Piña Colada Sherbet

You guys have probably noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet lately. Um… I haven’t actually posted since May. Uffda. Starting a new job and planning a wedding has kept me pretty busy, but I also just haven’t been cooking very many new, exciting, “blog-worthy” things.

You’d think that joining a CSA for the first time would lead to a lot of new recipes, but most days I just come home and eat vegetables for supper. One night I just had half a cabbage. It was deliciously braised in olive oil and butter with new potatoes and fresh onions, but still, cabbage. Definitely getting in touch with my Polish ancestors. ;)

All these local, organic vegetables that I pick up every week are gloriously fresh and don’t need much more than a quick sauté, so that’s been my summer. Simple, easy, instinctive cooking rather than meal-planning and poring over new recipes. It’s kind of refreshing. I’m sure once fall starts up again and Gabe is home, I’ll happily jump right back into more ambitious meals. But for now, I’m enjoying the simplicity of summer.

Here’s an easy recipe in honor of yesterday’s National Ice Cream Day: piña colada sherbet that comes together in seconds. (Well, seconds in the food processor and about 30 minutes in your ice cream maker.) With just a handful of ingredients, it epitomizes the simple, laid-back pleasures of summer.

Piña colada sherbet

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Piña Colada Sherbet

  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened Thai coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs. dark rum
  • juice of one lime

In a food processor or blender, purée together all ingredients until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in a refrigerator (at least 8 hours), then churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or transfer to a freezer-safe container and let “ripen” in the freezer for a few hours.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

Source: Very slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

A “Grown-up” Airplane Birthday Party

Last week Gabe and I hosted a dozen friends to celebrate his 27th birthday. A few years ago I threw him a Star Wars-themed birthday party, and this year I went with another one of his favorite things: airplanes. This guy of mine has loved airplanes since he was little, so it was a fun opportunity for us all to goof off and act like kids again.

Decor was super simple. Silly signs welcomed guests past the “security checkpoint” and guided them to the baggage claim (front hall closet), lavatory (bathroom), and flight deck (balcony).

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

Upon entering, everyone had to grab two name tags at random: their pilot name and their vehicle. Gabe had lots of fun brainstorming names from movies, video games, and real life. My favorite was when a pregnant friend got to be Han Solo flying a big balloon, which worked well with her adorable protruding belly.

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

I used the silhouettes and names of WWII airplanes to make little food signs. The food was pretty low-key, since I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks and didn’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. We interspersed homemade goodies with store-bought snacks, and everything was a recipe I’d made before so I wasn’t too stressed.

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

Here’s the menu:

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

For drinks we did a DIY beverage station with little recipe cards for each cocktail:

  • Dauntless dark and stormies (2 oz. dark rum + 6 oz. ginger beer)
  • Engine and tonic (1 oz. Tomr’s tonic syrup + 2 oz. Prairie gin + 3 oz. soda water)
  • We also had a crazy assortment of beer. I couldn’t find any beers with airplanes on the labels so I was thrilled when friends managed to do it for me, showing up with Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler and Alaskan ESB, among many others.

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

For entertainment, I printed off paper airplane templates for people to construct, but the big hit of the night was a whole bunch of foam airplane gliders from Oriental Trading Company. Forty-eight gliders, to be exact. It was a mad melee of flying airplanes soaring every which way, and then a remote control helicopter somehow got in the mix and was bombarded with planes. So ridiculous and silly, but so much fun.

Thanks to all our party-goers for making the night a blast!

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

(P.S. While planning this fun birthday bash, I was inspired by several other blogs, including two parties from Hostess with the Mostess here and here, and the blog I’m Topsy Turvy.)

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Arugula

I spent last weekend celebrating an amazing friend who’s getting married in a month. Yep, bachelorette party time. We danced, laughed, frolicked, sang, painted, ate, drank, and were merry. It was a ton of fun to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, but by the time I got home I was ready for slightly more virtuous food than the munchies I had been grazing on all weekend.

How about some barley?

I know, it sounds totally unexciting, but this risotto has been one of my go-to comfort foods all winter long. It’s creamy and satisfying but still packed with healthy ingredients. And it’s adaptable; some spring asparagus would be a lovely addition, or shredded chicken. Heck, I even made it with half barley, half farro once, since that was all I had on hand.

One little tip: stir in all the arugula like the recipe says if you’re confident the risotto will be completely eaten in one sitting. But if you’re planning on leftovers, leave the arugula out and just stir a handful into each serving. Then when you reheat a portion for lunch the next day, add fresh arugula to the reheated leftovers until it slightly wilts. The greens stay nice and fresh that way.

