Saturday, April 19, 2014

Banana Coconut Chia Muffins


I'm sorry to report that it's been a bit of a sad and stressful week in the Vittles family.  My grandmother (mom's mom) went in for heart surgery on Monday, and on the same day my grandfather (stepmom's dad) passed away.

Luckily Grammy seems to be doing ok, but my grandpa, who we knew as Pop Pop, will be sorely missed.


I have happy memories of listening to him play guitar, and he would always keep us laughing - about anything from how he wooed my grandma, to his fondness for his "cream puff" of a car, that faithfully transported him from Florida to New Jersey at least once a year.

As the years go by, I know I will be forced to say goodbye to more and more people that I love.  But now I also watch our Mini grow with each passing day - I guess this is what they refer to as the 'circle of life?'

Well today our little munchkin floored me, and I think that was just what I needed to lift my spirits this week.

Our good friend Pauline came over with her beautiful, almost 5-month old daughter Genevieve, and Mini was going to meet the baby for the first time.  They arrived while Mini was napping, and we put G in her old bouncy seat.  G was having a blast, but I couldn't help but wonder what Mini's reaction would be - she is not exactly known for sharing.

But after waking up and getting past a brief bout of shyness, she was not only fine with G using her seat, she was excited.  G was excited to see her too, smiling and kicking.  Then my heart melted when Mini, without any prompting, bent over and gave G a kiss.

Unfortunately Pauline and I were completely unprepared for this moment of cuteness, but we were still able to capture a reenactment a few minutes later:


I said that when they get older, we'll have to tell them they had an instant connection!

Speaking of which, I had an instant connection with these muffins I made to accompany our coffee this morning.


You may know by now that I love me some coconut, but I found out today that Pauline does too!  And with both shredded coconut and coconut oil, these muffins have a double dose of the good stuff.

Banana Coconut Muffins

  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 2 T. chia seeds*
  • 1/2 C. unsweetened, shredded coconut (you can also use sweetened, flaked if you prefer)
  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. coconut oil
  • 4 mashed bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 12 muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray, or line with muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, chia seeds, and shredded coconut. Set aside.

Cream the coconut oil and brown sugar until well combined. Add the egg, and beat well. Add the mashed banana and vanilla, and mix until blended.

Stir the dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and mix only until just combined (be sure not to over-mix here!). Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins, about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Yield 12 muffins.  *If you do not wish to use the chia seeds, you can either substitute poppy seeds or leave them out completely.

Recipe Adapted from Jenna Weber, as found on PBS online

Sunday, March 30, 2014

White Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette


I've always enjoyed a good salad, but ever since I became gluten-free about 4 months ago, I've taken my salad game to a whole new level.

Which is probably for the best, since we signed the Mini up for a "parent & me" swim class and I've had to squeeze my doughy, ghost-white body into a bathing suit two months earlier that I usually would.

It doesn't help that my partner in crime looks adorable in her bathing suit.


Ah the things we do for our children.

In any event, I am a creature of habit and when I find something I like, I stick to it.  For example, I have spent countless lunches at Panera Bread with my coworkers over the years, and have only sampled probably 4 different menu items.

Even before I went GF, one of my main go-to meals has been their Fuji Apple Chicken Salad. A-mazing.  I don't know who decided apple chips would be a good topping for salad, but I would like to thank this person for changing my life.

However, I am not much into Gorgonzola cheese, so I always ask to substitute with Feta cheese.  I also prefer almonds to pecans when I make it at home.  So it's totally up you what you put this on, but my recommendation for a salad base is as follows:

-mixed greens/baby lettuce
-grilled chicken strips
-tomatoes
-slivered almonds (or pecans)
-crumbled feta cheese (or Gorgonzola)
-red onion
-crispy apple chips (you can find my recipe here, or use store-bought)



Either way, you can't go wrong.

White Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. apple juice (I recommend using a "natural" apple juice)
  • 3 T. white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t. lemon juice 
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. pepper
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. xanthan gum (optional - it just makes the dressing a little thicker)
Whisk all ingredients together, or process in a blender to emulsify.  Makes about one cup of dressing.  Any leftovers can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Original Recipe

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pina Colada Smoothie


Well... you know you're a parent when you catch an illness you haven't had since the 4th grade.

