Fall

Grandmother Phillips’ Fried Okra

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I remember my father’s paternal grandmother as a strong, Southern woman. She was a force. I only saw her on holidays but I will never forget her cooking, which we ate at home all throughout the year. She used to freeze her fresh-from-the-garden, hand-battered okra and we would take it home in bags every winter. That fried okra was a precious commodity, rationed carefully until the next Christmas.

Grandmother Phillips had a garden in her backyard. She grew everything in it. I remember describing her to friends as a farmer, though she did not sell her produce for a living. She canned and froze everything. She was an expert in preservation. Preservation of food and of tradition and of family.  The garage of her old home was lined with walls and walls of cans: cucumber, okra, squash, peas, peaches– you name it, she had it canned from her garden.

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At Christmas we would visit her home in (relatively) rural, northern Alabama and there would be an endless array of options. People would comment about how excessive the spread was, but Grandmother Phillips’ would never pare it down. Only after her death did I come to see how food is a love language for Southern folks, and I was (at least partially) descended from Southern folks, and my grandmother was showing her love for us by feeding us well.

After she died I remember looking into our freezer and seeing one last bag of her homemade fried okra. I don’t remember the last meal we ate with that one remaining batch of Grandmother Phillips’ okra, but I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe for most of my adult life.

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We recently joined a CSA program, which gives us plenty of fresh produce to consume weekly. Grandmother Phillips would probably call it lazy eating, but it gives us plenty of okra to experiment with and I have finally been able to get satisfactorily close to her fried okra.

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It has a ton of flavor and it freezes very well. It is easy to prep, as far as fried foods go, and it can be reheated in the oven, which I love for the easy clean-up.

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A single batch will serve five adults as a generous side portion, but we often dole out smaller portions and let half of it sit in the freezer for an easy side on another night.


Grandmother Phillips’ Fried Okra

(serves ~6)

Ingredients
1 cup whole milk*
1 tablespoon white vinegar*
2 pounds fresh okra
1 cup AP flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (just a dash if you don’t like spicy)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
canola or avocado oil
*OR 1 cup buttermilk


First, combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup. Let it sit for 15 minutes. (Alternatively: skip this step and use 1 cup buttermilk.)

Next, wash and slice the okra into 1/2″ – 1″ thick rounds.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the okra and milk. Let this sit for at least 20 minutes.

Then, in a large bowl, mix the remaining, dry in ingredients.

When your okra is done “marinating”, drain the excess buttermilk and toss it in the cornmeal mixture. I find it best to toss the okra in batches as to avoid the pieces clumping together.*

Pan fry in a high-temp oil over medium heat. I find that this, too, works best in batches and there is no need to keep the okra on one side and tediously flip every piece halfway through cooking. It is fine to toss them in the pan and shake it around every now and then to evenly brown each piece.**

Drain the okra on paper towels and sprinkle with a fine, table salt. After cooling, it can be placed in a bag and frozen for later.

*If you have the time and patience, batter each okra circle one at a time. Try to keep them as separate as possible!

**One of the greatest things about this okra is that each bite is a little different. It is fully homemade and thus “rustic” in both texture and flavor. Do not concern yourself over perfect knife cuts or even browning, as this okra should be a delicious, low-stress side!

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Crispy Cauliflower + Homemade Ranch

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As a vegetarian, I have no appetite for a food like chicken. However, I’m not crazy. I like food, and I enjoy the enticing smell of fried chicken. I get a little hungry when the Publix fried chicken commercial comes on [let’s be honest– it’s borderline food porn, which you can view here].

It’s tough to find a vegetarian alternative that really satisfies that craving for something crispy and salty and fatty. This cauliflower recipe certainly does the trick!

When it comes to frying foods, I have always been a huge fan of what my husband and I call SBP (aka Standard Breading Procedure). Anytime we decide to fry something it has always been SBP- dredge in flour, soak in egg, coat in bread crumbs or panko.

This recipe uses a different breading technique, one that leaves you with a crunchy, flaky, and deliciously crisp snack. It is even easier, requiring only two bowls and NO raw egg!

