Category Archives: Brunch

Maple-Oat Scones with Pecans

First, my apologies. Apparently, the latest version of WordPress has a bug and does not allow media files to be uploaded. Therefore, this will be a picture-less blog post. But I hope you can envision the scones after reading about them!

I went to the dr. recently and discovered that I have hypothyroidism. I knew something was wrong, but I had my TSH tested a year ago and it was normal. It wasn’t until I pressed my dr. to do more thorough tests that my thyroid appeared to be abnormal. It was both a relief and an added stress to find this out. A relief because now I am on medication and hopefully it will help my thyroid, and an added stress because from what I know about thyroid disease, it is extremely hard to treat, and people often times end up taking medication for life.

Because of my hypothyroidism, I’ve gained 10 lbs. in the last 6 months. It’s been very difficult emotionally. I had a very dysfunctional relationship with food throughout most of my life. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started educating myself on how to eat healthier while still enjoying sweets and higher calorie foods in moderation. As a result, I lost 25 lbs. Even then, it took several years not to feel anxious when I would allow myself dessert. I was always scared that I would gain back the weight I worked so hard to lose. Now, over ten years later, going through this has triggered all those old feelings of self-loathing and negative body image. It has affected my self-esteem and the way I carry myself. What’s more, it has severely impacted my relationship with food. I have regressed back to seeing food as the enemy much of the time. I am working very hard on eating healthy as much as possible, while still allowing myself an indulgence when I want it. But I have days when I want to just say, “F*** it. What’s the point if I am going to gain weight regardless of what I eat!” It’s an uphill battle.

I have been on thyroid medication for one week now, and am hopeful that it will treat my hypothyroidism. If not, this may have to be my new normal. I know a lot of women struggle with acceptance surrounding their bodies and weight, so I am not alone in this. It’s just hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On a more positive note, I made scones! And delicious scones they are. I am a big fan of the maple-pecan combination in sweets, so I tweaked one of my favorite scone recipes. It’s from Amy’s Bread, where I currently work. We carry these oat scones every day of the week, but the fruit/nut mixture changes every day. My favorite is the almonds/currants combo. My sister is visiting this weekend, so I thought these would be good with brunch.

Maple-Oat Scones with Pecans
Adapted from Amy’s Bread

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cold, 1/2-inch dice
2 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup, pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

  1. Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the 2 flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda, and process them for 5 seconds, until they are just combined.
  3. Add the butter and process again for 10 to 15 seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of tiny peas. The butter should be suspended in tiny granules throughout the flour, not rubbed into it to make a doughy mass. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and stir in the oats and pecans until they are evenly distributed.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, maple extract, and vanilla extract. Remove 1/3 cup of this mixture and set it aside. Pour the remaining liquid over the dry ingredients and lightly and briefly stir them together, just until everything is barely moistened.
  5. Using your hands, drop free-form portions of dough about 3 1/2 inches in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets. Evenly space 6 scones on each sheet. Using a pastry brush, dab the reserved buttermilk mixture generously all over the tops of the scones and sprinkle them lightly with turbinado sugar (white sugar will work fine if you don’t have this on hand).
  6. Place one pan on each oven rack and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and rotate the pans from top to bottom. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the scones are a deep golden brown on both the top and bottom. A tooth pick inserted in the center of a scone should come out clean. Remove the scones from the pans to cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Bacon, Kale & Tomato Frittatas

L1050516A dear old friend visited last week. We had not seen each other in over 15 years.  15 years. It’s pretty astounding that we’ve kept in touch all these years, seeing as that we initially only spent a few months together back in 1997. I studied abroad in Lancaster, England the spring semester of my junior year. I had no idea what a pivotal experience that would turn out to be for me. College is usually a time of growth and self-exploration for a lot of people, but there is something more acute about living in a foreign country by yourself when you are 20 years old. It’s almost like starting all over again, like the first day of college, except you stand out so much more because you’re a “yankee” and you have to learn new words like “snog” and “bollocks”.

