I was just thinking about how much has changed this past year. I mean isn’t it a bit exhilarating how fast life happens? We’re learning tough truths, letting go of the things that are out of our control, and heck, we’re growing and changing!
Last year I was working on the east coast. I barely had any time to blog and was struggling with what I wanted to do with my life. I referred to it as my early quarter life crisis. It was like when Felicity had to choose Ben or Noah, and decided to become an artist (seriously, go buy all the seasons of Felicity). Anyway, it wasn’t until I was completely lost did I discover my passion that I absolutely had to pursue. It was so obvious at that point: food is the recipe to my heart and happiness! I love creating it, photographing it, and eating it.
I know I talk a lot about following your dreams and living your passion, but that’s because I completely believe in it! Helping you, whether it’s in your kitchen or in your life is essentially apart of my success.
Today’s success comes in the form of soup. A soup that I’m completely in love with. Of course, I’m in love with a lot of things, but simple soup fills me up with contentment. Adding crispy lime and salt studded corn tortilla chips on top just makes it that much better.
When I fall in love, I’m head over heels. I’m the type of person who can’t get enough of a good thing.
And today I’m introducing you to the recent love of my life: brown butter.
I think it will be particularly helpful, as many of my cookie recipes use brown butter.
What is brown butter?
Brown butter is a crazy good thing. No really crazy freaking good. Basically unsalted butter is melted in a saucepan which separates the butter and milk. The milk from the butter sinks to the bottom of the pan, which essentially browns and turns a caramel color. The french call is beurre noisette, which translates to hazelnut butter. I believe it’s called this because once the butter is brown, it gives off a nutty aroma. I love it from the bottom of my heart… obviously.
This past weekend I attended Mixed Conference, my very first food blogging conference. OH.MY.GOODNESS it was full of food, fun, and new friends! Huge shout out to Lucky Leaf for sponsoring me to attend!
I began my trip with a short pit stop for a few days in Boston where I was visiting a friend from Australia. We had the best time; I can’t wait to share more photos with you soon! After that I jetted to Roanoke, VA in a tiny plane. A little frightening, but I made it! From there we took a shuttle to Mountain Lake Resort & Hotel, where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. The original movie was filmed before I was born, so I was a little clueless but whatever… if there’s food, I’m there.
When I arrived there was a huge pile of Hershey’s candy on my bed. I wanted to throw them in the trash (for obvious reasons) but decided to eat all of the ones with fillings because that seemed like a compromise. You know because not eating all of the candy is excusable in some weird way… it’s kind of like when you tell people, ‘well I only had half of my giant double cheeseburger’. Okay and plus, peppermint patties and Reese’s peanut butter cups are dear to my heart.
During my younger years, my Mom used to bring me along to grocery store while she went shopping. I was always excited to go on these weekly trips because I knew she would buy me the crispy wedge fries from the Deli counter. They were incredibly delicious and basically everything you need in your life at the age of four. Especially when you’ve got ketchup to dip them in.
I specifically remember the fries having this incredible crunchy golden brown coating on the outside with a hint of spice. But the inside? Pure bliss. An incredibly soft texture that I still remember to this day. We called them Joe-Joes; I’m still not really sure why.
Anyway there I’d be sitting and snacking delightfully on my little bag of Joe-Joes with a little (or A LOT) of ketchup all over my hands and face. I was probably grinning ear to ear.
Is it wrong that I kind of want to do that again? Probably. Well because adults don’t sit in shopping carts, nor do they have messy faces or hands.
Growing up is tough guys… especially when you grow out of eating joe-joes. However, I’ve realized that fries can be so much better with flavor combinations that could fill up an entire book and dipping sauces that are completely creative.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, our ovens will continue to warm. Butter, flour and sugar will be tossed in bowls. Cookies will fill our bellies. Our hearts will sing with love and our faces will fill with laughter. And the gift giving will begin! Oh but what to give this year? You don’t have money to spend, and you’re not sure what your friends will like. Well, I have a super tasty solution that won’t be forgotten.
Banana bread! Yes, seriously!
It’s goes a little something like this: here I baked you something from scratch. I put a bunch of love and bananas into a bowl, added flour and a smidgen of other things. No really, I did! Then I popped it in the oven for an entire hour, just staring through the window with the oven light on, waiting patiently for that dang bread to rise and turn that gorgeous golden brown. Wait, and then you know happened? Well I resisted eating an entire loaf just so I can bring it over to YOU. You know, so YOU could eat the entire loaf and experience the happiness that occurs after shoveling three slices in your mouth. Yeah, that’s love right there; resisting freshly baked banana bread.
Sure banana breads are simple… but they’re GOOD. And actually quite perfect paired with freshly brewed coffee or a glass of wine. You see, people don’t forget banana breads. People DO forget what movie you bought them or that gift card you handed over.
