Brown Butter Because…

…its awesome.

I was perusing the hilariously witty Siriously Delicious website when I came across this recipe for Brown Butter Salted Sugar Cookies….sweet baby ray, not only do these combine my love of the salty/sweet, and you know BROWN BUTTER..I had everything in my kitchen to make them that night.

Win.

The original recipe came from the lovely Break or Bake site but I made some adjustments (OF COURSE).  I reduced the sugar by 1/3 (1/2 c. each of brown and white sugar) and added 1/2 c. butterscotch chips because, I like non-chocolate things.

The result?

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Slightly crisp, chewy centers of salty/sweet/brown butter goodness.

I can’t even.

Just make these tonight. Because you know, BROWN BUTTER.

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Yellow Springs

A few weekends ago, in search of a mini road trip, two friends and I piled into the car, turned up the radio and drove…40 minutes to Yellow Springs, OH.

I said it was  mini road trip.

Yellow Springs is hub for local artists and musicians, as well as Antioch College. The area has a decidedly college town/hippie vibe which I was digging. We arrived around 5pm Saturday night, so we decided to have an early dinner. Reviews on Yelp led us to believe that the cozy restaurants in town filled up quick on Saturday night; and since we were reservation-less, the early bird special it was!

We loved the reviews of Sunrise Cafe, so we headed there for dinner and drinks.

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Once seated in a cozy back booth, we were brought house made rosemary wheat rolls with softened butter.

I am a fool for softened butter.IMG_8132
These little beauties were warm, herby and had a perfectly golden patina.
I was now supremely excited and hungry for the rest of my meal.

The table decided to share a few dishes: The General Tso’s chicken wings and the Pasta special: Cheesy, Creamy Crab Casserole. IMG_8134
The verdict? Sadly, I didn’t love either. The chicken wings were overly saucy and I’m not a fan of the sweet General Tso’s sauce to begin with. They were extremely tender; but the flavor was off for me. The cheesy crab casserole was fine, but I thought it was bit dry and a bit salty. I wish we had tried their signature macaroni and cheese instead, I have a feeling it may have been better.  IMG_8135We also shared the Sunflower-Kale Salad: Local organic micro greens, local organic kale, parsley, sunflower seeds, scallion, lemon juice, sesame oil.
IMG_8133 The verdict on the salad? Loved it. Loved every tangy, crunchy, fresh bite. Perfectly balanced and savory. This was the star of the meal.

We declined offers of dessert and wandered up and down the streets of Yellow Springs. I enjoyed a sinfully delicious Salted Caramel Mocha from Dino’s Cappuccino as my dessert and it was everything I wanted on the (rapidly cooling) spring night.

Our wanders took us into Dark Star Books & Comics, a Valhalla of used books, comics and other assorted bits and bops. I spent a blissful 20 minutes browsing the vintage/used cookbook section and came away with this gem….

IMG_8150As you know, I love me some Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cake, it’s magic in cake form.
To find the original recipe in this memoir/cookbook? Heaven. Spoiler alert…I will be making this cake soon…

Our mini-road trip had all the elements of a classic road trip: junk food, music and random wanderings. Although, unlike a classic road trip, noone had to pit stop behind some bushes on I-95….maybe next time.

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Asparagus & Leek Soup

I have a fresh, verdant, oh-so-springy soup to share today.
As I mentioned, I am bursting with excitement over spring produce, so I was happy to put some spring favorites, asparagus and leeks, into a light, lemony soup. You can add richness by adding a bit of heavy cream at the end, but people, bathing suit season approaches (gasp) so up to you….although I’m thinking about rocking a swim(maxi)dress. Thoughts?

Asparagus & Leek Soup (V, VE)
Makes 8 cups ~ Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
2 bunches of Asparagus
2 extra-large leeks  (or 4 medium)
2 tbs butter (or olive oil to keep the recipe vegan)
2-3 cups vegetable broth
1 tbs fresh dill
1 tsp garlic powder
1 lemon, zested and halved
Sea Salt, Cracker Pepper
1/4 c. heavy cream (optional)

Directions:
Fill a large bowl with cold, clean water. Add 1/2 lemon. Fill a small bowl with cold, clean water. Trim the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends off where the stem wants to break naturally. Dice 3/4 of the two bunches, adding to the large bowl of water. Place the remaining spears in the small bowl of cold water (for use in presentation).

