You know when it’s so hot and humid that the only time you actually feel like going outside is a 9pm when the sun has gone down?! That’s how it has been in Pennsylvania (a pretty much the whole northeast) this week. I have to say that I am grateful that we aren’t in NYC because the heat and humidity is that much more intense!
Needless to say, the heat is killer, cooking is not high on the priority list and therefore the inspiration to create is at a bit of a lull. So, I have pulled together some of my simple summer recipes that require little cooking but still satisfy the hunger pangs.
As a side note: if you are super inspired, these four simple summer recipes would make a pretty tasty outdoor dinner!
With the move I have been thinking about ways to add some more wall art to my kitchen. Currently we have three framed victory garden of tomorrow posters on one wall and I love them but we have another wall that is completely bare and looks out of place.
I was looking for something with function instead of just a photograph or print and I stumbled upon this infographic from visual.ly that it perfect! I am always stumped on conversions and how great would it been to have a chart right in the kitchen!
Earlier this month we moved from our 1000 sq. ft. apartment in NYC to our 2000 sq. ft. townhouse in Pennsylvania. We lived in the townhouse for about 5 years before we moved to the city in April of 2012. We downsized when we moved, selling most of our furnishings, toys, and unused items. I really felt as though we were living simply but I’m realizing we can live with even less. I don’t mean less in a sense that we are depriving ourselves of necessities but less as in we still moved items back to Pennsylvania that we never touch in NYC.
That said, when we moved back this past month we tossed out or donated even more. Cooking and baking utensils were never touched, toys were played with less, random papers and some books seemed simply unnecessary to keep around. As of today, we still have some boxes that have yet to be unpacked. Our plan is to see if we actually need anything from them in the next month or so and if not, everything will be donated.
So Why, I’m sure you are asking yourself, are we moving back into our bigger townhouse if simplistic living is what we desire. The decision to move back to our larger townhouse was based on more free-roaming space for the boys to run around (sounds as though they are chickens (!) but truthfully they need space where they can be kids and I am not breathing down their necks), a thriving community, and the cost of living is SO much lower. We have big time financial goals that we could not see coming true living in as expensive city as New York.
Simplicity is a learning process and is different for every family and individual. For us, currently, it’s having little in closet storage, only keeping items that we use on a fairly regular basis, being able to park our car in the garage, and space to give everyone a bit more personal breathing room.
Of course our intention of simplicity doesn’t stop there! Next up tweaking our living our space for more function, cleaning up tech clutter, finances, and food!
It’s been awhile. Sorry. We moved. Back to our old townhouse in Pennsylvania. To a stove/oven that was unusable…for a week. I’d like blame my silence on the stove but I can’t because there is a world of no cook and no bake creations out there! For now, I will blame it on settling into the house and the slower pace of the suburbs (it’s amazing how quickly we adapted to the nyc pace)! Although after a week of being back I feel as though I could sleep for a week….maybe the nyc pace is catching up with me?!
What my silence has brought is a bit more clarity on the direction of francesandian.com. I love cooking and baking but I also have lots of other interests too. It’s nothing new, really. Every blogger has other interests that they don’t blog about but for me it just feels unnatural. I become habitually bored when I limit myself to focusing on one thing. So, I have decided to change my blog focus to encompass more than just food. I’m excited. I am still working through the exact format and for now it may be a mash of bits of everything but I hope to smooth things out in an easy to navigate sort of way.
The past few days have been hot and humid. It’s our first real taste of summer. Our preference is changing from warm comforting foods to cool refreshing meals. The moment my son spots watermelons begin to appear at Whole Foods he wants to start buying them (same goes for cherries) and usually I try to hold off for a couple of weeks but this year I bought one the first time he asked. I guess that shows just how ready for summer I am.
Last Friday we walked by an oddly scheduled street festival (they normally occur on Saturdays) and my son was immediately drawn to the smoothie vendor. His choice: watermelon smoothie, a simple combination of watermelon and ice for a ridiculous price but I gave in and bought it for him mostly because I am thrilled when my boys ask for something other than ice cream or candy! He loved it and I must admit the smoothie was good but I new it could be better.
This watermelon mint refresher is an improved version of the watermelon smoothie that was the two thumbs up seal of approval by my boys. It’s easy to make and oh so satisfying on a hot, humid day.
With mint provides an additional coolness that only mint could provide. Only a few leaves are needed to transform the watermelon smoothie into this lovely watermelon mint refresher. It’s an easy preparation with an easy clean up (all long as you buy seedless watermelons!)!
When I crave oatmeal raisin cookies I want cookies that are thick, soft and chewy. I am not a crunchy cookie person and these cookies are everything that crunchy cookies aren’t. They are every bit of chewy goodness that oatmeal raisin cookies should be. You can pack these in a lunchbox, backpack, or purse and they are not going to fall apart.
There is a single magic ingredient that makes all of this goodness possible and I only just discovered thanks to Sally’s baking addiction. Corn Starch. I know it sounds strange but we use it to thicken sauces so why wouldn’t it create an unbelievable cookie that stays together but is still soft and chewy? I feel like a whole new world of cookie creation has opened up for me!
