orange chocolate chunk cookies

orange choco chunk

For the first time since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, it feels like winter. This morning when our darling child woke us up at 5:30 in the morning it was a crisp 28 degrees outside. That is pretty uncommon for the Silicon Valley where the wardrobe consists of light terry Google hoodies and flip flops year round. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to chop down a Christmas tree up in the nearby mountains and expecting it to be chilly (since it was the last day of November), we bundled up in coats and scarves and went along our merry way. By the time we actually reached the tree farm we had stripped down to our last layer and were happy we had remembered deodorant. I was roasting, and felt like I should be taking a dip in the pool instead of kicking off the Christmas season. Thankfully, this week it really feels like Christmas is only two weeks away (yea, I’m not ready either!), so I’ve joyfully jumped into cookie baking mode, and this time, I won’t be dreaming of having an icy cocktail by the pool!

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Cookies are the perfect gift for someone who isn’t particularly on your Christmas list but you’d still like to let them know you appreciate them. I mean, who doesn’t love an assortment of home baked cookies around the holidays? The best part is they are easy to prep ahead of time, allowing you to focus on the things that really matter like keeping grandma from giving your son a swig of egg nog and your husband from knocking over that freshly poured glass of red wine with his new nerf gun. So, if you make the dough in advance, freeze it in pre-portioned sizes, all that’s left is some oven time and a little sprinkling of salt and voila! you have a fast and thoughtful gift for the carpet guy when he comes to get that red wine stain out of your dining room floor.

orange choco chunk-2

These cookies would be excellent with toasted pecans or walnuts. You could even sub the dark chocolate for good quality white chocolate and add cranberries, that would be delicious. (more…)

December 9, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, dessert, quick and easy. 6 comments.

your thanksgiving butternut squash soup

butternut squash soup

People have certain rules about what should be on the Thanksgiving table. I, for one, am pretty loosey goosey about the whole thing. This is not surprising to anyone who knows me well because ‘loosey goosey’ pretty much sums up my approach to the culinary world. I like to adjust as I go, add a pinch of something if it feels right and go with what I have on hand. When I sat down to plan what I would bring to the three dinners we will be attending, I knew I wanted to stray a little from tradition but still stay within the lines of the season. Dressing, green bean casserole and pie all made the cut and will maintain their traditional integrity, but I still felt like we could shake things up just a little tiny bit, but don’t worry, I didn’t nix the mashed potatoes.

I understand that no one really needs to have an appetizer right before they consume a weeks worth of food, and most people think the idea is absurd, but sometimes you want dinner to be a little fancy and I don’t know any better time to be fancy than on Thanksgiving. Break out the cloth napkins, the candlesticks and the good china, even make seating cards if you’d like and enjoy the one meal a year where you can pull out all the stops.

Thankfully, this starter won’t take up much of your time (which I know is utterly precious on the big day), and most of the ingredients are likely in your kitchen anyway, so no large additions to the shopping list either. Make the soup and remove the seeds from the pomegranate the day before and throw them in the fridge. Take a few leaves off of the brussels sprouts you’re probably already making and all thats left to do is just throw it all together. We ate it at room temperature and it was delightful, but you can warm it up in a pot if you can stand one more minute at the stove. (more…)

November 24, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . gluten free, quick and easy, sides, soup, vegetarian. 7 comments.

roasted peaches with gluten free crisp and creme fraiche

When I plan a meal, I have several check points I go through. I want to be sure that the meal is comprised of ingredients from the current season, and that on a whole, the meal feels cohesive from start to finish. If we are having friends join us, I also try to plan a dessert of some sort. This is usually my favorite part of the meal and the item I spend the most time thinking about. I’m a self diagnosed sugar fiend, so naturally this area excites me the most.

Most often, I like to dream up desserts that have several elements and can take hours, but when we are planning a meal for the middle of the week that doesn’t always work out very well. Unless we just decide to forgo dinner altogether and serve dessert alone, I better think of something a little more speedy.

During the summer, I tend toward the natural bounty of fruit that needs little done to it, if anything at all. Fresh peaches, while amazing in cobblers and crisps, can be divine all by themselves and as far as I’m concerned, make an excellent dessert. However, roasting them for a bit and then topping them a sprinkle of crisp and a dollop of creme fraiche won’t make anyone I know turn up their nose.

