Monday, September 24, 2012

Reserve Your Friday Nights for This Bread: Best Date Bread

You won't normally see me making a bunch of hullabaloo over dates. But this date bread...toasted with a nice schmear of butter...definitely worthy of a night in.

I've been away quite awhile, eight months to be exact. I recently was trying to find my recipe for Sticky Chicken and then I remembered that it was on the blog. After retrieving it for dinner that night, I sorta stuck around on my own blog, reading past posts and getting a little nostalgic. I really started to miss it.

I figured I didn't have much time anymore to blog about food. I've been pouring all my energies into our Etsy shop, Lauren Alison, which is also the brand we sell our screen printed linens under. When I say "we", I mean the Hubs and I. You can read all about how he quit his day job to build our brand together on our Etsy feature, Quit Your Day Job, blog post here.

Between printing and sewing, I still am just as passionate about cooking and baking. And baking seems to be the big deal with me lately, especially bread. I happened on this recipe in a book I bought out of the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble about 2-3 years ago and never made a single recipe out of it! Man, I was missing out.

It's the perfect breakfast toast, although, it would be equally good served with cheese and fruit. It's dense, without being dry, hearty but not heavy and perfectly studded with sweet, sticky bits of dates. I'm thinking I may have to take a little break right now and pop a slice into the toaster for a evening snack.

I have modified it slightly to adapt to what I had on hand. Originally the recipe calls for figs and dates. All I had was dates and it was delicious. Enjoy with a hot cup of cocoa for those chilly, autumnal nights.

Date Bread
adapted and modified from Paul Hollywood's Recipe from 100 Great Breads

Scant 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. instant yeast
1/2 stick softened butter
1 tbsp. molasses
1 1/4 c. water
1 cup dates, chopped

Mix flours, water, salt, yeast butter, molasses and water together for 5 minutes. Knead for 5 minutes. Let dough rise for 1 hour, covered or uncovered, makes no difference.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Incorporate dates into the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Shape them into balls, place on sheet and let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Dust loaves with flour and using a knife make three equidistant horizontal cuts all around each ball. Bake for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

It feels so good to write after so long. I've tried keeping up with another blog for Lauren Alison, but I find myself getting behind on it too. But there are a few posts you might enjoy, you can check it out here-

Let me know what you've been up to! I miss you foodie friends!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Egg-Free Fruit Tart And Other Make-Shift Business

 Hello, dear Foodies! Long time, no blogging. I know. I wanted to let you know that I've been working away in my "studio" a.k.a dining room table, creating decorative pillow cover designs for my Etsy shop, Alice's Pocket. You can see a glimpse of my shop to the right... It's really fun with lots of eclectic bits. My pillows covers have been selling well and have even gotten some media attention!

~Q and A Interview in the Kansas City Star

~Mrs. Blanding's Blog post

~and I will be on our local Fox 4 Sunday Morning show this Sunday, the 26th at 8:10 am! They want me to do a short segment on how to make a pillow and have some of my designs displayed! I'm super excited and a little nervous because it's live!! I don't want to trip or flip flop my words around and say something like "cillow povers", because I do that a lot.

So, as you can see much has been happening since I opened it's doors and I'm finding myself more and more consumed with creating new designs and curating more vintage pieces (which the Hubs and I collect together) and neglecting my food blog. I've really missed blogging but I've missed the community of bloggers even more. This is my shout-out from my felt pit (I use Eco-friendly felt to create my pillow covers). I'm still kicking and I've got a new recipe for you too!

As you might know, eggs are not so friendly in our family. Two out of the five of us do respond kindly to them, so when it comes to baking, in particular, I'm always faced with de-egging sweet treats.

For years, fruit tart has been the Hubs birthday treat of choice- he's not a cake guy. Most fruit tarts have a sweet, custard-y filling that, of course, has eggs. So I found myself drawing inspiration from a friend, who made a lovely filling for a strawberry shortcake she made, which had yogurt and cream cheese.

It turned out beautifully! It was kinda like if a cheesecake and a fruit tart had a baby. I'm not a cheesecake kind of girl, but this is not as rich as a cheesecake. It's super fresh tasting and very satisfying...and a heck of a lot easier than making a custard.