These cookies really are a breeze to make. That said, there are a few very important points that you must consider in order to make the perfect thick and chewy oatmeal raisin cookie. The first is your butter and egg must be brought to room temperature before adding to the batter. I left mine out for about one hour before I started to bake. The second is, if your raisins are even the slightest dried out you should soak them in water for about 30 minutes (think moist and chewy…dry raisins will not be helpful). Lastly, make sure your dough is chilled. I highly recommend making the batter, forming the dough into balls, spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and freeze for 30 minutes then bake at 375 or transfer the balls into air-tight containers and bake as needed. The dough will last for up to three months in the freezer.
Before you start, make sure your butter and egg is at room temperature and if your raisins are dried out, place them in a cup, cover them with water and soak for about 30 minutes to one hour.
Using your stand mixer or whisk, cream together sugar and butter. Add your egg and vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Then pour in your flour, baking powder, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix until the dough looks smooth and consistent. Finally add in the remaining oats and towel dried raisins. Mix.
Form into egg shaped dough balls, place on baking sheet, and freeze for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, either transfer the dough into freezable air-tight containers and store for up to three months or place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 9 minutes in a preheated oven at 375 degrees.
Once the cookies have baked for 9 minutes, remove from oven and allow the cookies to set on the sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
This past weekend I made three batches of these. Not just three batches at one time but one Friday afternoon, another Saturday morning, and the last Saturday afternoon. You would think that after making 60 donut holes some would be left but they’re gone! Not a crumb left. So take it from my boys, these powdered sugar donut holes are keepers! I played around with adding some cocoa powder to the powdered sugar topping but surprisingly the pure powdered sugar topping was preferred.
These are fluffy, not too caky, the right amount of sweet and best served hot and freshly powdered. Don’t get me wrong they made a lovely breakfast a day later but nothing beats fresh out of the oven. The quick plunge each donut hole takes in a bowl of melted butter is so satisfying and solidified these as a regular in the recipe rotation.
If you have a stand mixer these are in the oven in a flash, however if your hand-mixing don’t shy away. You and leave the mixer on a medium-low speed and just add ingredients, stopping only for the flour, salt, and baking powder. The essential in this recipe is the mini muffin tin. There are a few recipes floating around that use the babycakes donut hole/cake pop cooker which would give you a perfect donut hole shape but I am keen on the imperfect shape of the mini muffin tin.
Probably the most fun I had in making these was coating the holes with powdered sugar. You will add five tablespoons of powdered sugar to a paper sandwich bag or quart-sized ziplock. Coating five donut holes at a time with butter, then place them in the bag, seal and shake. You can add one coat to each of the donut holes but I recommend another coat to make them supreme! Wait about 5 minutes after you have finished coating the first batch and then coat them one more time. That second coating is what really makes these.
So, for the amount of time it takes you to go to the donut shop you could just make these!
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature plus 2 tbsp. for buttering pan
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place two tablespoons of the butter into a bowl and place on your stovetop to allow the butter to melt as the over preheats.
Using your stand mixer, cream together the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and sugar. Add in the egg and mix until combine, then add in the vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and milk. Turn the mixer off and then add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Now mix until everything is fully combined, you may have to scrape the bowl a few times with a spatula.
Fill each muffin tin about 1/2 full (you should be able to fill between 20-22 muffins tins) and place in over. Bake for 9 minutes. While the muffins are baking, add the powdered sugar to the ziplock or paper bag and melt the butter on the stove (if it hasn't melted already).
Once the muffins are done baking allow them to cool for 2-3 minutes then taking 5 at a time plunge them in the melted butter and into the powered sugar. Shake to coat the donut holes evenly and place on plate.
These are best if eaten as fresh as possible but they will last a few days in an air-tight container.
There is something about watching a recipe video that gets me. I go to another world and fall in love. This pesto recipe video my kinfolk knocked my socks off!Maybe it’s the music with the cinematic filming that makes me want to run to the kitchen in be in the world that can be created by cooking the dish. To me cooking is living art. I am drawn to it, calmed by it, and couldn’t imagine ever living without it.
Pesto is magical. Pasta is transformed, chicken is seasoned to perfection, and vegetables are dazzled by it. I have always be a purest when it came to pesto, pesto was made with basil, case closed. Until now. As I wrote in Monday’s post, my whole perspective and cooking methods have been turned a bit on their heads. My thoughts on pesto, included. So I took a leap and ventured into the world of pesto made without basil.
My herb of choice: Rosemary. Even with using rosemary in my roast chicken and rosemary lemon curd, I was still left with a TON of rosemary. That’s when I decided to give this rosemary almond pesto a try.
Let me just warn your, if you prefer only a hint of rosemary in your foods this is not for you. This pesto is jam-packed with rosemary and garlic. It is intense but a perfect match for potatoes or chicken. If you wish to reduce the intensity I would try cutting the rosemary amount in half and replacing the other half with basil or even arugula. Give it a try and let me know how it turned out!
