As I write this post snow is softly falling outside, turning my little city into a winter wonderland. In the five winters that Brian and I have spent in Virginia, we've never seen a snowfall like this. Its breathtakingly beautiful, the 22-inches we've received so far softening the landscape with a blanket of white, turning our street into an unrecognizable scene dotted with pedestrians in bright winter parkas out enjoying the snow.
Holed up inside for the day, I managed to pull myself away from the window for about an hour to satisfy the urge to bake. An urge that is unavoidable when your outside world is blanketed with snow and inside, curled up in your favorite chair, under a quilt, with hot coffee (and perhaps a splash of Bailey's Irish Cream...), you are toasty warm and feeling very domestic. I'll share the cake that I just pulled from the oven in the next day or two, but on this snowy afternoon I feel it appropriate to give you a recipe for some chewy ginger cookies. They feel so very 'snow day', the perfect snack waiting on the counter when you come in from making snowmen and snow angels.
Ginger cookies have been a longtime favorite in our household, but I do believe that this is the first time I've ever made them myself. I've helped my momma on many past Christmas Eves to roll out perfect little balls of ginger snap dough, the delightfully crunchy cookies a staple between meals on Christmas day. But last year Brian and I were introduced to a different variety of ginger cookie, one that was chewy rather than crispy in texture, and laced with chunks of crystallized ginger. Brian declared them his favorite cookie, ever, and I vowed to find a recipe to replicate them prior to the next Christmas. Lucky for me, Bon Appetit read my mind.
We love the soft, chewy interior texture of these cookies, complemented perfectly by the crunchy shell of turbinado sugar that coats the exterior. The bits of crystallized ginger throughout are wonderful surprises.
Position 1 rack in top third of oven, 1 rack in bottom third; preheat to 350*. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, crystallized ginger, baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt in a medium bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy and light in a separate bowl for about 2 minutes. Gradually add brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Beat to blend.
Add flour mixture to wet mixture in two additions, beating on low speed just to blend between additions.
Place 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar in small bowl. Measure 1 tbsp of dough (a 1-tbsp ice cream scoop works really well) and roll into a ball between palms of hands. Roll dough in sugar and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, spacing cookies 1-1/2 to 2-inches apart.
Bake cookies until surfaces crack and cookies are firm around edges but still slightly soft in center, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on rack.
After asking you all what your favorite summer produce is (as part of the Saucy Mama Giveaway - see bottom of post) Brian and I had a discussion to sort out our favorites. I didn’t realize what a tough decision it would be to make! There are so many options, and I feel that my mind changes every few weeks as a new fruit or vegetable ripens into its season. We settled on tomatoes and peaches as our top two, and an entertaining debate ensued. In the end Brian’s number one was tomatoes and mine was peaches, and although the results are questionable (peaches and tomatoes are at their peak right now which brings up the issue of bias...) we each appreciated the merits of the other’s argument.
I’ll spare you the tomato argument today - it will have its place in the weeks to come, I promise. Instead, lets focus on peaches. Those perfect, plump, juicy globes with all the colors of the sunset splattered across their fuzzy skin. I love them - absolutely and with all the fervor deserved after waiting ten months for their reappearance in my daily diet. In their season, allowed to ripen on the tree and consumed within a couple of days of picking, fresh summer peaches are nothing like the bland, grainy imposters that fill bins in the supermarket during the off-season months.
The peaches themselves played strongly into my final decision. Those flavorful bites - sweet with a little bit of tart - that result in juice running down your arms to your elbows are pretty hard to beat. But the clincher, that final argument that sealed peaches firmly into the number one position on my summer produce scale, was their procurement. The actual act of wandering the orchard, ducking into the dappled shade provided by row after row of trees, finding the perfect peach and picking it with my own hands. Brian and I have been to Chiles Peach Orchard three times already in the six weekends that pick-your-own peaches have been available, coming home with 25 pounds after each visit.
What does one (or in this case, two) do with 75 pounds of fresh peaches? Many wonderful things, dear readers. You’ve already heard about one, the slow-rise peach pancakes that graced our table one Sunday breakfast. There have been peaches in smoothies, oatmeal and on top of cereal. They’ve been baked in the folds of buttery pastry, grilled to perfection on the grill and simmered with blackberry puree’ to form the most delicious jam. I’ve even frozen half-a-dozen quarts for future cobblers and milkshakes during the off-season. I hope to share all of these recipes with you, but for now, I leave you with my newest addiction - Peach Bread.
