Easily satisfied – Artichoke and spinach grilled cheese sandwich

Artichoke and spinach grilled cheese sandwich

Lately I’ve been sick every other week. I’m used to having a rough winter when it comes to the flu, but this year I started in October! And I’m sick of being sick. But you know what else gets old after your third round of stay in bed the whole weekend? Chicken soup. In spite of all its glorious, warming, nutritious, homey goodness, you can actually find yourself not wanting to see another bowl of the stuff for quite a while. But that doesn’t mean you’re over comfort food. Oh no. That only means that it’s time to up the comfort food. So as soon as I felt strong enough this weekend to get my butt out of the house I went grocery shopping (because that’s what normal people do, trust me) and I ran into some delicious artichoke hearts. All ready and cut up and tasty. Screaming “please turn me into grilled cheese! please!”. And because artichoke heart screams are really hard to ignore, that’s exactly what I did. And because the spinach, jocoque (labneh), olive oil and garlic powder in my house were surely going to protest, I bought a big loaf of garlic bread to put them all together over butter and grill.
Talk about comfort food! Interested? Read more for the recipe. Continue reading

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Secret ingredient – Sour cream 100% whole wheat bread

Sour cream whole wheat piloncillo bread

From the title of this post you might think that I’m talking about sour cream as the super star here… but you’d be wrong. I’m actually talking about piloncillo. That awesome, very mexican unrefined sugar which you’ll find in cafe de olla, atole, capirotada (mexican bread pudding), calabaza en tacha…. or in most barns. (Because I’ll let you in on a little secret: mexican horses don’t eat sugar cubes, they eat tiny piloncillos).  Piloncillo is great because it’s unrefined…but unlike sugar, it has a lot more flavor. It’s sweet and smokey and caramel-y. And it comes in little cone shapes. The only downside to it is that it has to be dissolved before you can use it in most recipes, but that’s not really a problem since all it takes is a little bit of hot water. So I went ahead and used it in a delicious and easy recipe for 100% whole wheat bread, with a dollop of sour cream, which resulted in a moist, rich, slightly sweet loaf. The perfect breakfast bread, with a couple slices of smoked ham and a little bit of butter, or as toast to accompany a creamy soup. (And on the plus side, if you don’t have, can’t or won’t find piloncillo, you could always use maple syrup, molasses or agave nectar!) But I won’t bore you anymore with the details about little cones of sugar, instead why don’t you go and read more the recipe?

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Caribbean muffins? – Banana rum coconut muffins

Banana coconut crumble muffins

Bananas are one of those foods that hardly anyone dislikes. They’re sweet and mushy, one of the friendliest textures ever. But the truly great thing about bananas is that when you mix them with butter, flour and eggs and then bake them to produce banana bread, no one, not even that one person who claims to hate bananas, will refuse to eat them. So I took my go-to banana bread recipe, which I found eons ago on Deb’s Smitten Kitchen (yet another great recipe from her!) and turned it into muffins. But wait, I thought, it’s not enough to have delicious bites of banana bread. I should definitely add coconut flakes, because they’re so crispy…. and bananas and coconuts together make me think of monkeys and palm trees and caribbean islands. Which of course makes me think of pirates…and well from pirates to rum it’s only one small jump right? So why not add a small splash of rum…or maybe a not so small one?  So I did all of those things, and the result is an insanely delicious breakfast muffin, which packs a whole punch because of all the flavors, and because it’ll make you think of Jack sparrow. (And who doesn’t love thinking about Jack sparrow right?).Ok, ok..I’ll stop rambling about all the crazy things I think about when presented with coconut flakes and jut tell you to read more for the recipe.

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Peace and quiet – Apple cinnamon pound cake

Apple and cinnamon pound cake

I can’t remember when I was little and I came home tired from school to find that delicious smell of apple pie in the oven and finding my mom in an apron with a tall glass of cold milk and a big smile on her face. Mainly because my mom never baked apple pie, doesn’t like milk and she was rarely around when I came home from school (she did wear aprons though, and she cooked a lot, hence the me). So whenever I have apple pie-cake/chocolate cookies/glasses of cold milk, I pretend I do have that nonexistent memory, simply because it appears to be something that everyone has in spite of rarely anyone actually having a mom who did any such things. And pretending that makes me find so much peace and comfort in those classic flavors. Because even though it’s not something I learned when I was little, there’s something undeniable warm and homey about apple baked goods. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s embedded somewhere in our unconscious, but there’s something about that smell, fresh from the oven, that makes me feel like I live right next to the orchard where those apples where lovingly hand picked and placed in an immaculate wicker basket, covered with a red and white checkered cloth and then brought inside, waiting eagerly to become a cake. It’s a pleasant image, and one not to hard to keep in mind as you munch away on your cake. This pound cake isn’t too sweet, so you can have it with your morning coffee or as mid-afternoon treat, and you won’t feel like you’re over-indulging. It’s not the kind of cake that will disappear in an instant but that will see you through three-four days, just sitting on your pantry, homey, familiar and warm. Ready to help you feel that comfort of fake memories, or if you’re lucky, real ones. Read more for the recipe. Continue reading