My time in England was where my inner-feminist blossomed, and I’m still not completely sure how or why. While there, I met several smart, interesting young women who would have probably defined themselves as feminists, but it wasn’t something that I remember us specifically talking about. Rather, it was in the subtle ways they lived their lives. They made certain assumptions about being a woman that I found very refreshing. Until then, I had always struggled with my female identity – what it meant to be a woman. I remember coming back home after six months and feeling transformed in so many ways.
L1050505Because it was such an intense inner-growth period for me, the friends that I made during that time are still very dear to me. Stephanie is one of those friends. She now lives in Australia and has a beautiful family. They all came to NYC last week for a visit. I was super excited to see my friend after such a long time, but I surprised myself by getting choked up when we hugged. It was like no time had passed at all, and we picked up where we left off all those years ago.

In my never-ending quest to make healthy recipes (I promise there will be gluttonous recipes to come) I found this one recently and thought it sounded both easy and delicious. Weekday breakfasts can get a bit boring; I’ve been trying to eat more eggs for breakfast during the week, but I was getting tired of scrambled eggs every day. Frittatas are a nice way to change it up. You can essentially add anything you want to them. This recipe calls for bacon, but I substituted hot dogs since we had some in the refrigerator. The frittatas even make a quick and healthy lunch!
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Bacon, Kale & Tomato Frittatas
Adapted from Shape

Yield: 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped, stemmed kale
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 slices bacon, chopped
4 eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Over medium heat, pour the olive oil into a medium-size pan. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes, or until desired level of crispness.
3. Add kale and tomatoes and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, beat together 4 eggs and 4 egg whites. Add Greek yogurt and mix until fluffy.
5. Add bacon, kale and tomatoes to egg mixture.
6. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
7. Divide among 6 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently learned that my cholesterol is dangerously high.  In lieu of going on medication, I decided to actively try and cut out a decent amount of sugar from my diet.  Of course, there will still be plenty of dark chocolate.  I mean, I haven’t lost my mind.  There will ALWAYS be dark chocolate in my life.  What’s more, I have a huge sweet tooth.  Therefore, dessert will always be a part of my life as well, but I needed to find some recipes that incorporate sugar substitutions.   Turns out, there is a lot out there.  For the most part, bananas and dates are the healthiest options when substituting sugar in a recipe.  Although they still contain a decent amount of sugar– like fruit– they also contain fiber, which slows down the rate at which the body absorbs the sugars from the fruit.  Therefore, I have been making A LOT of (healthier) desserts lately to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite things to eat around the holidays is gingerbread-flavored anything.   I love the spices, along with the deep, complex flavor of molasses.  I had a deliciously spicy slice of gingerbread loaf last week from a bakery in Manhattan.  It inspired me to try and give gingerbread muffins a go, but with no sugar (other than the molasses, which I made an exception for).  They turned out really well.  My only complaint is that they are not quite spicy enough.  Therefore, if you really want that bite that you get from a gingersnap cookie, feel free to double the amount of ginger in this recipe.  If you are ok with a milder flavor, these will be perfect for you.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHealthy Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Yield:  22 Mini-muffins

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (sub 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
11/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Candied ginger, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the molasses.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, yogurt, milk, ginger, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  3. Add the olive oil and molasses from step one.
  4. Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and dry spices. Stir a few times until just combined. Scoop into a mini-muffin tin and place a piece of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Bake for 10-12 minutes (if making full-size muffins, bake for 17-20 minutes) or until the tops are puffy and firm to the touch. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Zucchini Bread Pancakes

