Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

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With sleet clattering down outside and aboveground subway service suspended, I found myself stuck at home during yesterday’s blizzard. School, of course, had already been canceled, so Todd was home too, and I wanted to bake us something yummy, something perfect for a cozy snow day. I decided that something would be Irish soda bread, considering this Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never tried to make it before so I was a little worried, but then I found a really simple recipe on The Kitchen (one of my go-to websites for food facts and ideas). And though there are a few things I might do differently next time (include a little more sugar; add more raisins), I’m still really pleased with the result! It had a mild sweetness and a moist yet still kind of crumbly texture, which I enjoyed cold with a mug of hot coffee and then toasted this morning with butter and jam.

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Because I didn’t have buttermilk and could barely get up my driveway without slipping on ice, let alone travel to the store, I had to DIY the process by adding two tablespoons of lemon juice to two cups of regular whole milk and letting it sit for 30 minutes to thicken. Another way to do this is with vinegar, as my fellow blogger over at Happiness in Jars did yesterday when she, too, baked an Irish soda bread! And now for the recipe, slightly adapted from the one I found on The Kitchn:

Ingredients
~Oil or nonstick cooking spray, for greasing
~4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
~3.5 cups all-purpose flour
~1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
~2 Tbsp. sugar
~2 tsp. baking powder
~1 tsp. baking soda
~1 tsp. salt
~2 cups buttermilk
~1 cup raisins (I  used a mixture of regular and golden)
~2 Tbsp. heavy cream, for brushing

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Preparation
~Make sure oven rack is in the middle position, then preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil or nonstick cooking spray.
~In a large bowl or the bowl a stand mixer, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
~Add butter cubes and use your hands to squish them with dry ingredients until mixed and no large clumps remain.
~Add buttermilk and raisins and either use a spatula or a stand mixer’s dough hook to combine. When wet and sticky, remove dough from bowl, plop onto prepared baking sheet, and shape into a slightly flattened ball about 7 to 8 inches in diameter.
~Using a sharp knife, score a large X into the top of the loaf from end to end, about a half-inch deep. Brush top of loaf with heavy cream.
~Bake until golden on top and the center of the X has lost its wetness, about 45 to 50 minutes. Around the 30-minute mark, check to make sure bread isn’t too brown; if it is, tent with foil and continue baking until done.
~Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. Store, wrapped, at room temperature for up to three days.

Nutritional information: approximately 85 calories per ounce.

 

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Recipe: Applesauce Chicken Casserole

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On weeks that Todd and I are both super busy with work, it helps to cook a few simple-to-make dishes on a Sunday, especially ones that can last for a few days. But if we’re going to eat the same food several nights in a row, it needs to be tasty. With that in mind, I created this applesauce chicken casserole; it’s based on an apple-cider chicken recipe, but I added tons of vegetables and used applesauce because I didn’t have any cider. It worked really well, giving the chicken a yummy coating that crisped nicely during roasting without burning. And there was a ton of food, so we definitely had enough for the next couple of evenings! Here’s the recipe…

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The casserole: toasted breadcrumbs, crisp chicken, and a bed of healthy veggies.

Ingredients
~1 tbsp. butter, softened
~1/2 cup apple sauce
~1/4 cup chopped parsley
~1 medium yellow onion
~10 ounces sliced mushroom
~4 ounces baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
~1/2 small head cauliflower, broken into florets
~1/2 small sweet dumpling squash, cut into chunks and softened in microwave
~1/4 cup cooked peas
~Salt, to taste
~Pepper, to taste
~1/4 cup vegetable oil
~1.5 lbs chicken thighs
~1/4 cup bread crumb tossed with a sprinkle of parmesan

Instructions
~Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
~In a small bowl, mix butter, applesauce, and parsley until well combined.

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~In the bottom of a rectangular baking dish, scatter onion, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower florets, squash, and peas. Season with salt and pepper, add oil, then toss to coat.

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I used a purple cauliflower I found at the farmer’s market. It looked so pretty!

~Dunk each piece of chicken in applesauce mixture until well coated. Set aside  remaining applesauce, then arrange chicken pieces, skin side up, over vegetables. Pour remaining applesauce mixture over chicken and let soak into veggies below.

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~Roast for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 375 degrees. Roast until vegetables are tender and chicken reads 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about another 30 minutes. Add bread crumb and parmesan topping and roast until bread crumbs are lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
~Serve and enjoy 🙂

Recipe: Coffee Cheesecake

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A few weeks ago I really wanted to make a coffee cheesecake, but every recipe I came across called for coffee liquor, which I didn’t want to use. Finally I stumbled across a recipe from the blog Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt, made a few changes to it based on what I had available in my apartment, and got a super-creamy cheesecake with a light coffee flavor (because I used cold brew instead of instant coffee; for more of a coffee flavor in your cheesecake, use instant coffee as recommended in the original recipe), with a chocolate ganache layer and also topped with ganache, coffee whipped cream, and chocolate-covered coffee beans. It looks like a lot of steps, but I promise it’s not actually that hard and it’s totally worth it!

