out their anxiety by playing in the litter box in the middle of the night, I don’t like the concrete floors in my house, and I wish my favorite black boots hadn’t been among the many casualties, but it was the baking that I kept coming back to. I started planning my holiday baking in October; I remember trying to order packaging and not being able to find anything but Halloween themes. (I did order packaging in early November, but it unfortunately was another casualty and had to be reordered.)

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But a little flood damage can’t hold me back. The weekend we were stuck in a hotel while contractors tore out our carpet and cut the bottom two feet from all the walls, a friend of ours was going out of town and was generous enough to give us the keys to his house. His kitchen didn’t give me much to work with – I was able to carve out just a few square feet of workspace – but when there’s a will, there’s a way. In that tiny kitchen, I baked cranberry-orange bread, mocha biscotti, and lemon spritz wreaths, which actually put me ahead of the schedule I’d originally planned for the month.

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We’ve now spent two weeks at home in our torn up house before construction starts, and I was able to make almost everything else I’d planned, including a tiered Christmas tree cake for the office holiday party, which I got the idea for all the way back in the summer. (Fortunately, the cakes were already baked and in the freezer, but decorating it was not trivial.) These caramels were the last treat I needed to make, and I had the recipe picked before I read the very mixed reviews – about half of the reviewers raved, but the other half had massive failures. I had neither the time nor the mental fortitude for a failure.

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Fortunately, the recipe came together perfectly. I wasn’t expecting it to take quite so long for the chocolate-caramel mixture to reach the right temperature, but I knew how important that was, since most of the problems people had were with the consistency of the final caramels, which is based on that temperature. Another problem I read about was butter separating from the caramel mixture after it had hardened. I remembered all of the pan sauce recipes that specifically call for cold butter because it emulsifies better and was sure to keep my butter, cut into tiny cubes, in the fridge until I was ready for it. I don’t know if it was that, or if the universe is just cutting me a break after a rough month, but I’m grateful for a recipe that came together easily and flawlessly, so I was able to finish my holiday baking and enjoy the part of the season I was looking forward to the most.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Chocolate Salted Caramels (adapted from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)

64-96 candies, depending on how you cut them

Here’s what I’ve changed: reducing the final temperature to 246 degrees, based on many reviews that said their candies were too hard at 255 degrees; keeping the butter cold before adding it; and putting more salt into the mixture and less salt on top.

2 cups heavy cream
10½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1¾ cups (12.25 ounces) granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon flaky salt, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch diced, cold

1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch square pan with two sheets of crisscrossed parchment paper.

2. In a 1- or 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let set for 1 minute, then stir the cream and chocolate together until evenly mixed.

3. In a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat the medium. Simmer, occasionally swirling the pan or stirring with a metal spoon, until the mixture is reddish-amber in color. Immediately add the chocolate mixture; the caramel with bubble vigorously. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring very frequently, until the mixture reads 146-148 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.

4. Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let set for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with flaky salt. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving. Wrapped tightly, the caramels with keep for about 2 weeks.

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julia child’s boeuf bourguignon

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I wanted winey beef stew. I knew there were easier recipes out there, and maybe even better recipes, but Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon is a bucket list recipe for me. I guess sometimes I can’t resist using every pot and skillet I own just to make one dish.

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But it was worth it for one single thing I learned from this recipe: how to enjoy pearl onions. The French seem to love using them in their fancy braises, but I’ve never liked their texture in the coq au vin or other beef burgundy recipes I’ve tried. Instead of the quick saute most recipes call for, Julia braises them in broth for almost an hour. At the end, they’re meltingly tender – okay, maybe they’re mushy. But that’s a lot better than the feeling that there are crunchy eyeballs in my stew. They also soak up meaty flavor from the broth, which doesn’t hurt matters.

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Other than that, the stew was very good, but probably not any better than my favorite pot roast recipe. Am I allowed to say that about one of Julia Child’s most famous recipes? It’s not that it wasn’t good, because I always really enjoy braising beef in wine. It’s just that I also enjoy using one pot for that braise. But now I can check this one off the bucket list, and that, plus those soft pearl onions, makes this a win.

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Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon (adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Serves 4

I liked the onions a lot, but I would have preferred the mushrooms cooked until they were drier and browner.

6 ounces (about 6 slices) bacon, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 pounds chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large or 2 small carrots, cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium onion, diced
ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 (750-liter) bottle medium red wine, such as pinot noir, cotes du rhone, or chianti
2 cups beef broth, plus ½ cup to cook the onions
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons butter, divided
24 pearl onions, peeled (or frozen)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley, plus more for garnish
1 pound mushrooms, halved or quartered in large

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the bacon and 6 cups of water to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and dry the bacon. In a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until it’s slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot, leaving the rendered fat in the pot; set the bacon aside.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot with the bacon fat and heat over medium-high heat until just smoking. Season the beef generously with salt. Add half of the beef in a single layer, leaving space between each piece. Cook without moving until the bottom side is browned, about 2 minutes. Rotate each piece, searing and rotating until all sides are browned. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining beef.

3. Add the carrots and diced onion to the pot and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Return the beef and bacon to the pot with the vegetables; add 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper; stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the mixture; stir to evenly distribute the flour. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for 4 minutes. Stir, then cook in the oven for an additional 4 minutes. Transfer the Dutch oven back to the stove. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

4. Add the wine and 2 cups of broth to the pot with the beef and vegetables. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and cook until the meat is tender, 2½ to 3 hours, stirring about once an hour.

5. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the pearl onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re browned. Add ½ cup of broth, the thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and a generous sprinkling of salt, then cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the onions are very tender, about 40 minutes. If there is any liquid left in the pan at this point, let it evaporate. Set aside.

6. In a medium skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter and the oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

7. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Strain the liquid into a separate saucepan, returning the beef and bacon to the Dutch oven or a serving dish. Add the mushrooms and onions to the beef. Skim the liquid in the saucepan of fat and simmer until it’s reduced to about 2½ cups and is thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. Pour the reduced sauce over the meat and vegetables. Serve, topped with minced parsley.

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quinoa with roasted brussels sprouts, pine nuts, and parmesan

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We had a great visit with family over Thanksgiving, but not nearly so nice a homecoming. Instead of the hour or two of relaxing we were picturing after a long day of travel home, we had half an inch of water covering the entire house, caused by a leak in the hose that feeds the refrigerator’s icemaker. This also put a kink in my plans to eat healthier after a week of pie, cookies, and cheesecake.

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Fortunately, I hoard freezer meals. If I make a recipe that freezes well and makes enough for multiple meals, I freeze some, but then I have trouble convincing myself to ever eat them. What if I need those one day?

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Well, I need them now. We ate hastily defrosted chili in between stunned shop-vaccing the first night, squash-black bean burritos the next night while we watched contractors cut into the walls and set out fans, and four cheese lasagna over the weekend when we were staying in a hotel but had an out-of-town friend’s housekey.

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I’m quickly depleting my freezer stash, so while things are somewhat stabilized and we’re living at home in our torn up house before reconstruction begins, I’m still keeping things very simple. This has become a staple. It’s not quite as easy as dumping a ziploc bag of stew into a pot and heating it up, but it’s straightforward enough to make in a kitchen full of boxes in between doing load after load of laundry. Best of all, it tastes like comfort food to us – maybe not tomato soup and grilled cheese level of comfort, but close enough for something so healthy. But now it’s time to start thinking about building my freezer stash back up to help get us through reconstruction.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Quinoa with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan (adapted from a recipe I adapted from Gourmet)

Serves 4

1½ cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ cup (6 ounces) pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup (2 ounces) parmesan, shredded

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Without removing the lid, remove the pot from the heat and set aside for another 15 minutes.

2. While the quinoa cooks, remove the heated baking sheet from the oven and spread 1 tablespoon of oil over its surface. Place the brussels sprouts on the sheet, generously season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat with the oil. Arrange the sprouts cut-side down. Transfer to the oven and cook for 12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the pine nuts, garlic, and red pepper flakes. After the brussels sprouts have roasted for 12 minutes, add the pine nut mixture to the baking sheet and roast for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are browned and tender and the nuts are just toasted. (Keep an eye on the nuts; they burn easily.)

4. Stir the lemon juice into the quinoa, then add the roasted sprouts and pine nuts and the parmesan. Stir to combine; serve immediately.

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mocha biscotti

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My brother isn’t a coffee drinker, but when he travels with me and Dave, he indulges our desire for fancy coffee every morning. In Oregon last fall, he tried a variety of drinks, from the oversugared coffee slushy to a fancy shakerato. He was just going along with the crowd though; none of the drinks seemed to impress him.

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In Iceland this summer, however, he settled on one drink, getting a swiss mocha every day with our morning pastries. I hadn’t tried a mocha since high school, but these were good – the bitter espresso balances the sweet hot cocoa. My favorite has always been a good cappuccino, but I even ordered my own mocha one afternoon.

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Coffee is often added to chocolate desserts to enhance the chocolate flavor, but it was the coffee that I wanted to stand out here. With plenty of espresso powder and a shot of Kahlua, I think I succeeded. Even a non-coffee drinker would like these – although my brother can no longer count himself in that crowd, because now he makes mochas a regular treat even when he’s not on vacation.

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Printer Friendly Recipe
Mocha Biscotti

Makes about 40 biscotti

3¼ cups (15.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kahlua or coffee liqueur
4 teaspoons espresso powder
6 ounces (about 1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
3 ounces (about ⅔ cup) slivered almonds

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Break the eggs into a small bowl or measuring cup, but do not whisk them together.

2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat the butter until it’s just melted. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sugar, then the salt, vanilla, Kahlua, and espresso powder. Stir in the egg yolks, then the egg whites, reserving about 1 tablespoon of egg white to use for an egg wash. Stir in the flour mixture until almost combined, then add the chocolate and almonds, folding until evenly combined and there are no pockets of dry flour.

3. Divide the dough into two portions and shape each into a log that is 2-inches wide and as long as your baking sheet. The dough is very sticky; it’s easiest to use a spatula and butter knife to push the dough into position instead of trying to use your hands.

4. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until just golden, 30-35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the loaves cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then use two spatulas to transfer the loaves from the pan to the cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

5. Place an oven-proof cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut the loaves into ½-inch slices, on the diagonal if desired. Transfer half of the biscotti to the cooling rack in the pan, spaced about ¼-inch apart. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the edges just start to brown. (This baking step is to crisp the biscotti, but they’ll still feel somewhat soft when they’re hot.) Repeat with the remaining biscotti. (You can bake all of the biscotti at once if two pans fit on one level in your oven or if you have cooling racks that stack.) Let the biscotti cool completely on the rack before serving.

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