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I am also adding my recipe for homemade ranch. I always keep a large jar of this in my fridge, and it is really easy to make. It’s also MUCH creamier and fresh-flavored than bottled varieties of ranch.

Crispy Cauliflower + Homemade Ranch

Ingredients

for the cauliflower
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder and paprika
1/4 teaspoon each: onion powder and turmeric
1 cup buttermilk
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup flour  (+1/4 teaspoon kosher salt)
vegetable oil

for the ranch
(makes about 1 cup of ranch dressing)
1/4 cup each: milk, sour cream, and mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon each: dried parsley, garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper, and Penzey’s mural of flavor*
1/8 teaspoon each: onion powder and dried dill

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To make the ranch dressing, whisk all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. You can store this in a large mason jar in the fridge. Feel free to adjust the ratios to your taste! I enjoy the herbal quality that Penzey’s mural of flavor spice blend adds, but it isn’t necessary if you don’t have it already in your kitchen!

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For the cauliflower, begin by mixing all the herbs and spices in a large bowl or gallon plastic bag.* Add the buttermilk in and stir thoroughly.

*I used a plastic bread bowl that my grandmother gave to me. It has a top on it, so it is perfect for battering veggies (and rising bread dough).

Next, wash and chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Coat the florets in the buttermilk mixture. I put the lid on the bowl and shook it around, but you can accomplish this with your hands or a spatula. Be sure to generously coat each piece. Then, set this bowl aside, allowing the cauliflower to “marinate”.

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Prepare the oil in a small pot, about 2 inches deep, over medium heat.

In a second bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Measure out 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk-spice mixture and blend it into the flour until it has a crumbly texture.

Take each, buttermilk-soaked floret and coat it generously in the crumbly flour mixture.

Test if the oil is ready by dropping a bit of batter into the pot. If it sputters and bubbles, it’s time to fry!

Fry the coated florets in batches, replenishing the oil as needed. Give each batch about five minutes to cook the cauliflower and get golden and crispy! Set them aside to cool and drain on a paper towel.

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Serve with ranch as an appetizer, snack, or side. Enjoy!

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Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche + more to top [if you want to keep it vegan, skip the crème fraîche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of crème fraîche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional crème fraîche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Smashed Potato Soup

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Whenever I want a hearty, vegetarian-friendly soup I go to this potato soup. Recently, I spruced it up a bit to make it more flavorful and easier to actually make.

Many potato soup recipes call for a blender or food processor. I have several issues with this. First, on a really basic level it concerns me to put boiling liquids into any machine that will spin them around at high speeds. It just doesn’t seem super safe. Second, I will be honest with y’all, it’s just too much effort. I have to get the cuisine art out of the top shelf, which requires William’s help because I can’t even reach it, I have to put the thing together, then I have to take the soup in batches and process it, probably burning myself in the process and accruing double the dishwashing duty I had originally planned for. Just…no. Finally, I really like preserving the natural texture of mashed potatoes. I think they are delicious, and in soup form with cheese, fake bacon, and all sorts of other things on top– I mean, it’s amazing.

Really, that’s why I’m calling this “smashed potato soup”. It’s probably the weirdest thing about the recipe, but you do have to spend some time smashing the potatoes against the side of the pot. However, it gives you complete control over the texture of your soup and it means no messy/dangerous boiling-liquids-in-the-food-processor situations! 🙂

smashed potato soup

Smashed Potato Soup
makes about 6 servings (assuming 2 cups per person)

Ingredients
3 tablespoons salted butter
2 large shallots, minced
1 head of garlic (peeled, whole)*

3 lbs yellow potatoes, diced
2 large leeks cleaned and cut

5 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon herbs d’Provence
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup sour cream

optional toppings
cheddar cheese
fake bacon
sour cream
chives

*You can slice off the end and it makes the entire clove much easier to peel.

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Melt the butter in the bottom of a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the minced shallots and the garlic head. The garlic should be peeled, but does not need to be chopped as it will naturally dissolve into the soup! Let this simmer for a few minutes, until the onions and garlic become browned and fragrant.

Add in the diced potatoes, leeks (chopped and cleaned), and vegetable broth. Simmer for twenty minutes.