There is a lesson to be learned in this recipe: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. I’m going to repeat that to myself: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. This is a great mantra for me to remember. Too often I jump right to something unnecessarily complicated. Maybe after repeating this to myself a few hundred times I’ll think more simply the next time I want to make a dessert that takes three days.

This dish is just as versatile as it is quick. You can use whatever fruit is available at your farmers market, in fact I think apricots would be delicious here, so would plums or nectarines. The crisp topping can be frozen and used to stir into yogurt or crumbled onto pies, I also think it could be a great base for a granola too. (more…)

August 12, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, dessert, fruit, gluten free, quick and easy, summer, vegetarian. 5 comments.

banana bran muffins

Human beings can be grouped into two categories: those who snooze, and those who don’t. For as far back as I can remember, I have always set my alarm ten minutes before the time I actually should get up. After the first alarm sounds, I snuggle up under the covers and drift peacefully back to dreamland for another nine minutes. When the next alarm sounds, there is a subsequent push of the snooze button allowing for an extra few minutes to gradually come around to the idea of planting my bare feet on the cold wood floor. By the time the next alarm sounds, I’m forced to get out from under the soft protection of our duvet by the tangible fear of being late for work. For some people, this method is purely insane. Let’s take my husband for example. When we first got married, he would set his alarm for a certain time each morning and when that thing went off, he rose up out of bed like Frankenstein from the dead, swung his legs over the side, planted his feet on the ground and never looked back. No lingering thoughts of fluffy pillows and sweet dreams, this man was moving on to greet the day. For sometime, it drove him absolutely insane that I would let my alarm go off, snooze, let it go off again, and snooze one last (sweet) time. He could not understand how this was an effective way to start the day. However, as time went on, he started turning off his alarm, only to just roll over. Now, after three years of marriage, he hits snooze, hits it again, and on some days, one more time.

To me, mornings should start off slow and relaxed. I prefer to linger there in the wee hours and enjoy the gray morning light for just a few minutes before I start to consider what the day might throw at me. I always eat breakfast, sometimes something as simple as a bowl of cereal, but never do I pass it up. Since I like to spend most of my morning in bed, I do tend to rely on quick breakfast foods to keep me satisfied for the better part of the morning. These hearty muffins surely fit the bill. They are moist, slightly sweet and wholesome enough to carry you for a few hours. They would be incredible with a bit of greek yogurt and some honey to give you an extra punch of protein.

[This post is part of a Cook the Book project with 5 other incredible bloggers. Take a stroll on over to see Aimee, Samantha, Natasha, Emily and Claudie to see what quick breads they’ve baked up this week. I’ve heard there might be custard filled cornbread, might not want to miss that one!]

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August 7, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . baking, breakfast, fruit, quick and easy, vegetarian. 11 comments.

summer tomato tart + some exciting news!

This could turn out to be the most exciting summer of our lives. There have been so many changes around here that I don’t think our heads have stopped spinning. We have been through a whirlwind of travel and will continue to be dictated by the jet stream well into the beginning of fall. It has been such a glorious couple of months, most of which I hope to share with you sooner rather than later. For me, this time has been marked by a whole lot of soul searching and healthy doses of reality. I mentioned recently that I tend to jump right to the most extreme reaches of a situation and need to feel the pull of my tether (whom I warmly refer to as my husband). Thankfully, he keeps me grounded when the world is rushing around us.

There is actually one piece of news I would love to share with all of you, and since I tend to be a little impatient with all this good news rolling around in my head, at least this one can slip out, right? Well, come this September, I will be teaching cooking classes! This is something I am deeply looking forward to. They will be held in my home to begin with and will hopefully branch out to others homes, as well as new, inspiring venues. We will start by focusing on the basics of every day cooking and will eventually move on to more intensive subjects like tackling the always cumbersome Thanksgiving menu. My hope is that people who are not as confident as they would like to be in the kitchen will leave our home feeling well equipped in front of their own stove. Our first class will be Monday, September 10th at 6:30pm. We will be learning how to season food. Although that sounds simple, it is quite possibly your most powerful tool in the kitchen. I am always amazed by what a little salt can do.

