Holiday Baking and Cooking

Things are starting to get into a real groove and I’m loving everything that’s going on. Jason and I are doing great and have settled into a great routine. This involves me being able to do a lot of baking and cooking and having a captive audience to eat it! Just kidding, he seems to like the food . . . at least he always wants more.

This week is currently finals for Jason so he’s been stressed out. I decided that meant I needed to make sure he was super well fed. So I started by making him Chex Mix (I just used the recipe on the box with some modifications like the fact that neither of us want pretzels in our mix!) then I had a pouch of Mason Jar Cookies, I received it in a PopSugar box a few months ago and hadn’t tried it yet.

Mason Jar Cookies

Isn’t the packaging adorable? Mine came in a pouch but their website is full of awesome cookie mixes that come in actual Mason Jars–I kind of want to order some more to give out!

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The cookies came out super yum and we are still munching on them. They go even better with a cup of homemade hot chocolate or tea!

Friday afternoon at work I had the oddest craving for eggnog French Toast so on the way home I stopped and picked up a loaf of challah bread from my favorite store (New Seasons for you locals) and a bottle of eggnog. Saturday I decided to experiment. I love making french toast so I just modified the recipe I use:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk or eggnog
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

This is all give or take.

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I used my Kitchenaid from my amazing biffle to whip everything up.

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I also whipped up some fresh whipped cream (heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla) and some homemade hot chocolate and we had an amazing breakfast for dinner.

Can’t wait to blog some more and to cook more!

Foodie Fridays: Quick ‘n’ Easy Quiche Recipe

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I have a friend at work who has chickens. This is something I aspire to have because seriously, what’s better than fresh eggs?! Well she was nice enough to give me a dozen eggs a few weeks ago and I wanted to make something to spotlight the eggs so I decided to make a quiche.

Beautiful Fresh Eggs

Well the biffle has a fabulous quiche recipe that we made a few times when I was living in New York and so I sent her a message asking for that recipe. Of course it’s a recipe that lives in her head, like the best recipes so she wrote out the best she could and sent it back to me.

Ingredients

 

Hers was a basic recipe that you could add whatever you wished to it. I decided to make it a smoked salmon quiche. So I headed to my local grocery store, New Seasons, which if you live in the Portland area, should be a regular shopping place for you, and picked up all the necessary ingredients.

Cheese

Ahhh cheese, glorious cheese. I did a mixture of emmentaler swiss and gruyere cheese, heavy on the swiss with an accent of gruyere.

Then I separated the eggs.

IMG_3295 Egg Separating

 

 

 

 

I used the try and true mechanism of my fingers :) lots of fun!

Mixing

 

Then I added heavy cream and cheese in with the yolks.

Beating

 

Beat the egg whites to a froth.

salmon and crust

 

I cheated here because I’ve never made a pie crust so I bought a pre-made one. But I layered the salmon on top of the crust.  I then mixed the egg whites with the creamy, cheesy yumminess.

Pre Cooked

 

Ready to go into the oven!

Fresh out of the oven

 

Delicious quiche!!

So here are the basic instructions from the biffle:

“You can do whatever veggies you want but water-y veggies are bad. If you use frozen veggies make sure they are totally thawed and you’ve squeezed excess water out. I normally do it with frozen spinach, which works well, but it must be thawed, cold, and no extra water.

separate 5-6 eggs. Mix cheese, egg yolks, salt, pepper, the veggies together. You’re going to need to put in heavy cream (1-2 cups) – it’s hard to know how much, I just judge my consistency which needs to be loose but not watery. You beat the egg whites until they are fluffy, then fold them into the other mixture until it’s blended. Then dump it in the shells (I used pre-made), and bake for 45 min or so at 350 degrees. I always check after a half hour, sometimes they go fast.