DSC_6087I ran a 10K a few weekends ago.  It was the first one I’ve run in 2 1/2 years.  A friend of mine gave me her spot in the race, so I took it as an opportunity to try and push myself.  My workout routine became very slack over the summer months– that and perhaps too many sweets­­– which resulted in my pants being tighter than they should be.   So it felt good to have a goal to work towards.  I did a lot of running intervals on the treadmill at 6 a.m., and subsequently, remembered what it was like to feel euphoric after a good workout.   Things went along pretty smoothly over the course of my 4 weeks of training, even though I knew I might be pushing myself more, and faster, than I should be.   However, on my last long run before the race, I hit a wall.  I don’t know what happened, but I had to stop and walk several times.  My legs felt like lead.  It was a horrible run, and I felt really shitty about it.  In retrospect, I might have been focusing too much on my speed.  Afterword, I tried to reassure myself that a less-than-stellar run was o.k.  Despite my anxiety about the upcoming race, I told myself to focus on going slow and running the entire 10K, and not worry about my finishing time.
DSC_6078I woke up at 5:30 a.m. that Sunday morning and headed into Manhattan.  I tried to shake off any lingering doubts about my recent running performance.  I repeated a mantra:  Slow and steady; just finish.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was just coming up, and there was a cool breeze coming off the Hudson River.  I ran what I thought was a super-slow pace.  Many, many people passed me.   I just put my head down and kept running.   I felt really good for the entire race.  I figured if I had enough energy towards the end, I would pick up my pace a bit and try to finish strong.   Indeed, I did.  I ran an 11-minute mile, which is a personal best for me.   I was incredibly proud of myself, and my feeling of euphoria lasted the rest of the day.  I remember thinking that I wanted to hold on to this feeling for as long as possible.  If only we could retrieve feelings the way we can pull up a song to elicit a memory.  I hope to remember that feeling when I’m having a crummy day.  As a reward for the 10K, I treated myself to my favorite pancakes in the city at Johnny’s Luncheonette.
DSC_6081Speaking of pancakes (I didn’t even plan that transition!), these zucchini bread pancakes need to go on your Make Immediately recipe list.  Light and healthy, they also scream, “Fall is finally here!”  And the maple yogurt is the perfect topping on these, as straight up maple syrup would be too sweet for these beauties, in my opinion.  Instead, the tang of the yogurt provides a nice complement to the sweet spices.
DSC_6089Zucchini Bread Pancakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield:  10 to 12 pancakes

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons each of milk and plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium zucchini)
1 cup all-purpose flour (half can seamlessly be swapped with a whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Butter or oil, for coating skillet

1. In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in zucchini shreds.
2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini batter, mixing until just combined.
3. Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet on a middle rack.
4. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, melt a pat of butter in pan and swirl it around until it sizzles.
5. Scoop scant 1/4-cup dollops of batter in pan so the puddles do not touch. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two, until golden underneath.
6. Transfer pancakes to prepared pan to keep warm as well as ensure that they’re all cooked through when they’re served. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm.

Broccoli Coleslaw with Bacon and Raisins

DSC_6074The summer after my freshman year of college, a new friend came home with me for the weekend before flying home to Colorado.  I remember being very anxious about her staying with my mom and I.   At some point during my senior year of high school, my mom had to sell our house, and we subsequently moved into a small apartment above her hair salon.  As uncomfortable as I was about this, I was also a self-consumed teenager who probably spent more time thinking about superficial things.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my small town didn’t vary a great deal economically:  most people were somewhere between lower middle class and upper middle class.

After I left for college, my family’s economic standing became more apparent to me.  I went to a private liberal arts college, and the majority of kids were from upper middle class and upper class homes.  Although this divide between the kids who came from money and those of us who were there largely due to financial aid was pretty obvious to me, I tried to not let that get in the way of who I became friends with.  The girls on my dorm floor were all great, and we all got along really well for the most part.  However, I was always very aware of the economic differences between us.  Something as simple as, “Who wants to go to McDonalds for dinner tonight?” would make me extremely uncomfortable; I barely had enough money to buy toiletries.  I rarely, if ever, talked about my economic background my first year of college.  I was too ashamed, and too young to know that it did not define me.
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The girl who came home with me that first weekend after our freshman year was a very sweet and sincere person.  She was actually the very first friend I made at college.  I remember walking across the parking lot with her to the freshman orientation and thinking that Colorado was a long ways from Minnesota.  We had gotten to know each other pretty well that first year, and we had had many quintessential college conversations discussing things like our families, our goals, and our fears.  But still, the thought of her seeing where I lived paralyzed me with fear.  I remember spending a lot of time that weekend watching TV with her, simply because I didn’t know what to say and felt like I needed to explain my situation to her, maybe even apologize for not having a more “comfortable” home.  When I look back now, I wish I could tell my 19-year-old self to be proud of where she is from, and that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

I have come to the conclusion that you can add bacon and raisins to any vegetable, and you will have a delicious, and still fairly healthy, meal.  This coleslaw is no exception.  Make it while it’s still warm enough for a cool salad.
DSC_6075Broccoli Coleslaw with Bacon and Raisins
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  6 servings

6 slices of bacon (4 oz.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt and pepper
1 large head of broccoli (1 1/4 lbs.), cut into bite-size florets and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Set a rack over a baking sheet.  Arrange the bacon slices on the rack in a single layer.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until browned and crisp.  Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the vinegar and sugar; season with salt and pepper.
3.  Add the broccoli, raisins, onion and bacon and toss to coat evenly.
4.  Transfer the coleslaw to a serving bowl.

