GRANOLA-YOGURT BOWLS W/ CHIA SEED JAM

27th August 2015

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There have been a handful of decidedly warm days this summer, and, thanks to a well-built New England house, our walls seem to retain heat oh-so-well. At times, the temperature outside is more tolerable than our living room full of box fans. I can’t seem to get any work done outside – what with the allure of nature and all – and find myself torn between working in the heat or blowing off responsibilities out in the breeze. But the work remains and has to get done at some point, so I’ve spent several long days at cafes around town and too frequently those have been of the Starbucks variety (okay they’ve mostly been at the Starbucks up by my husband’s office and the grocery store where I do lots of the sourcing for my recipe testing). And since I’m there all day, mooching the free air conditioning, I feel obligated to buy more than just my normal tea or iced latte (okay, it’s half obligation, half pregnancy snacking). So my go-to snack is the granola-yogurt cups with strawberry chia seed jam.

Thanks to the whole pregnancy thing, the husband decided it was too warm for me to be at home in the heat, so he got us a darling little window unit for our home office. There went my long days at Starbucks and my go-to granola yogurt with chia seed jam went with them. While thankful for the new pleasant temperature at home, I was a bit bummed about the loss of my snack. But it’s just a well-balanced mix of yogurt, granola, and jam. If Starbucks can do it, so can I. So I did. And I made everything – except for the yogurt – from scratch.

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I’m an old hat at homemade granola – it’s kind of my thing – but good jam is something that still eludes me. Stove-top spoon fruits for sauces and over pancakes, no problem. Citrus curds, can do. But a sturdy jam that stays, well, jammy has never been my forte. Then I discovered the jam-making power of chia seeds. You literally cannot mess it up. And, chia seeds are super good for you so it cancels out any sugar you add, probably. Win, win, win in my book.

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granola yogurt bowls w/ chia seed jams
to make one bowl

about 1 cup plain yogurt (I prefer traditional cream-top rather than Greek)
2 – 4 tablespoons chia seed jam (see below)
1/4 cup homemade granola (see below)
a spoon

Fill a bowl with your favorite yogurt. Add a few tablespoons of yogurt and swirl with a spoon. Top with granola and a clean spoon.


homemade granola
makes about 2 cups

2 cups old-fashioned oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 to 4 tablespoons honey
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of coconut oil

Set the oven to 250 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the oats, seeds, honey, salt, and oil, tossing to thoroughly incorporate. Spread in an even layer on a small rimmed baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour – tossing the granola every 15 minutes – until golden brown and crunchy. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan. Store in an airtight container.


chia seed jam
I made three kinds one right after the other: peach with orange rind, sweet cherry and vanilla, and blueberry lemon.

2 cups fruit, finely diced (fruit like blueberries can be left whole)
juice from half a lemon
2 to 4 tablespoons of sugar (to taste)
pinch of salt
optional: orange rind, vanilla bean seeds, lemon rind
1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds

Combine the fruit, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and other flavors in a small sauce pan set over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a low boil then turn down to a simmer, allowing the fruit to cook until it can be smashed with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat, smash the fruit to your desired consistency, then add the chia seeds and stir to combine. Transfer to a Mason jar or other heat-resistant container and let cool on the counter. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until ready to use.

 

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p.s. Congratulations to Sandra for winning the King Arthur Flour #betterbiscuits campaign giveaway and thanks to everyone else who entered. Keep baking (and tag your biscuits on social media with #betterbiscuits and @kingarthurflour)!

EASY BACON BISCUITS + WHIPPED SORGHUM BUTTER (PLUS A GIVEAWAY!)

23rd August 2015

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These past few months have been all about lists. To-do lists, nursery prep lists, reading lists, thank you notes to write lists. I’ve even got a list of things to do right before the baby gets here; a collection of low-key activities that’ll help keep things stress free, prep the house, and projects I just keep meaning to do that seem to be perfectly suited for those last few weeks of just sitting around and waiting. At the top of that list: perfect biscuits.

I’ve made dozens of different biscuits over the years and while I’ve never been unsatisfied with any of them, none have fully satiated that perfectly flaky biscuit craving that has only grown stronger since moving up North. Serendipitously, King Arthur Flour reached out at the exact right moment and asked me to join in on their Campaign for Better Biscuits (complete with the wonderfully appropriate hashtag #betterbiscuits). Oh King Arthur, you’re always there when I need you.

