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Browned Butter Brownies

August 2, 2011

This morning, I think I baked the best brownies I’ve ever made. When I want to show up with sweets in tow, I usually choose to bake cookies, but a brownie recipe found on one my favorite blogs of all time, The Little Red House,¬†caught my eye. Sheena Jibson, the author of The Little Red House, is my idol.

The start ingredient of these brownies is browned butter, which is stirred on the stovetop before adding the other ingredients and baking in the oven. I’ve always wanted to try using browned butter in something, and let me tell you, this definitely won’t be the last time I use it. I’d make it just for the beautiful scent it creates!

Browned Butter Brownies

Ingredients:
-10 Tbsp unsalted butter
-1 cup sugar (I used granulated for the first time in a while! I’m still addicted to sucanat, so that’s what I’ve been using lately)
-3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s unsweetened)
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 eggs (I used egg whites)
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.


The start of something really good.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add slices of butter. Stir continuously while butter foams.

See those brown flecks? That’s when you know you’re on the right track.
Continue stirring until butter turns light brown and the most lovely, nutty aroma you’ve ever experienced wafts through the air. Turn the heat all the way down.

Add sugar to browned butter. Taste this and feel as though you have gone to heaven.

Add cocoa and stir until combined.
Take off heat and let mixture cool down a little until it’s just warm.

Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and continue to stir.

Add flour and salt, and stir until just combined.

Pour batter into 10″ tart pan or 8″x8″ pan and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.

You’ll know they’re done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool if you can wait that long and then share!!


By the glamorous, oh the flax-y, flax-y

August 1, 2011

Flax reminds me of Fergie’s “Glamorous,” okay?

This is a bowl of Kashi GoLean, Peanut Butter Puffins, sliced strawberries, raisins, soymilk, and… flax seed.

If you’ve never tried adding ground flax seed to your cereal or baked goods, you should definitely think about trying it. Flax seed is really good for you! Why? It has Omega 3 fatty acids, which are “good” fats. Flax also contains lignans, which have antioxidant qualities, which means they prevent damage from occurring when your body uses oxygen, and phytoestrogen qualities, which means they help raise levels of good estrogen in your body. Last but not least, flax contains fiber, which you already know helps you out. I’ve always heard it’s best to buy ground flax seed over whole flax seed so that you can better absorb all those nutrients. Plus, ground looks more edible to me – but maybe that’s just me.

This morning, I had two small bowls of cereal and added a teaspoon of ground flax seed to each bowl. For one big bowl, I’d add nearly a tablespoon. Flax has a slightly nutty taste, but it’s not strong enough to interfere with the pre-existing deliciousness of your food. ūüôā

I should also note that vegans often use 1 tablespoon of ground flax combined with 3 tablespoons of water to make a flax “egg,” which becomes thick and viscous when mixed. It acts similarly to an egg by improving the structure of baked goods. Interesting, right?

P.S. If you’ve never mixed different cereals, you’re seriously missing out! SERIOUSLY.¬†After sampling the original Puffins and being underwhelmed, I was hesitant to purchase a box of Peanut Butter Puffins even though it was on sale. I’m glad I did, though, because they’re like Peanut Butter Capt’n Crunch, and how can you not like that?

P.P.S. I’m (mostly) moved into my new apartment! After last year’s fiasco, this pad is like a dream come true (minus the people playing basketball outside my window at 1 am last night). Can’t believe I can shower for longer than 5 minutes before the water runs cold — straight- up luxury! Pictures to come.

What’s for dinner?

July 29, 2011

I love to cook dinner, but sometimes when I’m pressed for time during the week, it just ain’t happenin’. That’s where pita pizza comes in!

This summer, my family had a daily routine of texting one another to ask, “What should we have dinner?” and then all puzzling over a solution for the majority of the afternoon. When we all had to work late last night, I proposed pita pizza. My dad responded, “What’s that?” So…what exactly is pita pizza? It’s just like making homemade mini pizzas but with a pita bread base. You can definitely make your own pita bread – it’s easy and I’ve done it before, but when I don’t want to wait for the dough to rise and then bake, store-bought whole wheat pita works just as well.

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F (Drew insists that 500 works better and I think that’s a great idea…if you like burnt things). I cut my pita in half and then peeled the two sides apart to make it more thin crust style, but you can also leave it whole. Spread with tomato sauce and add whatever toppings your little heart desires. I chose feta (my favorite! can’t get enough), broccoli, onion, mushroom, and tomato, and popped that baby in the oven for around 8 minutes.

Happy Friday! I’m off to get packing whilst listening to the Florence + the Machine CD for the 586th time in three days. Sorry I’m not sorry.