Chop the dark green leaves off the leeks, reserving the white stem and pale green leaves. Slice into rounds and add to the large bowl of water.

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Soak/swish the vegetables in the water for a few minutes. Leeks are QUITE gritty, so be sure to clean thoroughly. Drain vegetables through a colander and give another final rinse with cold water.

In a large deep soup pot, heat butter (or oil) over medium heat. Add asparagus, leeks, a pinch of salt/pepper and sauté lightly. Reduce heat and cover, allowing vegetables to cook down (about 10-15 minutes).

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Add 2 cups of broth and bring soup up to a simmer. Using a hand blender, puree the soup in the pot. If using a regular blender, allow the soup to cool slightly before blending in batches and returning to the pot. Depending on how thick you want the soup, add remaining cup of broth. Stir in dill, garlic and lemon zest (and juice from remaining half lemon).  Add sea salt and cracked pepper to taste. Stir in heavy cream if using. Serves 4 (2-cup servings).

Presentation: Lightly steam the reserved asparagus spears. Blanch in cold water to preserve color. Plate two asparagus spears over soup, and sprinkle with black pepper.
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ASPARAGUS REMIX! (what?)

After two servings of soup, I was ready to change-up the leftovers.
I made this soup into Creamy Asparagus & Leek Rice and it was awesome. Tons of asparagus and leek flavor, but creamy and rich with Parmesan cheese. Swoon. A perfect side dish to your Easter leftovers…

Creamy Asparagus & Leek Rice
Serves 4 ~ Time: 1 hr 15 min
4 c. Asparagus & Leek Soup
4 c. vegetable broth
1 c. long grain brown rice
2 tbs heavy cream (don’t skip it)
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded

Bring soup and broth up to a low boil.  Add rice. Cover and simmer until almost all the liquid is absorbed (about 55 minutes). Vigorously stir rice to release the starch. Stir in the heavy cream and cheese, stir until the rice has a creamy consistency. Serve with black pepper and additional Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 as a side dish.

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So about that swim-maxi dress…..

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Springing

After grueling winter here in the Natti, it FINALLY, FINALLY seems like Spring is here.
By that I mean, its been 4 days since its snowed, so here’s hoping. Feeling cautiously optimistic.

To that, my groceries this week are also feeling cautiously optimistic.  Lots of spring produce and lighter fare.
Let’s see what I got: IMG_8171
PRODUCE!
Oh strawberries, how I’ve missed you.  In addition to produce tasting better in their correct season, they’re usually MUCH cheaper (2 lbs for $5!) during their season as well. Asparagus is another spring favorite(1 bunch – 99c!) I bought three. Spoiler alert….there’s a soup recipe in your future involving Asparagus and those Leeks in there too. Can’t wait? Try these other asparagus favorites. Other veg fun: Roma tomatoes, Kale, Spring Basil, Radishes, Broccoli, Mushrooms and Peppers. For the last two weeks, my Kroger has had gorgeous tri-color peppers for 99c each. Typically they’re $1.50 each! Um, I bought five last week and five this week.
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Fear not, for those I’m not devouring raw, I used this method to store.

Other things:
Fryer chicken for roasting (I am obsessed), Castelvetrano olives (my favorite), Sunflower Seed butter (trying a change from Peanut and Almond butters) and finally Bamboo Shoots and Water Chestnuts for throwing into Asian-style stir fries.

Finally, new dairy. Already a fan of Almond milk and goat cheese, I decided to try another non-cow dairy product: Goat’s Milk Yogurt and Sheep’s Milk yogurt.
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Often I find non-Greek yogurt to be too runny for my tastes, but we shall see!
Full write-up to come. I also picked up a goat’s milk brie back there as well. Viva le goat! (what?)

What did you buy this week? Anything particularly springy?