Almost as fresh as my bachelorette friend’s dance moves. Almost.

Barley risotto with mushrooms and arugula

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Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Arugula

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until mushrooms start to brown and release their juices. Stir in white wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.

Stir in barley and 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 45-50 minutes, until barley is tender. (Add additional broth during this time if the mixture seems dry.)

Stir in arugula and cook for about 2 minutes, or until wilted. Stir in parmesan and additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well.

Thai Veggie Burgers with Peanut Sauce

I always hesitate to call something a veggie “burger.” After all, a veggie burger isn’t really supposed to taste like a hamburger in the first place. Should it be called a veggie patty instead? Veggie cake? Meatless mass? Scratch that last one.

This veggie burger contains ground chickpeas, but it’s definitely not falafel. (Which is hands-down my favorite word for a bean-based patty.) Whatever it is– and I’m just gonna go with Thai veggie burger– you’ll want to make this recipe soon. The peanut sauce alone is delicious by the spoonful, but it’s even better on top of a nutritious quinoa, oat, and chickpea patty.  (A quinoach patty? No, that’s terrible.)

So while I go off to ponder a more accurate term for veggie burgers, I urge you to give this recipe a try. And it just so happens to be Earth Day, which is a great time to think about ways to reduce our carbon footprints and live more sustainably. (And deliciously!)

Thai veggie burgers with peanut sauce

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Thai Veggie Burgers with Peanut Sauce

Veggie Burgers

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and strained
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 1 egg

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • juice of 1/2 a fresh lime

Toppings

  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • juice of 1/2 a fresh lime
  • hamburger buns
  • chopped peanuts

Assemble burgers: Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff quinoa, and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse together chickpeas, oats, cornmeal, garlic, sesame oil, paprika, and salt, until well combined and finely ground. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in bell pepper, onion, cooled quinoa, and egg, until well combined. Form into six patties.

Make peanut sauce: Whisk together all ingredients until well combined. Set aside.

Prepare toppings: Toss together cabbage, carrots, and lime juice. Set aside.

Cook veggie burgers: Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. In batches, cook the veggie burgers until browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Serve veggie burgers on hamburger buns, with a generous dollop of peanut sauce and sprinkled with peanuts and cabbage-carrot slaw.

Serves 6.

Source: Honey and Figs via Annie’s Eats.

Wheat Hamburger Buns

A few days ago, as I was putting groceries away, I suddenly sensed a peculiar smell in the air. Was something burning? I quickly scanned the kitchen appliances in case I had accidentally left something on during my grocery run. Nope, my kitchen was resting quietly in between shifts.

I turned my nose toward the open (hallelujah!) balcony door, and suddenly it hit me. People were grilling.

It’s been a long, hard, bitterly cold winter in Minneapolis, but finally there’s hope. Birds are chirping, snow mounds are melting, and the days are getting longer. The other night a ladybug flitted onto our screen door and the cat just sat and stared at it, transfixed by the sudden emergence of tiny wildlife.

People are grilling again.

In preparation for my favorite season, the time of sun-drenched cookouts, camping trips, and the acknowledgment that everything tastes better outdoors, I’m sharing my favorite hamburger bun recipe. Sure, you can pick up an eight-pack from the store. But the days are longer now, which means there’s plenty of time for baking. And hamburgers taste so much better on freshly baked buns.

Wheat hamburger buns

Wheat hamburger buns

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Wheat Hamburger Buns

  • 3 Tbs. warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and one of the eggs until well combined. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and gradually add the flours while kneading on low speed. When dough starts to come together, add the butter. Continue kneading for about 6-8 minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky but should form a ball. You can add a little more flour or knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary, but try not to add too much flour as it will make the dough tougher.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1-2 hours. (I usually heat my oven to its lowest temperature and then turn it off to create a warm place for dough to rise.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down dough and divide into eight pieces for large buns, or ten pieces for medium buns. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rest for another 30-60 minutes, or until slightly puffed.

Meanwhile, place a large casserole or metal baking dish filled with water on the lowest rack of the oven, and place the other rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a small bowl, beat together remaining egg with 1 Tbs. water. Brush each bun with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake buns for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Let cool completely on a cooling rack, then slice and serve.

Makes 8-10 buns.

Source: Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Annie’s Eats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart

Peanut butter. Chocolate. Math. Add them together and you get one killer dessert.

Gabe’s youngest brother visited us this weekend and picked a chocolate peanut butter tart as his dessert of choice. But before I could make it, I had to play with ratios.