 Egg-free Fruit Tart

use your favorite pie crust recipe for a single crust...or use my favorite
press it into a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom, and blind bake


1 softened block of cream cheese
1 16oz. container Fage or similar Greek yogurt (I used full-fat)
1/4 cup powdered sugar (adjust to taste)
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip on high in your mixer for 3-5 minutes. Fill cooled crust (or stick your face in it). Top with 9 halved strawberries around the edge and fill center with a heaping mound of blueberries (about 1 cup). Chill at least one hour.

Love Ya, Foodies!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pour Some Sugar on Me: Brined, Roasted and Honey-Glazed Chicken

I've been on a let's-brine-everything kick...okay, just meat. What a difference it makes! Come to think of it, I've really only been brining chicken, but for all different preparations: for grilled chicken, chicken nuggets and of course, this lovely, golden, sticky-skinned clucker.

My parents brought us back some lavender-infused honey from a little jaunt they took to a prairie lavender farm. The farmer infuses the honey from his property with the lavender that he farms. It's really, really delicious. I wanted to do something special with the honey and not just slap it on a slice of toast, so I felt my beautiful little birdy would be very happy to be bathed in such a carefully-crafted product.

Some little Pooh Bear delightfully interrupted my photo session with the "hunny pot".

Slightly random side note: I have fond memories of my mom making a whole fryer dance a jig in the kitchen sink just before she broke it down into fry-able pieces. I just thought that was the funniest thing ever and so cute. Hence, my admiration for poultry and finding it irresistibly adorable.

What I love about brining, is that with minimal effort, one can achieve a flavorful and tender roast chicken that rivals that of Costco's cheapy, six dollar, rotisserie chicken, which is pumped full of all sorts of things that I cannot pronounce. (They are nice, however, when you've the cooking inspiration of a hound dog on a hot summer day.)

Lauren's Sticky Chicken

1 3-4lb. whole chicken
6 quarts water
1/2 c. kosher salt
1 c. sugar
2 garlic cloves
2 jalapenos, halved
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 tbsp. honey (lavender-infused or any kind you like)

Mix water, sugar and salt until dissolved in a large pot - I used my giant stockpot. Crush or slice garlic and add with peppers. Add the chicken and let it refrigerate at least 8 hrs.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine. Thoroughly dry off skin with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Stuff cavity with fresh rosemary and thyme and tie up the legs. Place on a roasting rack, breast-side up, and bake for 45 min. Baste with honey. Bake another 20 min. and baste with honey again.You will see how the honey turns the skin the most gorgeous amber color. Full baking time is around 1 1/2 hrs. Internal temp at thigh should be around 175-180 degrees. Let it rest a good ten minutes before carving.
 And that my friends is how you make a delicious, flavorful (through and through) roast chicken. Leftovers can be made into sandwiches, or chicken salad or into a chicken soup. But the best part has to be that crispy, sticky skin.

Love Ya, Foodies. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dork-a-licious: A BFF Reunion

Alright, people. I've been away gallivanting around with the likes of this fabulous person, Steph. Okay, that's not all I've been doing, but the Hubs and I did hang out the other night with her and her husband Adam. What a blast we had from the past...well, us girls anyway. They guys were left to watch football (which they did not complain about) while we cackled like wild chickens as we rooted through piles and piles of notes that Steph had saved from jr. high. Jr. high is where we were connected at the hip.

We found that not only did the notes that we passed to one another carry information, long since removed from our aged brains, but that they were full of drawings, redundant observations, bad spelling and the occassional pep talk, because, after all, jr. high is rough.

It has been 15 years since we last saw each other. I know it's cliche, but we picked right up like time had never passed. It was, from beginning to end, total delight.

Did I mention that she is a PHENOMENAL cook? Did I also mention we were total dorks?

Probably didn't take you long to figure that one out, huh? I'll get to the cooking in just a minute, let me expound for a moment.

