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Chestnut Stuffing

I don’t want to alarm you, but I have a piece of chestnut shell lodged under the nail of my right middle finger. It’s just an annoyance now, but the fact that it’s there speaks to my devotion to chestnut stuffing. I made it this past weekend for a Friendgiving celebration and have enjoyed it as a side dish for every lunch and dinner since. Does a chestnut stuffing with a side of Caesar salad make a well-balanced meal?

I love chestnuts in all forms—roasted, candied, pureed in soup —but my favorite is covered in herbs among cubes of bread. It’s one of my mother’s signature dishes, and if you want to serve up something a little different for Thanksgiving, it’s worth the potential nail trauma.

It’s an easy recipe that calls for a little manual labor. To prepare the chestnuts, you need to cut Xs all the way through one side of the shells. Roast them on a baking sheet for thirty minutes at 400°F, then let them cool a bit. Peel them while their still warm and make sure to remove the hard outer shell and furry inner skin called the pellicle. Continue Reading →

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Irish Soda Bread

Day 31: March 16, 2010

Hi there. I should start this post by acknowledging things have been very quiet here since late February. Between having limited internet access at my apartment for the past three weeks due to shoddy Road Runner service, long days at work, and a minor boyfriend medical emergency, I haven’t been cooking or posting much. I have been documenting my existence with daily photos and uploading them when I can. I’ve also been eating a lot of sandwiches, my favorite of which has been this week’s melted brie, apple, and blackberry jam on toasted whole wheat.

But let’s get down to the business at hand. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. You may be reading this through Guinness goggles; perhaps you have a bottle of Jameson nearby. You may not be drinking and just wearing a wool sweater, or still giggling to yourself about the suckers you saw wearing wool sweaters on a day that hit sixty degrees.

I have no sweater or booze. Instead, I have a large chunk of crispy, sugar-topped Irish soda bread. This is the first soda bread I’ve made that couldn’t double as a doorstop or weight training tool and I owe it to this recipe from Epicurious. It’s not be the most traditional recipe, but it was a hit this morning at work, and I’ve consumed half of a second loaf by myself. Its scone-like consistency and flavor may make it a staple in my breakfast bread rotation. The only issue is tracking down buttermilk and having plenty of raisins on hand.

Even though the holiday is almost over, give the recipe a shot and enjoy a slice on Sunday morning with a cup of tea.

Soda Bread

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Grandma’s Recipe Book: Honey Whole Wheat Bread

honeywwbread

There are a number of recipes written on random stationary in my grandmother’s collection. This is on hotel stationary, while others come from factories, a research facility of some sort, and (what I believe to be) my aunt’s algebra homework.

According to my mother, this recipe for honey whole wheat bread was one of her favorites. After making it today, I can see why. The crust is crunchy, the interior is soft, and there is the tiniest hint of honey. My baking process wasn’t error free, however.

More photos and the full recipe after the jump. Continue Reading →

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Zucchini Bread

zucbread

The kitchen table in my apartment offers a rotating assortment of baked goods in tupperware containers and ziploc bags. Last week, Erin made pumpkin cookies and banana nut muffins. Then, Clare made pumpkin bread and muffins, followed a few days later by Magnolia cupcakes (mini and full size). Erin made corn muffins yesterday, then I made zucchini bread. Erin made zucchini cookies, a batch of brownies, and more muffins this afternoon, and finally, while not baking-related, Jess made a whole bunch of edamame tonight. There’s nothing better than getting home from work to a fresh plate of cookies, or waking up in the morning to a plate of muffins waiting for breakfast.

My zucchini bread recipe came from Simply Recipes, my new trusted source for baked goods. They’re behind the brownies and banana bread that I have shared with many friends and they’re always a hit.

