My First Apple Pie

Pie and fork1

In families, many of us have a role to play. I’m the dessert girl. And hence–through our three Thanksivings–I have made the same number of desserts.

Extended family on Mom’s side always asks for Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake, so I made that Thursday for lunch. Friday was Vore’s birthday. I made Almond Butter Blondie Cake for his family’s celebration, serving it with candles. And for today’s gathering at my parent’s house, I decided on apple pie, a favorite of my dad’s.

Would you believe I’ve never made apple pie before? A piece of Americana that I’ve never cooked on my own! Tragedy.

Given that this was a new venture for me, I thought it best to follow a trusted recipe. I chose Organic Valley’s Caramel Apple Pie. I’m pleased to say my furry little sous chef and I turned out a pretty American classic. I recorded the adventure in photos. Enjoy!

Pie CollagePie Collage 1Pie Collage 2Pie Collage 3

Pumpkin Spice Scones with Cranberry

scones

What should you eat for Thanksgiving breakfast? Pumpkin, obviously! These little scones are inspired by holiday flavors, containing just the kind of ingredients you’ll find on your Thanksgiving table. Pumpkin, cranberries and brown sugar–How’s that for a good start to your Turkey Day?

For the scones: 

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/3 cup cranberries

1/2 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the topping: 

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 tablespoon organic sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the butter into the flour, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir the cranberries in and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the pumpkin, buttermilk, brown sugar and vanilla. Make sure the brown sugar dissolves completely.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then pour the pumpkin mixture in. Mix until just combined. Your dough will be slightly crumbly.

Scones 3Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form a disk. Roll to about an inch thickness. It should be about 8 inches in circumference.

Pour the butter over the dough, spreading it out evenly. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together, then sprinkle over the dough. Use your hands to lightly press the cinnamon sugar into the dough. Slice into 8 even wedges.

Bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes. Serve warm, and try not to drool.

An Open Letter to Restaurant Chefs

Starring Veggie Plate 1

Dear Restaurant Chefs,

I think you guys are amazing. Most of you labored through culinary school (jealous!) and work crazy hours, all in the name of churning out delicious food. Your creativity inspires me on a regular basis. I love seeing the menus you write and tasting your unique flavor combinations, often copying them at home and on this site.

Allow me to tell you more about myself. I’m that customer you love to hate. The squeaky wheel who inquires about ingredients, makes special orders and very occasionally sends a salad back if it comes mixed with a smattering of bacon. I did politely ask the waiter to leave it off. I’m a vegetarian.

I really do try not to be a pain. I never ask you to create a special something just for me. Sides will do! I apologize for being picky. I tip your waiters well. Heck, I even wrote a post titled “How to Order When There’s No Veggie Menu Option” in an effort to make it easier on you guys when my kind comes to visit.

For the most part, you are incredibly accommodating. I’ve found that a majority of restaurant chefs actually get jazzed at the challenge of preparing a delicious meat-free meal. Ninety percent of you will, upon request, deliver a veggie plate that knocks my socks off. But then, there’s this:

Bad Veggie Plate

That’s plain old spaghetti, tomato sauce and canned black beans, presented to me as the “vegetarian plate” at a seated dinner. This looks like something a drunk college kid would concoct. (In your defense, this was served at a university’s conference center and could very well have been imagined by a drunk college kid.)

Today, can I give you a few tips on dealing with the likes of me?

1. Put something without meat on the menu. Fish doesn’t count. I know, I know: How could someone possibly want a meal with no steak/chicken/shrimp? The fact is, lots of Americans are paying more attention to what they eat. You simply don’t need heavy protein at every meal. I’ve seen my meat-and-potatoes guy order a black bean burger over the beef version. If he’ll order it, anyone will.

2. Don’t lean on pasta. Beggars can’t be choosers, but I loathe it when the only vegetarian option is a simple pasta dish. I can make that at home! You’re charging $18 for something that costs $2 to make. Pasta primavera is a carb heavy cop out. Which brings me to my next point…

Veggie Plates

3. Avoid carb loading. My standard reply to a waiter who tells me their restaurant doesn’t have a vegetarian item is, “Can the chef use the sides to make a vegetable plate?” They are usually A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Check out all the colorful plates above. Those artful combos arrived at my table by ordering just this way. But several times, I’ve received a plate that was straight carbs. Once, I got three kinds of potatoes and a tiny portion of green beans. Potato + small salad + mixed vegetables = easy.

Now then, I’d like to close by saying thank you. If you make the teensiest effort to accommodate me, I’ll be the most grateful customer you have all week. I’ll tell my friends about you. I will come back time and time again. I will bring family and clients to eat at your establishment. Heck, I might even mention you on this little blog. (Thank you Bottega, Chez Fon Fon, Highlands, Hot + Hot and Cafe DuPont for being special order veggie plate rockstars in my hometown!)

I’l go ahead and thank you all in advance for your efforts to accommodate vegetarians, the health conscious and those who had a big fat steak with lunch and don’t want the same for dinner. Restaurant chefs, we appreciate you!

XOXO,

Britt

Chocolate Coconut Layer Bars

_BBR1625 2

With little Sprout on the way, my sweet tooth is raging stronger than ever. Who am I kidding? All my “teeth” are pretty strong. I’m eating everything like a trucker! But still, sweets taste better than ever right now. This has caused an onslaught of baking around our house.

I’ve tried to be semi-well-behaved, not eating batter with raw eggs and reducing refined sugar where I can. That’s how these Chocolate Coconut Layer Bars came into being. I took a look in the cabinet, pulled out a few things that sounded like they’d go well together, and got experimenting. Three batches later, I think it’s safe to say our family is into the results.

Now then, how shall I describe this delicious little bar cookie? Perhaps a Hello Dolly would be its closest cousin? Think crunchy crust on the bottom, creamy, caramel tasting middle and cake-y top–everything a layer bar should be.

I’m not going to call this dessert “healthy,” because I’m rarely a fan of sweets that fall into that category. But I did replace butter with heart healthy coconut, most of the flour with oats, and a good bit of sugar with dates. Can we settle on “healthier?”

Chocolate Coconut Layer Bars

Base Layer:

1 cup oats

1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons coconut oil

Place the oats and the coconut in a Vitamix or food processor. Grind until you’ve almost got a flour. Add in the brown sugar and coconut oil, and pulse a few times. You should have a yummy crumble.

Press firmly into a greased 8 x 8 metal pan, and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Layer 2:

12 large mejool dates, pitted

2 tablespoons almond butter

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup dark chocolate chips

No need to clean out the Vitamix/food processor! Add the dates, and process at a high speed until crumbly. Add the almond butter, coconut milk and salt to make a creamy, delicious carmel goo. Pour this over your crust then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

Layer 3:

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut oil at room temperature

1/4 cup full fat coconut milk

1/4 cup organic sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a larger bowl, combine the sugar, egg, coconut oil and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until fluffy. Add the flour in 3 additions, until just combined. Pour over the chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool, then place in the fridge before cutting. We store ours in the fridge, freezing about half so we don’t eat the entire batch…Because it’s entirely possible and it wouldn’t be pretty. Enjoy!

In other news, we have a winner for The Cooking Light Lighten Up, America! cookbook giveaway. #3 was Polynesian delight:

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 4.59.28 PMTeri K on October 29, 2013 at 12:37 am

Loco moco…hamburger and an over easy egg placed on rice and smothered with gravy. So ono-licious (delicious), as we say here in Hawaii.

I am ridiculously excited to mail this package to Hawaii! Congratulations, Teri! I think anything “smothered in gravy” is a winner.