Sorry, this is a recipe in my head, so it’s hard to write it out! If you put in meat, I recommend putting a thin layer of mixture, then laying in the meat, then putting more mixture on top. Most recipes says to put it on the bottom but it can burn or make the crust soggy there.

Separating the eggs, in my opinion, really does make a difference and is worth it.”

Do you have a favorite egg recipe that you want to share? I’m looking for good ones!

 

Foodie Friday: Punch Bowl Social

After my amazing hike on Saturday, my friend Christine and I decided to indulge in a great meal through Portland Dining Month (read about my other reviews at Thirst Wine Bar and Gracie’s). This is a great deal here in Portland during the month of March where you can get a three course meal for $29.

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We decided to go to Punch Bowl Social which doesn’t have a website but read more about it on Yelp.  There are actually two parts to the restaurants–one is the actual restaurant and the other is karaoke, bowling and other fun stuff like ping pong.  We actually got a call from the restaurant confirming the reservation and letting us know that we had access to the restaurant and not the games section.

When we got there, we were seated relatively quickly and were excited to start with the drink only to find out that technically the drinks were not part of the $29.  Thankfully we weren’t the first to complain about this so they didn’t charge us for the drinks.  Christine got the Heart of the Union which included Union gin, triple sec, beet syrup, lemon juice and orange bitters shaken and served over ice with a lemon wheel.

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I started with Monk’s Vacation which included: Portland potato vodka, green chartreuse, pineapple juice, lime juice and simple syrup shaken and served chilled with a lime garnish.

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Christine loved her drink from start to finish. I didn’t love mine to start but did end up loving it.

We both started with the Deviled Eggs (tarter sauce, dijon, chives, parsley, coffee bacon jam, piment d’espelette, greens).  I don’t eat bacon so I got mine without.  The eggs were good and Christine said the bacon jam was spicy but good.

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For the main course I got Pacific Salmon Creamed Spinach with creme fraiche, fingerling potatoes, sherry butter, and beurre blanc.

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I found this to be incredibly good but didn’t love the spinach.  Christine got the Mushroom Stroganoff with crimini and oyster mushrooms, onions, roasted garlic, fresh herbs, and lemon.

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She loved it but thought the garlic was a little too much. Dessert was incredible on both accounts.  I got the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake which included Meyer lemon curd, lemon poppy seed polenta shortbread.  It was delicious and light and yum!

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Christine got the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar which was chocolate brownie, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate ganache, salted caramel and peanut butter.

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All in all, the food was good and the service great.  We both wondered about the decor, we couldn’t figure out what exactly they were trying to accomplish with the choices but I probably would go back to try out the karaoke bar and bowling.

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Foodie Fridays: My new favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

So while Portland was buried under a foot of snow:

Portland Snow

 

I spent a lot of time reading in front of this:

Fireplace

which was absolutely delightful!  I finished quite a few books including:

A lot of books but it was six days snowed in!  I also made what I think may be the best chocolate chip cookies EVER.  In fact, I enjoyed them so much I made them two weekends in a row.

I got the recipe from Shelterrific.  You can find the recipe there.  I made a few tweaks.

Cookies

The second time I didn’t have enough chocolate chips so I took semi-sweet bakers chocolate and crushed it down with a can to make chunks and that worked out great.  I also prefer a softer, somewhat undercooked cookie so instead of 12 minutes of baking, I did 10, flipping the pan half-way through.

chocolate chip cookie

 

I definitely think I found my new go to cookie recipe and I would recommend it!

do you have a go to cookie recipe?  What is it?  Share in the comments!

 

Blog to Taste

I have a pretty awesome group of blogging friends here in Portland and we’ve banded together to create a group cooking blog together.  Check it out and today check out my Pursuing Pinterest recipe on Mascarpone Brownies, super yum and super easy!

I’ll be back next week with some brand new content and thoughts on the new year!

Foodie Fridays: My Birthday, Salt and Straw, Kugel!