Orange-Raisin-Rosemary Scones

DSC_5232I think I figured out the key to having a truly enjoyable Christmas:  no expectations.  That may sound cynical, but it’s really not meant to be construed that way.  It’s more of a “less is more” approach to the holiday.  Mr. K and I decided to stay home this year and not make any plans.  I decided to forego even making us a special meal.  Instead, we stayed in our pajamas, watched a couple of movies, I made us a hot dish that was reminiscent of my childhood, and then while Mr. K took a nap I did some baking.  All in all, probably our best Christmas yet.
DSC_5256DSC_5223I have been making anything and everything with rosemary these past few months.  I accidentally bought large bunches of rosemary (twice!) only to come home and discover I already had a large bunch in the freezer.  Therefore, I was saddled with three large bunches of rosemary and determined to not let them go to waste.  I’ve made lemon-rosemary chicken, rosemary shortbread cookies, rosemary focaccia, and these scones.  If you are looking for a scone recipe that balances sweet and savory, try this one.  You can savor them in the morning with a cup of coffee, or make them the accompaniment to your next bowl of soup.

Happy 2015, Everyone!

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Orange-Raisin-Rosemary Scones
Adapted from The New York Times

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Freshly grated zest of 1 orange or tangerine
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1/4 lb. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup raisins
Egg wash (2 large eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
2 tablespoons brown sugar, for sprinkling

1.  Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or use a nonstick pan.
2.  Toss dry ingredients, zest and rosemary together in a large bowl.  Using your fingertips or  pastry cutter, rub butter and flour mixture together just until butter pieces are the size of peas and covered with flour.
3.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in egg and cream.  Mix ingredients together by hand until a shaggy dough is formed.
4.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently mix in raisins, kneading dough and raisins together just until incorporated.
5.  Pat dough into a 3/4-to 1-inch-thick rectangle.  Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out rounds and place them on baking sheet, spaced out.
6.  Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar.
7.  Bake until light golden brown, about 22 minutes; rotate the pan front to back about halfway through.
8.  Let scones cool slightly on the baking sheet.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blueberry Cobbler w. Cheddar Biscuits

DSC_5067I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted on my blog.  I recently started working full-time at a bakery in Manhattan, and I’d forgotten how mentally draining it feels after a busy day at work.  I interact with people all day long, and it is becoming increasingly hectic as we move into our busy season.   I am really enjoying it there, and frankly I’m grateful to have a full-time job in this economy.  But it’s been tricky trying to balance self-care with working full-time again.  I need to get better at learning how to schedule my time.  I think some people call that time management.  I’ve only gone to yoga a few times this month, and recent weekends have consisted mainly of basic requirements i.e. buying groceries, picking up dry cleaning, etc.  The older I get, the more I realize that perhaps I just need to accept the fact that I am the type of person who needs to keep constant lists so as not to forget what it is I need to do and/or want to do in the future.  Oh right!  I enjoy going to movies during the week!  It takes me out of my head, and sometimes even makes me feel things. 

My husband made fun of me the other night.  I was telling him that I felt guilty for bailing on next month’s book for my book club.  “I REALLY don’t like it”, I whined.  “And there are just SO MANY books on my reading list that I can’t be bothered to finish a book if it doesn’t grab me right away.”  He smiled and responded with, “Wow, sounds like you’re grappling with a big problem there.”  And that is why I love him.  He has a way of finding humor in almost anything.  If feeling guilty about not finishing a book is my biggest problem right now, I guess I’m doing ok in the self-care department.  Until I discover a movie that I can’t get through…oh god.
DSC_5054I made this Blueberry Cobbler w/ Cheddar Biscuits recipe at the peak of summer when blueberries were in the ether in this part of the country.  I was craving a baked fruit dessert and this looked tantalizing.  It fell a bit flat and I’m not sure why.  It was neither overly sweet nor too heavy.  It was just kind of bland.  I think I would make it again with a tad more sugar and cinnamon.  That said, you better believe I scraped the blueberries off the biscuits and ate them with homemade granola for added sweetness and crunch.  I couldn’t let the ENTIRE dessert go to waste.
DSC_5056Blueberry Cobbler w/ Cheddar Biscuits
Adapted from How Sweet It is

