pumpkin muffins

pumpkin muffins

Sometimes I plan on carrying out these elaborate plans that sound perfect when they’re rattling around up there in my head. Most of the plans involve planning a meticulously executed party with my twin (think Downton Abbey costume parties or Marie Antoinette pastry parties) or knocking down some wall in my house or turning my attic into a playroom (keep in mind that I have no children…). The latest plan in my head was inspired by I Love Lucy. Lucy gets up every morning and scrambles eggs or makes waffles or fries bacon for Ricky and she always accompanies it with freshly squeezed orange juice. I thought, “That looks heavenly. I’m going to do that for Andy.” The first morning of the plan began and ended with me drooling on my pillow and covered in blankets and still in the bed when Andy left for work. And I woke up feeling sad. And I had to tell myself:

1. Ricky is a nightclub performer. He works late and gets to sleep until about 10:00 AM; therefore, Lucy doesn’t have to get up super early.
2. Lucy doesn’t have a job outside of the home.
3. It’s a TV show.

pumpkin muffins

I guess my point is this: a lot of times we have big plans to do fantastic things and a lot of times the plans actually work. But a lot of times they just don’t. And that’s okay. I’ve had to practice giving myself grace and realizing that things won’t be perfect all the time.

This fall has been somewhat of a blur. It’s been busy and, well, life. I haven’t gotten my fall wreath on my door and I haven’t even watched the Great Pumpkin yet. And it’s okay. It’s okay. I’m remembering that despite the details and challenges of the day to day, there is beauty each time the sun rises. It’s okay to take things one step at a time. And I’m loving this realization.

pumpkin muffins

Whoa. Pretty sure this post just turned into a diary session. But right now I’m going to celebrate this season. This season of rest in the midst of unrest. And this season of coolness and Autumn. And, no, I’m not making a gourmet breakfast every morning right now. And I haven’t started my costume for the Downton Abbey party. But I did make these little pumpkin muffins. And they are happy and pumpkiny and spicy and everything you’d expect from a good pumpkin muffin. They’re traditional with no surprises. Sometimes you just want that.

pumpkin muffins

pumpkin muffins
recipe adapted from Lovely Little Kitchen
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 14 minutes yield: 24 mini muffins

ingredients:
1/2 cup + 6 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup roasted pumpkin purée
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

create:
Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly grease 2 12-count miniature muffin pans and set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices and whisk to combine.
In a second medium-sized mixing bowl, add the egg, pumpkin, butter, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is just incorporated (try not to over mix).
Divide the batter evenly in the muffin pans. Each cup will be almost full. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds evenly over the batter.
Bake the muffins for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

pumpkin muffins

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homemade applesauce

apples5The smallest things can inspire me. A bulbous lamp base cast between an omelet maker from the 80s and a Guitar Hero guitar missing the first and third buttons at Goodwill. The stale smell and wide plank hardwood floor creaks from a house built in the 1700s. Lorde’s “Tennis Court” on repeat.  And, yes, as you may imagine, food inspires me, too.

homemade applesaucehomemade applesauceapples4But I can’t say that it’s always the food itself that inspires me. While pink macarons and bubble gum themselves possess an ability to make me squeal, other foods require a little more foundation. A lot of my food inspiration/motivation comes from the stories that accompany a particular dish. Biscuits (you may remember me confessing my obsession over them in a previous post), for example, are basically blobs of flour and butter. But because they are so deeply rooted in Southern culture, I find myself yearning for them so I can feel connected to the mamas in the 1800s who got up with the sun to cook all day long or the grandma over in Georgia patiently teaching her granddaughter to push the biscuit cutter straight down or the little boy spreading home-canned summer-strawberry preserves on freshly torn buttery layers. You see, food is not simply nourishment. It’s resonance.

apples3Gowie used to give us a little glass bowl filled with applesauce as a dessert when we’d spend our weekends with her. She’d always ask, “Do you want some sugar sprinkled on that?” while my sister and I made no audible noise, but violently nodded our heads, mouths agape, like we’d never heard of such a grand idea. And then (probably with no chewing involved) we’d finish the sweet applesauce, slip into some PJs, and shove a rented episode of The Little Rascals into the VCR. This dear and comforting story was the backbone in my desire to create my own applesauce.

apples6homemade applesauce
recipe from Simply Recipes
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 25 minutes yield: about 1 1/2 quarts
ingredients:
3 to 4 pounds of peeled, cored, and quartered apples
4 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler)
juice of 1 lemon, about 3-4 tbsp
3 inches of cinnamon stick
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
up to 1/4 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

create
Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels. Mash with potato masher. The applesauce is now ready to serve, hot or refrigerated.

