Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Fruit Masa Cookie Crumble {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Why do I always have such a hard time with the whole back-to-school thing? Does anyone else feel this way? The internet tells me I should be happy to see my child marching off for another year and I get it, I do, but I also feel such sadness at the thought of my little girl beginning a new grade, growing up, getting older, and all that other stuff I simultaneously do and don't want to happen. I think Hiro summed it up in his sweet 2-year-old voice when he looked straight at Louisa and said, "I'm going to miss you when you go to school Weesa." Yep, me too. In my last ditch attempts at denial I'll just pretend we are still firmly in July and continue posting summer recipes until at least mid-October.

If you are like me then you are a woman who enjoys a warm fruit cobbler/crisp/crumble situation more than anything in this whole wide world (you could also be a man who enjoys these things but then you wouldn't be exactly like me, just sayin').

One of the most troubling peculiarities of my family is that no one else shares my fruit-filled obsession, and while I'm not against making an individual peach cobbler just for myself (brilliant, so brilliant) its just not as fun as enjoying it with someone else. So when Sydney posted this Strawberry Oatmeal Cookie Crumble I thought the idea might just be different enough to peak at least The Professor's interest.

What happens is this: cookie dough instead of oat/nut/biscuit topping and the dough is not only a topping but a bottoming too (meaning two layers—you catch my drift). I used one of our favorite gluten-free, vegan cookie doughs and a jumble of fruit (sweet cherries, blueberries, strawberries) but this recipe is highly adaptable. Any sort of stone fruit would work, all berries would be good, and as apples and pears come into season they would be right at home too.

Some other ideas:

Bottom line is that I made this, took a picture of it, ate one serving, and my husband ate the rest—really, truly a man after my own heart.

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Summer Fruit Masa Cookie Crumble {Gluten-Free, Vegan}
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While I enjoy most cobblers and crisps and things of those nature warm with ice cream The Professor and I both agreed this dessert was better chilled a little bit or at best room temperature. As for the lavender I had some in my garden and I love the lavender-berry combo, but you could omit it and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract instead. 

Inspired by Crepes of Wrath

Makes 8 servings

1 recipe Coconut Masa Shortbread dough, chilled
5 cups chopped ripe fruit (I used pitted and halved bing cherries, whole blueberries, and quartered strawberries)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lavender buds, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.  Grease a 7 x 11-inch baking dish and set aside.

2. Combine fruit, cornstarch, sugar, lavender, and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir until cornstarch and sugar have coated the fruit.

3. Crumble two-thirds of the dough in the bottom of the baking dish. Spread fruit mixture evenly over the dough and then crumble remaining dough on top, covering evenly.

4. Bake until fruit is bubbly and top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let sit at least 30 minutes before serving with ice cream and an extra sprinkling of lavender buds.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Simple Stewed Green Beans

This week marks the last full week of summer for us. The Professor starts teaching again next Monday and Louisa will start school Thursday. I'm mourning the end of summer and will miss having the two of them around. I feel like I should have some sort of last-week-of-summer blow-out but I'm too tired to plan or execute any such thing. Instead I'm just going to try to enjoy every last moment before—poof! Just like that its over.

I first posted this recipe all the way back in 2010 but find myself making it so often that I thought it deserved some new pictures and a face lift. I got it from Cat Cora who attributes it to her Greek upbringing but my Mexican mother-in-law makes a very similar dish, sometimes with green beans and on occasion with nopales or cactus paddles.

It's no surprise that this method of cooking crunchy green vegetables spans the globe, it's a wonderful, easy way to cook them. You completely skip the two-step blanching process normally done when sautéing fresh green beans, and simply toss all the ingredients together. As the green beans cook they soak up the flavors of the onions, garlic and herbs and best of all, you only dirtied one pot.

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Simple Stewed Green Beans
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Adapted from Cat Cora's Kitchen

Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup water
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent and just starting to brown.

2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook until beans are tender, but not mushy. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chopped Garden Salad with Queso Fresco and Crispy Tortilla Croutons

I'd like to have a moment of silence for my beloved pumpkin plant whose life was cut short by a very ugly white worm infestation. Time of death: approximately 8pm, Friday night; at least that's when I yanked the gigantic tangle of monster vines from the ground in hopes of saving its neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Delicata Squash.

I get a tinge of sadness now when I look out at the garden and see the huge empty spot and overgrown grass where it had once stretched out into the lawn, but it did manage to produce two very solid Jack 'O Lanterns before its passing, which was kind seeing as I have two children who would not be satisfied with one pumpkin to share.