We ROCKED the dork. I mean, we embraced our awkward ways, our clumsy ambitions, our fashion snafus and our love for all things drama/creative. We snorted when we giggled, we pretended to cook like Julia Child in my kitchen, we built forts out of mattresses, and we went to an all girls summer camp and tried to run with the big dawgs, but alas, it was futile. We were simply dork-a-licious.

That was my worst haircut...ever. I still cringe at the thought. Steph looked really adorable. She had good bangs.

So here we are now, years and years later, finding we still have so much in common, still a bit dorky but in the cutest of ways. We are slightly more refined and a little bit less awkward...okay, so it's pretty much the same, and I love it.

Back to the dinner, Steph graciously invited us over for dinner. I asked what I could bring, she said some wine and some herbs from my garden. No problem. I made a dash to the liquor store and harvested some fresh parsley from the garden along with a few hot peppers and other tasty bits. I remember being extra careful to avoid the caterpillars for they like to hang out on the parsley.

That evening, as Steph was stirring her duck risotto (sing-songy "awesome!!!"), letting the dog out the back door, sipping wine and carrying on a conversation (which was all quite effortless, for she caressed that risotto like she had done it a million times before, that is, if risotto can be caressed) I was in awe that here we were hanging out, only grown-up now, and it was simply surreal.

I snapped back into reality, when she asked me to chop up some of the parsley I had brought. I carefully plucked each leaf and rinsed it well. I started chopping, all the while imbibing my chardonnay and carrying on, when I realized there were all these little yellow balls on the cutting board. I looked closer and there was a massacre of caterpillar mixed in with the weird yellow balls (which I am guessing were caterpillar eggs?) and the vibrant green of the parsley. I told Steph about the abuse on the cutting board and then another hilarious uproar ensued. Needless to say, I washed the board and started over. Caterpillar-free garnish was now on the menu.
It really was as good as it looked. Scrumptious. I don't use the word "scrumptious" very often, so when I do it's for only the good stuff. The duck was the most perfect pink and the risotto was creamy and studded with bits of duck thigh and proscuitto! It was finished at the end with lemon zest and the fresh parsley.

And then there was this...brace yourselves, raspberry sherbert. You may be thinking, "Um, Lauren, I love raspberry sherbert as much as the next guy, what's all the hullabaloo?"

The most perfect balance of sweet, fruity and tangy creaminess that you can imagine. It was the best ending to a rich, sumptous meal. I went absolutely bonkers over this stuff and even more so after I found out the recipe.

Are you ready? It has only four ingredients...really. AND no ice cream maker required!

Steph's Raspberry Sherbert

1 10 oz. bag of frozen raspberries, thawed and crushed with a fork
scant 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. light sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well and freeze. Serves 4.

In the words of Steph, which are so true and sweet:

"When you are a teen, you write things like BFF, FF, Yours Always….And then 20 years goes by and your written promises are put to the test. Tonight I was lucky that despite more than 15 years of pause of “friend” in BFF, I know that the forever still stands.We may have missed a few romances, heart breaks, weddings, children, several states and other milestones, but the core of who we were, who we still are today will always bond us." 

P.S. Never judge a worm by his bottom. (this p.s. was quoted from one of the notes I sent to Steph. I've got no explanation, people. Steph just said I was "creative". Sounds good to me.)

Well, I leave you with that, dear friends.

Love Ya, Foodies.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oh, My Peas! Tasty and Entertaining Purple Hull Peas

 Boo greedily hoarding her stash of the peas.

I found something new for my kids to play with. Doesn't cost me much and after they are done playing, we can eat it. That toy is purple hull peas.

Now, don't start calling me a hippie just yet, I'm not sporting patchouli or letting the pit-hairs grow, I'm just saying that I loved the fact that my kids were entertained by these peas for 45 minutes. No T.V., no whining, just a few minor fights over who gets more, which is a given.

I could not pass up these peas at our local farmer's market last week. I could however, used a bit more input from the purveyors of these fine peas.

Me: Wow! These are amazing. I'll take one box. How do you cook these? I've never done it.

Seller: (young guy, wearing an unusually distracting fedora on his head, which was covered in all sorts of buttons with crude sayings) Um...(glances over to older, most-likely grandfather, who mumbles something and looked like he forgot his dentures that morning) I guess, just cook 'em like any other pea.