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Ranch Flavored Nut Crackers

I’ve made no secret of my love of the Blue Diamond Nut Thins, but seeing as these do not last long in my house (4 servings? Hmmm, I see two); I wanted to attempt to make my own for the sake of my wallet.

After doing some googling, I found out that A) Nut-Thins first ingredient is rice (what?)
B) Making my own entirely nut version would be simple as all get-out.

Sign me up.

I followed this recipe, as it seemed the most whole-food, nut-based, and um, easy.
We like easy when it comes to recipes. I adjusted Mark’s recipe to incorporate 1/2 packet of Simply Organic dry Ranch dip mix and I replaced the blanched almonds with 2 cups of Almond Flour, but otherwise, I  followed this recipe exactly.

Was it a success? Let’s see….

What I used: Olive oil, Sea Salt, Ranch dip mix, Egg, Dill  & Almond Meal/Flour.

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I simply mixed the dry ingredients together, added a beaten egg and olive oil and stirred until the dough came together. Since I used almond flour, I didn’t need to get out my food processor to crush the almonds. I found that a regular old bowl and fork worked perfectly to mix the dough.
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The author suggests two methods for slicing; I went with the log. Roll the dough into one super-long log, wrap it in plastic wrap and pop it into the freezer for a few minutes to make slicing it easier.IMG_8142
Using a sharp knife, I sliced “crackers” off the log and placed on a lined baking sheet.
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Bake in a 350 oven for 11 minutes and…

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You have these gorgeous things!

I loved the Ranch-Dill flavor; and that the edges were crunchy while the centers stayed a bit soft with great chew. These were WAY too easy to munch, and I found myself putting them in soup, on salads, serving with cheese and eating straight out of the tin. This recipe made about 75 little crackers  (about 15 more than a box of Nut Thins…just sayin’).

OK, Real Talk:

  • Do these Taste/Look like Nut Thins? Nope, not in the least.
  • Are they crunchy/snacky, made from whole foods and satisfying? Absolutely.
  • Will I make them again? Definitely, already wanting to experiment with cracker shape and flavors.

IMG_8149Nut-Thins, your reign is secure….for now.

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Greece In A Bowl or White Bean, Spinach and Tomato Soup

Remember when I went to Greece? Sigh.

Feeling homesick for Greece (Greek-sick?) I decided to make a soup that encompassed all my favorite flavors of Greece in one, warming, delicious pot. Rich tomatoes, earthy spinach, delicate white beans and lots of lemon, oregano and dill all simmered together in a rich broth with a big wedge of feta to top it all off.  After a bowl of this, someone just needs to point me to the ouzo and I’ll be happy.

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Greece In A Bowl or White Bean, Spinach & Tomato Soup
(Vegan modification below)

2 tbs olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 (Roma) Tomatoes, diced (or 1, 12oz can of roasted, diced tomatoes)
1 medium Yellow Onion, peeled and sliced
4 cups (or 5 oz)  Baby Spinach, roughly chopped
1, 10oz can of white beans (navy or cannellini), rinsed and drained
6 c. low-sodium chicken broth
4 oz small shaped pasta (i.e. whole what rotini)
1 lemon, zested
1 tbs oregano (fresh or dried)
1 tsp dill (fresh or dried)
4 oz thinly sliced Feta cheese for serving
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
Vegan modification: Replace chicken broth with vegetable broth. Replace feta cheese with nutritional yeast or additional lemon zest and fresh herbs.

In a deep soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, tomatoes & onions with a dash each of salt and pepper until vegetables are soft.  Stir in spinach and beans. Toss until spinach wilts. Pour in broth, and  bring up to a low boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente. Stir in lemon zest and herbs and  simmer together for an additional few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with feta cheese slices on top.  Serves 4 as entree.

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Served alongside olives, cheese, homemade crackers and a vegetable greek yogurt dip. Perfect for tonight’s dinner for those of you observing Lent.

Anyone looking for a travel friend to Greece? I’ll bring the baklava.

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One Word Bites

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Cheesy

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Fresh

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Red

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Hometown

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Springy

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Porkbelly

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Eataly

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