Other than the pumpkin fatality the garden is producing in full August fashion, we've had three consecutive meals (breakfast included) of tomatoes and actually have watermelons (!!!!!). I'm really excited about that last one (can you tell?) because that was a complete shot in the dark. I'll take some garden pics next week so you can see how things are progressing.

I was so overwhelmed by the garden's bounty when we got home last week that there was nothing left to do but dive in head first with supper salad after supper salad. Salad for lunch! Salad for dinner! Salad for breakfast?! Yay!

This one is a riff off one of my very favorite salads where thick slabs of avocado meet crispy-fried tortilla strips all tossed in a sharp lime-cilantro vinaigrette but this time I used tarragon and red wine vinegar instead of the cilantro and lime juice guessed it—I've got tarragon coming out the wazoo. I used plenty of crunchy garden lettuce and lightly blanched green beans then finished it all off with a sprinkling of creamy queso fresco. Chop! Chop!

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day! xo

Chopped Garden Salad with Queso Fresco and Crispy Tortilla Croutons
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Makes 2 servings (as a main course)

1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 sprigs tarragon, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups torn lettuce
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into thick slices
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled

1. Bring a medium saucepan of heavily-salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and submerge in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Set aside to cool completely then remove from water and pat dry.

2. In a medium bowl combine the red onion slices, teaspoon salt, vinegar, and lemon juice. Set aside to marinate while you make the tortilla strips.

3. Cut each tortilla in half vertically, then each half into strips horizontally. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Once oil is hot, add tortilla strips a few at at time and fry until browned and crisp on both sides, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips.

4. To finish the dressing, add tarragon, olive oil, and black pepper to the onion mixture and stir with a fork to combine.

5. Arrange lettuce, avocado, radishes, green beans on two large plates. Drizzle dressing over the top then sprinkle with tortilla croutons and queso fresco. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Little Bee's Italian Ice

If you've been following along on Instagram then you know we are on Day 11 of our epic family road trip. So far we've watched Ride Along while floating in a car ferry  across Lake Michigan, stayed in an 1830's beach cottage, 1970's suburban home, and a live-work space that used to sell bingo equipment, and climbed a mile-high sand dune (slight exaggeration). It has been a proper trip, making memories over here.

Last Thursday we made our way up the Lake Michigan coastline to the tiny village of Suttons Bay where our friends Tony and Jennifer have an Italian Ice shop in the summer. Little Bee's is the type of place you would visit at least twice a day if you were on vacation in a quaint beach town. I could see stopping for a tart cherry ice after a hot day near the shore and then again for a little sea salt caramel affogato after dinner. I can see all this happening because that's what we did—four days straight.

You are probably thinking at this point that I am going on and on about this place because they are our friends and I want to support them and all of that is true but I am here to tell you that after nearly two weeks of eating a nightly frozen treat (we are on vacation after all) the Italian ice, sorbet, and gelato at Little Bee's were hands down the best we've had on our entire trip.

The gelato is light, super creamy, and made with local fruit and nuts. The sorbet is eye-popping bright , made one batch at a time (they have no freezer other than the one they scoop out of) and melts into a fruity puddle on your tongue. But the italian ice, oh the italian ice, they have outdone themselves there. The texture is like that of a perfectly melted snow cone, not too watery, but no hard balls of ice either, and the flavors—watermelon, lemon, lime, and my personal favorite tart cherry—are the best incarnations of themselves.

If you find yourselves in their neck of the woods, go there! They are open until the snow starts falling (sometime around October) when they will shut down the churner and call it quits.....'til next year.

Little Bee's Italian Ice
309 N. St. Joseph Street
Suttons Bay, MI

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pizza with Chimichurri, Chorizo, and Squash Blossoms

Hello from Traverse City, Michigan! We are currently very busy spending long luxurious days at the beach, eating our weight in gelato (more on that later) and stopping at every farm stand filling our car with cherries and sweet corn. So please excuse me for the short post.

I did however want to leave you with an incredible pizza you may want to tackle this weekend. It is made on a whole wheat crust that I feel I've spent a lifetime perfecting. I've discovered the secret is leaving the dough a little wetter than you would imagine which makes for a chewy flavorful crust that is never tough or dry. When you are mixing the dough it should stick to the bottom of the bowl and be sticky to the touch. You can always add flour to the counter when you are stretching out the dough to keep your hands dry.

I've grown squash, summer and winter varieties, for a few years now but have always been too scared to use the blossoms. I didn't trust myself to pick the right ones and feared I might kill off my crop. But this year I decided to go for it and do what anyone does when they have no idea what they're doing—watch a video on youtube. I never realized it is so easy to tell the difference! The mama blossoms are the ones with the baby squash attached (don't touch those) and the papa blossoms have a long thin stem attached (those are the ones you want).