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frittata with bell peppers, bacon, and tomatoes

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Several weekends ago I woke up with a start (I do this sometimes) because my belly was trying to tell me something: I was hungry.  It was already like eleven o’clock in the morning (Don’t tell my dad. He’s always made fun of my incessant sleeping. In college, it was not a rare occurrence for me to take three or more naps in any given 24 hour period.) and my husband and I had spent the entire day before moving mounds of chunked granite from our backyard to our front yard. Cereal wasn’t gonna cut it. Plus, our newly purchased house was so still and quiet when I awoke and the sunshine was trying so hard to beam through the little cracks in the window blinds that I felt like I needed to turn into a storybook princess and twirl around while opening the windows and sing while the little birds helped me pop the tablecloth and lay it gently on the tabletop. This was no morning for an ordinary breakfast.

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A frittata seemed obviously perfect. I didn’t have much in our refrigerator (the unpacked boxes lying around the house demanded more of my attention at this point), but we did have eggs and a handful of random vegetables. And a frittata is one of those pretty foods, not even counting the fancy name, that you would expect to see on a brunch menu at a bistro. It’s hearty, but simple. And perfect for princess mornings with a not-so-stocked fridge.

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frittata with bell peppers, bacon, and tomatoes
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 6 servings
ingredients
3 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced bell pepper
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cheese, shredded (use whichever kind you prefer)

create
Preheat the oven to the low broil setting.
In a cast iron skillet (or an oven safe sauté pan), cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Add the tomato, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, beat together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and cheese in a medium bowl.
When the vegetables have turned soft, add the egg mixture and quickly combine the ingredients using a rubber spatula. Cook for 5 minutes or until the bottom is set and the top begins to set.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until the top is set and begins to look fluffy.
Serve immediately.

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sweet strawberry buttermilk biscuits

biscuit7

My name is Jessa. I have an infatuation with the American South. With grandmas sitting on porches. With surprise sercies. With sunrises hitting flour-dusted wooden tables. And, perhaps most notably, I have an infatuation turned obsession with biscuits.

This is the time I made strawberry ones.

biscuit13biscuit12biscuit14biscuit11biscuit10biscuit9biscuit8biscuit6

sweet strawberry buttermilk biscuits
prep time: 15 minutes cook time: 20 minutes yield: 4-8 biscuits (depending on how big you cut them)
ingredients
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup smashed, stemmed strawberries (about 5 berries)
2 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
honey

create
Preheat oven to 400º. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and  salt. Use your fingers to crumble the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
In another bowl, use a potato masher or fork to mash the strawberries until they are mostly liquified (leave a few small chunks). Mix the sugar into the smashed strawberries and let sit for five minutes. Add the buttermilk to the strawberries and stir to combine.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the strawberry mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined and use your hands to gather all of the flour.
Onto a floured surface, turn the dough out and knead (gently) until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Press the dough into a 1 inch thick circle and use a a biscuit cutter or something circular to press straight down into the dough and twist out the biscuits. Reshape the scraps to make more biscuits.
Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment so they just touch each other. Bake until they are lightly golden and tall, about 20 minutes.
Serve warm with a drizzle of honey.

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chai latte concentrate

CHHHAAIIIII.

Oh, my love affair with chai. I am on and off addicted to it. Hmm. No. Let’s be honest. I am always addicted to it. I just sometimes go through indulgent spells and sometimes decide to be responsible and not gulp down lots of sugar in the morning or try to challenge my body’s caffeine capacity. I am, however, most of the time indulgent and consider it my happy thing of the day. I actually don’t drink coffee. You wouldn’t believe it looking at my countertop, with an espresso machine and unground beans and some other machine that makes a lot of noise and some stick looking thing with a bulbous cup on the end of it. No, I’m actually not coffee literate at all and just happen to be married to the trendy coffee/beer/wine guy. He’s actually the one who introduced me to my beloved iced chai latte when we were dating. That’s what the boyfriend’s gotta do when he wants to go on a coffee date and his gal doesn’t like coffee. My first sip of the cool, spicy drink turned into an instant, “…uhh. *cough* Yeah, uh…can we make this a venti?”

