Chocolate in the heart of wintertime. There is something special, yet completely crucial about having chocolate in the bleak mid-winter. It is an inexpensive luxury that we should not live without. My mouth is watering as I go over the photos for this post. I think I will have to make another batch of these brownies very soon. This may be old news to some of you, but to me it was a pleasant surprise–making brownies from scratch is not that difficult or time-consuming! I am not someone to shy away from cooking and baking from scratch–I love to do it when I have the time, and I often make the time–but for some reason, I always made brownies from a box mix. I guess I imagined making brownies from scratch took forever, or that I needed a double boiler to melt the chocolate, or that it made a huge mess. But really, this recipe is not that much more time-consuming than using a mix, it doesn’t make a huge mess, and this way, you know exactly what is in your brownies–just the basic ingredients many of us have on hand, plus that magic ingredient–chocolate. No food cheers me up like chocolate does, and this time of year, many of us can use a bit of extra cheer! Though I have made some changes, the recipe I am using is adapted from Susan Branch’s “From the Heart of the Home: Autumn,” an inspiring cookbook my cousin gave me years ago. I feel that making a special batch of brownies is a treat we can offer to those we love, and a way we can treat ourselves too. I am taking this pan of brownies over to Angie’s blog, The Novice Gardener, where part 2 of a very special celebration is taking place. She has been coordinating Fiesta Friday for one whole year, and the connections she has fostered through this link party are incredible. The bloggers who take part in this are kind, supportive, and not least of all, talented. I love to look at their photos and read their posts. This week’s celebration is co-hosted by Nancy from Feasting with Friends, and Selma, from Selma’s Table. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.
Rich, Chocolate Brownies with Powdered Sugar and Cinnamon
- 2 ounces (2 squares) of unsweetened chocolate (baker’s chocolate)
- 1/3 cup butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- powdered sugar and ground cinnamon to sprinkle on the top
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with butter. In a large saucepan, gently melt the chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring often. Stir the rest of the ingredients into the pan, in the order they appear above, until everything is well combined. With a wooden spoon or a spatula, scrape the batter into the baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes in your preheated oven. Allow the brownies to cool, and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Enjoy!
We all need easy, quick, recipes we can turn to when time is tight, but we still want something fun and festive. For me, this Parmesan crisp recipe is one of those I look to when I need a quick, yet delicious appetizer or snack. These crisps are so easy to make, and they taste so good! The savory Parmesan cheese, the rich flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes, and the lively chives and black pepper all come together to form an appetizer bursting with flavor. And if you are staying away from carbohydrates or gluten, this is a snack you can munch on without worries. My daughter originally found the basic recipe for these crisps on the back of a Parmesan cheese package, and being major cheese-lovers, we tried it. We have since created our own variations, with the sun-dried tomatoes and chives version being my favorite. However, my son is not crazy about the sun-dried tomatoes or the chives, so I like to make a few of the crisps with just the Parmesan cheese and a hint of black pepper for those who prefer a more basic approach. I am taking this appetizer over to Angie’s blog The Novice Gardener, where there is a big celebration going on. Though I am relatively new to the Fiesta Friday link parties, she has been successfully coordinating these events for a full year. I have come across some wonderful food blogs, and have met really interesting and kind bloggers from all over this country and world through this process. The one-year celebration is graciously hosted by Hilda from Along the Grapevine and Julianna from Foodie on Board. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend filled with fresh air, good food and good company!
Baked Parmesan Crisps with Chives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 2 cups of shredded Parmesan cheese
- 6 teaspoons of chives, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash, pat dry, and finely chop the chives. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Shred the Parmesan cheese to make 2 cups, or if using pre-shredded cheese, measure 2 cups into a bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, spoon the Parmesan cheese onto the baking sheet a tablespoon at a time, creating about 8 mounds of Parmesan cheese per baking sheet (place the mounds evenly on the baking sheet, allowing the cheese room to spread as it bakes). Place small pieces of sun-dried tomatoes on each cheese mound, and then sprinkle with chives and a bit of black pepper. Bake in your preheated oven for 6 to eight minutes. Allow the crisps to cool for a couple of minutes, then gently move them to a serving plate. Continue until all the cheese is used. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
It is an ongoing goal and challenge to use food wisely. When I see a piece of fruit in the fruit bowl getting a little too ripe, I feel like I need to do something with it. Of course, this is a good problem to have–too much food–much better than the opposite problem–but I want to continually learn to use the food I have in ways that taste delicious and give us good energy. Sometimes it is hard to plan or predict how much food to buy at a time–who knew my kids would go through a big bag of pretzels in two days, yet ignore the pears? I guess I should have known! Anyway, this spiced pear bread is a tasty way to use a very ripe pear–the juicier the pear, the moister the bread. And it is a more nourishing snack than a plate full of pretzels! (Pretzels have their place too, but variety is a good thing). The cinnamon, cloves, and orange rind add to this bread’s subtle, sweet flavor, and it tastes great just sliced on its own or with a little butter or cream cheese on it. Add a steaming cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, and it’s even better. I based this recipe on one I found in my Dr. Cookie Cookbook by Marvin Wayne and Stephen Yarnall, though I made some changes. Isn’t that the beauty of recipes, that they are always evolving with the years and with the people who use them. I am taking this bread over to Angie’s blog at The Novice Gardener for the Fiesta Friday link party. I always find inspiring ideas there! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.