The chimichurri is a snap and comes together in seconds in the food processor. This recipe makes a lot more that you will use for the pizza, but there's nothing wrong with having a little extra in the fridge to spread on sandwiches, fold into mayo and hard-boiled yolks for spectacular deviled eggs, or dollop onto gazpacho.

This pizza is extra fancy, impressive even, the way pizza should be.

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Pizza with Chimichurri, Chorizo, and Squash Blossoms
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The dough needs about 3 hours to rise. If you want to make the dough ahead of time, you can make it up to a day in advance and let rise, covered in the refrigerator. Make sure you take it out of the refrigerator, place on a clean, lightly-floured surface, and cover with a clean kitchen towel at least 30 minutes before baking. 

Makes 2 (12-inch) pizzas

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-110°F)
1 1/4 teaspoons dried yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing

For the chimichurri:
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups packed cilantro leaves
1 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

For the pizza:
12-24 squash blossoms
4-8 ounces thinly sliced dry Spanish chorizo
3 cups shredded chiuahua or mozzarella cheese

1. To make the dough, combine water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate the yeast.

2. Add both flours and the salt and mix on low speed just until combined. Increase heat to medium and slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue mixing until it is fully incorporated. The dough should be dry enough that the sides of the bowl are clean but wet enough that it is sticking to the bottom of the bowl. Add more flour or water a tablespoon at a time to get it to the right consistency, if necessary.

3. Once it reaches the right consistency, increase the speed to medium-high and knead for 8 minutes. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

4. Meanwhile, make the chimichurri. Combine garlic, cilantro, chives, mint, shallots, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the vinegar and olive oil and continue processing until smooth. Taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed. Chimichurri can be made up to 3 days in advance.

5. When the dough is ready, heat oven to its highest setting or at least 450°F. If you have a pizza stone place it on the bottom rack of the oven and let it heat up with the oven.

6. Once the oven is hot, stretch the dough into a 12-inch circle (if you are using a pizza stone) or stretch over a baking sheet (if you don't). Evenly spread about 3 tablespoons of chimichurri over the dough. Top with half the squash blossoms, chorizo, and cheese and transfer to the oven. Bake until crust is golden and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.

7. Remove from oven, slice and serve.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mexican Chocolate Tart with Tequila in a Saltine-Graham Cracker Crust

This tart came about for a few reasons. First of all chocolate, hello?!

And then I kept reading post after post about The Aspen Food and Wine Classic which led me to the conclusion that I will never again eat any sort of chocolate dessert without tequila in it because again, hello?!

And then I was chit chattin' with my Mom and she told me about this pie that is made with a saltine crust, which I just about dropped my jaw for, and then she told me about some tin roof concoction that she made for 4th of July that was a graham cracker-saltine combo with vanilla ice cream, salty peanuts, chocolate sauce, more ice cream, and more chocolate sauce and probably some more peanuts—I kinda started drifting off into a mind tumble of dessert combinations while she was talking.

So that was it. I had no other excuse. I made spicy chocolate pudding, added some tequila, and put it all in a saltine-graham cracker crust because basically I had to. And now you have to because I'm laying it all out here for you like a freakin' road map to heaven.

Can we talk about this crust for a hot second, because I'm endlessly fascinated with it. So basically you just take like 30 saltine crackers that normally you have sitting around for chili season and crush them up in the food processor with a few graham crackers and melted butter and then pour all that crumbly goodness into a fancy tart tin like this one or a pie plate.

Then you pack it down in there good and tight and even and beautiful with your deft and masterful hands or the bottom of a measuring cup if your slightly neurotic about crust evenness (which I'm not, see the finger marks?)

You bake that baby at 375°F for 15 minutes or until it is nice a browny-brown around the edges and smells like toasted crackerey goodness. Then you let it cool completely on a wooden chair sitting next to a stuffed animal named Bito, if desired.

And that's it. Now it is ready to fill with chocolate and tequila and all things wonderful. I'm thinking this also might be the base of my next icebox cake or even Thanksgiving's pumpkin pie. Excuse me while I drool.

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day! xo

Mexican Chocolate Tart with Tequila in a Saltine-Graham Cracker Crust

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Note: The easiest way to cut the tart is by dipping your knife in very hot water, dry it off, then make a slice. Repeat this after every slice for clean, even slices. 