As many of you know, lactose-free half-and-half is one of my favorite ingredients in the whole world, since it lets me make ice cream and other sweet treats for Gabe. But so far there’s no such thing as lactose-free heavy cream, so I have to modify recipes that call for cream. Generally a one-to-one substitution is not a problem, but the difference in fat content can affect the consistency of things like chocolate ganache.

And since ganache plays a starring role in this dessert, some experimentation was necessary. (I sacrificed myself to science and ate a lot of chocolate.) In the end, the winning ratio of chocolate to milk product was 2:1 instead of the original recipe’s ratio of approximately 1:1. You can certainly use the original amounts of 5 oz. chocolate and 3/4 cup heavy cream, but I’m happy to report that my way worked just as well.

And to continue this math and science-laden post, I made a couple of diagrams to demonstrate how to make pretty peanut butter swirls on top of the tart. Just to prove my liberal arts education comes in handy. Check them out at the bottom of this post. :)

Chocolate peanut butter tart

Chocolate peanut butter tart

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart

Crust

  • 1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. half-and-half

Filling

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate (about 60% cocoa)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

Make the pie crust: In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa and flour. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and salt, and beat until well combined. With mixer on low, add half the flour mixture, then all the half-and-half, and then the rest of the flour mixture until well combined. The dough will be very soft.

Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle shape, and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Once dough is firm, place it on a heavily floured work surface and roll into a 7 by 16-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a 4 1/2 by 14- inch rectangular tart pan and lightly push it down into the bottom of the pan. Trim off any excess dough around the edges and prick the bottom lightly with a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper in the tart pan on top of the dough, and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Place the tart pan on a jelly-roll pan for easier handling and bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are set. Remove foil and beans and bake for another 10 minutes. Let crust cool completely in the tart pan on a wire rack.

Prepare filling: Melt 1/2 cup peanut butter in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Pour peanut butter into the cooled pie crust and freeze for 20 minutes or until set.

Once the peanut butter is set, roughly chop chocolate and place in a medium bowl. Microwave half-and-half just until it comes to a boil, about 30 seconds. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes.

Melt remaining 1/4 cup of peanut butter in microwave and transfer to a small plastic bag. Snip a tiny triangle off the corner so you can use the bag to pipe the peanut butter.

Whisk chocolate and half-and-half until smooth. Pour over peanut butter in the tart pan and lightly smooth with a spatula. Squeeze the peanut butter in the plastic bag and pipe it diagonally across the ganache. Lightly run a toothpick or skewer through the peanut butter in the opposite direction, perpendicular to the piping of the peanut butter. (See diagrams below.)

Let tart chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 8. Slice diagonally into wedges and serve.

Serves 10.

Source: Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart via Annie’s Eats.

pipe peanut butter on tart

Pipe peanut butter diagonally across tart

run toothpick through peanut butter

Lightly run a toothpick through the peanut butter, perpendicular to the original piping

Chocolate Graham Crackers

The idea came to me while I was making ice cream.

A few days prior, I asked Gabe what kind of ice cream he had a hankering for, and he replied, “cookies ‘n’ cream!” So of course I made a whole bunch of chocolate wafer cookies using this recipe, instead of buying oreos to mix into the ice cream. As I was transferring the cookies from the baking sheet to the cooling rack– and a few just happened to make their way into my mouth for quality control– I had a memory, and then an epiphany.

The intensely rich, dark, chocolatey taste of those wafer cookies reminded me of eating chocolate teddy grahams as a little girl. I smiled. And then I thought, “I should make chocolate graham crackers!”

So I studied the tweaks I had made to previous graham cracker recipes, did a little research about cocoa powder, and developed a recipe that was dark and chocolatey but made with 100% whole wheat flour. Something that would taste fantastic on its own but sublime with a dollop of peanut butter. Something to please my taste buds and my conscience. And here it is.

Chocolate graham crackers

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Chocolate Graham Crackers

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together pastry flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Roughly chop the butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and stir on low until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a large bowl and a pastry blender.)

In small bowl or glass measuring cup, stir together honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove dough from fridge and roll out half onto a lightly floured surface, about 1/8-inch thick. With a knife or pastry wheel, slice into 2-inch by 2-inch squares. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and lightly poke with a skewer or other kitchen tool to make a dotted pattern. (Believe it or not, I use the poky side of a meat tenderizer.) Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes, then let cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat with other half of dough.

Makes approximately 4 dozen crackers.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam original, inspired by these cookies and my previous adaptation of a Smitten Kitchen recipe.