In fact, my supervisor put it all in perspective when he texted me Friday morning "You worked 31.75 hours in the past 2 weeks - when you come back, I may need to reintroduce you to the group."

Yup.  Between a snow day, the Mini getting pink eye, and then ME getting a random virus followed by my own case of pink eye... I did not even work the amount of hours in two weeks that I would usually work in one.

<Sigh>

My father-in-law did warn us that a young child is like a Petri dish, and boy was he right.  Although the Mini has been fairly healthy (almost shockingly so), I feel like have not been able to go longer than a month without catching something since she was born.

The addition of the Petri Dish to our household has also spelled trouble for Mr. Vittles.  Once known for a powerful immune system my friend Joe nicknamed "Super Blood," he too has fallen victim to a surprising number of "bugs" in the past 17 months.

While he was able to avoid the pink eye this week, he was not so lucky with the virus that left us both with the worst sore throat in the history of sore throats, and a cough that still won't quit.

At its peak, the only things that gave us any relief were frozen treats.  Not only is the cold temperature soothing, but apparently the sugar is as well.  The two days that I managed to drag myself to work last week, I had a smoothie for lunch.

At home, it was more smoothies and ice cream.  Not great for the girlish figure... but desperate times call for desperate measures.  And after this brutal winter (with snow storms aplenty) I figured a little tropical treat would be good for the soul as well as the throat!

Pina Colada Smoothie

  • 1 C. full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 C. canned crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 T. sugar (optional)
  • ice

Add coconut milk, pineapple, banana, and sugar (if using) to blender with about 2 handfuls of ice cubes.  Blend until smooth.  Makes 2 smoothies, approx. 12 oz. each.

Original Recipe

Monday, February 17, 2014

Instant Mocha Latte Mix


If you know me well, you know I am not a "morning person."

I hate waking up, in fact I have hated it since I was a kid.  I can remember epic battles with my mother, as early as kindergarten, where she would be trying to get me out the door while I was throwing a fit.

When I was a few years older, I also tried to get out of walking to school by telling my parents that "my legs don't work in the morning."  I'm sure you can imagine how that ended... with me trudging grumpily to school.

I'm happy to report that at this point in my life, I don't cry and scream anymore (though Mr. Vittles might disagree) and my legs work just fine at 7AM.  But no matter what time I wake up, or how smoothly my morning duties go, I still always seem to be scrambling at the end.

In case you didn't know, I am also a coffee-a-holic, so those aforementioned "duties" typically include making myself either iced coffee or a latte.  Or if things are REALLY going well, I may forgo that duty and stop to buy one instead.

But then there are those mornings when nothing goes right.

When... every outfit I put on looks terrible.

When... I happen to notice I forgot to put on makeup (eek!)

When... the Mini is running around, refusing to get her clothes and/or coat on (maybe she inherited my morning-hating?), OR decides that 30 seconds before we leave is a good time to test-drive her fresh diaper.

When... I can't find my keys, anywhere.

When... I'm pulling out of the driveway and I realize my cell phone is still sitting on my dresser.

Or maybe some awful combination of the above, who knows.

But whatever the reason ... there are sad, sad days when I get to work coffee-less.  And for dire times like these, I keep a stash of instant coffee at my desk.

Coffee snobs are likely horrified, and I'll admit my early experience with instant coffee was not too positive - but when Starbucks came out with their Via line, I felt instant coffee was redeemed.  Then, when I recently saw their new instant lattes, I was even more excited.  I'll take a hot latte over a hot cup of coffee any day.

It pains me to say it - I am a Starbucks lover from way back, and gold card-holder for many years - but these lattes just have a weird taste... which I happen to dislike immensely.

So my disappointment gave me an idea.  What if I made my own mixture, and I could save the servings in little baggies at my desk?

Well it turns out, not only does this NOT taste weird (at least, not to me), it has the added benefit that you can adjust the mix to your personal preferences.  If you like the coffee flavor to be strong, add more espresso powder.  If you like it super sweet, add more confectioners sugar (or vice versa if you prefer less sweet, or even unsweetened).  If you like it creamier, add more milk powder.