Here are some of my favorite banana breads to make AND an intro to some of my favorite kitchen baking accessories:
Healthy Coconut Banana Bread.One of my favorites! Made with greek yogurt, a splash of orange juice and coconut. This bread is tropical and gorgeous. WAIT, and there are only about 120 calories per slice! My advice? Buy this awesome Wilton Excelle Elite 4-Cup Mini Loaf Pan! You can totally make a couple of mini loafs and keep one for yourself. My friend Courtney has some pretty ideas for Holiday gift wrapping on her blog Pizzazzerie!
Soup is one of my favorite things during the cold winter months. I literally dream about the days where I can sit with a good book, a cup of soup, and a slice of crusty bread to soak up all that warm comfort left on the bottom of my bowl.
And of course in between eating pie for breakfast (there were leftovers!) and shoveling Christmas cookies in my mouth; my soul craves soup. Perhaps because it’s the only thing that isn’t made up of purely sugar and butter. Goodness, my body needs a break from that. And this soup? Well, it leaves me full, warm, and richly satisfied.
The butternut squash is roasted in the oven to bring out it’s natural sweetness. Meanwhile the apples, carrots and onions are sauteed with a bit of cinnamon. Lastly the maple and milk are added. The soup is easily pureed into a fairly thick and creamy delight which ends up being quite delicious paired with croutons, or a warm crusty bread for dipping.
It’s really quite perfect in between those overindulgent family get-togethers, cookies exchanges, and peppermint lattes.
I hope you all had a magical Thanksgiving full of good food and major amounts of pie to put a smile on your face. Sorry I have been so busy lately traveling that blogging has been difficult.
My thanksgiving was lovely and full of laughter. We had roasted turkey, green bean casserole, blueberry brie cheese over Italian crackers, sour cream mashed potato, and an incredible sweet potato casserole with an oatmeal pecan brown sugar streusel. Three days later, I’m still not sick of leftovers.
I wish I would have snapped photos of how beautiful everything turned out, but I was too busy running around the kitchen and enjoying time spent with good people. However, I have to admit that I tried to make some of the dishes healthy because I knew that I had to have dessert; which on Thanksgiving is actually more like my main meal. This year’s included a ridiculous chocolate ganache pie with a toasted marshmallow topping and this stupidly good apple crisp served warm and topped with vanilla bean ice cream.
I was in a food coma for a good 36 hours.
Obviously worth it.
A couple of months ago Joanna of A Cup of Jo asked me if I would create a recipe for her basic food series. Of course, I said yes!
At first I wasn’t sure which recipe I would share, but since I’ve been making the best apple crisp for years, I knew that this was truly sensational It’s also one of my most requested recipes and for some reason, men can’t seem to get enough of it. Have I mentioned that baking for men is totally romantic? You must try it out.
This recipe always makes me fall in love with the simplicity of apple crisp all over again. I love when that happens.
Brown butter, vanilla bean, bourbon, and an incredible oat crisp in this recipe will knock your socks off. There’s also a bit of almonds in the topping, but you can use pecans or omit completely – it’s up to you.
Oh yes I did put bourbon in this crisp, because baking with bourbon is just freaking awesome. Go ahead, try the recipe and you’ll taste the difference. PROMISE.
I truly can’t seem to put into words how fantastic this apple crisp is though. Everyone always asks me for this recipe, and I’m sure they’ll ask you, too! It’s best served warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
For the filling:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 medium-sized Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. bourbon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease an 8x8 baking pan.
To make the topping: Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and almonds in a large bowl until well-combined. Add in the pieces of butter and use your hands to squeeze and combine until the mixture becomes crumbly and resembles wet sand. (Alternatively, you can cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or place all of the topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse until just blended. My favorite method is to use my hands, as I believe you get the best crumbly topping that way.)
Once finished, place topping in the fridge and begin making the apple filling.
To make the filling: Place butter and seeds from the vanilla bean in a medium saucepan, and turn heat on medium. After a couple of minutes the butter will begin to crackle and foam—make sure you whisk consistently during this process! Another minute or two, and you will notice the butter turning a slight brown (caramel) color on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent it from burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
While the butter is cooling, place apples, 1/3 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and bourbon in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the brown butter to this apple mixture and toss again to combine.
Take a heaping ½ cup of the topping mixture and toss with the apple mixture. Place the apple mixture in prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with topping. It may seem like a lot of topping, but the apples will cook down and the topping will provide an excellent crunchy exterior.
Bake the crisp on a baking sheet (just in case the filling bubbles over!) for 55-60 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
Feel free to use different nuts instead of almonds—or leave out nuts completely. If you don’t have bourbon on hand, you can use whiskey, or replace with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.