Sea Salt & Chocolate Chip Blondies

These recent bouts of winter flurries have only one upside in my opinion: an excuse to do lots and lots of baking. Needless to say, my kitchen has been a buzz with activity. From almond cakes to cookies, there have been plenty of sweet treats to go around. But I have to say that my favorite baking creation was most definitely a batch of sea salt blondies. Chewy and sweet on the inside and crunchy and salty on the outside, these delectable blondies are the ultimate dessert to curl up with on a snowy afternoon.

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(Slight adapted from one of my favorite foodie blogs, Alexandra’s Kitchen)

Note: This recipe works best in a 9 x 9 pan and yields 16 blondies.

 

Ingredients:

1 stick (8 oz) of unsalted butter

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

1 tsp of kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling

2 eggs

1 and ½ cups of packed light brown sugar

1 and ½ tsp of vanilla extract

½ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line the pan with parchment paper.

Next is the tricky part, browning the butter. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter melt, occasionally mixing with a wooden spoon, until there are tiny bubbles forming. Right before the mixture turns brown the bubbles at the surface will become very small and start appearing rapidly – watch carefully to make sure the butter does not burn. The whole process should take approximately 10 mins. When the butter has browned, remove the pan from the heat and allow the butter to cool.

blondie batter

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and then whisk together and  set aside.

In another bowl, beat together the eggs, brown sugar, the browned butter and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

Add the dry mixture to the wet and stir until they are combined. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the mixture into the pan and sprinkle liberally with extra salt. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until you can cleanly insert and remove a knife into the blondies. Allow the blondies to cool before serving.

blondiesplate

Happy baking!

Kind of Authentic Veggie Tofu Lo Mein

Lo mein is a satisfying meal any time of day, I mean who doesn’t love their noodles and vegetables drenched in soy and sriracha sauce? My ever-lasting love of Chinese noodles led me – after a lot of searching – to conjure this easy and almost authentic recipe for lo mein. I can personally vouch that this recipe beats waiting for take-out and most definitely satisfies my noodle cravings!

bird eye lm

(Side note: this recipe is adapted from two recipes; one from Food & Wine magazine and one from Kelsey’s essential’s recipe)

Ingredients:

8 oz. of Chinese noodles or linguine
1 package of extra firm tofu (around 1 pound)
3+ tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 teaspoons of minced ginger
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
3 scallions chopped into small pieces
2 heads of bok choy, chopped up as well

Sauce:
1 and 3/4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
5 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons of Chinese oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of cold water

Directions:

  • Begin by cutting up the tofu into 1 inch squares and then heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of minced ginger and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat and stir 30 seconds. Next add the tofu and stir-fry until the tofu becomes a golden brown color, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. After the tofu is done cooking, take off the heat and set aside for later.

tofu

  • While the tofu is cooking, chop up the scallions, red pepper and bok choy. Then heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil along with the rest of garlic and ginger over medium heat in the pan, and add in the vegetables and bean sprouts and continue to stir fry for  7 to 8 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.

vwok

  • Boil water for the noodles (Chinese noodles only take about 4 minutes. to cook) and while the water is boiling, prepare the sauce. Combine the chicken broth, remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and sriracha sauce in a medium bowl and whisk until all ingredients are combined. In a smaller bowl, mix together the cornstarch and water, and then dribble the cornstarch mixture into the sauce , all the while continuing to mix. When the cornstarch mixture is fully integrated into the sauce, pour the sauce over the vegetables and with the pan still on medium heat, continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken, and when the sauce is thick, turn the heat down to low.
  • When the noodles are finished cooking, add them along with the tofu to the pan with the vegetables and toss together. I added a little more garlic, soy sauce and sriracha sauce for extra flavor but that final seasoning is of course up for discussion.

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Like any other Chinese dish, these noodles taste best the next day, bon appetite!

Berrylicious Flax seed Muffins

The challenge: To incorporate flax seeds ­– otherwise known as the new wonder food for its high contents of omega-3s, lignans and fiber – into a dish or baked good and have it taste, well, edible.

The Problem: Flax seed in its natural form is not the most appetizing ingredient, and after having tried it in juice and cereal, I was not sold, despite all the nutritious advantages.