It's the little things that make the mornings a little more bearable :)

Instant Mocha Latte Mix
  • 5 T. nonfat dry milk powder (I used Carnation brand)
  • 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 T. confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. instant espresso powder (I used Medaglio D'Oro brand)

Combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed.  Store in airtight container until ready to use.  To make a latte, empty mixture into mug and add 1 C. boiling (or very hot) water.  Stir until powder is dissolved, and enjoy.  Makes 1 serving.

Original Recipe

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Flourless Fudgy Brownies


Cake-like brownie lovers, look no further.

No, seriously - I mean don't even bother scrolling down, because this recipe is not for you.

That's right, better luck next time.  These bad boys are only for those of us who enjoy thick, chewy, barely-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth, death-by-chocolate, get-out-your-stretch-pants brownies.

And if that wasn't enough, they also happen to fit into my new gluten-free diet.  Holla!

Ok now wait, stay with me here.  If you're like Mr. Vittles, don't get all weirded-out by the "GF" term.  This isn't one of those "These are pretty good ... for being gluten-free" situations.

Like, even if I was still eating wheat, I would make these brownies.  And then eat the whole pan, single-handedly.

Much to my own amazement, I even managed to achieve the flaky top (which always seems to elude me with flour-based brownies.)

Yep.  This is my new go-to recipe.

So thanks to a storm this week that dumped about a foot of snow on us, I was forced to take my brownie photos indoors this morning.  Which meant, I had a little assistant who was way more interested in munching on my subject than helping me snap photos.


I know... still in jammies and eating brownies.  What kind of mother am I?  But judging by her miniature chocolate beard and persistent requests for "Mo'? Mo'?" I would say she agrees that these brownies are pretty awesome.

Flourless Fudgy Brownies

  • 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 T. cornstarch*
  • 6 T. butter (salted)
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

Let eggs come to room temperature.  Sift together the cocoa powder and corn starch in a small bowl, and set aside. Line the inside of an 8-inch square pan with non-stick or lightly greased foil and preheat oven to 350º F.

In a medium metal saucepan over very low heat, melt butter.  Add chocolate, and continuously stir until mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs one at a time.

Stir in cocoa/cornstarch mixture, and beat vigorously for at least one minute, until the batter is no longer grainy and nearly smooth.**  It will pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.  Scrape batter into foil-lined pan.

Bake for about 28-30 minutes, or until the brownies feel just set in the center. Do not overbake.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing.  Makes 12 brownies.

Notes:
*Some cornstarch contains gluten so check the label if you are making this for someone with an allergy
**Beating everything thoroughly is very important - the batter should be shiny and fairly smooth, otherwise the brownie consistency may be crumbly after baking.

Recipe slightly adapted from David Liebovitz

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Frozen Coconut Chocolate Chip Mousse (Vegan)


Whether it's for medical necessity or personal preference, in this day and age I feel like everyone knows at least one person who has dietary restrictions.

After having some medical issues myself, I had a blood test done in October that seemed to indicate I had mild food allergies to basically every staple of the American diet (namely milk, wheat, corn, eggs, soy, peanuts, and beef).

Let me tell you, this can really mess with your mind.  I challenge anyone to walk into the average grocery store and load up their cart with a variety of foods that do NOT contain any of the above.

Not easy.

Well after getting a skin test done by an allergist a few weeks ago, it turns out I do not have allergies to any foods, except fish.  The doctor suggested that at worst, I may have a sensitivity to gluten and recommended I try a "GF" diet.

But this all came after 6 weeks of avoiding eggs, wheat, and dairy as much as possible.  So although it pains me to give up my breads and flour-based treats, it has been a lot more manageable to avoid one type of food than 3+.

I have only just begun being gluten free after the New Year (and a pasta-filled visit to my grandmother's house yesterday broke my streak!).  But I have to say, whether it was all in my mind or not, I did feel better after limiting those foods.  And in the process, I also realized that while there is really no true substitute for milk (at least in my mind), you can still make some tasty things with alternatives.

Not that I'll be going vegan any time soon.  Right after my allergist appointment, the first thing I did was head to Dunkin' Donuts for an iced coffee with cream - heaven!