3 cups blueberries
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

cheddar biscuit topping
2/3 cup all-purpose flour2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
7-8 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a bowl, toss the blueberries with the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon and add them to a 6 or 8-inch oven-safe skillet.
3.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
4.  Add in the butter and mix with a fork, pastry blender or your fingers until the butter is in crumbs and pieces.
5.  Fold in the grated cheese, then stir in the milk and vanilla extract until a dough has come together but is just combined.
6.  Spoon the dough on top of the blueberries.
7.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the topping is set and the blueberries are juicy and bursting.

 

 

Roasted Tomato Croques

DSC_5061I can still remember the sublime experience of eating a Croque Monsieur for the first time.  A friend and I were on holiday traveling through Europe while studying abroad in England.  We took the Chunnel from London to Paris, where we made romantic plans to meet some other friends at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  I knew nothing about serious traveling, let alone traveling with a large backpack the size of another human strapped to your back.  In my 20-year old naiveté, I had no hesitations about traveling through 6 countries in a span of 3 weeks—none of which were English-speaking countries.  I bought my Berkeley Guide Europe ’97 (which still sits proudly on my bookshelf), tightened my rose-colored glasses, and away we went.
DSC_5032I think back on my time traveling around Europe from time and time, and am astounded at how casually I approached everything.  My friend and I arrived in Paris and thought it made the most sense to try and find lodging for the night.  I can’t imagine traveling anywhere in today’s world without first researching prices, neighborhoods, etc., and then BOOKING A PLACE TO STAY.  We nonchalantly began calling hostels listed in our guide from the Paris train station, and eventually found one within our price range.  After a decent night’s sleep (with my passport tied around my neck and tucked into my pajamas), we headed out to explore the City of Lights.
DSC_5040Of course, I was a poor student back then and didn’t really care that I had very little money to spend while traveling.  The important thing was the opportunity to be able to travel to these incredible countries, and not so much what we would be able to afford and not afford to do once we arrived.  My friend and I agreed that since we were on a limited budget, we would stick to eating fruit, baguettes and jam for the majority of our meals—all of which were extremely cheap at any market—and then treat ourselves to one meal per city (roughly every 2-3 days).  Again, for my 20-year-old self, this did not feel like a huge sacrifice.  And it had a huge upside!  Every REAL meal we ate tasted like manna from heaven.  Which brings me to my meal in Paris.  We had been walking around all day, seeing the sights and taking in the sounds while a light mist engulfed the city.  By dinnertime, we were wet, tired and hungry.  We had no idea where to go for a reasonably priced dinner in Paris.  We eventually stumbled upon a brasserie that looked warm, inviting, and best of all, cheap.  I ordered a Croque Monsieur, not because I knew what it was, but because I remember the description mentioning ham and cheese, which sounded familiar to my Midwestern palate.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dish, it is essentially a ham and cheese (usually Emmental or Gruyère) sandwich on white bread.  However, what makes this dish stand out is the béchamel sauce that is added to the sandwich, as well as the extra cheese that is sprinkled on top.  The entire sandwich is then broiled for a minute or two to create a beautifully golden, crunchy crust.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.
DSC_5048I saw this recipe for Roasted Tomato Croques in a recent issue of Food & Wine and immediately tore it out to add to my recipe file.  I’m going to go ahead and call it a summer version of the original, and I really like the fact that it’s an open-face sandwich.  I think open-face sandwiches have virtue, if only because they better highlight the sandwich ingredients instead of hiding them between two pieces of bread.  The original recipe calls for straining the béchamel sauce, but I love onions, thyme, and rosemary, so I decided to leave them in for added flavor.  It also called for pickled peppers, which I did not have on hand (I’m no Peter Piper…sorry—had to), so I simply added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar to each slice of bread before roasting and it did the trick.  I took a bite of these beauties fresh out of the oven and was immediately transported back to that Paris brasserie.  Cue the Edith Piaf….
DSC_5049Roasted Tomato Croques
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield: 15 open-face sandwiches