Makes 1 (10-inch) tart


For the crust:
1 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 30 crackers)
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers (about 4 cracker sheets)
6 tablespoons melted butter

For the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 cups half-and-half
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3 tablespoons tequila
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers, for garnish
raspberries and figs, for garnish (optional)

1. To make the crust, heat oven to 375°F and arrange rack in the middle.

2. Combine saltines and graham cracker crumbs in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add butter and pulse until well combined, about 1 minute.

3. Pour crust mixture into the bottom of a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your fingers, press the crumbs starting from the middle out to make an even, compact crust. Work your way to the sides last, pressing the crumbs all along the side of the pan.

4. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack before starting the filling.

5. To make the filling, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cayenne powder, and salt in a medium saucepan, whisking to break up any lumps.

6. Set the saucepan over medium heat and slowly add the half-and-half while continuously whisking. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, you want to keep the heat at medium or medium-low so the cornstarch has enough time to cook, it should take about 10 minutes for the mixture to come to a boil.

7. When the filling starts to boil, remove it from the heat and add both chocolates, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and the tequila. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.

8. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the mixture into the cooled crust and spread evenly. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

9. When you are ready to serve, carefully remove the sides of the tart pan. Combine the heavy cream, remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and the powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the cream on medium-high until fluffy, stiff peaks form. Pile the whipped cream on top of the tart, sprinkle with almonds, and fruit if desired and serve.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Throw a Summertime Birthday Bash That Both Kids and Parents Will Love

Our daughter turned six last week and normally, mid-summer, we are on vacation and celebrate her birthday with a small family party wherever we happen to be. But this year we were home, between trips, and decided to have a backyard get-together that was as much for us as it was for her. She got to invite a few friends and we got to invite all of ours. She got to pick the theme (Frozen) and we got to pick everything else. The kids had a blast and so did the adults, there was a little something for everyone, take a look!

We wanted the main attraction to be something that both the kids and grown-ups love and I don't know a soul on earth who doesn't love pizza.

Making the pizzas on the grill let me be outside mingling with our guests and cook at the same time, plus its fun and tastes amazing. If you are fancy enough to have an outdoor pizza oven then you know what I'm talking about.

Pizza is so versatile and adapts to anyone's palate. We made basic pepperoni for the kids......

and fancier pizzas with cilantro pesto, squash blossoms, fresh mozzarella, and basil for everyone else.

We set up a little work station right next to the grill with space to stretch out the dough.....

and put the toppings on after the dough had been grilled.

Grilling pizza is really fun and you can prep the toppings, make the dough and the sauces all ahead of time. Not to mention the char...just look at that char...

To round out the menu we did a giant antipasti plate with cured meats, cheese, cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, grilled corn salad, radish pickles, and more.

My sister made a white gazpacho like this one from Simply Recipes with the cucumbers from her garden which we served in shot glasses for easy eating.

We also picked spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and carrots from the garden and made a big salad with cilantro-balsamic vinaigrette.

 A Cucumber Red Onion Salad inspired by this one from Shutterbean.

And a simple fruit salad of watermelon, blueberries, and white nectarines tossed with lemon juice and mint slivers.

For drinks we made Agua de Jamaica for the kids.

And sangria for the adults.

Then of course there was cake.

I used this recipe for Blue Velvet Cake and this recipe for cream cheese frosting.

There were plenty of presents for the birthday girl.

And of course a piñata.

Which The Professor precariously perched on the roof for.

After all a child's birthday not only celebrates the day they were born but the remarkably hard work you've put in as parents. Its good to remember to have a little fun.


Antipasti Plate
Sweet Cumin Radish Pickles
Vinegar Packed Cocktail Onions
Grilled Corn Salad (see recipe below)

How to Grill Pizza from The Kitchn
Cilantro Pesto

Cucumber Salad from Shutterbean
White Gazpacho from Simply Recipes

Agua de Jamaica {Hibiscus Punch}
Sangria from Smitten Kitchen

Blue Velvet Cake from Paula Deen (I doubled the recipe and used varying shades of blue to make a 9-inch, 3-layer ombre cake)
Cream Cheese Frosting from Gimme Some Oven

Other Resources
All the Frozen decorations were found online at Birthday Mania
I sent these really cute Frozen invitations from Punchbowl

I want to thank my friend Sam for taking a thousand shots of the same thing. You did a great job!

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day! xo

Grilled Corn Salad
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Makes 4 servings

6 ears grilled corn on the cob
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
2 jalapeños, chopped (seeds removed if you want it less spicy)
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup cilantro chimichurri
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Slice the kernels from the grilled corn and place in a medium bowl.

2. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.