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Before King Arthur even included me on this nifty campaign, I was already busy drafting another list of biscuit flavor possibilities and compiling all the tried-and-true methods for proper biscuit making – this is very serious stuff after all. When my #betterbiscuits kit arrived, I whittled down my initial list (saving the others for future biscuit attempts, of course) to something simple that could easily be folded into their perfectly calibrated Unbleached Self-Rising Flour. And since I’m still hankering for foods from back home, I went with an easy bacon biscuit and threw in some whipped sorghum butter to slather on post-oven. The syrupy, smoky sorghum folds into butter so naturally and tints the spread a rich yellow hue, giving it that fresh-from-the-farm look.

And while you didn’t get to sit in my kitchen catching up on my thank you notes list as the smell of buttery bacon lingered in the air or get to taste the salty-sweet of just-chilled whipped sorghum butter, King Arthur didn’t forget about you either and sent along a $25 gift card to their online shop for me to give to you (sorry, no leftover bacon biscuits or whipped sorghum butter included).

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To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment at the end of this post or over on my Instagram telling me your favorite biscuit making memory. The contest will remain open until midnight Wednesday, August 26th. One comment will be picked at random and I will contact and announce the winner the following day, Thursday, August 27th (the fine print: contest open to US residents only, limit one entry per person).

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Bacon Buttermilk Biscuits
makes about one dozen biscuits

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into large pieces
6 strips bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled

Set the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the butter. Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your finger tips, cut the butter into the flour until only pea-size pieces remain. Toss the bacon in the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead together to form a ball. Roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin until about 3/4-inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter (I used a 2″ round), gathering dough and rerolling as necessary. Transfer biscuits to a cast-iron skillet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until they just begin to brown. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and serve warm with chilled whipped sorghum butter.

Note: While the cast-iron skillet creates a nice crisp-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside biscuit, there are a few tricks to get the exact kind of biscuit you want. For crisp biscuits, slightly separate the dough discs so that all sides are exposed to the heat. For fluffy biscuits, position them closer together – almost touching – in a round tin or a small baking sheet.


Whipped Sorghum Butter
makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 tablespoons sorghum
pinch of salt

Mix together the butter, sorghum, and salt until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a small air-tight container and refrigerate until chilled through. Serve cold.

 

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This post was sponsored by and in collaboration with King Arthur Flour. Keep the Campaign for Better Biscuits going by sharing your own biscuit baking on social media with the tags #betterbiscuits and @kingarthurflour.

INGREDIENT STUDY: TOMATOES

18th August 2015

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Between recipe testing for work, our household grocery needs, and my inability to drive past without stopping to look at whatever’s growing in the fields, I frequent our little nearby farmstand Wilson Farm a lot. So when I carried a basketful of every tomato they currently had available to the check-out counter last week, they didn’t seem to find it unusual. But then again it’s tomato season and people tend to do crazy things for the produce they love.

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The history of the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a long and worldly one. Native to South America, the tomato had to travel across to Europe and then back to the Americas with new curious colonists before it was even really considered a consumable food (or ever made into ketchup, probably). At one point it was even considered poisonous – although consuming the leaves and vines is definitely not advisable since the plant does belong to the deadly Nightshade family. And so the tomato had a difficult time developing into the culinary darling it is today. Some find the scent of the tomato vine off-putting, but it only reminds me of hot summer days back in Texas, fresh tomato sandwiches, and roadside farmstands (I even stock my bathroom with tomato vine scented soap, but I’m a bit partial I guess).

With such an extensive history – and the fact that it isn’t mass produced to feed livestock like most grain crops – the tomato has a lovely collection of heirloom varieties and other known cultivars ranging somewhere in the 10,000 region. Yes, it’s a lot, but (sadly) not all of them are in circulation. Thankfully, we still have several thousand different heirlooms, shapes, sizes, and colors of tomatoes to pick from every summer.

One of the easiest ways to differentiate between tomatoes is by size. There are teensy currant tomatoes no bigger than a pea; grape tomatoes shaped, well, like an oblong grape; cherry tomatoes called so for obvious reasons; and little pear tomatoes aptly named for their shape, but much smaller than actual pears. From there, they jump into a whole new size category with things like plum tomatoes not shaped like a plum at all (this is often also referred to interchangeably as a roma tomato); specialty San Marzano tomatoes, which are similar to romas only longer and thinner and so much fancier; globe or slicing tomatoes (pretty much your standard sized tomato); and then things just get bigger from there with the biggest class category, beefsteak.