I’ve made variations of this recipe several times in the last few weeks, tweaking a bit each time until declaring this final version my favorite. It is based loosely on a recipe of my momma’s, with a bit of influence from Molly’s banana bread in A Homemade Life and a lot of gut instinct. Dense and moist with an almost cake-like crumb, this bread has all the flavors of a classic peach cobbler. I love it icy cold, taken straight from the fridge and paired with a cup of coffee for breakfast, but it is also delicious for dessert after being warmed briefly and topped with french vanilla ice cream.
Peach Breadmakes 1 loaf
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (I used 0% fat Oikos Greek yogurt)
2 cups peaches (about 2 large peaches), peeled and diced
1 large peach, peeled and sliced thinly (for top of bread)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dried ginger, chopped finely (optional)
Preheat oven to 350*. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
Cream the butter . Gradually add sugar and mix to combine well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in yogurt and diced peaches.
Combine flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon together in medium bowl. Add ginger, if using. Add the wet mixture to the dry, stirring until just blended.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Place peach slices across top of batter, in decorative pattern. Bake at 350* for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes on wire rack. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely before slicing.
Saucy Mama Giveaway!
Congrats to Shelby of La Belle Vegan and Rose of On A Lobster Placemat for being the winning commenters picked by Random.org! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and address so that I can get your Lime Chipotle Marinade out to you. Congrats ladies!
Zucchini has been gracing the booths of the farmer’s market for several weeks now. I’ve picked some up each Saturday, usually to use in simple pasta dinners or grilled alongside chicken or fish. This week I decided it was time for some zucchini bread, and knew just the recipe I wanted to modify to accommodate the green squash - Molly Wizenburg’s banana bread from A Homemade Life, which I made several weeks ago.
Now, admittedly, I didn’t substitute zucchini in this recipe for its flavor. Its so mild on your palette that the stronger flavors of dark chocolate, ginger, cinnamon and cloves overpower its delicate scent. What I wanted from the zucchini was the moisture that the banana typically provides without adding an additional competitor to the mix. You see, while Molly’s recipe was quite good, for me the combination of banana, chocolate and ginger was a bit overwhelming. Maybe its because I am a banana bread purist, and want the banana to be the center of attention even when complimented with another ingredient like apples or dates.
I did, however, love the idea and taste of chocolate and dried ginger combined together in a loaf, and decided to seek out another way to utilize it. Enter the zucchini, and a few other substitutions that I like to make to any bread recipe I re-create. White whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose, turbinado sugar in place of refined, fat free greek yogurt in place of regular whole milk yogurt. Throw in a couple of additional spices (cinnamon and clove) and a 12-cup tin instead of a loaf pan and the result is a muffin that is perfectly moist, not too sweet, hearty enough for breakfast yet satisfying as a dessert with a tall glass of milk or hot cup of tea.
Because these muffins are very moist, I suggest eating them within 3 days if you’re going to keep them on your countertop in an airtight container. Refrigeration would probably save them from mold for a few days longer, but I didn’t try that so I can’t tell you what happens to their texture. I did freeze 1/2 the batch though, and am hoping that Molly’s claim that her bread freezes extraordinarily well will extend to my muffins.
If you’re interested in the original banana bread recipe, you can find it reviewed here.
If you fill the cups to the tip-top, you will be left with 12 delicious yet oddly-shaped muffins. Fill them 3/4’s of the way full, and you’ll probably have enough batter left for two additional muffins if its worth it to you to dirty another pan. I didn’t mind their appearance, since they were just for Brian and I to share.
Zucchini Muffins with Dark Chocolate and Gingeradapted from the banana bread recipe in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg, pg 26
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped dried ginger (not crystalized, although I'm sure it would work fine too)
2 large eggs
3 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
5oz container of fat free vanilla-flavored greek yogurt (I used Oikos)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350*. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or butter.
In a small bowl, microwave the butter until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ground cloves. Add the chocolate chips and ground ginger and stir well to combine.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and mix well. Add the zucchini and stir to coat.
Pour the zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Make sure to incorporate all flour but do not overmix.
Spoon the batter into wells of muffin tin, using spoon to pack it down. If you don't want your muffins to overflow like mine did, just fill the wells to 3/4 of the way to the top. This will leave some batter leftover, but only enough for maybe 2 muffins. If you don't mind oddly shaped tops, just fill the wells evenly until you've used all of the batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), until a tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from pan to cool completely on rack.
Last weekend was the epitome of the perfect Spring weekend. Saturday was kicked off with a trip to the farmer's market, where a lovely assortment of spring greens, asparagus, green onions and fresh eggs were purchased as we browsed the stalls, cup of coffee in hand. After that was strawberry picking in the country, where Brian and I desperately tried to find enough perfectly ripe berries in the sea of green-tipped adolescents to make our 25 minute drive worth it.