Chai, traditionally from India, is a word for tea and is steeped with various spices, giving it a very aromatic and in-depth flavor profile. There isn’t a right or wrong way to create chai, really. It’s mostly based on several core spices and can be changed and modified based on taste. The major players are cardamom (a spice actually in the ginger family), cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

chai latte concentrate
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 20 minutes yield: about 4 cups
ingredients
4 cups water
10 black tea bags
20 whole peppercorns, lightly crushed
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
5 whole cloves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, lightly crushed
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

create
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, honey, orange zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and let steep another 10 minutes.
Pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer (to remove the whole spices) into a one quart container. I used a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the tea to cool before sealing it completely. Store chilled.
To enjoy a chai latte, mix equal parts chai concentrate and milk. Heat the mixture on the stovetop to drink hot or, for my favorite, pour over ice.


As stated in the recipe, a chai latte can be enjoyed hot or cold. As much as I love hot chocolate and cider and, not surprisingly, hot chai, hot drinks tend to give me headaches. So, I try to stick to the chilly versions of things. The hot drink headache, however, doesn’t compare much to the I’ve-decided-to-give-up-caffeine headache. Oy. But enough about headaches. It’s giving me a headache just writing about headaches. And writing about headaches makes me want a…chai. Erg. Addiction.

 

plum upside-down cakes

One of the first houses I lived in was a little one-story brick dwelling with black shutters and a side yard made up of a cement pad that my grandma made with her own hard-workin’ hands. She would mix up each small batch of cement in her wheel barrow with a garden hoe that had the handle broken off and would call my sister and me over to help her scrape out the mixture into her two-by-four square frames she was working in. I felt like she was making that cement patio for the first 16 years of my life. That’s not real. It didn’t take her that long. She had muscles. But I remember in the summer we’d take a break and walk to the front yard where our plum tree lived and she’d flick a branch and we’d run around the bottom of it catching fruits as if the tree were a piñata. And we’d sit on our railing-less porch with our feet dangling and eat those plums like we didn’t know anything different. I used to be afraid of the skins. I remember peeling the skins off and throwing them in the grass. Don’t listen to my child self. The skins of plums are really good and the whole fruit kind of tastes like a giant grape.

Plums, along with other stone fruits like peaches and apricots, love this time of year and taste best right about now. The category of fruits called stone fruits is called that because of the pit in the middle. The seed is really hard, like a stone. And, in addition to them tasting good, plums have lots of fiber. Ah, yes, now you remember. Prunes=dried plums. Haha. Prunes. That word just makes me laugh. Feeling clogged up? Try eating a plum before reaching for that prune juice….pbbb, prune.

I decided to make a version of a Martha upside-down cake I found on her website. Hers are way prettier than mine, but I wanted to use some little pans I recently inherited from my family’s bakery, which, unfortunately, no longer exists. My great grandmother and her husband opened the first one in Myrtle Beach in the 1940s and they made some really neat, intricate cakes and, according to my dad, some awesome doughnuts. After seeing Martha’s recipe and remembering these cute, little, family-enriched pans, I decided to make a few individual plum upside-down cakes.

plum upside-down cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart’s nectarine, plum, and apricot upside-down cake
prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 30 minutes yield: 36 small cakes

fruit enhancer
ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dark rum
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coarse salt

cake
ingredients
2 pounds black plums, about 10
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups natural cane sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

create
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the fruit enhancer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, maple syrup, dark rum, light-brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until well blended.

Grease pan of your choice. You can make one big cake or multiple small ones. I used small tart pans (about 5”). Divide fruit enhancer evenly among pans and spread to make smooth. Slice fruit into 1/4-inch wedges. Arrange fruit slices in a fanlike, circular pattern on top of fruit enhancer.

Make cake: Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until combined after each addition.

Divide the batter between the pans prepared with the fruit. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, loosen sides of cakes with paring knife and invert onto plate or cake stand.