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Add in the bay leaves, salt, pepper, and other herbs. Let simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. Continually stir the mixture, checking on the doneness of the potatoes. Depending on what type of soup you want (brothier vs creamier), you can let the soup simmer for less time or more! The longer it simmers the more smashed the potatoes will be, and the creamier the soup will be.

Once they become soft enough to smash, use a large spoon to slowly smash them against the side of the pot. The soup will slowly become thicker. The thickness is totally up to you! If you would like to completely process the soup in a food processor, you can, but I prefer the hand method so I can get the exact thickness and potato chunks that I want!

Peel the carrots. Chop the carrots and celery. Add these into the soup and cook for another 10 minutes. Continue stirring and smashing the potatoes.

Add in the sour cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

After this, your soup is ready to serve with any and all desired toppings!

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Enjoy!

Smashed Potatoes

smashed potatoes all dressed up

This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.

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Ingredients
1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

smashed potato ingredients

To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

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After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
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Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

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Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

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Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

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Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

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After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

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Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.

Minestra con pasta e fagioli

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I am exploring a new cookbook, Share: the cookbook that celebrates our common humanity. It was published by Women for Women International, an organization that helps women in war torn countries. Aside from learning about their stories, I’ve found some neat recipes that I never would have tried before.

This book is really fun to flip through because the recipes come not only from the women being helped, but also the women doing the helping. This provides for an interesting look at food around the world– who’s using enriched ingredients, which traditions favor simpler dishes, etc. I hope to make many of these recipes, especially those that are a bit more unique. However, I started off with a hearty stew that pretty much any mediterranean foodie knows: pasta e fagioli.

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Pasta e fagioli is a very traditional, Italian stew (pasta and beans), and I want to talk a little bit about the terminology here. I have labelled this post in particular as minestra. Any students of Italian will naturally question this, because the word that most commonly refers to “soup” is zuppa. The history of these terms is fascinating, and really important in terms of how we should view dishes like these.

In Italian, zuppa refers to a soup with broth and chunks of bread, no pasta. Apparently, the term actually comes from a Gothic word meaning “soaked bread.” On the contrary, my new favorite, minestra, is a soup that does usually involve pasta. Nowadays, this soup is typically considered a first course (not fancy enough to be an entree). However, minestra was originally the main (and only) course given to slaves in ancient times, and the term comes from the Latin ministrāre, ‘to supply.’ (Thanks to this Italian Life for the crash course!)

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Obviously, I geeked out a bit at that! On a more serious note- I don’t believe we need to look at this simple minestra as just a first course. This soup was originally meant to sustain men and women throughout an entire day. It might be vegetarian, but it’s jam-packed with protein and carbs. I “beef” it up a bit by adding in a fabulous herb mixture, but this soup can truly be anything you want it to be. The base is a vegetable broth with pasta and beans. You decide the rest.

Because it’s summer, and I am on a farmer’s market roll, I decided to throw in some seasonal veggies as well. Thankfully, this soup also doesn’t take long (about forty to fifty minutes in all).

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Minestra: pasta e fagioli
serves about 4, as a main course

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves
3/4 large onion
5 small carrots (with stems)
2 ribs celery
14oz can cannellini beans
14oz can diced tomatoes (if you can find San Marzano, bless the town you live in for carrying them and please make use of them!!)
4-5 cups vegetable stock (I use Knorr bouillon cubes, because it’s cheaper)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 medium zucchini
2 bay leaves
1 cup macaroni

optional for topping
parmesan cheese (leave off for vegan option)
dill, Italian parsley, and carrot-top herb mix
salt and pepper

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The most tedious thing about this recipe is all of the chopping you are going to have to do! (It’s totally worth it though, so don’t let that scare you!)

First, chop the garlic and onion. [Pro-tip: Bring a miniature cutting station to your living room couch and a bunch of tiny bowls. I watched some Mad Men while making this, so I was chopping everything and separating it out before I even approached the stove!]