If you are interested in taking a class, please contact me at odetogoodness@gmail.com and I will put you on the list to receive a calendar when one becomes available. Our first few classes will have limited space, so sign up soon if you’re interested. We are going to have a great time!

Now, on to this summer tomato tart. Normally, I try to avoid turning my oven on during the warm summer months. I do my best to plan meals around dishes that don’t need much cooking, or can be cooked outdoors on the grill. Our apartment has no air conditioning and it’s on the top floor. Just by putting two and two together you can imagine that equals a toasty home on really warm days. Adding the heat of a 400 degree oven usually doesn’t make it into that equation. However, I had some tart dough that was defrosted in the fridge that needed a filling, and well, there were these amazing little tomatoes at the market and raw tart dough is quite unpleasant to eat even with amazing tomatoes, so on went the oven…

This little tart comes together in no time flat as long as you have chilled tart dough ready to go. A purchased pie crust will work beautifully here as well if you don’t have any dough lingering in your fridge. If you plan ahead though, you might want to try making the crust at home. The recipe makes enough for two of these tarts, so freeze one and the next tomato tart you make will come together rather quickly.

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August 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . baking, quick and easy, summer, vegetarian, Whole Wheat. 18 comments.

smoked salmon toast

There are times when I feel like packing everything up and jumping ship. In those times I convince myself that some change would suit me well. Maybe a new city, new job or a sweet cuddly kitten would bring me back to feeling normal and content. For the past few months I have been in a mild state of discontentment and although I’ve done my very best to convince my husband to move back to San Francisco, or to let me quit my job to follow all those vague dreams I have (while throwing complete caution to the wind) he knows me better than that. With a kind heart he has approved a soft cuddly kitten if my heart desires it, but on the other huge life changes, he has been quietly letting the waves run their course, knowing that they will settle soon enough. See, he knows something I don’t. He knows that somewhere in my nature lies a reset button. This button takes many forms. A long lazy walk on the trail, a mini vacation to Seattle, a lovely breakfast in bed, or a trek into the wilderness of God’s creation will renew my spirit and bring me back to looking around at all that is right in front of me. Often, I need to hit that reset button for perspective and to awaken my thankful heart.

In The Breakfast Book, Marion Cunningham sprinkles bits of wisdom in between her recipes. Beneath this particular one for smoked salmon toast she wrote about breakfast in bed. It seems to be the perfect description of the type of reset I most definitely need.

Breakfast in Bed

One of the most blissful escapes is breakfast in bed with something good to read. Breakfast in bed is cozy, quiet and private. I instantly forget that it was I who fixed the tray. The simplest food tastes special. Since food that spills or sloshes can ruin the mood, this is the moment when toasts should be considered. A thermos of coffee or tea is ideal.

As one is softly propped up in bed the world falls away, and breakfast becomes what some poet called “a parenthesis in time.”-MC

Marion’s wisdom was evident in her cooking and her words. She hits the nail right on the head here in this perfect description of the joy that comes when we slow down enough to eat from the comfort of our own beds. Whenever I begin to feel that need for sudden change creep up inside of me, I’ll remember that all I really need to do is to fix myself a tray of simple food, prop myself up under the covers and let the world fade away.

This is a series of recipes from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. There are five other incredible women cooking through this book with me. Please head on over to the blogs of Aimee, Sammy, Natasha, Claudie and Emily for other delicious recipes from the toast chapter. (more…)

July 17, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . appetizers, bread, breakfast, fish, quick and easy. 10 comments.

double chocolate chip cookies

There is a good chance I’ll never be famous for anything. That ‘s not meant to be self-defeating, in fact, I don’t know that I’d like all the attention. I mean, who wants people to follow them around taking pictures of their cellulite, bad hair days and unfortunate run-ins with the law? I’ll stick to my quiet life in which my transgressions (cellulite related or otherwise) are kept mostly under wraps.

For some, fame isn’t a choice, it shows up on it’s own, often uninvited, knocking at your door whether you wanted it to or not. In the case of Diane Smith and her infamous chocolate chip cookies, the news was impossible to contain. After making these cookies for years, in massive amounts, satisfying many a sweet tooth, the probability of this secret staying in the recipe box was as likely as an orange tree producing apples. My guess is, “Can I have this recipe?” is the single most common query she receives. For young brides, mastering these cookies is a rite of passage into their matrimonial duties, and for the single men looking to impress a lady, successful execution could be the very thing that changes their relationship status forever.