I turned 31 last week, eek!  I’m trying to start my 31st birthday on a healthy kick. . . I am doing the C25K app with my mom three times a week and yoga an hour every day–feeling great!  I’m also trying to eliminate non-natural ingredients out of my beauty products and food-I’ll write more about that in a future post.

In the meantime, my birthday was a great time!  It was the first time in several years that I haven’t been working on my birthday–the life of a camp professional involves summer working :).  I started the day at my favorite massage place: Coldwater Creek Spa and had a 90 minute massage with scalp addition–heaven!  I had a $20 coupon for my birthday and they took that off the total of the treatment which was awesome!  Then I walked around the outdoor mall and went to The Loft where I had $15 to spend from a birthday coupon.  I found a cute shirt on the sales rack but it rang up full price.  The lady knew that I had found it on the clearance section so gave it to me for $15 which meant it was a free to me shirt!

Then I brought flowers to my mom, after all, she’s the one who did the hard work!  The biffle sent me flowers and balloons–non helium because I can’t stand those!

Birthday Balloons

The tradition in our house is either we pick a place to go eat or my mother will make dinner.  I decided since it had been years I wanted my mom to make me dinner.  So she made my favorite childhood dinner-one that I had for many birthdays: Marinated grilled salmon, sweet noodle kugel and salad with creamy french dressing (homemade).  Because the kugel is so amazing I am going to share the recipe at the end of the post.

Birthday DinnerSweet amazing food!

Then we went to Salt and Straw.  This is similar to Ample Creamery which I went to with the bestie in April or May.  We happened to get there right before the line was out the door and around the corner so we only waited about twenty minutes.  Well worth it!  Salt and Straw Ice Cream

I tried a bunch of them and they were great!  I tried the Pear and Blue Cheese and thought it was really good but wasn’t sure about a whole cup of it.  I ended up getting the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle and the Sea Salt Caramel.  I was not disappointed!

Salt and Straw

 

I loved the mugs!  The decor was very industrial which works for the neighborhood it was in.  I went with my mom, brother, grandmother and my Portland grandmother (not officially a grandmother but she has been since I was a year old!)

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My Portland grandma is on the top and my brother, mom and grandmother on the bottom.  She’s looking good for 90!

Now. . . kugel.  This recipe first came about at my Bat Mitzvah-the caterer made it for Saturday lunch and it has been a family favorite ever since.

Maxine’s Kugel

Ingredients:

4 eggs

8 ounces sour cream (I usually use non-fat)

5 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup margarine, melted

1 quart non-fat milk

6-7 ounces dry noodles

1/2 cup cornflakes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Directions:  In 9×13 pan, place 6-7 ounces dry noodles.  Pour mixture of eggs, milk, sugar, sour cream and margarine and stir.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Mix cornflakes, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over kugel and bake one more hour.

That’s it!  Super easy and super tasty!  It works great with a bagel and lox brunch or as a side dish with fish, etc.

 

 

Foodie Friday: Making Lemonade

For fourth of July, my mother had a huge bag of lemons and thoughts of making lemonade.  So she handed me the bag and said, Rachel, why don’t we make some lemonade?

I pulled up my handy friend Google and searched for some easy lemonade recipes.  Thankfully my mom has a great juicer so it was easy to get the lemons squeezed.  The first time I made it (July 4th) we made it simple:

1 cup lemon juice

Simple Syrup (1 cup sugar (we used splenda) and 1 cup water boiled together until it was blended)

4 cups cold water.

Making Lemonade   Making Lemonade

 

The simple syrup was actually a lot easier to make than I thought it was going to be and I am going to try and make some simple syrup to keep in the fridge to drink with iced tea this summer.

Making Lemonade       Making Lemonade

 

Friday night we decided to get a little fancy and add strawberries to the mixture.

Making Lemonade  Making Lemonade

 

We muddled some of the strawberries with the simple syrup and then cut the rest to float in the lemonade.  It was super delicious.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the pitcher but now that I know how easy it is to make, I will definitely be making this often this summer and I’d love to try it with different things.