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Next, chop off the stems of the carrots (but save those leafy greens for later). Peel the carrots and quarter them. Honestly, you can probably get away with just slicing the carrots, but I knew I wanted a softer stew, so I went ahead and cut them into smaller bites. I even added in a big carrot because it seemed like a good amount of orange…I wouldn’t recommend it, because it ended up leaving me with little broth and LOTS of stuff in my soup! In the end, it will be delicious anyway.

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Trim and chop the celery, adding it into the bowl with the carrots.

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In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and add in the garlic and onions.

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After about a minute, add in the carrots and celery. Make sure you stir everything a bit so that the onions do not overcook at the bottom of the pot.

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Let this cook for about five minutes. During this time you need to rinse and drain the cannellini beans, and prepare your five cups of broth. Drop two or three cubes of Knorr bouillon into 5 cups of boiling water and stir until the cubes have dissolved. If you are using pre-made broth, you’ve saved yourself some time (and an extra pot)!

When the carrots are tender but still have their color, add the beans, diced tomatoes, and broth into the pot. This mixture needs to simmer for about twenty minutes.

During this time you can: watch more Mad Men, finely slice a zucchini (if you want to add that), and chop up your herb mixture.

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For my herb mixture, I used 1/4 cup dill, 1/2 cup Italian parsley, and the stems from my carrots! I washed them all and bunched them all together and chopped them. This was hastily done because I was hungry for soup, so you could probably mince them carefully and separately and it would be fancy and beautiful, but that’s not really what minestra is about, so I say just go for it and slow down just to enjoy the flavors at the end!

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After the twenty minutes is up, add in the peas, zucchini, bay leaves, and pasta. Stir everything together really well, and leave it to simmer for another ten minutes.

Next, serve each bowl with a heaping pile of fresh herbs and Parmesan. Add some salt and pepper to the top for taste.

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Enjoy!

 

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Ginger Spice Cookies

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You can always tell when a recipe has been loved and tested many times. Little notes are written in the margins, sometimes with different handwriting. The evidence from years of baking is clear on the page of this cookie recipe. Splotches of spices and butter linger from past years, a testament to its positive reviews!

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This is one of my favorite recipes to make around the holidays. In our family, Christmas means it’s time for ginger cookies and cucidati (Sicilian fig cookies).  I must say that these ginger cookies are a spice-lovers heaven! I know many people who do not love that popular blend of pumpkin spices– allspice, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. If this sounds like you, then you may want to tone down the spice levels in these cookies a bit.

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However, for anyone who loves that familiar fall flavor, this is it in cookie form! These are a bit like ginger snaps, but much richer in flavor and not quite so tough to eat.  They are very soft cookies that are chewy and tangy from the crystalized ginger. They are different than anything you’ve ever had. So- put away your Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, and get out that baking pan, it’s time to make some cookies!

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Ginger Spice Cookies

makes about 30 cookies!

2 cups AP flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
several gratings fresh nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons clove
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon crystalized ginger
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup salted butter
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses

turbinado sugar (for rolling the dough)

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Combine the flour, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and whisk together. I usually like to buy cinnamon sticks for this and grate them on a manual grater for that strong cinnamon flavor. However, this is not really an easy task, and a spice grinder can be used just as easily, or even pre-ground cinnamon. The cookies will be delicious either way! After these dry ingredients are mixed together. Chop the crystalized ginger finely and add it into the dry mixture, stirring thoroughly.

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Next, in a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, shortening, and butter. I do not have any type of electric mixer so I always melt ingredients like shortening or butter before adding them into a batter. However, if you have a beater of any kind, use it here with the shortening and butter at room temperature! You’ll want to beat the mixture until it becomes thick and fluffy. If you’re like me, without those lovely kitchen tools, you can just melt the butter and shortening and whisk everything for about 10 minutes. Your mixture will not be “fluffy” per se, but it will still make great cookies. You just need it to be thick and shiny.

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Add the egg and molasses to the wet ingredients and continue beating until they are thoroughly mixed.

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At this point, the batter will look thick and very dark in color. This is good! You can use a lighter molasses to get that more traditional ginger snap coloring, but I personally love the dark molasses because of the rich flavor it brings to the cookies and the incredibly scrumptious texture it gives them!