I also added parmesan at the end to taste instead of mixing it into the pesto itself. That was just my preference. It is fine either way but I am not going to give an exact measurement for the parmesan. Just add some, taste, maybe add a bit more, and leave it on the table for others to add to their preference too.
1/2 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, chopped
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
freshly grated parmesan to taste
Using a cutting board, add your rosemary and garlic cloves, chop to combine. Then add in the almonds and continue to chop until ingredients are combined and very fine. Transfer into a bowl and pour in olive oil. I prefer less oil and more herb to my pesto, however, add as much oil as needed to reach desired consistency. Taste your pesto and begin to add your parmesan cheese until your feel the flavor is sufficient. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy on boiled or roasted vegetables, chicken, pasta, or in a grilled cheese, Yum!
I made this, rosemary lemon curd, at 10pm on a Wednesday night. I’m not usually in the kitchen creating that late in the evening. On most nights at 10pm my eyes are either glued to my kindle or HGTV. On this particular night I was digging through the kitchen making sure I had all of the ingredients to make the recipe that I couldn’t get out of my head.
The previous night I had roasted a chicken stuffed with lemon halves and springs of rosemary. Rosemary is one of those herbs that once I start cooking with it I can’t stop until it’s gone. Just wait for thursday’s post, yes it involves rosemary.
Here’s the deal: buying herbs is so lovely because of how much they enhance our foods but we are always stuck with more than half of the bundle. That bundle soon becomes forgotten and then wilts away in the depths of the fridge. It’s frustrating.
So that wonderful, juicy, melt in your mouth roasted rosemary lemon chicken left me wanting more. For some reason I couldn’t shake the idea of lemon curd. Oddly enough I have only had it once in my life. A roommate had bought some and I stole a little spoonful to slather on toast only to be taken to another lovely lemony world. I am not sure why I have never tasted it again because it is heavenly but last week I craved it.
So there I was at 10 pm on a Wednesday night whisking fresh lemon juice, sugar, and egg while praying that the whites wouldn’t solidify. They didn’t and with the help of an immersion blender the result was a rich, lemony, fluffy spread that brightened my mood on a dreary, wet Thursday. The hint of rosemary gives the curd a milder, less sugary taste that I find much more tolerable in the morning that am sweet, pucker spread.
I used the immersion blender because most of the recipes I came across involved straining through a fine mesh strainer and that I don’t have. I figured if I blended the liquid enough the solids wouldn’t have a chance. To my delight, the immersion method worked and for this recipe that is what I am recommending. You could possible use a blender but the back and forth pouring may just be too many steps when needing to work at a fairly fast pace.
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
You will need a pot for boiling water, a stainless steel bowl that fits over the bowl to act as a double boiler, and a smaller bowl for mixing the butter and rosemary. Fill a medium sized pot of water with about 2 inches of water. Just be sure that when the bowl is placed on top of the pot the water cannot touch the bowl. Begin to heat the water over medium high heat until the water begins to simmer (bubbles are forming but the water has not reached a full boil).
While the water is heating, in the small combine the rosemary and butter until the butter becomes soft and the rosemary is distributed throughout. In the stainless steal bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until combined and yellow in color.
When the water is ready, place the stainless steel bowl over the pot and begin the whisk. Whisk continuously. The liquid will foam a bit but if feel the liquid is heating too fast, lower the heat. Whisk until the liquid becomes the texture of a thick sauce and lighter in color. Remove from heat and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is melted and combine.
The curd should look pastel yellow with rosemary flecks and be thick in texture. Once the curd has cooled it will thicken further. You will want the curd to rest for about an hour before using but I recommend 4 hours to overnight.
To store, place in an air-tight container with plastic wrap or parchment on top of the curd to prevent a thick skin from forming. Top with the lid and refrigerate. The curd, stored in the mentioned way will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
I’ve been a bit absent lately on this blog. I needed some time to gather my thoughts, courage, and figure out where I was going. It’s pretty easy in this blogging “world” to get caught up in what other food bloggers are doing and how creative they are getting with their recipes and how I am just not feeling quite as creative (can you tell I was caught up!?!). It’s a flaw of mine that creeps up on me when am feeling a lull in inspiration.
You see, I have just completed, An everlasting meal by Tamar Adler, and it has clearly made an impression on me. Her cooking is intuitive, flowing, and resourceful. All things that the more I cook and read cookbooks I too hope to acquire.
As I have made my way through the book, I found myself wondering while chopping broccoli whether or not I should save the stem or toss it or after cleaning last of the meat off of a roast chicken if there is anything I should save the bone for. She includes it all in her book but I now have a new hesitation as I throw scraps away. I am sure I could have done more with both but it’s a process and over-thinking can be a burdensome thing.
Probably the most valuable lesson I have walked away with in reading the book is that cooking does not have to be complicated or fancy or intimidating. There isn’t really a wrong way to cook. If we cook with whole foods, we will be nourished. If we sit with good company, we will be nourished. If we eat simple thoughtfully made meals, we will be nourished.
My perspective has changed as will be reflected in my recipes. I hope to provide inspiration to step into the kitchen and create, healthy, simple recipes.