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 small thyme sprigs, plus 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. rosemary leaves
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt
black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
2 lbs. heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
15 1/2-inch thick slices of sourdough bread
1/2 lb. Gruyère cheese, shredded

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the onion, thyme sprigs, rosemary, mustard and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
2.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 3 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the milk until incorporated and bring to a boil.  Simmer the sauce over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened and no floury taste remains, 7 to 10 minutes.
3.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the tomato slices in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until softened and just starting to brown.
4.  Set a rack on another large rimmed baking sheet.  Arrange the bread in a single layer on the rack and top the slices evenly with the béchamel.  Using a spatula, lay the tomatoes on the béchamel.  Sprinkle with the Gruyère and thyme leaves.  Bake the croques for about 20 minutes, until the tops are browned and the bottoms are crisp.  Transfer to plates and serve hot.

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

DSC_4914I went to Nashville last weekend with my mom and sister to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday.  We had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry Friday night, and I almost didn’t make it due to my original morning flight being canceled.  It was a testament to my determination of not letting things rattle me during the course of the weekend.  I spent the duration of Friday morning on the phone with Delta trying to get on an earlier flight than the 6:30 p.m. flight they rescheduled me for.  I was told to call back every 30-60 minutes and see if any seats had opened up on flights leaving throughout the day.   I succeeded and got on a 1:45 p.m. direct flight.  I immediately took a deep breath and gave myself an internal high-five for not stressing out about it all morning.  Instead, I chose to do everything I could to get myself to Nashville in time for the Opry.

Nashville is an incredible city, and the Opry specifically felt like a mystical place.  I grew up watching Grand Ole Opry shows on television, and I think anything that appeared larger than life to you as a kid always carries some fascination as an adult.  Restless Heart was the first act to perform.  They sang two of their popular hits from the 80’s, and I was immediately transported back to the house we lived in when I was 7 years old.  Although I don’t have a lot of pleasant memories from my childhood, hearing these old songs (particularly with my mom and sister sitting next to me) gave me the warm fuzzies.  It was one of those scenarios where you make a memory within a memory.  Do you know what I mean?  Experiencing the Opry with my mom and sister will always be memorable to me because of the feelings that it stirred up from previous memories.
DSC_4894If you’ve ever been to Nashville you will know that I am not exaggerating when I say that it might just be one of the best food cities in the entire country.  I was prepared to eat some good BBQ, but I was not prepared to be hit over the head with deliciousness at every turn.  I prepared a spreadsheet of recommended restaurants before we left.  I wasn’t messing around.  We went to Jack’s for brisket, mac and cheese, and coleslaw.  I don’t think I left a drop of food on my plate.  The following day we went to Swett’s, which is basically a cafeteria-style restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  Their fried chicken is TO DIE FOR.  I could have easily eaten an entire bucket of chicken, but I wanted to save room for the peach cobbler.  When in Rome, people.  Because of the gluttony that ensued over the course of the weekend I wasn’t too hungry for our last meal Sunday night, but I knew that I wanted something local.  My mom and I decided to split a pulled pork sandwich, which is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches (along with a Cubano).  I’ve never had a pulled pork sandwich where you could actually taste the smokiness in the meat.  I think I moaned with every bite I took.
DSC_4897I love rosemary.  It’s hands-down my favorite herb.  I have yet to pair it with something that doesn’t taste incredible.  Savory cookies are becoming popular here in NYC, and I’ve tried a few over this past year.  They aren’t my favorite thing, but I did try a lemon rosemary sugar cookie a few months ago that was so good I made a mental note to try and find a similar recipe to make for my blog.  I think shortbread is the perfect foil for almost any flavor due the buttery richness of the cookie.  I found a lemon shortbread recipe as well as a rosemary shortbread recipe, so I decided to combine them into one recipe and see how it turned out.   Perfection.  The lemon brightens up the richness of the cookie while the rosemary gives it that nice earthy, herbaciousness that rounds out the overall flavor.  They are the perfect summer cookie to pair with your afternoon coffee or tea.
DSC_4907Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cornstarch
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cube
1 egg white
sugar