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Now, slowly add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the molasses mixture. It will not be easy to mix. This is a fairly thick dough, and I try to spend some time on it with a rubber spatula trying to get the flour completely integrated with the wet ingredients.

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At this point you need to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or up to a day.

 

When you are ready to bake your cookies, prepare two baking sheets by wrapping them in parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the turbinado sugar out onto a plate and roll the dough into small balls (taking about a tablespoon of dough per ball). Coat each ball generously in the sugar and arrange them on the baking sheet an inch or two apart.

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ginger spice cookies

 

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Bake them for about 12 minutes, or until they are fragrant and soft- but crackled a bit on the top and edges!

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Like I said, this recipe makes a ton of cookies, but I promise you will have no trouble getting rid of them!

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Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Pie

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I must confess– I have never made a pie before. Actually, I’ve never even finished a whole slice of pie. Pie is not really my favorite thing to eat. I have always found the crusts too dry and the fillings too sugary. But, when I woke up on the morning of Thanksgiving and realized that we had not a single dessert planned, I got to work on fixing this.

I taught myself a little bit about how to make the crust and what options there are for the fillings. As it turned out, I still wasn’t that enthused by my options. So, I took a pie crust recipe from inspired taste and changed it up a bit. I used Italian tipo 00 flour, and salted butter. I really wanted the crust to stand out in contrast to the filling.

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I actually used a chocolate pudding recipe for the filling- whoops. The recipe was inspired from this one, but I used less sugar and, again, salted butter. I knew I wanted something that wasn’t cloyingly sweet and I knew I needed a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture to contrast with the crisp, flakiness of the crust.

I also gave in and just used cool whip for the topping. I know, I know, it’s such a cop out! But homemade pie crusts are time consuming, and all of the recipes are strangely written and confusing! I was so done with the pie at this point- and I do not have any mixer other than my own two hands, so homemade whipped cream was not about to happen.

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To be honest, after tasting this pie, I will probably just use cool whip again! It was pretty darn good! The BF loves pie, so he just ate it cold. I had to heat mine up because, well, it turns out I’m just not that into pie! He tells me that this one is a winner, though, so I’m posting it! (Also, it made for some really pretty pictures, and that was encouraging.)

I tried to simplify the pie crust instructions as much as possible, to make this recipe really accessible to beginners. If you’re an expert with pies, I would love to hear about any helpful hints or tips you have! I’m sure they will prove useful, as I will probably be making this again, since it was such a big hit!

Though it may be time consuming, I promise that the end result is worth it and this is the kind of pie that could work for any nice dinner, not just a holiday. Next time, I am considering decorating the top with some fruit, to give it some color and freshness!

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One last note- since I used two separate recipes, there was extra pudding. I just left it in my fridge and I’ve been snacking on it since Thanksgiving. This has worked out well, and I have no complaints! 🙂

Chocolate Pie
serves about 15 (one 8″ pie, and 6 minis)

Ingredients

for the crust
2 1/2 cups Tipo 00 flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks chilled, salted butter
7 tablespoons ice water

for the filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons salted butter

optional:
whipped cream and berries for topping

 

chocolate pie

 

First, prepare a cup of ice water and set it aside to chill.

For the next part, I used a food processor, but you could just as easily make the crust by hand (you might need to soften the butter a bit). Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt, and the sugar to a food processor. Mix everything together just a few times. Cube the chilled butter.

chocolate pie

 

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until it becomes grainy, and the butter is mixed throughout. It will look  a little like crumbled feta.

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, add the contents of the food processor into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the flour (1 cup) and mix together with a rubber spatula until there is no dry flour left and the “dough” becomes less grainy.

chocolate pie

 

Add the ice water to the bowl and mix together until the dough forms a ball.

chocolate pie

 

Using a sharp knife, cut it in half and flatten each half to form two discs. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

chocolate pie

 

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, cornstarch,  and salt.

chocolate pie

 

Using a whisk, combine everything. Next, measure out your milk and separate the egg yolks. I know that it is super annoying when a recipe calls for just egg yolks, but whenever this happens I use it as an excuse to make a delicious egg-white omelette for breakfast the next morning! If you pour the whites into tupperware and seal it, they will keep fine in the fridge overnight, and you don’t need to feel like they are going to waste!