Frozen Coconut Chocolate Chip Mousse (Vegan)

  • 1 14-oz. can full-fat coconut milk*
  • 1/3 C. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C. vegan chocolate chips

Refrigerate coconut milk until cold.  In a large bowl, combine coconut milk with cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt.  Mix with an electric mixer on high speed, until fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add vanilla extract and mix until combined. Stir in vegan chocolate chips.  Transfer to a freezer-safe, coverable container and freeze until firm.

*Note: I have read on more than one occasion that not all coconut milks are created equal.  For one, I don't think this would work with a "lite" coconut milk, or the refrigerated kind in a carton - make sure you use canned, full-fat.  Also, you may need to experiment with different brands of coconut milk.

Recipe Adapted from Kojodesigns

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cranberry Sangria


This year I thought I was really on top of things, and then it happened.

Christmas totally snuck up on me!

I don't know if it was because Thanksgiving was so late, but I feel like it is way too soon for the holiday to be upon us.  How is it only 3 days away?

I'm thinking this whole working thing is really starting to get in the way of my personal life.  Too bad I only have, oh, about 40 more years to go.

Speaking of work, last weekend I hosted a brunch with my girlfriends from my first job out of college.  Hard to believe that was almost 9 years ago already!  We try to get together at least once a year around the holidays, and if possible once in the summer.

The weather was, shall we say festive... a pretty dusting of snow, that held off enough to allow for their safe travel from New York and North Jersey.  We enjoyed a nice spread of coffee cake, pumpkin muffins, quiche, maple-coated bacon, and chopped greek salad.  Not to mention cranberry sangria.

I'm not a big drinker but I am usually a sucker for  a good margarita, and a good glass of sangria.  I like that this one had cranberry for the holiday.  Not too sweet or heavy, but it will still put a little jingle in your bells.

I totally could have used a glass (or three) of this a few weeks ago, when I was trying to get a photo of Mini for our family Christmas card.

This child does not sit still - not for one second.  True definition of "Ants in the Pants."

I need one of those high-speed cameras just to have a prayer of getting a shot that is not a complete blur.

Somehow I managed to capture a few gems - but it certainly wasn't easy!


In any event, amidst all the craziness that often accompanies this season, I hope you can take some time to relax (preferably, with a glass of cranberry sangria.)  Whatever you do - please, please, please just enjoy your holidays!!

Cranberry Sangria

  • 1 bottle (750mL) dry red wine
  • 1 C. cranberry juice
  • 1 C. orange juice
  • 1/4 C. brandy
  • 1/3 C. Triple Sec
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 C. fresh cranberries, some crushed

Combine all liquid ingredients in a large glass pitcher.  Add fruit.  Chill 2-8 hours before serving.

Recipe Adapted from the Editors of Publications International, Ltd..  "Cranberry Sangría"  31 August 2006.  HowStuffWorks.com.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lamingtons (Chocolate Coconut-Covered Cakes)


Have you ever made Lamingtons before?

Have you ever even heard of Lamingtons before?

Me either.  But over the summer, my dad saw some show on television about a bakery in NYC that makes these.  He was going on and on about how amazing they looked, except he couldn't remember what they were called.

After some digging online, I discovered these magical chocolate & coconut-covered square cakes were called Lamingtons and originated in Australia.

Well, my dad was supposed to come over last weekend to celebrate his birthday, so I decided I would surprise him and make these for dessert.  I found what looked like an easy recipe on one of my go-to sites, Joyofbaking.com, so I figured I'd be on my way to deliciousness in no time.

Or... not.

The cake part came out fine, but when it came to coating them in chocolate icing and rolling them in coconut, I was a complete disaster.  It took me way longer than it probably should have, and I made an absolute mess.  All the while, the blog's photo of Stephanie Jaworksi's beautifully covered cakes were taunting me, saying "This is totally possible - you just SUCK."

Well I think I managed to get about 6 of the 16 squares thoroughly covered (in addition to my dining room table and floor) before I threw in the towel.  For the remaining squares, I just ladled some chocolate icing over the tops, sprinkled them with coconut, and called it a day.

Our scheduled dinner ended up being cancelled anyway, because my dad got super sick (no, it was not the Sickness of Death from my last post, but it did leave him bed-ridden for 2 days!)  I still gave the Lamingtons to him, because I am never. making. these. again.

Not that it should stop YOU from trying, however - you can get the recipe here.  (Apologies, normally I would not do that to you, but for once I followed the recipe to the letter.  So per the rules of blogging etiquette, I cannot re-post it here on V&B!)