Rustic is love – Oatmeal and rye bread

Oatmeal rye bread

Some flavors are incredibly easy and almost everyone likes them. Think vanilla ice cream, ham and cheese, croissants. They’re the superstars of every kitchen/store because we’ll never tire of them and because we’re used to them. The same goes to people, design, fashion, decor, and pretty much everything else. But then there’s the other side of flavors, the unpopular, frowned upon by some and grossly overlooked ones. Like strong mustards, fennel and stinky cheeses. While they may go very high on our foodie-enjoy-almost-anything lists, the majority of people will pick a croissant over a whole wheat bagel any day. Oftentimes I do as well. But when you think about it, it’s really those things that you enjoy because of their strong characteristic flavors that really stick in your mind. And when they’re combined in your plate in such a way that their strengths don’t fight but compliment each other, then you’ve got what I think is a real ingredient experience. Such is often the case with rye breads or pumpernickel, for instance. It might not be ideal for a way-out-there sandwich or for any other recipe involving a lot of actual cooking….but if you’ve got some fresh bitter arugula and a good slice of cured ham lying around…..heaven. This bread turned out to be one of those things…a strong, earthy, moist, compact affair which in the company of some roasted sausages and maple syrup might make you squeal in delight (or you can just smile, if you’re the strong silent type). I tweaked the recipe I found at food.com to include wheat oats and maple syrup…and then I made dinner rolls which turned out suprisingly well for rye; a good hard crust and incredibly soft inside, the ideal roll for scooping up some mushroomy sauce or a jus left from your dinner steak. (Not that I ever scoop up sauce with my bread. ever. Yeah right) Read more for the recipe.

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Simple pleasures – Rustic mini baguettes

rustic bread mini baguettes

Those who enjoy life know that the true spirit of it is found in simple pleasures; waking up to birds and trees outside your window, having a good talk over coffee with a close friend, sunny afternoons on a terrace, silly jokes that make your stomach hurt from laughing, ceviche on hot days, feeling the sea breeze on sunset, going out for a walk after its rained, flowering bushes…you name it. It’s the simple things that keep us content and give meaning to our day to day lives. And one of those excruciatingly delicious simple pleasures is bread. I think very few people can deny it, unless you’re allergic or on a diet…bread, particularly when warm from the oven, will never fail to give you a satisfied smile, even if its just from smelling it and thinking…yuuuum, that looks delicious, and then letting your mind wander with all the possibilities of toppings or accompanying goodness that can go with it. At least I can’t deny it. And for me one of the simplest, but most enjoyable of breads, is rustic bread. There’s just something about the soft and perfect butter-absorbing interior, full of flour flavors and smells, and the crunchy crust combination. There’s no way to eat it that’s not delicious. With butter. With butter and jam. With butter and ham. With mustard. With soup. With nutella. With cheese. With sugar. With olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And the sandwich-ing possibilities are endless..there are no ingredients that can taste bad in between two slices of it right? And if you happen to have a roast turkey breast laying around (because that’s what normal people do) then your life might almost be complete.  (Read more for the recipe)

mixing rustic bread doughOlive oil on rustic bread mixquick kneading rustic bread Continue reading

Baking Frenzy Part III – Blueberry cream scones

Blueberry Scones

I haven’t forgotten the third installment of the baking frenzy. I was just saving this to be posted on monday, when you can look at it, then think about it on tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday….nevermind. You should just stay up late and make these today. Seriously (Imagine your breakfast tomorrow morning). The recipe comes from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who very aptly puts it, has occasional dreams of scones (and so do I) and hence has provided us with this heavenly heavenly recipe, originally from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook (which I’ve already made a mental note to get, if all the recipes turn out like this one!). They truly are scone perfection, especially because of all the recipes from the baking frenzy, these were the easiest and fastest to make. Only bad point to them is that they don’t keep well (do any scones ever?) – but don’t fool yourself, they’ll be gone before you find yourself reaching for the tupperwares.
The original recipe called for currants, but I substituted with blueberries, which where slightly crushed as I was forming the dough and gave the scones some moist and sweet purple spots. Read more for the recipe.

Butter in Cubes

Blueberry sour cream sconesCrumble Continue reading