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Blueberry Fig Muffins

blueberryfig

I only cooked one night this weekend for a dinner party to celebrate the visit of my friend Inbal. She moved to Israel last year, but she’s back for the month to visit friends in all corners of New York State and she spent the weekend on the lovely futon in my living room. (Lovely is a bit strong. Creaky and lumpy may be more appropriate adjectives.) I decided to keep things simple by using existing recipes, so we made salsa, salad, and a summer tomato tart. We finished the night with cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar and a tasting of our friend Sean’s amazing home brewed beer, along with a few rounds of Rock Band.

This afternoon was my first time back in the kitchen, and as I assessed the contents of the fridge, I was faced with a wall of questionable leftovers. The three items that held up were the blueberries, figs, and a forgotten lemon (it should have been zested for the tart), so naturally I thought, “Muffins.”

These muffins are a take on the traditional blueberry muffin with pureed fresh fig and a dash of lemon zest. I think they have just the right level of sweetness, but you could get away with cutting down the sugar to 3/4 cup. They’re also a great way to use leftover ingredients if you make the Fig and Goat Cheese Salad I posted last week. Recipe after the jump. Continue Reading →

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Ginger Pear Quick Bread

I’ve mentioned my Sunday ritual before on this blog. I wake up early, plan the menu for the week, make a shopping list, and then head to the store once Ramsey wakes up for anything I wasn’t able to grab at the farmers’ market. As budgets become tighter, I’ve also added a quick fridge and cupboard inventory to the the routine, rummaging through the deepest recesses of food storage areas to make sure I know exactly what I still have and what needs to be replenished. This was inspired by what was becoming a wasteful practice of cleaning out the fridge after returning from the store to find all sorts of items that could have been used for dishes the previous week, but I had forgotten they were there.

During my inventory this past Sunday, I found a large chunk of ginger left over from dumpling adventure last week, as well as ample sugar, flour, oil, and spices. I decided to make a Ginger Pear Quick Bread that would only require the purchase of two pears, and would also serve as breakfast for much of the week. Continue Reading →

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Kitchen Basics: Banana Bread

Quick breads are what simple breakfast dreams are made of for me. Defined by their use of chemical levening agents like baking powder or soda in place of yeast, quick breads can be thrown together in a matter of minutes and baked for about an hour, resulting in a dense, cake-like treat. They’re typically made up of just liquid, butter, egg, sugar, flour, and a leavening agent, so chances are good you have all of the ingredients for some sort of quick bread in your kitchen right now.

When my boyfriend Ramsey mentioned his love of banana bread a few weeks ago, I realized I had never actually made what may be the quintessential quick bread. I’d made pumpkin in the fall, but had yet to attempt banana. Thus, I went on a hunt for a classic banana bread recipe that would bring back memories of childhood breakfasts.

I first tried Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything, and while good, it wasn’t quite as moist as I wanted. I’ll try it again soon and modifying a few things, but in the meantime, I found what may be the easiest, fool-proof recipe on Simply Recipes. I’ve made it twice since finding it over the weekend and it doesn’t even require a mixer! Dishes are also easy, with just a loaf pan, bowl, fork, and spoon left to clean when all is said and done.

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Cranberry Apricot Muffins

I promise this will be my last post about muffins for a while. (They’re just so easy to make and delicious.) Last weekend called for some cranberry muffins made with fresh cranberries, seeing as they are easily available with Thanksgiving just over a week away. Fresh cranberries also add an extra bite without adding too much sweetness, while it can be hard to find dried unsweetened cranberries. Continue Reading →

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Kitchen Basics: Bread

Bread is just about as basic as it comes, and yet people are scared to make it. They think it’s going to be a lengthy, complicated process, but in reality, it requires a small amount of prep time and a bit of waiting around. You probably already have all of the ingredients sitting in your kitchen, just waiting around. Really, when was the last time you used any of the yeast from that three pack of Fleischmann’s you decided to pick up a few months ago? 

If you’re looking to make a lot of dough and have it at the ready for two weeks or more in the fridge, I highly recommend the Simple Crusty Bread recipe, featured here in the NYT, but originally from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If you only want to make a plain white loaf the old-school way, tea towel and all, here’s a simple recipe. Continue Reading →