Me: (suddenly extremely enlightened and constantly resisting the urge to read his stupid hat buttons) Oh. Okay.

Then he sold me some crappy peaches.

So without being more informed on the cooking of these gorgeous peas than I was when I walked into that market I decided the best bet was to add bacon and onions. That's good with just about any vegetable.

So that's what I did.

Tiny with his stash.

They turned out really, really good. I couldn't stop eating them. I even got the kids to eat them one. Well, at least it's a start.

Purple Hull Peas with Bacon and Onion

2 slices bacon, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
(sorta guessing here) 1-1 1/2 cups shelled  purple hull peas
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper

Brown bacon until nearly crispy, add onion and cook until nice and brown. Add peas and water. Cover and let steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove cover and let moisture cook off and peas get a little browned. Season to taste.

Love ya, Foodies!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So Easy A Cavegirl Could Do It: Plum Peach Crostata

Me Cavegirl. Me bake crostata. Me no like fussy desserts like this one. Me sounding like Cookie Monster.

Alright, that was pretty stupid.

This crostata, however, is not. It's brilliant! Simple, flaky, buttery, sweet, juicy, tart, fresh and seasonal. All Cookie Monster eats is cardboard, fake cookies.

The cavegirl part of this recipe is the flagrant ignoring of rough pie crust edges, lumpy fruit chunks and a complete disregard for a top crust. A cavegirl would never know to trim edges or daintily cut precision wedges of fruit. Heck, she would most likely use her hairy forearms to roll out the crust and use a shard of wild boar's jaw to hack away at her prehistoric fruit.

But in the age of Martha and Ina, we try just a bit harder to make rustic look chic. (And keep our much shorter and lighter arm hairs out of the crust.)

The fruit is what inspired this rustic pie. If you don't have good fruit, it won't fly. It's fifty percent of the dessert. That's the thing with simple recipes- if your ingredients aren't quality it really shows. So get some good fruit.

It doesn't really matter the type of fruit you choose. I've made this recipe with all berries, just pears, or just peaches. Come to think of it, I've never made it with apples. My guess is that you would have to slice the apples thinly or else they won't get soft in the baking time allotted. But I've have luck with just about every fruit I've tried. You've got a pretty high success rate goin' on here folks. Give it a shot.

This bakes at a very high temperature (450 degrees) and bakes quickly. So much faster than the traditional pie...another reason I love it so. The quicker to bake, the quicker I get to eat it.

So don your best Pebbles (or Bam Bam) attire and get to work on this pie.

Plum Peach Crostata

the recipe for the crust makes enough for two crostatas (I throw one in the freezer so I have it available when a craving hits!)

Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe (best one I've come across)

2 cups A.P. flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks cold, cubed butter
6 tbsp. ice water

For the filling: (my recipe)

3 very ripe and juicy plums, quartered
2 ripe and juicy peaches, cut into sixths
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. flour
couple extra, generous sprinklings of sugar for the top

To prepare the crust, Ina suggests putting in a food processor. I don't really roll like that, but if you do she says to pulse the dry ingredients together, add butter, pulse 12-15 times until it's the size of peas. With the motor running add all the water at once, then pulse until it almost comes into a ball. Take it out, cut into 2 halves and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill one for at least an hour and the other goes into the freezer.

I personally like to do the above by hand. I mix the dry ingredients together and dump in the cold butter (for my method, it's still a bit great against warm hands melting it too fast.). I simply break the butter apart between my fingertips (only) and work it quickly into the dry mixture. Once it's the size of peas, I add the ice water, but in parts. Half and then slowly add the rest. Sometimes I use all of it sometimes I don't. When it comes together easily I gently and quickly knead it together and cut it in half. Wrap and store.


Couldn't be easier. Mix the sliced fruit with the sugar and flour. 

Preheat oven 450 degrees. Line pan with parchment paper.
Roll out your chilled dough into an 11" circle on a lightly floured surface. Place fruit in the center of dough with a 1 1/2 " border. Gently fold the border up over the fruit creating an edge. Generously sprinkle sugar over the top of the fruit and edge of crust.