The Solution: Alas, finally a solution: using milled flax seed (which is much better than the actual seeds) in an Ina Garten recipe for berry muffins. The combination of milled flax seed with Ina’s irresistible berry muffins proved to me that all the health benefits from flax seeds can be achieved without compromising taste and texture of your food.

muffin tray

Ingredients:

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ cups milk

2 large eggs

2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted

2 cups of frozen blueberries, raspberries and blackberries

1 ¾ cups of sugar

1/3 cup of milled flax seeds

Directions: (adapted from Ina’s recipe for Tri-Berry Muffins)

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line muffin tins with paper or foil liners.
  • Thoroughly mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flax seed together in a large mixing bowl. In a medium mixing bowl, stir the eggs, milk and melted butter together until you have a light and foamy mixture. Then, create a well in the middle of the dry mixture and carefully drizzle the wet mixture in. Stir well until the wet and dry mixture are evenly combined (its okay to have a few lumps!)

mixing bowl

  • Toss in the berries and carefully stir into the rest of the batter.
  • Using an ice cream scooper, transfer the batter into the muffin tins, and fill almost to the top of each tin.

muffin tin

  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife can be cleanly inserted into the middle of the muffin and the tops are a nice shade of golden brown.

muffin - side view
Serve warm or at room temp and enjoy a carefully disguised serving of flax seeds!

What to bake on a snow day?!

Well the answer is clearly to bake chocolate chip and sea salt cookies! The other day I woke up to several inches of fluffy white snow covering my yard, and I instantly knew that it was a day to bake chocolate chip cookies, which are the ultimate cold weather food if you ask me.

cookie 2

I had the idea in motion, so all I was missing was the recipe (a minor detail). After some searching, I stumbled across a fabulous recipe in one of my favorite foodie blogs, My Daily Morsel, where chef Riley dazzles her readers with her mouth-watering recipes and irresistible photographs.

With a little of this and a dash of cinnamon, I adapted Riley’s sea salt and chocolate chip cookie recipe to make the perfect snow day treat.

Ingredients:

2 cups + 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour

¾ teaspoons of baking powder

¾ teaspoons of baking soda

½ teaspoon of kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling

2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup of light brown sugar

½ cup and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

2 eggs

1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips

cookie dough

Directions:

  • Line several sheets with parchment paper (I used four sheets)
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of salt with a whisk in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Beat together the butter, both of the sugars and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. One at a time, incorporate the eggs and blend well after each egg at low speed. Next, in three batches add the flour mixture and continue using the mixer on low speed.  Fold in the chocolate chips, a ½ cup at a time.
  • Chill the cookie dough in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
  • Set the oven to 350 degrees and remove the cookie dough from the fridge.
  •  Next, using an ice cream scooper form the cookie dough into small balls and place them several inches apart on the baking sheet. Then using the palm of your hand, flatten the balls into round circles.
  • Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of salt and put into the over for 12 minutes or until the edges are crunchy and golden brown and the middle puffs up. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes.

cookie
Eat cookies with a cold glass of milk and enjoy!

Almond & Cinnamon Rice Pudding

After making several batches of soupy rice pudding, all of which found their fate down the garbage disposal, I had almost given up all hope of making my own rice pudding until I finally stumbled upon a magical rice pudding recipe using almond milk in Food & Wine magazine.

rice front

One of several reasons that I love this recipe is that it substitutes almond milk for heavy cream, which retains the flavor and texture needed for a good rice pudding without the excess calories.

With just a few ingredients needed, this recipe is a fail-proof way to make scrumptious pudding.

Ingredients:

7 cups of unsweetened almond milk

1 and ½ cups of jasmine rice

1/3 cup of granulated sugar

A pinch of kosher salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Extra cinnamon for serving

In a large saucepan, set the heat on low and add the rice, sugar, salt and 1 cup of milk to the pan. Stir the rice and milk with a wooden spoon for 7 minutes or until the milk is absorbed.

rice & sugar

Keep the heat on low and slowly add 5 more cups of almond milk to the rice, pouring in ½ a cup of milk at a time. After all the 5 cups of milk has been added, sprinkle in the cinnamon and vanilla extract. Allow the rice and milk to simmer on low heat for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the rice and milk mixture has thickened and almost all the milk has been absorbed. When the rice and milk has thickened, remove it from heat and allow to cool. After the rice is cooled, stir in the last cup of almond milk.

rice side
Serve warm or cool and add extra cinnamon and fruit preserves as desired. Happy pudding!

Warm goat cheese, roasted beets and apricot Salad

salad

Gooey warm goat cheese, roasted beets and sweet chewy slices of apricots nestled on top of mixed greens drenched in a tangy vinaigrette dressing.

Salad from Sweet Basil.

Tart & Sweet: Lemon Poppy Seed Scones with a Lemon Glaze

The holiday season has my baking fever at an all time high – with cookies, cakes and treats at every corner and my guilty conscious no where to be seen, I just can’t stop my baking mania.