Apparently the field had been picked clean by a gaggle of girl scouts the weekend before and hadn't quite recovered yet. Now I have nothing against girl scouts, but when they clean out the strawberry field I am left with a few bitter thoughts in my head. If you've been reading for awhile, you'll know that Virginia's strawberry season is short and I look forward to it all year long. Luckily my momentary bitterness was nothing a strawberry frozen yogurt and a trip to the reservoir to let the dogs swim couldn't fix.
On Sunday we continued our celebration of spring weekend by grilling out with friends. Brian has been working to perfect ribs on our Big Green Egg grill for a year now, with a long hiatus in the middle for those cold winter months. We thought that this weekend was going to be it, the moment when the ribs would come off the grill after spending hours smoking over low heat, perfectly moist and fall-off-the-bone tender.
I anticipated telling you all about them and had their post written in my head. It was going to be so perfectly coincidental that our first attempt at ribs on the Big Green Egg had been exactly one year prior, on the weekend of my graduation from UVA's M.Arch program, and that exactly 12 months of debates and research and a dozen racks of ribs later I would be sharing with you the perfect rib recipe. Sadly, it isn't so.
While their flavor was delicious, as it always is, the tenderness of the ribs just wasn't where Brian wants it to be. We'll get there, I promise, and you all will be the first to know - after we call all of the friends whom we've been experimenting on to gleefully tell them that we have finally mastered ribs on the Big Green Egg and to please, please, stop by for another taste-test.
Until then, a recipe for ginger bundt cake with ginger-infused strawberries will have to do.
And it will do, I promise, because here's the thing about this cake - it. is. delicious. I knew it would be a success as I was blending the farm-fresh eggs into the batter and it was turning the beautiful golden color you see above. The texture was just what cake batter should be, and the color given to it by those vibrant orange egg yolks (which you just can't get from grocery store eggs) was so beautiful that I did a little dance after each addition. The ginger-infused syrup for the strawberries is so perfect that I can't help but think of cocktail recipes that will utilize it all summer long.
This cake fits right in at the backyard barbeque, nestled in between ribs on the grill and the last few games of Baggo. It has a consistency similar to pound cake, and if you choose to forego the strawberries one could easily eat a piece with their hands without it crumbling to bits. This would be very helpful if a second serving were desired after the backyard games had begun, which is not unlikely.
I hope you'll give it a try this Memorial Day weekend, and if you do, be sure to save some for the next day. For as good as it is on a sunny afternoon piled high with gingered strawberries and accompanied by a glass of white wine, its even better with coffee the next morning. Trust me, it will do.
The recipe for Double-Ginger Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Ginger-Infused Strawberries can be found here, or in the April 2009 Bon Appetit.
The turbinado sugar I dusted on the inside of the bundt pan didn't stay crystalized like the pictures show in the magazine. Instead the sugar melted and formed a perfect crust on the outside of the cake. We loved it.
I substituted white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose and it was delicious.
We're almost there! The cherry and plum trees are starting to flower, the crocus and daffodils are up, gardens are being prepped for planting. Daylight Savings Time means there is light when I leave the office, and I've been taking advantage of our lovely weather with evening runs both yesterday and today (I'm feeling very well-prepared for the 8K on Saturday!!!). Spring is just around the corner and I couldn't be more excited. The change in seasons has me craving lighter foods but also has inspired me to clean out my pantry, to use up the winter-worthy ingredients that are dwindling in quantity and make way for those that come with spring.
Among the items found? Crystalized ginger, dried cranberries, a bowl full of oranges. Okay, so the oranges were on my table, not in the pantry, but to me they make the perfect bridge from winter to spring. You see, I grew up in Florida, where winter citrus is abundant as are 80* December days. I've never associated oranges with cold weather and probably never will. And who doesn't think of warm, tropical places when biting into a juicy orange? Anybody? The power of positive thinking will get you far and I am determined that my bowlful of cheery oranges will carry Virginia straight into Spring without another winter storm. :)
On Sunday morning while perusing my pantry I was dreaming of baked goods, as is often the case, and thought of one I hadn't made in awhile. Scones.
For years I wasn't a fan of scones. Those I had tried were dry and crumbly, with nondescript flavors that left them completely unmemorable. Until one fateful Friday morning when a friend shared her daughter's fresh-baked scones at an office meeting, and I was hooked. Soft and supple, moist and flakey, the mix-in possibilities were endless. I knew I had to have the recipe, and lucky for me she shared.
