Brownies

This recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction and it makes extremely delicious brownies.

One of my nutritional goals is to make as much as possible at home, and to buy as little in boxes as possible. Instead, I have adapted to keeping a pantry with basic ingredients that can combine to make anything. Instead of 8 boxes for different purposes, I have one bag of flour and 1 container of salt. Baking soda. Sugar. Vanilla. Elemental ingredients are much more versatile than pre-made mixes for specific things-they can be utilized for anything.

Baking is interesting because it feels much more like a chemistry experiment than regular cooking. An improvisational style isn’t welcome with baked goods unless you’ve already mastered ratios, and have a full & complete understanding of what exactly happens to each ingredient when combined. If you mix things in a different order, you will get a different result. The eggs need to be whipped a certain way, flour must not be over-mixed, and sugar is considered a liquid ingredient. It’s quite exciting to end up with a perfectly textured, delicious result, but things can go awry all too easily. The important thing to remember when baking is that, as a beginner, you are more of a chemist than an artist. The flair and flourishes come later.

These brownies are the first I tried to make on my own and they are everything a brownie should be. Easy to make and extremely easy to eat. I found the recipe looking for a new raspberry dessert recipe, and found Sally’s Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies. Those are probably the greatest things on the planet, but I’ve only worked with plain chocolate thus far…

brownies

Brownies
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 6 – 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
• 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 3/4 cup flour
• 1/4 tsp salt
• Optional: 1 tsp fresh coffee grounds
• Optional: walnuts

1. Chop chocolate. It is okay to cut semi-sweet chocolate with unsweetened chocolate. This goes against the chemistry thoughts earlier, but a couple ounces of unsweetened chocolate with a 4 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate comes out okay. I tossed in about an extra tablespoon of sugar for this.
2. Add to bain-marie with butter, mixing constantly over medium heat until liquified. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Stir sugar into butter & chocolate mixture until combined.
4. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition
5. Fold in flour and salt. If you are adding coffee, walnuts, or whatever other tasty objects you have in mind, sprinkle into mix at this step.
6. Butter and flour a square baking dish. Pour batter in and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, depending on your oven. If they are still not finished but seem to be getting dry around the edges, cover with foil until finished.

Jalapeño Corn Dip

This tastes suspiciously, surprisingly similar to the dip make with Velveeta and Ro-tel. Ro-tel would probably be quite good here, though it would create more of a salsa than a dip. Either way, this is SO good and is a nice way to avoid plastic cheese without sacrificing the general spirit of party food.

jalapeno dip
• 1 can creamed corn
• 2 Jalapeño peppers, minced
• 2 T minced onion
• 1/4 can black beans
• 1/2 c cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, Italian mix)
• 1 T sour cream

1. Over low heat, combine ingredients. Mix until warm, adding more of whichever ingredients you’d like to add. More jalapeños for spice, more cheese if you’re dangerous that way–whatever is most delicious :)
2. Serve with homemade corn tortilla chips* and a smorgasboard of Tex-Mex creations

*(Just cut a corn tortilla and fry in vegetable oil for a few seconds. Dry on a paper towel, then add sea salt. Wheat flour tortillas are good too, for a smoother flavor)

Tuna Melt

tuna melt

• 1 can tuna
• Bread, a roll, or a bagel
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 T minced shallots (or your chosen onion)
• 1 T lemon juice, more depending on taste
• 2 tsp olive oil
• 1/8 tsp or just a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp pepper
• dash salt
• parmesan cheese, parsley
• pickles, onions, muenster cheese, tomato, and/or other toppings/accoutrement

1. Set broiler to low and heat bread. In small bowl, whisk an egg yolk, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, and herbs. Whisk or blend until it thickens slightly. It will not be super thick, but that’s okay.

2. Flip bread so that it is softly toasted on both sides. Add tuna and shallots to egg mixture and blend.

3. Remove bread from oven, then spoon tuna mixture on top. Sprinkle with extra shallots and/or parmesan cheese. Broil on high for 2 or 3 minutes, until edges of bread begins to darken. Garnish with dried parsley and serve immediately.

Tomato & Bread Salad

tomato bread salad
This is an extremely delicious alternative salad from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz. As its just a melange of ingredients, its very easy to customize– I decreased the quantity of most everything to feed two people and made some substitutions (red pepper, shredded cheese) for ingredients I didn’t have that day (cucumber, feta). It keeps well in the fridge, with the bread getting only slightly more saturated, and is really good the next day.

• 4c bread
• 1tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 1/4tsp coarse salt
• Black pepper
• 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
• 6T red wine vinegar
• 2/3c extra virgin olive oil
• 8 medium tomatoes
• 1 cucumber
• 3/4c pitted black or kalamata olives
• 1 onion
• 1 packed cup of fresh basil, mint, and flat-leaf parsley (mixed together)
• 1/2 lb feta cheese

1. Cut bread into cubes and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning periodically for full coverage.
2. In serving bowl, whisk mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil.
3. Slice tomatoes and other veggies in half and squeeze out juice. Cube.
4. Add vegetables to bowl with dressing. Mix in herbs and bread pieces and toss well.
5. Crumble cheese on top and serve.

Zucchini Carpaccio

zucchini

• All the zucchini
• salt & pepper
• olive oil
• balsamic vinegar
• pecorino, romano, &/or parmesan cheese

1. Peel and slice (as thin as possible) zucchini. Season on both sides with s&p. Drizzle with olive oil.
2. Broil 8 minutes. Remove carefully, arrange in a pretty fan. Drizzle remaining oil from pan, balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with pecorino/parmesan cheese and fresh parsley (we don’t have that in our garden but it was tasty without :) ).

This is from the inspiring Eric Ripert, from his series Avec Eric (which I love endlessly). Here he demonstrates how to make this in a toaster oven: http://bit.ly/1eCXplO

Orzo with Mushroom and Swiss Chard

orzo
• 1c orzo
• 4c water
• 1c stock mushroom stems*
• a tiny tomato from your garden that makes no sense in any other dish
• Swiss chard
• garlic, thyme
1. Boil orzo in water about 10 minutes
2. Strain water, add stock, mushrooms, tomato, and spices. Boil until most liquid is absorbed. Add Swiss chard right before removing from heat.
((*mushroom caps were stuffed with blue cheese (broil 5-10m))

Custard Filling & Fruit Tarts

Tartsfig

Custard Filling
•2c (vanilla almond) milk
•2 beaten eggs
•2/3c sugar
•1/2c flour
•pinch salt
•1t vanilla
•1TB butter

1. Warm milk on medium heat
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add eggs and combine, beating well
3. Add slowly to milk, stirring with whisk.
4. If needed, add more flour- I added an extra half cup. You can also add flavors like extracts, cocoa, or citrus zest
5. Stir, cool, eat some, then fill desserts

Above tarts were made with boxed pie crust and custard leftover from cream puffs.

  • The fruit tarts have a raspberry jam glaze as I was out of apricot (just microwave for a few seconds then paint on).
  • Fig tarts: top custard with roasted figs, which are sliced in half, coated with a thin layer of brown sugar and rosemary leaves, then baked at 400/450 degrees until the sugar has caramelized.
  • Mini Apple Pies: mix diced apple, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, then paint with milk and sprinkled with sugar.