Over the years, I have had the delectable pleasure of eating many more of these famous confections than one ever should, but had never made them myself, probably for good reason. Months ago, I baked through a batch with the legend herself, as she gave me tips along the way. On paper they look like any run of the mill chocolate chip cookie, but out of the oven they are nothing short of amazing. The cookies I share with you today are an adaptation of the original but still hold the elements that make this one of the best cookies I’ve ever had. I hope Diane doesn’t mind those photographers hiding in the bushes waiting to see her with chocolate on her face. I’m sure they are just hoping that she carries a dozen of her cookies in her purse at all times. (more…)

June 24, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, dessert, quick and easy, vegetarian, Whole Wheat. 23 comments.

roasted chicken

Everyone needs a recipe they can execute with one eye closed, one hand tied behind their back and half of a working brain. Roasted chicken is that recipe for me. I never have to look at a book or web page and it seldom tastes the same as the one before. Some days it’s sprinkled with fresh herbs and stuffed with sour lemons and other days it’s spiced with a smoky chili powder, speckling the skin with a deep reddish hue.

This past week has been a tough one, requiring me to rely on food that comes easily. My body is feeling the effect of what I can only now suspect are late nights and early mornings. Of course, at this time in my life, I had hoped it was actually the result of a small person forming somewhere in there, but alas, not this month. It’s amazing to me how much power a little stick that you pee on holds in your heart when you’re desperately trying to get pregnant. For a few dollars, it sure does hold a significant percentage of my emotional attention. When it doesn’t present as many lines as I want it to, it certainly seems less friendly. I guess if someone was peeing on me, I might not be cooperative either.

So, for a few more days, I’ll need to get by without too much thinking while I climb out of this funk. This chicken will feed us for a few more meals without much attention, adding it to salads and scrambles to fill them out. The farmers market is back tomorrow after a break last week, so we’ll stock up on fruits and vegetables that seem to be best when little is done to them.  (more…)

June 8, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . chicken, quick and easy. 4 comments.

quick comfort

Some days a quick and wholesome breakfast is essential, for instance, today. I am suffering from what we like to call the common cold. I’m convinced my boss lovingly passed along his germs to me through his violent coughing attacks, during which he refused to cover his mouth. In all fairness, I’m not sure how much that actually prevents the spread of said germs but it makes me feel a whole lot better none the less. Wherever I contracted these tenacious little organisms matters not as the fact of the matter is, I’m at home with tissues piling up around me and I’m worried I might never be found under the ever growing mountain.

After finally rolling out of bed at 11am this morning, I forced myself to bathe. While I was using the shower as a steam treatment, I was pleasantly surprised to have a bit of an appetite. Knowing I can only manage to stand upright for about 15 minutes at a time, I’d have to make breakfast quick if I wanted something more comforting than cinnamon toast crunch. The most creativity I could muster was to take cereal one step further, to the hot variety. Steel cut oats are certainly healthier and offer more sustainability than a sugary cousin. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll be able to pull it together enough to get up off the couch and feed myself again, and sadly my husband is gone all weekend so I’m hoping extreme hunger will be enough to counter act the just-got-run-over-by-a-truck feeling, even if just for a short microwave cycle. (more…)

March 2, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . breakfast, gluten free, quick and easy, vegan, vegetarian, Whole Wheat. Leave a comment.

the cookie to end all cookies

I am a strong believer in the power of a cookie. It’s a different type of dessert than say, a cake or a pie. A cookie feels different. Not too fancy or showy, just down to earth, like a friend you can really be you with. You can hold it with one hand, dunk it in milk if you’d like and you can bake two dozen of them in 20 minutes, start to finish. For me, this is the holy grail of cookies, the creme de la creme. With a crunchy outside and a soft center, every few bites giving way to a warm, gooey chocolate surprise. Now add in peanut butter and it’s just about the last cookie I’ll ever need.

There have been many famous cookie recipes floating around for some time now. The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe is a good example. I have yet to try them, but they have become quite a cult classic. I’d like to take these two head to head and see who wins. I would put my money on the peanut butter all the way.  (more…)

February 22, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, quick and easy, Whole Wheat. 8 comments.

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