I will tell you that I had a bite of one, and saved a couple squares for Mr. Vittles, and we both agreed they tasted pretty amazing.

That is, as long as someone else makes them!

Lamingtons Recipe can be found at Joyofbaking.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

Perfectly Pipable Cream Cheese Frosting


So no longer can we call Mini Smalls a baby ... she is officially a toddler now! (And in an attempt to live up to her new title, she just started toddling around this week... yowza.)

Any occasion this momentous should be marked by something delicious.  Like a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting.

But I must confess that I am a bad mommy and food blogger - on her actual birthday, I bought her a cupcake from a local bakery!  I know, I know... don't judge.  Her birthday was on a Friday and I worked late the night before, so my intention of making her a chocolate zucchini cake was just never realized.

Not that she seemed to mind.



(BTW, do not give a toddler any food dyed bright red, unless you're prepared to throw out their clothes afterward.  Just sayin'.)

But wait, it gets worse.  For her birthday "party" this past weekend, I cheated and make red velvet cupcakes from a box.

Ack!

However... I was not going to put that fake-tasting canned frosting on top, to boot.  So I did at least go to the trouble of making this cream cheese icing, which was perfect for piping.


I must admit, I was not able to eat any of these bad boys until days later - I caught some sort of evil bug that had me down and out not only for the party, but also the whole next day.  Mr. Vittles, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law's girlfriend all fell victim to it as well.

So, we may never be able to entice anyone back to our house for a party... but at least they got to enjoy some yummy cupcakes before their involuntary "cleanse."

And more importantly, somehow Mini avoided the Sickness of Death.  Might have been the best birthday gift of all... though it was tough to top some of the awesome presents she received, including a rockin' Elmo, a ball-spitting elephant, and a new wagon (in which she insisted on opening the remainder of her presents).





All in all it was a fabulous celebration.  Thank you to our friends and family for their generosity.  Happy Birthday, Mini Smalls!

Perfectly Pipable Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until creamy.  Mix in vanilla and salt, then gradually add the powdered sugar until frosting ingredients are completely combined. (Check the consistency at this point - if the icing seems too soft, add a little more powdered sugar.  If it seems too thick, mix in a teaspoon or so of milk.) Use immediately, and refrigerate cupcakes after frosting.  Frosts about 18 cupcakes (if you pipe it tall, like in my photos.)

Note: Click here for a great tip using plastic wrap for no-mess piping, at Our Best Bites blog.

Recipe slightly adapted from Recipe Girl

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Bread


Ok, so I have been so MIA it's not even funny.

I'm sorry.  September was crazy.  In both good ways and bad ways, and I won't even get into either.

So let's just leave September behind and embrace October, which has always been one of my favorite months anyway.  Between the awesome weather, my favorite holiday (Halloween,) apple picking, and pumpkins, it will always hold a place in my heart.

And it just keeps getting better since October is now also the month of my wedding anniversary (4 years next week!) and my daughter's birthday (1 year in two weeks!)

How is it even possible that my Mini is going to be a year old?

I will never forget a comment that one of Mr. Vittles' old co-workers once made, that "you just have to keep 'em alive the first year and then it's easy after that."

"Easy" may be a relative term, I hear there are these things called the terrible twos (or as it may be, threes).... middle school... and teenage years?  But either way, I can't believe our "Keep Her Alive" period is almost up.  People always say that time flies when you have children, but it really is the truth.

And luckily, Miss Mini is now old enough to enjoy one of her daddy's favorite treats - pumpkin bread!

For my wedding shower, my mother mailed blank recipe cards in the invitation for guests to give me their favorite recipes.  My sister-in-law Melissa was kind enough to share her brother's favorite recipe for pumpkin bread, which she said was handed down from their grandmother to their mother.

As you probably know by now, Mr. Vittles doesn't get excited over much in the culinary world, so "favorite foods" are somewhat of an anomaly.  (It just so happens that this month also marks 6 years of enduring this tired, nightly script: "How is it, hon?" - "Pretty good."  Ah, the sacrifices we make for love!)

Melissa did also write that the recipe was 'super-secret,' but I think she made that up for dramatic effect.

Hopefully.