chocolate pie

 

 

Add the milk and egg yolks to the sugar mixture and whisk together over medium heat. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, paying close attention to the consistency. You will need to remove the mixture from heat the minute it begins to boil or become thick (and trust me, you will know when this happens).

chocolate pie

 

Continue stirring occasionally, and keeping an eye out for the boiling. Prepare the chocolate by chopping it finely.

chocolate pie

 

 

After the sugar and milk mixture has become thick, take it off of the heat and mix in the chocolate, vanilla, and butter.

chocolate pie

 

You can really see how thick it has become by the way the chocolate is swirled into the sugar-milk mixture!

chocolate pie

 

After you have added in the butter and vanilla, continue to stir!

chocolate pie

 

You are done once the mixture has become thick and smooth.

chocolate pie

 

Set this aside to cool in its pot. Now that the filling is done, return your attention to the crust!

Start by preheating the oven to 425°F and placing a baking sheet on the middle rack. This is important, as you are preheating the pan as well as the oven.

Roll out one of the circles of the dough onto a floured surface, so that it is 1″ wider in diameter than your pan. I used an 8″ pie pan, and also made six individual, mini pies. But this makes enough dough for two bigger pies if you prefer.

chocolate pie

 

Press the dough into your pie (or muffin) tin and prick the crust with a fork.

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I used this muffin tin to make my mini pies, and they are so precious, I’ll definitely do that again!)

 

Now, normally at this point you would insert a pie weight or dried beans into the pie to keep the dough from shrinking. This sounded really weird to me as a novice, so I just didn’t do it. Everything turned out totally fine, and I will probably ignore those instructions again. BUT if you want your pie crust to stay as big as it is and to wrap around the filling fully, I would suggest weighing it down. After you have weighed it down (or not, if you’re like me, and too lazy) put the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes.

After the crust is firm, place it into the preheated oven, on the preheated baking sheet. Turn the temperature down to 400. Bake it for half an hour, and do not be alarmed if it shrinks. It will look so weird, but it turns out fine in the end!

Give the crust some time to cool before you put the pudding inside of it.

chocolate pie

 

You do not need much to fill them up, as they will be topped with whipped cream later!

chocolate pie

 

Now comes the fun part- the waiting game. Place your pies in the freezer uncovered for at least 4 hours. They can keep in the freezer for much longer, but will need to be covered to prevent freezer burn. Find something good on Netflix, and start your marathon!

 

After they have chilled and completely solidified, take them out and give them about five minutes to defrost. Using a rubber spatula, spread the whipped cream over the top and cut the slices, just before serving!

chocolate pie

 

You can even have them without whipped cream, and heated!

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will warn you, the pie can “melt” pretty fast, so it is in your best interest to use your sharpest knife and cut it into slices before the pudding becomes sticky and goopy again. You can also pre-slice it and refreeze it for easy serving!

chocolate pie

 

Enjoy!

chocolate pie

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Series: The Best Squash Casserole

squash casserole

 

This recipe is loosely based off of a dish from Tracy’s cafe in Mountain Brook, Alabama. I absolutely adore this recipe because it has lots of cheese and good variations in texture. However, I did add a few green ingredients to spruce it up, because without them it is very yellow.

squash casserole

 

It is a very simple dish, but it makes a ton of food! I cut the original in half and it still made probably 6 or 7 servings! (Okay, maybe I added in more cheese than it calls for…)

Before we get started just a quick note about the consistency of the filling: it will seem very very liquidy and thin, but I promise you that much of this bakes out. If you make the filling too thick to start with, the casserole will end up dry!