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Then there are all the heirloom varieties and that’s when the names get exciting. My farmstand had a great locally grown collection including the large Costoluto Genovese, the lovely yellow striped Red Zebra, and the rose hued Brandywine. The dark, maroon Black Krimm was nestled next to Aunt Rubie’s Green (not sure who Aunt Rubie is though). Then there was a row of large, bulbous Yellow Brandywine tomatoes and the new-to-me yellow and red tinged Pineapple tomato. And so many more.

Some tomato picking tips:

Don’t necessarily judge a tomato by its skin. cracks, seams, sunspots, and odd colors typically don’t discount the quality of the actual tomato. You can either cut around the blemishes or eat as usual.

A firm tomato is a good tomato. The best way to pick a tomato is really by its firmness. It should not give when touched and your fingers shouldn’t leave an indentation. That being said, if you buy tomatoes and leave them too long and they begin to soften, just use them for salsa or sauce.

Green tomatoes are good eats. Unless you have an unusually sensitive stomach, green tomatoes are some of the best you’ll ever eat. Generally, these tomatoes stand up better to heated applications: think grilled cheese and fried tomatoes.

Smaller can be sweeter. Sometimes the smaller the tomato the sweeter it is (like those wee currant or cherry tomatoes).

Never put them in the fridge. Whatever you do, please don’t do this.

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Because I have too many tomatoes to know what to do with, I’m looking to other great cooks for recipes. Here’s where I plan to start:

oven-fried green tomatoes with garlic and onion yogurt sauce – my name is yeh

no bake summer lasagna – Martha Stewart

tomato skin salt – Food52

heirloom tomato galette + lemon balm almond pesto – Local Milk

tomato poached eggs with kale and wheat berries – Not Without Salt

pizza with prosciutto, goat cheese, caramelized onion, & roasted cherry tomato – le jus d’orange

And maybe a few of my own tomato sandwiches with homemade mayo and a batch of my mom’s stove-top salsa.

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Not sure if it’s possible to pick just one, but do you have a favorite tomato?

LAVENDER MARGARITAS

13th August 2015

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Just to be clear, I’m not drinking these while pregnant, though I have had more than one dream about being back in Austin, sitting on the patio, and drinking a Julio’s margarita (or two). And over the past several temperate months, I have curated quite a list of cocktail recipe ideas that are just waiting to be mixed up and leisurely sipped post baby. But I couldn’t wait any longer to share this simple lavender margarita (which my sister-in-law and husband willingly taste tested in my place).

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The lavender margarita is a little bit French and a little bit Texan and the kind of thing I imagine Parisian diplomats might sip in coupe glasses on the lawn of the former French Embassy in downtown Austin. We Texans have a long history with France – including the famous 17th century French explorer La Salle, various military alliances, trade, and more – and we take pride in our own sweeping provincial fields of lavender that drape the Texas Hill Country. Add a handful of Rio Grande Valley limes and a bottle of Texas-made tequila, this cocktail combines the best of Texas foodways and our Republic’s history in one glass. Too bad the margarita wasn’t around during La Salle’s adventures along the Brazos River, it might have made his men less mutinous.

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Tequila, lime, and lavender might seem like an odd combination, but the tart citrus creates a natural foil to the floral sweetness of the lavender and a bright, clean silver tequila brings the two together. And, if you’re in a position like me, the tequila can stay on the shelf and be replaced with a generous pour of tonic or seltzer, creating a very lovely glass of lavender limeade.

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Lavender Simple Syrup
makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Put the lavender in a mesh tea bag or metal tea ball and add to the pan. Stir to ensure no sugar sticks to the bottom of the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and let the syrup steep and cool. Discard the lavender, strain if necessary, and transfer to an airtight container or Mason jar.


Lavender Margaritas
to make one drink…
dried lavender + sugar
ice
1 tablespoon lavender syrup
1 1/2 ounces high quality silver tequila
juice of one lime
splash of seltzer (optional)
lavender sprigs

Wet the rim of a glass and dip in a mixture of dried lavender and sugar. Fill the glass with ice and top with lavender syrup, tequila, lime juice, and a splash of seltzer. Garnish with a sprig of lavender and serve.

to make a pitcher…
4-6 tablespoons lavender syrup
6-8 ounces tequila
juice of 4 or 5 limes
seltzer (optional)

In a large pitcher combine the syrup, tequila, lime juice, and seltzer and stir with a large wooden spoon to combine. Pour into lavender-sugar rimmed glasses filled with ice and serve.