July, recapped

July 27, 2011
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The past few weeks have consisted of:

a family reunion in Oklahoma
Y’all, the temps remained above 100 degrees the entire time. One day, I looked at the car dashboard and it read 114 degrees. Lemme tell ya, it made me grateful for Alabama, even with all of her humidity (but honestly, it’s rained a lot here lately so it makes it seem way more bearable…). While we were there, a big fire happened in the grass along the interstate for at least a mile, hopping over bridges – all because of one tiny cigarette. That sort of thing is scary.

My dad, mom, sister, and I made the trek to the Oklahoma Museum of Art while we were there and were fortunate enough to see the “1934: A New Deal for Artists” exhibit. The majority of the exhibit was dominated by scenes of urban and industrial America, but this gem of a piece –¬†Radio Broadcast¬†by Julia Eckel enchanted me. The woman is so beautiful and the color of her dress was even more perfect in person.

cooking dinner
If only I had people to cook for all the time! When it’s just me, I’ll throw together a salad or something easy, but when I’m with my family, I’ll pore over recipes and try new dishes, like the sauteed zucchini with onion, sunflower seeds, and dill we had as a side last night. I’ve decided I’m going to need to have a dinner club this fall.

watching Sex and the City for the first time
It’s true. I finally allowed myself and yes, the reruns are now my summer guilty pleasure. I’m trying to convince myself not to buy the whole series on DVD. When you don’t own DVDs, having a rerun come on is happy little surprise. It’s better this way (or so I’ll just keep telling myself).

shopping for my new apartment
I think I’ve been to nearly every store that sells any kind of remotely home-related product. It seemed like I was being excessive at first, but then I had the realization that “Oh right, I lost everything” and it seemed less so.

working
Again, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work at Kumon again. Each day presented its own challenges, but I feel privileged to have been apart of the children’s lives. I will miss them and my great coworkers a lot. Educators deserve a lot more respect than they are often given. I admire elementary teachers for their patience even more after the past few months.

two dentist visits
I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to go and to have healthy teeth, but man, getting a filling and sealances in one go just isn’t much fun. It took 6 hours for the numbness to wear off today! A lopsided smile is really cute.

learning In Design
I’ve often kicked myself for not trying to learning about design sooner. I’m using Lynda.com tutorials and it’s going pretty slowly. I know how to create a new document, though! Does that count for something?

yoga
It had been absent from my life for too long and I plan to not let that happen again.
Behold, my summer attire:

** We all know I would never actually say that.

reading again
Like every other college student, it’s hard for me to find time to read for pleasure during the school year. I can proudly say that in the past few weeks I’ve read¬†Persepolis Iand¬†II¬†by Marjane Satrapi,¬†The Help¬†by Kathryn Stockett and¬†Room¬†by Emma Donaghue. I recommend all of them. The first two deal with conflict –¬†Persepolis with Satrapi’s childhood in a troubled Iran during the 1980s (it’s written as a graphic novel and is so awesome because of that) and¬†The Help with racial tensions in Mississippi during the early 1960s, and¬†are all three unsettling in their own way. I will warn you, however, that I found Room, which is told by a 5 year old boy who has lived with only his mother in one room his entire life,¬†to be unsettling in its own special way — I can’t explain or it will ruin it.

relishing my last bit of time at home with my family
How wonderful it has been to have had such a refuge for the past three months! I am excited to return to college and get back in the swing of things, but I know I’ll miss my parents so much. Coming home was certainly an adjustment, but this summer has been wonderful and I can’t imagine any place that would have been better for my healing process.

What “Nut Free” Really Means

July 27, 2011

Truth: giving some one a nut-free baked good means one of two things in my house: either we really care about you (and don’t want you to have an allergic reaction) or we don’t think you deserve something so pricey. Yeek. I’m not going to tell you which reason was behind the cute little loaves of banana bread I made the other day.

But I will tell you how I made them because despite the lack of nuts, the flavor was spot-on and I’ll be using this Mark Bittman recipe from now on. The addition of unsweetened coconut flakes made all the difference. Drew gave me the iPhone app for How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and even though I still love the feel of a real book in my hands, I love how handy the app is when I’m in the grocery store or when I’m cooking and don’t want to print out a recipe. I highly recommend it if you’re at all interested!

Banana Bread
(makes 1 large loaf or 4 mini loaves)

-1 stick of unsalted butter
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-1 tsp. salt
-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
-3/4 c. sugar (this time, I used normal white granulated sugar but I think sugar in the raw/sucanat would also work)
-2 eggs (you can also use egg whites if you prefer)
-3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth (I usually freeze bananas when they’re getting too ripe and I don’t want to use them right away – I’m sure you probably know this trick, but it’s lovely to be able to pull them out of your freezer straight away and not have to wait days to be able to bake bread)
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 cup shredded dried coconut*
-Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts or your nut of choice

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease your pan (s).