1.  Blend first 6 ingredients in food processor.  Add butter; pulse until moist clumps form.
2.  Gather dough into ball.  Wrap with plastic wrap and form into a log.
3.  Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
5.  Cut 1/4″-sized discs from log and place on baking sheet.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each cookie with a slightly beaten egg white.  Sprinkle with sugar.
6.  Bake cookies until light golden, about 17-20 minutes.
7.  Cool pan on rack for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove cookies onto rack with a spatula.  Cool completely.

Nutella Scones

DSC_4843I was feeling very discombobulated last week.  Serving on jury duty in the middle of Long Island meant I had a two-hour commute every morning and evening.  I would leave home at 7 a.m. and not return until almost 7 p.m.  For some people, this might describe a normal day.  Regardless, it is a long day and doesn’t leave much time, if any, for self-care, exercise, etc.  Up until my first week of jury duty, I had been cherishing the fact that I was finally making self-care a routine part of my day.  I recently experienced a mental shift:  instead of dreading yoga, I was looking forward to going to classes twice a week.  So two weeks of not having time for this (or any exercise) left me feeling very frazzled and anxious.

By the time I got home at the end of last week, I realized I was experiencing emotions I hadn’t had in almost 6 weeks.  Nothing seemed to sate my overwhelming feelings—I wanted to eat garbage and didn’t care what it tasted like.  I tried a few bites of several different things but nothing seemed to fill the void.  That should have been my first sign that something was off.  I felt like a foreigner in my own body.  I thought some mindless television might do the trick, but I tried a few of my favorite sitcoms and that didn’t numb the pain either.  It’s a very helpless sensation when you can’t figure out what it is you need in a specific moment.  It’s like trying to figure out what a crying baby needs, but you’re the baby and you feel like you should know what your 38-year-old self needs or wants.  I eventually curled up in bed with a book and decided to take some deep breaths to quiet my mind.
DSC_4819I reminded myself that the crazy two weeks were over and that my normal schedule would resume next week.  I really wanted to beat myself up for feeling so thrown-off after just two weeks of not having any free time.  But I stopped myself.  Given the circumstances, I think I did a pretty good job of staying centered.  I ate healthy and focused on maintaining a positive outlook despite the horrible things I was listening to every day in the courtroom.  I went to yoga class Saturday morning and, man, was it hard.  I felt a lot of anger doing many of the poses, but I told myself I was detoxifying all of the feelings from the previous two weeks.  I let the anger rise to the surface and then watched it disappear.  And that is one of the things I love so much about yoga:  it forces you to stay present and not react to feelings as they arise.  By the time class was over, I felt reset and ready for the weekend.
DSC_4824I love Nutella, and believe it would taste good on or in almost any baked good, so I was eager to try this recipe.  It’s another one from the Baked cookbook.  I’ve had much success with the recipes of theirs I’ve tried thus far, so I was confident that this would be yet another recipe victory.  However, I thought these were just mediocre.  Although, my disclaimer is that I’m not a huge scone fan so that might be part of it.  Mr. K, on the other hand, loves these scones.  He thinks I am crazy for giving them a so-so rating.  Perhaps they just needed to be slathered with a bit more Nutella and I would have come around on these.  Let me know what you think!
DSC_4827Nutella Scones
Adapted from Baked Explorations

Yield:  6 to 8 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Nutella

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until combined.
3.  Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and cream.
5.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough just comes together.  Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands.  Add the toasted hazelnuts and knead gently  to incorporate.
6.  Flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 6 to 12 inches and spread 1/4 cup of the Nutella on top in a crisscross pattern.  Roll the dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4 inches high.  Do not overwork the dough.
7.  Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
8.  Bake the scones for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.  Do not overbake.
9.  Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble the Nutella Scones
1.  Heat the remaining 1/4 cup Nutella in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds on high.
2.  Pierce the tops of the scones a few times with a fork.  Use a spoon to drip the warm Nutella in a zigzag pattern over the tops of the hot scones.
3.  Transfer them to a refrigerator to set for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.