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Ingredients
For the crust:
~15 honey graham crackers, crushed
~1.25 cups mini oreo cookies, crushed
~1 stick unsalted butter, softened
~2 Tbsp. sugar

For the ganache:
~1.5 cups heavy cream
~20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
~1/4 cup cold brew coffee

For the coffee whipped cream:
~1 cup heavy cream
~2 Tbsp. instant coffee
~2 tsp. cold water
~1/4 cup powdered sugar

For the cheesecake filling:
~3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
~1 cup granulated sugar
~3 large eggs
~1/2 cup sour cream
~1/2 cup thick vanilla yogurt (I used the New York-based brand Siggi’s, which is actually an Icelandic skyr, but any type of Greek yogurt should work fine as well.)
~1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
~1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold brew coffee

~Chocolate-covered coffee beans or nuts for decorating

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Preparation
For the crust:
~Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
~Combine ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined. (I like to leave some large graham cracker chunks in my crust, but it’s up to you how chunky you want it to be.)
~Press into a 9-inch cake pan. (The crust will only cover the bottom of the pan, so if you like your crust to run up the sides, I suggest doubling the amount that you make.)
~Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool.

For the ganache:
~While crust is baking, start on the ganache: Bring cream to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.
~Remove from heat and add chocolate and cold brew, whisking constantly until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth.
~Pour 2 cups ganache into cooled crust. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve remaining ganache at room temperature for decorating.

For the coffee whipped cream:
~In a medium bowl, beat heavy cream until small peaks form.
~In a small bowl, stir together instant coffee and water; pour that mixture into heavy cream.
~Add powdered sugar and beat until thick and fluffy.

For the cheesecake filling:
~In a large bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
~Beat in eggs one at a time.
~Stir in sour cream and yogurt and mix well.
~Transfer 1/4 of the filling mixture to a smaller bowl. Add vanilla bean paste to it.
~In original large bowl, add cold brew coffee and stir well.
~Pour 1/2 of coffee-infused filling into crust, then add 1/2 of vanilla filling, swirling with a knife to mix. Repeat with remaining coffee and vanilla filling. Bake cheesecake until golden but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 1 hour, then let cool.
~When cheesecake has cooled slightly, use a spatula to spread a layer of ganache over the top. Decorate with espresso cream and coffee beans or nuts.

Recipe: Peach Pie Crumble Bars

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I keep meaning to post a garden update, but then I continually forget to take photos of the plants when I get home from work in the evenings. I’m going to try hard to remember tonight! In the meantime, I wanted to share this really good recipe (based on one I saw in Martha Stewart Living) for peach pie crumble bars. They’re great as a mid-afternoon snack when you need a pick-me-up or as a refreshing after-dinner treat. Mine came out a bit more like a crumble than a bar because I ran out of flour, but if you follow the recipe below, it should firm up perfectly. Continue reading

Recipe: Roasted Duck with Cherry Sauce

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A few times a week, Todd cooks dinner for us since he gets home from work earlier than I do. Lately we’ve been drooling over duck dishes when we go out to restaurants, so he suggested that he try to make it at home. But since we’d never made duck before, we decided to find a recipe to guide us through it. After browsing through several cookbooks (we now have so many that they don’t fit on the shelves of our bookcase and are stacked on the floor), we settled on a roasted duck recipe from Drew Ramsey’s Eat Complete. Here’s the recipe (modified slightly from the original), and some special guest commentary from Todd on his cooking experience. Continue reading

Recipe: Spinach-Stuffed Chicken & Curry-Infused Couscous

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As much as I enjoy being in the kitchen, I only make easy dinners during the week—crockpot stews, grilled cheese, pasta with a simple sauce. The other night one of my best friends came over and we decided to cook instead of eating out. After a little thought, we settled on chicken breasts stuffed with spinach, garlic, and mozzarella, with a side of curry-infused, veggie-loaded couscous. (Although the steps below might seem complicated, the recipe is really easy once you get started.) The chicken took about 45 minutes to cook, which gave us plenty of time to prep the rest of our ingredients, set the table, and indulge in some girl talk.

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Recipe: Morning Glory Layer Cake

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The idea started small: buy dessert to bring to Staten Island on Sunday when we visited Todd’s parents. Soon after, I thought, why spend money on a sugar-loaded treat when I could make something myself? But when I considered each person’s tastes, it became clear that I couldn’t just bake a simple bundt cake or box brownies. I decided on a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I’d never made one before, so I searched online for a recipe; I settled on this one, mostly because it looked good in the picture.

Though I’d chosen a recipe, I didn’t feel ready to bake yet. I wanted to try something new—two somethings, in fact. The first, the mini heart-shaped layering pans I’d bought in advance of Valentine’s Day. The second, the new KitchenAid stand mixer my parents gave me and Todd for Christmas. But something still felt incomplete, so I decided to add dried papaya, dried apple, and dried pineapple to my cake, basically rendering it a morning glory cake instead of carrot. Thus, my Saturday baking project was born.

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