 

Squash Casserole

makes about 6 servings

Ingredients

4 medium, yellow squash
3/4 cup (about 1 medium) yellow onion
5 leaves fresh sage
2 tablespoons chives
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon almond milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
plain bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to top

squash casserole

 

First, wash and de-stem the squash. Slice them into thin (1/4 inch) rounds.

squash casserole

 

 

Prepare a pot of salted water to boil the squash. While you are waiting for the water to boil, dice the onion, make sure there are no large pieces.

squash casserole

 

Chop the chives along with the sage. Mince the garlic.

squash casserolesquash casserole

 

 

 

 

 

 

squash casserole

 

Once the water is boiling, cook the squash until they are very tender. This usually takes about 6-8 minutes. A fork should slide through even the thickest pieces very easily.

squash casserole

 

While the squash is cooking, combine the onions, sage, chives, and garlic in a large bowl. Add in the butter and cheese.

squash casserole

 

After they are tender, drain the squash thoroughly and add them to the bowl. Mix everything together until the butter has been completely melted by the squash.

squash casserole

 

Add in the milk and eggs, being careful to continually stir so as not to overcook the eggs. It is fine if they cook just a bit, but they still need to act as a binder for the casserole filling.

squash casserole

 

Add in the salt and pepper.

squash casserole

 

Pour the filling into your pans and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs, then parmesan cheese.

squash casserole

 

Cook in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the filling is bubbling up.

squash casserole

 

Enjoy!

squash casserole

 

 

Thanksgiving Series: Sweet, Sweet Sweet Potato Casserole!

sweet potato casserole

Many people think of winter as being a bad season for vegetables, but there are a ton of delicious veggies that come into season just in time for Thanksgiving! Sweet potatoes are one of those vegetables. They are such a great addition to any meal, but whether in casserole or pie form, they certainly play an important part in most Thanksgiving spreads!

sweet potato casserole

 

One of the biggest controversies surrounding Thanksgiving is always regarding sweet potato casserole toppings. Should we use marshmallows or pecans? This recipe, which was inspired by a recipe from Some Kitchen Stories, eliminates the need to even make a choice. It has both! Personally, I adore marshmallows, so I decided to add a ton of them! However, the butter-brown sugar- pecan topping is also delicious and reheats surprisingly well!

I made half of the recipe, which created some difficulties with the single egg that the recipe calls for. Fortunately, I needed half an egg to make the cornbread for my dressing! I whisked a single egg and used half for this recipe, and half for the cornbread. If you are wanting to make this for more people, or don’t want to halve an egg, you can just double the recipe. The one I’ve posted here will serve about 5 people.

 

Sweet Potato Casserole
(adapted from Damn Delicious)

Ingredients
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup milk
1/2 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cornflakes
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon salted butter, melted
miniature marshmallows

sweet potato casserole

sweet potato casserole

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first step is to cook the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a pan with parchment paper. Wash the sweet potatoes and bake them in the oven for about an hour. They are ready when they become soft and you can see a sugary substance oozing from them! At this point your kitchen will already begin to smell amazing!

After they are finished baking, reduce the heat of the oven to 350°F. Let the potatoes cool a bit and peel the skin off. It shouldn’t take any effort at all, as the baking separates the skin from the inside of the sweet potato.
sweet potato casserole

 

 

 

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, milk, 1/2 egg, and vanilla extract.

sweet potato casserole

 

Add in the salt and the skinned sweet potatoes. Mash everything together until it is well blended, but still a bit chunky. You do not want a puree, but something that still resembles sweet potatoes (even if only a little bit)!

sweet potato casserole

 

In a smaller bowl, combine the cornflakes, pecans, and brown sugar.

sweet potato casserole

 

Mix everything together with your hands, crushing the corn flakes along the way. (I tried to do this with a spoon at first but it just wasn’t as effective!) Mix in the 1 tablespoon of melted butter, making sure to coat everything.

sweet potato casserole

 

Now, assemble the casserole! Butter the inside of the dish and fill it with the sweet potato mash.

sweet potato casserole

 

 

Sprinkle the corn flake mixture on top, leaving out a space in the center for the marshmallows. Bake the casserole for 20 minutes in the 350° oven.

sweet potato casserole

 

After it has baked a bit, add the marshmallows, being sure to fill the center. I decided to add a bit more than that, because I’ve always loved marshmallows on my sweet potato casserole!

sweet potato casserole

 

Bake for about 5 more minutes, or until the marshmallows have been toasted to your preferences.

sweet potato casserole

 

Enjoy!

sweet potato casserole