Two things I would like to try with the lemonade: put some lavender in with the simple syrup as it cooks for lavender infused lemonade; and grow some spearmint and muddle that for the amazing Israeli drink, limonana.  Yum!  I can’t wait!

Making Lemonade     Making Lemonade

Blueberry Muffins and Snowstorms

So Friday night was a blizzard here on the East Coast.  Thankfully we didn’t get hit too badly.  We got probably about a foot of snow-nothing compared with Connecticut and other places further east and north that got upwards of two and three feet.  But it was nice to watch the snow come down and although I didn’t get any shots of the snow (maybe next time) I did get some shots today when I went out to pick up our winter CSA share.

To the left is the stairs going down into the basement of our brownstone and below is a picture of a pretty cool icicle that was hanging from the second floor of our building.
So, winter CSA.  I have always wanted to be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) but for a variety of reasons, haven’t gotten around to actually joining one.  Part of the reason is that many of them require volunteer time and during the summer, that is impossible for me to commit to.  So when I found out about the Winter Sun Farms Share, I figured this was the perfect way to start.  Once a month between November and March or April we get a bag of stuff that was flash frozen.  We’ve gotten lots of corn, butternut squash puree, soybeans, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, collard greens and jars of tomato sauce.  We’ve also gotten tons of blueberries.
I decided I was going to take advantage of these amazingly delicious looking blueberries and make a batch of blueberry something.  My first thought was blueberry peach scones but in the end I decided to make blueberry muffins.  I immediately hopped onto my recipe app, Paprika (which is awesome and someday I will write a post all about it), and found a recipe by Alton Brown on the Food Network.

So I may not be the best at photography yet but I hope to improve as the posts go on!   I no longer have a sifter, somehow it broke so I used a fork to mix together the dry ingredients.

I think the secret weapon to keep these muffins super moist is yogurt.  I’m a big fan of Greek Yogurt so I used Fage full fat yogurt and it worked out great.

I love all my mixing bowls!  I have two sets of mixing bowls right now, the top set, porcelain, from Crate and Barrel-A Hanukkah gift from my aunt and uncle a few years ago and this set, with the blue bowl, is a set from Target when I moved to New York and they are plastic melamine.  I love that they are all different colors and I have a multitude of sizes with which to work.

Muffins before going into the oven.  I didn’t have any regular size muffin tins nor did I have any muffin liners so I used mini muffin tins and sprayed vegetable oil spray into them.

They are delicious!  I made 48 mini muffins and about half of them are already gone-my downstairs neighbor came and grabbed several, my roommate and best friend had some for dinner and of course I had a few.
I also tried to make corn bread which did not turn out so well but I did make honey butter to go with it and we ate it with the muffins and that was delicious!
Recipe:
Blueberry Muffins (www.foodnetwork.com)
Ingredients:
12 1/2 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used corn)
1 egg
1 cup yogurt (I used Fage full fat)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Vegetable spray, for the muffin tins (I used Trader Joe’s pam stuff)
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 380 degrees F.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt.  Add the dry ingredients, reserving 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients and toss with the blueberries.  Stir mixture for a count of 10.  Add 1 cup blueberries to mixture and stir 3 more times.  Reserve the 1/2 cup of blueberries.
Using a #20 ice cream scoop (I used a 1/4 cup measurer), add the mixture to greased muffin pans.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of berries on top of muffins and press down lightly.  Place into the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven and turn out, upside down on tea towel to cool completely.  Serve immediately or store in airtight container for 2 to 3 days.
My one note would be that it needs to be closer to the 20 minutes rather than the 25 minutes.  My muffins were a bit darker brown than I would have liked but they are still delicious and moist!!  Overall, it was a great recipe and one that I will make again, especially since I have four more bags of blueberries in my freezer.