gritfaced

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If there is one thing you should know about me (if you don’t already), it’s that I adore breakfast.  I tend to lean savory–eggs, bacon, toast slathered in butter–but I am also a sucker for the sweets; namely blueberry pancakes and sticky buns.

Another thing to note is that I am a born and bred northerner. Which, among other things, means I was introduced far too late in life to the glory of grits.  Those buttery, creamy, cornmeal dream clouds that I understand folks in the south eat quite regularly.

Despite my instant love for them, I was intimidated at the concept of making them myself.  Admittedly my frame of reference for cooking up grits at home was having minimal. I think I saw Paula Deen make them once on the Food Network with an entire stick of butter and heavy cream.  While I do not shy away from indulgence…even I have limits.

So the internet and I debated on how best to go about making grits that wouldn’t immediately stop my heart.  I consulted Ina Garten (obviously because her word is gospel to me), and a few others and came up with a perfect bowl of morning joy.  And then when I couldn’t finish them (embarrassing though that is for me to admit) I was gifted a second magical meal by baking them off and adding a little spinach.

Conclusion: Grits deserve northern love. They are worth it.

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Grits for 2 (+leftovers)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Just before it’s rolling, add salt and the grits slowly.  Bring heat down to a low simmer and stir consistently with a wooden spoon until grits thicken (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the butter and milk and stir to combine.  Cover the grits and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the grits reach your desired thickness…I like mine fairly loose but the longer they cook the more they will firm up).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese (this also thickens the consistency). Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as desired.

FOR BREAKFAST: with poached egg and crumbled bacon highly recommended…but with chives or scallions to garnish or just straight up won’t disappoint.
FOR DINNER: I put the leftovers in a dish and baked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then topped them with sauteed spinach and yet another poached egg. I’m an egg monster.

 

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gritfaced

caprese & roasted garlic bruschetta

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The tomatoes are coming.  You can see them popping up here and there, in glorious shades of yellow and orange, and even bits of red. They will continue gain glory as the summer progresses. It’s all terribly exciting.

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Tomatoes tend to pair well with a lot of different flavors since they somehow manage to be sweet and acidic and unique all at once. However one of the simplest, and most pleasurable ways to enjoy them is unadorned with some basil and mozzarella. And bread, obviously. Because bread makes everything better. You add roasted garlic and it just becomes aggressively addictive.

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Sometimes you have to just eat this standing up at the kitchen counter, because to take it all the way to the table is just too long to wait.

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Caprese & Roasted Garlic Bruschetta

The caprese piece of this is as you expect, but the roasted garlic is the secret weapon that sets it apart. It’s such an easy way to add another element to an already delicious situation.

3 medium beefsteak tomatoes (or 2 quarts of cherry tomatoes), diced
2 large balls fresh mozzarella, cubed
fresh basil to taste
1 head of garlic
1 baguette, sliced
fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the head of garlic horizontally and place on a baking sheet flesh side up and drizzle with olive oil.  Cook until fragrant and slightly browned. Set aside.
2. Dice tomatoes and mozzarella, mix together in a bowl with salt, pepper, chopped fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar.
3. Slice the baguette (or other equally delicious bread) and drizzle with olive oil and toast in oven until just browned on the edges. Dig the roasted garlic cloves out of the husks and spread one or two cloves on each slice of bread (the beauty of roasted garlic is that it becomes creamy and takes on a nutty, dreamy flavor. If you don’t like it though, you can omit it or use butter).
4. Top the slices with the tomato and mozzarella mixture, and eat immediately while the bread is warm and the mix is cool.

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caprese & roasted garlic bruschetta

“gluten is not the devil” – Jenn Louis

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I realize I keep talking about pasta.  But it’s because not only do I believe it deserves constant love and praise, but also because I recently went to a dinner completely dedicated to it with things that looked like this:

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So how could I not talk about it? Chef Jenn Louis of Portland, Oregon was in Boston promoting her new cookbook Pasta By Hand, which is beautiful and drool inducing.  She showcased some of the book’s goodies in a collaborative dinner at Alden & Harlow in Harvard Square with some of Boston’s finest chefs. Swoon.

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Each chef took one of the pastas from her book and created a dish around it, and what came out of the kitchen was incredible. Silly delicious. And beautiful to boot.

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The pièce de résistance for me was Louis’ own dish. Strozzapretti (a Florentine dumpling whose name Louis explains translates to “priest strangler” – just so you know) are made with seasonal greens and ricotta.  Louis served them simply with butter and Parmagiano-Reggiano. I could eat them every day. I may even move to Florence so I can. Or attempt to make the recipe from Louis’ book. Either way.

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All of this eye candy is merely to remind us of some really important mantras: everything in moderation, treat yo self, and carbs are lifeblood.

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“gluten is not the devil” – Jenn Louis

simplest french toast

Recently I went to Canada. In the winter. It was…chilly.

But the beacon of warmth came from the incredible food we found there — specifically at a bread shop called Hof Kelsten. (I found comfort in carbs.  No one is surprised).

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Though most of the bread didn’t make it back over the border due to hungry travelers and the fact that it was just too good not to eat immediately, some of it did, and that some got put to good use.

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Jeffrey Finkelstein, the bread whisperer responsible for Hof Kelsten, makes challahs on Fridays that are the size of a small child. Luckily their monstrousness meant I still had some upon arriving back in the States which immediately became some of the best french toast of all time.

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It is such a simple luxury, and easier than you think to pull off well.  And while you don’t need Hof Kelsten challah to make this version of the breakfast classic, good eggy breads like challah and brioche are the best for french toasting. And a little Canadian maple syrup doesn’t hurt either.