I have another little brick house plum tree story. My sister and I had a good friend who lived across the street named Pedro. We did everything with Pedro. We had Power Ranger marathons, I saw my first Coolio music video at his house, and I’m pretty sure we purposely made mud pits in his back yard to play in. One day we decided we wanted to bury a box in the ground with our most precious valuables enclosed so the future explorers of the world would dig it up and learn of the vast history of the time and we’d become famous long after we’d already passed. I’m pretty sure I just placed a plastic Barbie shell bracelet in the shoebox and I know we all signed our names with the date on a piece of paper. We dug a hole under the plum tree and scooted the dirt over the box with our hands. It is still there. We never dug it up. I’m actually impressed. There have been several families that have lived there since we left and I’ll bet none of them were aware of the shell bracelet beneath the dirt, but I’m sure they enjoyed those oh-so-good plums every summer. To those families: you’re welcome.

cinnamon whole wheat pancakes

I’m sitting here watching the Olympics and these people are crazy. Crazy awesome. I’m not gonna say they make it look easy. Every event still looks pretty dang hard, even when done by super-human-machines. But I’m proud of each one of them, no matter the country. Good job, athletes. Oh, side note: I want some of those men’s running shorts. Is that weird?

Oh, I forgot what I was here for. Food! Guess what my husband and I had the other night that we hadn’t done in a long time? Breakfast for dinner! It’s one of those odd concepts that reminds me of children or of being a child. I think kids are like, “This meal is not at the right time, everything is mixed up, the order of a normal day is thrown off…cool.” It’s fun and a neat change. Of course, you can eat these flappin’ jackies at any time of the day. Annnnd since they’re whole wheat, they actually are really great for breakfast. I think I’ve blabbed about the benefits of whole wheat in a previous post, but, in short, the whole grain is great for digestion, energy, and helping you feel fuller longer.

cinnamon whole wheat pancakes
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 10 minutes yield: about 12 pancakes
ingredients
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 2/3 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp unrefined brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp unsalted butter

create
Preheat a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and ground cinnamon together. In another bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk, brown sugar, and olive oil together. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything is just moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Melt a pinch of the butter in the pan and add 1/4 cup batter. When bubbles appear on the surface, quickly flip it over, turning only once (I only did one pancake at a time, mostly because I was using a smaller pan, but before adding more batter, make sure to season the pan each time with a good amount of butter. The butter helps form a golden, slightly crusty edge, while also ensuring that the pancakes don’t stick). Repeat until the batter is gone.
Serve hot with maple syrup.

My bats-in-the-belfry hubs slid a fried egg, some bacon, and a huge, sopping pour of maple syrup in between a couple of these pancakes and attempted to eat the slippery contraption as a sandwich. He said it was good. I’m sure he will give you permission to try his invention. For the record, he’s really awesome and not as weird as I portray him to be. Mmm, mostly.

Oh my gosh! Sorry, Olympics distraction again. Men’s trampoline just came on and it looks like the scariest thing ever. First of all, trampolines simply sitting by themselves are scary, and, secondly, I’m pretty sure those guys are going at least 2,000 feet into the air. Ehh, shudder.

peach cheesecake cookie bars

Oh, sweet, sweet, beautiful peaches. South Carolina’s gold, the southeastern United States’ pride, a symbol of Southern charm and grace (although, dare I say, that I believe California is the US’ number one peach producer, with Georgia actually being third behind SC). Regional competition and rivalry aside, peaches are probably the fruit that I anticipate the most when summer settles in (oo, strawberries. Hmm. Argh, and then there’s blueberries. Okay, okay, I can’t decide). The pretty fuzz, the sound of the pit being removed from the fruit, the gentle transition of red to orange to yellow in the center. Mm. Mm, mm, mm.

On the fourth of July, my husband and I spent the day at his parents’ house, swimming and doing a lot of eating. Somehow we ended up with these peach cheesecake cookie bars, peach cobbler, peach drinks, and peach ice cream. I think somewhere in there we had some meat and perhaps a vegetable, but those were scarfed down rather quickly while we kept our eyes on that dessert table. These bars are kind of a combination of several desserts: the bottom crust is like a shortbread, the middle cheesecake layer being the star of the show, and the top gives it almost a pie taste with an oatmeal cinnamon crumble.

peach cheesecake cookie bars
prep time: 25 minutes cook time: 35 minutes yield: 12 servings
cookie crust
ingredients
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
pinch of salt
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cold water

peach cheesecake filling
ingredients
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 peaches, peeled and pitted and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

oatmeal crumble topping
ingredients
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
dash of ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

create
Preheat the oven to 350º. For the cookie crust, cream the butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour a little at a time, mixing after each addition, and rubbing the last bit of flour in with your hands to make it crumbly. Add the cold water and bring together. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and slightly up the sides in a greased square baking pan and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes and remove to let cool.
While the crust in cooking, prepare the oatmeal topping. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, and cinnamon and then toss with the melted butter. Rub together with your fingers until the mixture becomes crumbly.
For the cheesecake filling, combine the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla until just incorporated. By hand, fold in the peach cubes, being careful not to overmix.
Lower the heat in the oven to 325º. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared cookie crust and spread evenly. Crumble the oatmeal topping over the cheesecake filling and bake for about 35 minutes until the pan looks set when given a shake and the top looks dry.
Let cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator before cutting into squares.