So when I opened the January issue of Food & Wine and saw that it was filled with glossy pages of mouth watering new recipes and food trends, I could not resist trying out a recipe for lemon scones, which I added some poppy seeds to create a perfectly balanced lemon poppy seed scone with a lemon glaze.

scones without glaze

This simple recipe for scones proves that scones do not have to be sweet to be irresistible.

Ingredients:

Scones:

2 and ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

¼ cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of baking powder

2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon of salt

1 and ½ cups of heavy cream

¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ tablespoon of poppy seeds

Lemon Glaze:

4 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons of heavy cream

2 cups of confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt, and then whisk these ingredients together.

bowl

With a wooden spoon, slowly add in the cream and the ¼ cup of lemon juice – slowly mixing as you pour in the liquid. Next, stir in the poppy seeds and mix until all the dry ingredients are absorbed, if not, then add more cream until you have a slightly sticky ball of dough.

Lightly flour a cutting board and knead the dough (approximately 10 times) and then press the dough into a 9 inch round and ½ inch thick circle. Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into 8 wedges and place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Put the scones in the over and back for 20 – 25 minutes or until the scones are brown on the bottom and gold and firm on top.

While the scones are baking, whisk the cream, remaining lemon juice and confectioners sugar together in a medium bowl until the glaze is at the desired consistency (you can always add more cream or milk to thin out the glaze).

scones with glaze

Remove the scones from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before slowly dribbling the glaze over the scones. Let the glaze and scones cool for 10 minutes and then serve warm, bon appetite!

Pan Seared or Steamed Pork Dumplings?!

“Can we start with an order of pan-seared pork dumplings?”

“WHAT?!”

“PORK DUMPLINGS!”

“PAN SEARED OR STEAMED?”

The answer is pan-seared; when it comes to dumplings, the answer should always be pan seared.

dumpling 2

Located just a few blocks away from Rockefeller Center is Wu Liang Ye, a restaurant known for their authentic Szechuan cuisine and a noise volume that can rival the holiday cheer sprinkled all over New York City.

Situated in an old brownstone building, the restaurant makes one feel as if they are sitting in a formerly grand and ornate dining room. A large dark wood archway frames the seating area of the restaurant, which is a narrow room adorned with more dark wood, beige walls, gold trimmings and eastern inspired pieces of artwork. While the narrow layout signals a sense of intimacy with your fellow patrons, it also accounts for the constant stream of chatter and yelling as regulars and tourists alike attempt to give their orders and converse with their parties.

Yet, all the noise of Wu Liang Ye quickly slinks away after the food is served and you became fully immersed into the Wu Liang Ye experience.

Naturally, our meal started with the famous pork dumplings. Taking my first bite, I broke through the velvety smooth dough that had been fried into golden flaky submission to release a puff of steam. Encased in the dough was a fragrant and chewy pork ball that revealed treasures of scallions, minced garlic and ginger. Drenching the dumpling in a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, scallions, sesame oil and more minced scallions, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the sauce enhanced the flavor of the dumpling. Crashing into my mouth with a wave of sour and salty flavors from the dipping sauce, the strong flavors from the sauce quickly retreated and left the lighter sweetness of the pork floating on my tongue, making the dumplings truly a dream to eat, each bite was more surreal than the last.

dumpling 1

Following the dumplings was the stir-fried prawns with Yibin spiced chili asparagus. Fresh prawns were cooked in a sea of spicy chili flakes, soy sauce, scallions and spears of leafy green asparagus. Initially after biting into the plump pink prawns, I was convinced that I had swallowed a bite the ocean. Quickly following, I felt the strong pungent saltiness and tanginess of the soy sauce hit the sides of my mouth, while the chilies quietly prickled at the back of my throat. And the finale was the refreshing crunchy bites of asparagus. All in all, these prawns put on quite the show.

shrimp

The strong and distinctive flavors of the dumplings and the prawns had put my taste buds on such a high, that the mild flavors of the braised pan seared tofu shitake with garlic chili was some what of a let down. A smoky broth bathed squares of fried bean curd and rubbery smooth shitake mushrooms along with floppy slices of green leaks. While there was a subtle hint of sweetness and chilies in the sauce, in no way did this dish exhibit strong enough flavors to make it memorable.

tofu 2

Finishing the meal with small cups of aromatic bitter leafy green tea, it was the perfect way to end the meal and to cleanse our palate of the distinct and swanky Szechuan flavors.