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Simplest French Toast
serves 4

4 thick slices of challah, cut in half (or other white bread, if it’s thin count 2 slices per person)
8 eggs
¾ cup of milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Soak each piece of bread through just before you put in the pan, making sure both sides are well coated.
4. Butter the pan (liberally) and cook each slice for 4 minutes on each side or until the slices are evenly browned, and no liquid is released when you press on the center of the bread.
5. Serve HOT with maple syrup. And if you’re feeling dangerous, a dusting of powdered sugar.

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simplest french toast

kitchen sink blueberry banana bran muffins

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As a huge fan of pastries and breakfast in general, I realized that recently I have been straight up neglecting a former favorite morning food companion of mine: the humble muffin.  As soon as I came upon this realization, I began immediately craving muffins.

However, due to the aforementioned need to reel it in diet-wise post 2014, I decided to try my hand at making them myself to monitor their contents.  I dreamed up these muffins using buzzword healthy ingredients like “oat bran” and “whole wheat flour”. Though admittedly I am not a baker by nature I think these are pretty great.  They have ripe mashed banana that keeps them moist, nuts and coconut for a crunchy and chewy texture situation, and blueberries because all muffins should have blueberries.

These are an all the time dream treat.  They are perfect as a grab and go breakfast, a midday snack, or even as dessert with a cup of tea.  They have minimal sugar and though the ingredient list looks long (hence the kitchen sink moniker) it is likely that most of this stuff is hiding somewhere in your house already. If not, it’s worth investing. You’re going to want more than one batch of these.

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kitchen sink blueberry banana bran muffins
Yield: 18 muffins

1cup whole-wheat flour, plus 1 tablespoon set aside
½ cup oat bran
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
½ cup rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling over tops
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup mashed ripe banana
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups blueberries
½ cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, the oat bran, coconut, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil.  Add in the banana, milk, eggs, and vanilla, and combine until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture slowly and mix together until just combined (it’s fine to have a few lumps).
  3. Wash and thoroughly dry the blueberries.  Toss them and the pecans in the extra tablespoon of flour until coated (this helps them not sink in the batter).  Fold them into the batter without over mixing.
  4. Fill a cupcake tin with liners and using an icecream scoop fill each tin.  Sprinkle the additional oats atop each muffin and press them in gently.
  5. Bake for 22 minutes.  If a toothpick comes out clean, remove them. Otherwise, let them cook an additional 3 minutes. Let cool completely, and serve.
kitchen sink blueberry banana bran muffins

the greenest pasta

The week before thanksgiving is a tough one for eating and cooking. You are likely anticipating just how much eating and cooking is in your immediate future, which fuels a desire for quick, easy comforts as you prepare for those ultimate kitchen hours ahead.

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 Also, if you live in a place where the farmers’ markets basically shut down completely as winter arrives (like in say, Massachusetts), you are probably stocking up on what’s left of the fresh produce before it all but disappears.

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 This dish pairs the need for ease with some remaining market treasures. With sliced and sautéed swiss chard, some leeks, and fresh spinach pasta; you get to feel like you’re eating your greens even though you’re also getting the treat of hearty carbs. And naturally there is a healthy topper of parmesan cheese for good measure.

 *If you want to be bold and make your own pasta, check this recipe out. If you are following my pre-thanksgiving laziness guidelines, grab fresh pasta that someone else made, ideally someone local. Don’t be afraid to use ravioli or tortellini either. The more cheese the merrier.

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the greenest pasta
serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 pounds fresh pasta
6 leaves of swiss chard, stems and leaves, chopped
½ cup of leeks, finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for serving

  1. Remove the leaves of the swiss chard from their stems. Cut in small strips, and dice the stems in small pieces.
  2. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the diced leeks and swiss chard stems for 3 minutes or until softened. Add in final tablespoon of butter and the chard leaves and cook additional 3 minutes.
  3. Add stock to the vegetables and turn up heat slightly to reduce into a sauce. If you’re feeling indulgent, throw in a little more butter. Cook until liquid reduced to your preference and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
  4. 4. Cook pasta (fresh pasta usually only needs to be boiled for a minute or so) and add directly into the sauce pan. Over low heat, stir pasta with chard and leeks until combined. Top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

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the greenest pasta

mini dutch babies

We threw a harVEST party. Vests were required for entry.

There was some food, but this was the only dessert treat. Perfectly poppable and subtly sweet, these little guys are great for using up all those apples you picked but didn’t manage to eat. Because it’s a law of nature that no one can possibly eat all the apples they pick.

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These are a play on a dutch pancake, which texturally and tastily is an intersection between a crepe, a pancake, a soufflé, and clafouti; and the apple and pumpkin pie spice give them that autumnal edge.

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Ideally these should be enjoyed with a cup of tea or other warm beverage. They can be breakfast, dessert, or just a snack. As we are careening at a terrifying speed towards New England winter, these might help you hold on to fall just a little bit longer.

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This recipe makes about 24 mini dutch babes if you use mini muffin tins (which you should, because that makes them adorable).

2 small apples, peeled and diced
1 tbs cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp of pumpkin pie spice
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for pans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

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  1. set oven at 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 mini muffin tins.
  1. peel and dice the apple into small cubes. Immediately coat with lemon juice to avoid browning. Toss with pumpkin pie spice and add a pinch of salt, make sure apples are well covered.
  1. whisk eggs until frothy. Add in flour, then sugar, vanilla, and milk. Throw in an extra pinch of cinnamon if you’re feeling dangerous.
  1. give each muffin space 5 or 6 apple cubes, and cover each with batter so they are ¾ full. Bake for 40 minutes.
  1. Let cool ten minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve
mini dutch babies