The basic recipe for these scones was given to me years ago and I've been trying different variations ever since. Many different flours have made it into the experiments, all-purpose, bread, white whole wheat and whole wheat included. The whole wheat pastry flour is my favorite. It gives the scones the fluffier texture found when using the all-purpose, but leaves you with a happier conscience after having one for breakfast.
Citrus Scones with Cranberries and Gingermakes 8 scones
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp orange extract
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp orange zest
8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut up
1/2 cup sugar (I used turbinado), plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crystalized ginger, chopped
Preheat oven to 375*. Spray a baking sheet with oil.
Mix buttermilk with egg and extract, whisk smooth.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add orange zest. Stir to mix well. Add butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like course bread crumbs. Add sugar, cranberries and ginger and toss to distribute evenly.
Add egg mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.
Turn out dough on a floured board and give 5-6 kneads, just until well mixed and cohesive. Flatten dough into disk about 3/4" thick. Cut disk into 8 equal wedges.
Bake on prepared baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until medium brown. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool completely.
For another Bella Eats scone variation, click here.
Thank you all for the great feedback regarding future bella terra posts. I'm really excited! :) I hope to answer all of your questions in posts over the next few months...you've given me some great ideas.
And, a thousand Thank You's for all of your kind words and good thoughts towards Kelly and her recovery. She is home and healing and we are all so thankful that she was wearing a helmet. For those of you who doubt the importance of wearing one, read this post.
Be sure to check out Heather's blog for an exciting Coconut Milk Product Giveaway! I've been dying to try this stuff...
And last...my new job is awesome!!! I've only been there two days but I am LOVING it so far. Yay! :)
Have a great Wednesday everybody!
Happy Saturday everybody!!! Remember, 8pm tomorrow is the cut-off for submitting your BSI: GINGER recipes to me! Please either comment on the blog or send an email to let me know you've posted so I can keep track.
Also, I started a category on the right side of my blog called BSI: GINGER entries so far...please check to make sure I've got you down if you have submitted a recipe and send me an email if I've somehow missed you, email@example.com.
I hope you are all having a great weekend so far! I'll be back later to report my eats... :)
PS: Anybody have any good ideas for PRIZES???? I need to look back at old BSI contests to get some inspiration, but I'd love some suggestions!!! :)
Brian and I park about 1/3 of a mile from our offices every morning. The walk to work is short and pleasant, but forces us to pass our favorite C'ville breakfast spot, The Bluegrass Grill. The restaurant serves down-home breakfasts and is famous for their house-made baked goods, especially the honey wheat biscuits. I dream about their biscuits. Its impossible to get a table on the weekends without waiting an hour, so we don't get to go very often, but every morning as we walk by we say "we need to get up early one day and go before work". After 6 months of talking about it, today was finally "one day". We invited our good friend Amy to join us so it was the perfect start to a Friday morning, good food + good company.
Breakfast: Short stack of Honey Wheat Pancakes with fresh strawberries, real maple syrup and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. It was AMAZING. I ate almost the whole plate. :) Surprisingly these puppies stuck with me from 8am until 1:30pm!!! I thought for sure that I would be starving by 10.
Lunch: Because I knew I'd be having a large, not-so-healthy breakfast I decided to keep lunch simple and satisfying. I had a baked sweet potato in the fridge so tossed it in a bowl with 1/2 cup edamame and sea salt sprinkled on top. Perfect.
And two more of the Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies from my co-worker...
Snack: Nothing! My lunch was so late that I didn't need one.
Dinner: Miso soup and pan-glazed tofu. I wanted to use some of this guy in the spirit of this week's BSI...
I used my favorite recipe from Moosewood for Miso Soup with Tofu and Shitake Mushroom Broth.
And pan-glazed my tofu using this method, but with the following glaze.
1/4 cup water (usually this would be veggie broth, but i'm out)
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
And a lovely glass of cabernet.
Dessert: 1/2 cup fat free french vanilla Stoneyfield yogurt, 1 small pink lady apple and a handful of Annie's Honey Bunny Grahams.
Does anybody have any big weekend plans? I am going to be a knitting machine...my goal is to start and finish a scarf this weekend that will be a Christmas gift. I went to the yarn shop today during lunch to pick up a blend that I'm really excited about! I finished a scarf last night that is also a Christmas gift, but I can't show it because I don't want to ruin the surprise for the recipient! :)
Have a great night!
PS: Kelly over at groundedfitness is giving away a danskin vest...check out her blog to see how you can win it!