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.
Hi! I’m so excited to FINALLY publish this recipe!
This past week has been completely crazy! I flew to New York to meet and cook with Bobby Flay at his restaurant! Whattt?! I know! My dessert was selected by Fage Total Greek Yogurt to be served at their event. They transformed Bobby’s restaurant Mesa Grill into a beautiful Pop-up Plain Kitchen restaurant.
I’m so happy that I was able to be apart of it! I can’t express how blessed I feel. I met some fabulous food editors, Fage’s PR team (Mullen!), and of course, Bobby. He was incredibly sweet and complimented me on how delicious this cheesecake was. We also made a spice-crusted lamb, which was by far my favorite entree of the evening!
BUT THE CHEESECAKE?! Can we just talk about it? It’s a dense, smooth, chocolate-wasted cheesecake that I want to live in for the rest of my life. I’m SERIOUS. Oh and not to mention that it has a creamy, rich chocolate hazelnut butter (Nutella) ganache, toasted hazelnuts, and sea salt.
Welp, it’s Monday. I have a lot of things that I need to share with you. So let’s just get to it!
1. I got an iPhone. My life has officially changed… I don’t know if it’s for the better since I’m pretty obsessed. This weekend my godson downloaded like 5 ninja apps. He also read my texts. Yes, quite entertaining. Oh and obviously I now have Instagram. I basically just take photos of food, brown butter, and things that don’t matter. SO COOL, right? Wrong.
2. I’m headed to NYC this week! Eeeek! Can you believe that I’ve never been before? I am SO excited. I’ll only be there a few days, but trust me,you are going to want to see the recap. We’re staying in the Trump tower! I also really need some incredible restaurant recommendations so send them my way puhhhlease?
3. My birthday is in like, a month and 10 days… but who’s counting? ANYWAY due to this immediate holiday coming up, I have to start thinking about what I really want to do. I have concluded that I need an incredible meal, followed by a HOMEMADE pumpkin pie served with real whip cream. Really, it’s all I want. Or a trip to Greece. Either one would work.
4. That being said, Thanksgiving is soon. There will be epic desserts on this blog in the next coming weeks. Bear with me as we expand our waistlines… OR you could just make the recipes for other people and give them yoga pants for Christmas.
5. This HUMMUS needs to be made by you. Also bonus points if you make homemade pita chips and eat it for breakfast because you know that’s what I did. I have to thank the fabulous Giada for the inspiration. I have to thank myself for slathering it over everything in sight.
My basil plant is still producing huge leaves, so I decided that it was time to use them up. Holy italian-hummus-love this is GOOD. The basil, garlic, and white bean hummus makes the perfect appetizer and is pretty great on just about anything.
Hummus on sandwiches. Hummus for breakfast. Hummus snacking is totally good. I would know, I dipped carrots, snowpeas, and every veggie imaginable in it. At one point I contemplated putting it on a granola bar, but decided that was taking it too far. But I don’t know. It might still happen.
Oh and the whole making your own pita chips thing? Probably the easiest thing you could ever do. I usually buy the 100 calorie whole wheat pita bread. Western Bagelmakes an amazing high-fiber, lower-carb pita bread, but feel free to use any you like!
I’ve been getting a lot of emails or questions on Facebook from you guys. Some of these really make me laugh! I try my best to respond to each and every one. But I thought it would be easier if I addressed some of them here.
1. Why do you always use dark brown sugar in your recipes? Especially your cookie recipes?
Because it’s awesome. Well, actually dark brown sugar has a stronger content of molasses compared to light brown sugar, therefore it’s a tiny bit sweeter. I will often use it in banana bread as I feel that you can use less sugar in the recipe. When I bake cookies I prefer to use brown sugar vs. granulated sugar as it tends to produce a chewier, more flavorful cookie.
2. Do you have any great dessert recipes that my boyfriend will like?
I have come to realize that men love a couple of things: anything with buffalo sauce, chocolate, OR brown butter. Follow that and you are golden. I’ve got an apple crisp recipe coming to you later this month that my guy friend says it’s unbelievable. Watch for it and make it for your man. Baking for boys is a dangerous thing because if you’re really good at it, they’ll probably fall in love with you.
3. I’m a single parent and I need easy dinners that are healthy for my kids, what can I make?
Read this: How to Get Kids to Eat Better. Start planning and preparing ahead of time. It will make things a lot easier! I’m not a parent, but I do have a lot of experience working with children. I believe in introducing tehm to new foods, being creative, and most importantly, having fun!
I was planning on giving you a recipe for hummus today, but after making these brownies I knew that I had to share them with you immediately! In fact after I ate half of the pan for dinner, I’m quite certain that these brownies are some of the best I’ve ever had.
I don’t even feel guilty about getting chocolate wasted with these bad boys.
I had heard about black bean brownies before, so I’ve been experimenting for a few weeks with various recipes and came up with this to surprise and delight you.
After baking these, I stood there smiling with chocolate all over my face because I had finally perfected a recipe for fudgy healthy brownies that taste AMAZING. Yeah, okay I know you’re doubting me right now. You might even think I’m super weird (which I totally am).
How was your weekend? I know it’s Tuesday, but I feel like we can spend a little time reminiscing.
Mine was of course filled with food. I made Lobster Bisque for the first time; it was soooooo creamy and wonderful with a garlic ciabatta. On Sunday one of my best friends and I went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant where I ordered a skinny margarita and major amounts of chips and salsa. With the amount of political advertisements on the TV, sometimes margaritas are necessary.
Today though, I wanted to share with you another one of my obsessions. You know the latest and greatest.
I’ve been really into this sandwich for the past week or so. Okay actually I dream about this sandwich everyday. I make it for breakfast nearly every morning, and sometimes I have it for dinner too. I’ve been calling it the ‘power breakfast sandwich’ because of how healthy it is. The flavors are fresh, and I simply adore the creamy avocado and slices of tomato topped with fluffy egg whites and bits of sea salt and pepper. Yesterday I even added a little fresh basil on top.
It’s completely simple, isn’t it? In fact, I can’t believe I’m blogging about it. But… it’s sooooo good!