Bake 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden. Let it cool 5-10 minutes, then using two spatulas transfer it to a wire rack or serving plate.

It's really good served with vanilla ice cream or just simply by itself. So, so good.

 Love Ya, Foodies.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't Turn on Your Ovens! Ice Cream Cake to the Rescue!

 I'm pretty sure it's hot everywhere right now, and I'm pretty sure there are tons of us home cooks wishing we could make what we love to make without sweating through our aprons, donning extra coats of deodorant and rockin' headbands just to make it through dinner.

So we don't cook.

We say to our family, "It's sandwiches again tonight, kids." (To which, my kids anyways, start celebrating that I'm not forcing grilled zucchini salad and salmon cakes down their throats.- They just don't like it yet.)

Or we make giant salads or eat bowls of salsa and chips and call it dinner. Growing up, BLT's were the hot weather meal of choice.

So when it comes to baking in the summer, it's really tough. It feels like the oven is burping out copious amounts of hot-air balloon quality air and it's chapping my face! Slight exaggeration, but seriously, I do not enjoying doing loads of dishes in Sahara-like temperatures while dusty balls of camel hair roll past my feet. Okay, yet another slight exaggeration.

My little Tiny just turned two and I wanted something fun and festive for his cake. Cupcakes are overdone and tedious. I wanted something I could slap together and forget about, and preferably NOT use the oven.

 So I made this!

I had made this recipe some years ago, loved it and then forgot about it. It re-emerged like flotsam on the high seas of this brain of mine and I quickly decided this would be the BEST recipe for his birthday party. And it did turn out pretty great. I did, however, forget one little thing...his party was outside in 96 degree heat. All I can say is that we ate it pretty fast and licked our plates clean.
 My favorite part of this cake is the outside ring of quartered ice cream sandwiches! It's such a stunning presentation. It looks complex but couldn't be easier.
 Layered Ice Cream Cake
Adapted from Family Circle Magazine's recipe

  • 15   Oreos ( I used about 5-6 more because I didn't feel the crust was thick enough)
  • 1 tablespoon  milk (I added and extra tbsp for the extra Oreos)
  • 8 to 9   ice cream sandwiches, depending on size
  • 1 pint  mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 pint  vanilla frozen yogurt (I used ice cream)
  • 1 pint  strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt

Coat bottom and side of a 9-inch round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line side with waxed paper, using spray to help adhere to pan. Trim paper to height of pan.
Finely crush 12 of the cookies (this is where I added the extras) in a food processor. Add milk; pulse just until mixture holds together. Set aside.

Unwrap 4 ice cream sandwiches. Working quickly, cut each in quarters. Stack strips of sandwiches on end, packing them snugly together, around waxed-paper-lined pan. Repeat with remaining sandwiches to form a stand-up edge. Spoon cookie crumbs into center of pan; press firmly over bottom. Freeze 1 hour.

Remove all 3 flavors of ice cream or frozen yogurt from freezer and let soften for 15 minutes at room temperature. Transfer mint ice cream to a small bowl and stir until good but firm spreading consistency. Repeat with vanilla and strawberry. Remove pan from freezer. Spread mint ice cream on bottom, then top with vanilla and strawberry, spreading all layers level. 
I used my off-set spatula to create a pattern on the top of the cake. The original recipe called for Cool Whip on top, but I don't like that stuff so I skipped it. I then broke the extra Oreos in half and stuck them in around the edge for a nice finished look.
To serve, remove side of pan, then waxed paper. Cut into wedges. It works well to use a sharp knife and dip it in hot water before you cut.

P.S. I was able to find all the ice creams without egg (unfortunately they were not "high end" brands like a luscious Hagen Daz or something like that, but I was just happy I didn't have to make the ice cream!!!) so everyone was happy.

Is that a cherub hovering over that cake? Yes, yes it is.

Told ya it was hot.

That pretty much sums it up. 

Its such a great party dessert. I hope this get you out of your hot kitchen and your face into some ice cream!

Love ya, Foodies!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...