The below is adapted slightly anyway, for a single loaf instead of two; although, in this household, two loaves would probably be a smarter bet.  This stuff does not last long!

Pumpkin Bread
  • 1 C. canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. oil
  • 3 T. water
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C. flour
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 x 5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk pumpkin, eggs, oil, and water until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Add pumpkin mixture, and mix with a spoon until no streaks of flour remain.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake about 60-70 minutes.*   Cool on wire rack, and remove from pan when completely cooled.  Store in a ziploc bag or airtight container.

*Keep in mind the bread will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven - so if the edges are getting a little too brown but the middle is still a bit soft, it's probably ok to pull it out. Or, if you're like Mr. Vittles, you may like it slightly undercooked anyway :))

Slightly Adapted from a Family Recipe; Origin Unknown

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fudgy S'mores Brownies



Marshmallow... chocolate.... graham cracker... what's not to love about s'mores?  They are the perfect combination for summer.

But sometimes you don't have a campfire, or other open flame to roast your mallows.

Or sometimes you do.... but then you accidentally drop a flaming marshmallow on your 15-year old niece's foot, and decide that maybe this whole s'more thing is a more dangerous business than you realized.

(Yes, that really happened - ask my father-in-law!)

Or.... maybe you just want something a little easier and less messy.  Who knows?

But if you fall into any of those categories, these brownies are for you.  I happen to be in the fudgy brownie camp (vs. the cakey brownie) and these definitely fit the bill.  The graham and marshmallow make them even more rich and delicious.



My father-in-law was here this weekend, helping Mr. Vittles hang drywall upstairs, so I wanted to make something nice.  I figured this way he could enjoy a s'more without the possibility of giving anyone a second-degree burn!

Fudgy S'mores Brownies

  • 10 T. (1 1/4 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/4 C. sugar
  • 3/4 C. plus 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. marshmallows (use the mini ones, or cut large ones into smaller pieces with a clean pair of kitchen shears)
  • 1/2 C. graham crackers, broken into small pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and position rack to lower third of oven.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Lightly grease with cooking spray, and set aside.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for one minute, then remove and stir.  Microwave an additional minute and a half, in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and no lumps remain.  (Mixture will be grainy).  Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and set the mixture aside until it cools slightly.

Then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well-blended, add the flour and stir until no streaks remain.  Then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.  Stir in graham crackers and marshmallows, and spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 22 to 27 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into squares and serve.

Brownie Recipe adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe (who adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Bittersweet)  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cilantro and Sesame Thai Chicken Marinade


So the Mini is officially on the move (as of the Saturday after the Fourth of July) and let me tell you - she is one curious little monkey.  No walking yet, but she's quite the speedy crawler.  We have finally been forced to adopt a more minimalist decor, and switch out our awesome driftwood coffee table for a soft storage ottoman.  

But I'm not complaining; in fact, I am loving this age.  The Mini has so much personality, and it's fun to see the world through the eyes of a 9-month-old.  


She is also a lot more portable.  In mid-July, we visited my mother & father-in-law's river cottage in Canada and the Mini really impressed us.  She went on her first boat ride, and her first float in the water.  




I won't lie, the 7 some-odd hour ride back home was a little rough, but otherwise it was a great trip.

On the home front, I have actually been cooking more on weeknights, though it is mostly my tried & true recipes that don't require as much concentration (it's a little tougher when you have to keep one eye on the food and the other on a mobile munchkin).  

These days I am also making more food for her, as she is transitioning from baby food to table food.  But since you probably don't need a recipe for steaming broccoli or boiling whole-wheat farfalle, I will instead share with you this chicken marinade.  


I had loads of cilantro left over from the quinoa salad, and our jalapeno plants are doing well, so this seemed like a smart use of ingredients.  I like it because the sesame oil and rice vinegar give it a nice flavor, and it has a little heat to it without being too spicy.

Cilantro and Sesame Thai Chicken Marinade
  • 1/2 C. fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, ribs & seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T. + 1 t. soy sauce
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced or pounded chicken breasts

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse all marinade ingredients until pureed.  
Place chicken in a shallow dish and coat evenly with cilantro puree.  Let sit one hour, then grill or broil chicken until cooked through.

Recipe Adapted from Food and Wine
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