 

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This post was sponsored by and in collaboration with the lovely folks over at Birch Lane. Per usual, I would never put anything on this blog that wasn’t already something I used or was proud to associate with, so you can trust me when I say that Birch Lane has some of the swellest – and lets be honest, most photogenic – bits and pieces for your kitchen and table. The pieces I used in this post can be found through the links below.

pictured: Seeger green old-fashioned glasses | galvanized drink tray

MINI ICED TEA CAKES W/ PEACH CURD + FRUIT CONFETTI

6th August 2015

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Armed with a biscuit cutter and a rimmed baking sheet, the world of miniature layer-cakes is now my oyster. The possibilities are endless and so long as I have butter in my fridge and the gumption to lift my stand mixer, there will be mini layer cakes for days in this house. While its construction still contains certain technical elements of traditional layer-cake assembly, its smaller size makes the whole baking venture much more approachable. Most recipes (including this one) call for mini cake layers cut from a single sheet cake, which leaves plenty of room for baker’s error and dropped cakes – yes, I dropped one. I’m a little bit smitten with the whole concept of why the world is currently obsessed with a cake that is a) fashionably dubbed “naked” and is b) a “baking blasphemy” according to my professional cake-baking grandmother. My academic side is thinking of cultural and historical connotations of bourgeois utility, conspicuous consumption, nods to war-time rations, a shabby chic aesthetic, and the modern affinity for all things stripped to their naked, (semi-)wholesome core (read: raw almonds, legible ingredient lists, and now naked cakes). But more on all that later…

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These little layer cakes are not for academic purposes, but celebratory ones: Today is my Dad’s birthday! So I combined a few of his favorite food related things to create a little something he can drool over from a far (and maybe get my little sister to bake for him in my absence). First and foremost, my Dad loves iced tea; this cake is spiced with long-steeped orange pekoe. His love for peaches is actually such an integral trait that it is now, for better or for worse, part of his character. I’ve heard folk remark about his happily chewing on a peach pit long after the fruit was gone. Summery peach curd was an obvious choice. And the little naked layers combine his affinity for cake construction and dislike of excess frosting. The man is all about unmeasured ratios, so this cake really works in his favor. Lastly, he’s always on the go – almonds and other trail snacks in tow – so fruit leather confetti adds a dose of what I will call “granola flair.”

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Iced Tea Cakes with Peach Curd + Fruit Leather Confetti
adapted from these mini champagne cakes by my name is yeh
makes one half-sheet pan or 3 to 4 mini layer cakes

1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup strong black tea (I used 3 tea bags to 2/3 cup water)

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed half sheet pan with aluminum foil and grease or butter well. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the cake flour, soda, powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add one egg at a time until incorporated. Add the vanilla, oil, yogurt, and tea and mix to combine. Slowly add a third of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Continue to add the dry ingredients to the wet in thirds until the two are completely combined. Pour into the lined sheet pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake in the middle of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean – about 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Gently lift the foil to remove the cake from the pan. Cut the cake into two large, even rectangles and wrap each well in plastic wrap. Freeze the two cakes for at least one hour, or overnight, before assembling.


Peach Curd
adapted from this recipe by local milk
makes about 1 cup

2 peaches, peeled and pureed
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a glass bowl set over a pot of boiling water, combine the peach puree, sugar, and yolks and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens and easily coats the back of a spoon – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the bowl from the heat and add a tablespoon of butter, stirring until completely melted before adding another. Stir in the lemon juice and let cool on the counter for about 15 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container or Mason jar and store in the fridge until ready to assemble.


Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and salt and beat again until just incorporated. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use or straight into a piping bag (if your house is warm and humid, keep the bag in the fridge, too).


Fruit Leather Confetti
4 – 6 fruit or fruit and vegetable leather strips

Simply cut small circles out of the fruit leather using whatever tools you have around the house. The end of a small straw, the small opening at the end of a round piping tip, expert knife skills and patience etc.


To assemble…
Remove cakes from freezer and cut into small rounds using a biscuit or cookie cutter (I used a 3-inch round).

Place a single cake in the center of a plate. Pipe a thick ring of buttercream about an 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the cake, leaving the center empty. Fill the ring with a tablespoon or so of peach curd. Top with another cake and repeat with buttercream and curd. Place a final third layer on top and frost with a full layer of buttercream, smoothing with a wet knife. Sprinkle with fruit leather confetti. Continue with other cakes and frosting until you have a small collection of mini cakes. Serve with iced tea and fresh peach slices.

 

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Happy birthday, Da!


p.s. that lovely cake server is from the brilliant woodworker, Aron, over at Facture Goods.