My sister has a very successful peach tree in her side yard and it explodes these cute, little peaches out of its branches relatively quickly every summer. I mean, the tree can’t even hold these babies. Its limbs drag the ground and hang out into the road and cars swerve around it trying to protect its heavy-set beauty. Okay, cars don’t really swerve and crash or anything. My sister isn’t evading the law. She maintains the tree pretty well. The point is, peach trees love this climate, the soil here, and are so good at pumping out food. It’s so cool. Agriculture is a beautiful thing.

strawberry chocolate cookies

I warned you all. Since strawberries are in season and since they are one of my favorite foods and since I have a huge bucket of them in my fridge, you guys get the grunt of my situation: strawberry recipes. I did a strawberry lemonade and strawberry buttercream recipe a few weeks back and it seems that the list may just keep right on growin’. Everybody okay with this?

…Bueller?…Bueller?…

…okay, then onto more strawberry recipes it is.

This cookie is an adaptation of a Martha recipe I found a while back with a really great chocolatey, moist, chewy, non-cakey consistency. Pause. Does anyone really like cakey cookies? I’ve not met one person who is like, “YES, this cookie is dry and puffy. Now get me some milk.” If I want cake, I’m gonna eat some cake, but when I want a cookie, I want a little crunch on the outside with a really soft inside. This chocolate cookie is one of those cookies.

Strawberries! Chocolate! Chewiness! With these powers combined, this cookie is awesome.

strawberry chocolate cookies
adapted from Martha’s Outrageous Chocolate Cookies
yield: 2 dozen cookies prep time: 20 minutes cook time: 15 minutes
ingredients
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup diced strawberries, stems removed

create
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high-speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in diced strawberries.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, about 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: If the batter appears thin, it’s okay. It should look more like brownie batter rather than cookie dough.

State climate update: The 18 skeeter bites on my ankles can attest to the fact that summer has plopped itself down and is hastily soaking up any welcome it’s been given here in SC. Those almost blue blueberries out in my front yard can attest to that, too. It’s cool, though. I think I can accept SC’s quirks and personality traits and letting strawberry season and, basically, every other season come a wee early this year. That broiling heat, confidently I say, will be around for a while, so South Carolinians, brace yourselves. Let’s get through it by eating fresh and tasty food and by never being more than two feet away from a glass of glorious sweet, sweet tea.

porridge with cinnamon and brown sugar

Remember the scene in Beauty and the Beast where Belle and Beast (what’s his name, anyway? Surely Belle doesn’t go through their married lives calling him Beast) are eating together? And Beast is completely barbaric? And they meet in the middle? And both eat sloppy white stuff politely from the bowl without a utensil?

Man. I can’t seem to get away from that movie, can I?


The sloppy white stuff they’re eating is actually porridge. Yep, Goldilocks ate porridge. Yep, Beast and Belle ate porridge. Yep, there’s even a Grimm Fairy Tale called Sweet Porridge. Maybe it’s seen all over the make-believe world because it’s very humble, very homey, very simple, and very nutritious. Most of the time, porridge is simply made with cooked oats (they have so much soluble fiber, which actually soaks up water and helps us feel fuller longer, and is proven to lower cholesterol), although other grains can also be used. It’s like an oatmeal, but it’s served hot with cold milk or cream poured over the top, creating a striking and satisfying temperature difference.

I used steel-cut oats in my porridge recipe. They’re a traditional porridge ingredient and contain the whole grain, so it has all the good fiber-rich bran and germs (basically the embryo of the seed). Who knew Beast and Belle were so healthy?

porridge with cinnamon and brown sugar
ingredients
4 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
pinch of salt
milk or cream
ground cinnamon
brown sugar

create
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk the oats into the boiling water to prevent any clumps. Add the salt and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Serve hot in a bowl with a small pour of milk over the top, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a few pinches of brown sugar. You can add other ingredients if you’d like, like dried or fresh fruits or vanilla extract or granola.

See you guys next week! We’re off to Disney World!