Spiced Pear Bread
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce–if your pear is very juicy, lean towards 2 tablespoons, if not so juicy, use 3
- 1 teaspoon orange rind (you may also you lemon rind)
- 1 cup finely chopped unpeeled pear (about one pear)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt, and set aside. In another mixing bowl, vigorously stir the eggs, brown sugar, and oil until smooth. (You can use an electric mixer if you want, but I did not find it necessary as long as I stirred it really well). Add the honey, applesauce, orange or lemon rind, and stir well again. Then, gently stir the flour mixture and the pear into the batter until just combined. Scrape the combined batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in your oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. It’s okay if the crust cracks a little. Cool the bread in the loaf pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out of the pan onto the wire rack and cool completely. Enjoy!
Chicken and rice are great comfort foods, especially when cooked slowly with rich, saucy tomatoes. This is a meal that my husband and son enjoy very much on a cold, snowy evening. And we are definitely having some cold, snowy evenings these days. Right now we have enough snow to cross country ski, so I was very grateful and excited to get the chance to get out on my skis yesterday afternoon. The snow was piled up on every little branch, and I was the first person on the trail since the previous night’s snowfall, so the only tracks in sight were from rabbits. Fresh snow is so pristine and cleansing. Breathing in all that cold air and looking at the clean, white snow and the white-blue sky soothed my overactive mind. There is something so silent about snow. The woods were hushed, as the snow absorbed all sounds, including the internal sounds from my mind. It is easy to get overstimulated and stressed out in the this world we live in, but I left the woods a more peaceful person than I was when I entered them. Simple, nourishing food is also good for the mind, body, and soul. With the help of a crock pot, this meal cooks and builds flavors for a few hours on its own, once the prep work is done. One of the many things I like about this recipe is that it is intentionally simple. I made it as basic as I could, because sometimes that I what I have time for, or what my kids like best. You can cook the rice while you are preparing the chicken and sauce, or cook it a few minutes before mealtime, whichever works best. Add a green salad or a green vegetable, and you’ve got a healthy, complete meal that tastes good and warms up those you love. And that too is good for the soul.
Slow-Cooked Chicken and Tomato Sauce with Rice
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast halves
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- 1 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes (I really like organic San Marzano tomatoes because they have a great flavor)
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- about 2 cups cooked rice (I start out with 1 cup of uncooked rice, but it expands to about 2 cups when cooked)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl the oil to coat the pan, and add the chicken. Cook chicken for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally, until lightly browned. Place chicken in your crock pot. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the pan. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, scraping the brown bits from the pan, and stirring. Add the tomatoes, breaking the tomatoes into small pieces with your spoon. Turn off the heat and pour the tomato mixture over the chicken in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for about 5 hours. When you are about to serve the meal, test and season to taste with salt. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey to taste, and stir to combine. Serve the chicken and tomato sauce over cooked rice. You may add the cooked rice to the crock pot before serving if you wish. Enjoy!
This delicious jumble of a crumble came about by luck this week. I don’t usually eat blackberries this time of year, but the grocery store I usually go to had organic ones on sale for a price I simply could not resist. And blackberries just sounded so juicy and luxurious, a way to brighten up the body and soul in this bleak, bitter cold weather we are having. The recipe below is a conglomeration of my favorite fruit crisp/crumble recipes, based on what I had on hand and what I thought my family would enjoy. I cannot tell you how good, sweet and juicy these blackberries taste when baked with a bit of apples and topped with the brown sugar, cinnamon, oats, almonds and pepita (shelled pumpkin seeds) mixture. The rich,velvety fruit contrasts with the crunchy, hearty topping. And of course with their deep, indigo color, the blackberries are loaded with antioxidants. After the excesses of the holiday season, it is refreshing to eat a fruity dessert. It is quite a breeze to prepare, since the blackberries require no chopping, and while it’s baking away in the oven, making your kitchen smell wonderful, you can do other things. My kids were home both yesterday and today because their schools were closed due to the extreme cold and blowing snow. I was so happy to be able to throw this blackberry apple crumble together yesterday morning and have it turn out so well, though it was an adventure to find enough natural light to photograph this dish, because of the faint winter morning light. Luckily, I have a porch, and out on the porch I went in the sub-zero temperatures with the steaming blackberry apple crumble to photograph. The deep purple of the blackberries looked so pretty against the cold, white snow and the morning sky. The sugar I had sprinkled on the blackberries before adding the topping looked just like snow. The contrast made me think about how beautiful the light and dark look together, and how our lives are defined by all types of contrasts. And that treating ourselves now and then to blackberries in the winter is good for us. I have put this recipe in the category of desserts because it is sweet, but it is substantial enough to have with breakfast, as we did this morning. Today I am going to be joining the Fiesta Friday gathering at Angie’s blog, The Novice Gardener, and will be taking this recipe over to share with the lovely bloggers there.
Blackberry Apple Crumble
- 3 cups blackberries
- 1 cup apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 medium-sized apple)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons roasted and salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a small pan. In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, almonds, and pepitas. Place the blackberries and apple slices in a 1.5 quart baking dish (or a baking dish of a similar size). Sprinkle the granulated sugar and cornstarch over the fruit and mix gently. Stir the melted butter into the oat/flour topping mixture and then gently spoon the topping mixture over the fruit, distributing it as evenly as possible. Bake for about 25 minutes. This dish is delicious on its own, but also tastes good with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!