2) Mix dry ingredients together. With a hand mixer or whisk or food processor, cream butter and beat in eggs/egg whites and bananas. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just enough to combine (don’t overmix). Gently stir in the vanilla, coconut, and nuts (if you decide to add them).

3) Pour batter into pan(s) and bake for 45-60 minutes (fewer if you use mini pans), until nicely browned. Check with a toothpick to see if it’s done and don’t overcook. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan(s).

*It can be hard to find unsweetened coconut shreds at your usual grocery store, but once again, Earthfare/Whole Foods/your local natural foods store has your back.

I made my own jam!

July 7, 2011
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It’s true!

First, let’s talk about jam v. jelly v. preserves. I didn’t exactly know the difference, but post-Google research, I can now tell you that the variation seems to lie in which form the fruit comes: a jam has crushed fruit or fruit pulp, a jelly has fruit juice, and preserves have pieces of fruit in a syrup or jelly. So, I made strawberry¬†jam.

I don’t know about you, but because homemade jam seems to be a rarity these days, I thought it took a lot of work and time. I probably shouldn’t tell you this just in case I ever bring you homemade jam as a present and want you to be impressed, but — it doesn’t, y’all. All you need is fruit (I used strawberries), sugar, lemon juice, and salt. That’s it. Easy peasy.

I present you with homemade strawberry jam:

Ingredients:
3 pounds of strawberries, sliced (equal to 3 of the normal-sized containers)
3 cups of granulated sugar
juice of one lemon
pinch of salt

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a big pot and cook over high heat for around 18-25 minutes. Stir every now and then to dissolve sugar and crush berries. When mixture becomes thick, spoon into jars and let cool. The jam will stay fresh for up to a month.

You could use less sugar, I’m sure. The jam turns out pretty sweet, which is different for me because I’m the type of girl who usually tries to buy the less sugar added version of things.¬†You can also use fresh or frozen fruit, but when I went to the grocery store, it was cheaper to buy fresh berries since they’re in season. The original recipe I found was for blueberries, so you can use those or any type of berry. Also, it’s better if you slice the strawberries into small pieces because I didn’t do this enough and ended up trying to use a potato masher to crush the fruit more when it was already cooking.

It’s been a while since I talked about the tornado on here, so I wanted to do that. I visited Tuscaloosa a couple of weekends ago for the first time in months. As I drove closer to the damage, I nearly laughed because I was so disoriented. The buildings I had been accustomed to using as landmarks were gone, and I kept second-guessing myself – “Is there where I’m supposed to turn?” “Is this 15th Street, whaaat?” How strange.

I woke up early the morning after I drove up and spent some time alone out on Drew’s apartment balcony, looking out on was left:

I’m not glad that¬†the tornado happened, but I am happy for the good that has and that will continue to come because of it. People of all different backgrounds have been brought closer and I think that Tuscaloosa will be a better, stronger place. Of course I still have bad and weak moments, but in general, I feel as though I am saying a constant prayer of gratitude for all the ways in which I am so incredibly fortunate. I understand more what is important. The tornado woke me up from ungratefulness and passivity, and for that, I am grateful.

Pumpkin Muffins in July!

July 5, 2011

I made pumpkin muffins yesterday afternoon. I know what you’re probably thinking – “Wait…it’s July… and to top it off, you made those on July 4th!” Yes, yes, I did, but when I wanted to make some sort of muffins and then found a lone can of organic pumpkin hiding out in the back of my pantry, I knew it was meant to be. I’ll be honest, these are “healthy” muffins- they’re lower in sugar, and are made of whole wheat and egg whites and walnuts. Healthy, y’all.

Here’s the recipe (adapted from¬†The Flying Onion):

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with Raisins & Walnuts
(makes 12 muffins)

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sucanat sugar (you can use cane sugar or regular sugar, too)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons egg whites (or a large egg – whatever you have on hand)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil (or canola oil)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine wet ingredients in medium-sized bowl.
3) Combine wet ingredients in large bowl.
4) Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just moistened. Don’t mix past this point – it could mean bad news in the form of harder, denser muffins. I think this may be why mine turned out a little smaller than I’d hoped.
5) Fold raisins and walnuts into muffin mixture.
6) Spoon muffin mixture into pre-greased muffin tray and bake for around 20 minutes.
7) Cool for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool for longer on wire rack.

Of course you can omit the raisins and walnuts if that’s not your thing. It’s not my sister’s, so I always spoon her plain batter into a couple muffin cups before adding the mix-ins to the rest of the batter.

I like these muffins, and they’d make an especially nice breakfast crumbled over some plain yogurt. The smell of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg makes me excited for fall but in the meantime, I’m perfectly content with enjoying the best of both worlds – fall muffins AND summer strawberries and blueberries.¬†Hurrah! Hope you had a Happy 4th of July!