Ham bone and bean soup

Happy 2015I And thank you, 2014. You brought me adventure and challenges and lots of kale. I liked seeing Sedona and counting the different shades of hotel wallpaper and  lifting myself into a handstand and signing my first big girl lease. For that, I am grateful.

I've been sitting on this soup recipe for a while. I just got back to Los Angeles on Friday, but spent a wonderful, nearly two week period lounging around my Virginia home, cooking with my mother, and laying on my belly to watch football when my father cracked pistachios. Bottles of champagne have been poured and emptied (repeatedly). On New Year's Eve I shivered my tush off and romped around the freezing streets of Astoria with college buddies. I also made a ham bone soup.

Ham bone soup doesn't sound like New Years. If anything, it sounds like Halloween, and something you would concoct while pretending to be a witch and throwing a bunch of spooky vegetables (think white carrots) into a pot and pretend you're straight up out of Hocus Pocus. And as fun as that sounds, ham bone soup post the jolly season can be quite...JOLLY. It's one of those things you let sit on the stove for a while, allowing the scent to dance through the kitchen and up to the stairs into you family members' bedrooms. One by one, they scamper down the stairs, allow their noses to rest over the pot, and take in the scent of a lunch-made-with-love.  

(In addition, when you make ham bone soup, you've made a distraction that keeps others away from that box of boozy Vienna chocolates....Shhh....)

And ham bone soup works as a solid image of what I want 2015 to look like. Using leftovers (aka, expressing gratitude for what it is I currently have) and providing nourishment (to both myself and my loved ones). Because with the years moving like a buttered up kid on the slip n' slide, I don't want to miss a thing. 

Cheers! And Happy New Year. 

ham and bean soup

olive oil

8 cups vegetable broth

2 cans of cannellini beans, or dried, if you prefer

3 large carrots, diced

2 large celery stalks, diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 hambone

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups of spinach, or another leafy green of your choosing. collards would be tasty.

freshly ground black pepper, for serving

grated parmesan cheese, for serving

 

Place a large pot over medium-high heat and add about one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced onions, celery, and carrots, and cook for about five minutes, or until the veggies have softened. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more. 

Put the ham bone and bay leaf into the pot. Add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, vinegar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the beans and then simmer for one hour. Taste and season, if desired. About 15 minutes before serving, add the greens and stir. 

Remove the bone and the bay leaf. Some of the ham bitties might have fallen into the soup, which is A-OKAY in my book. 

Serve with parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.  

 

- Stay cozy!

Spiced rum caramel and a gingerbread cake

Christmas day has come and gone and I've looked at Orion's Belt from the cracks of evening branches, so proud of Virginia and the secrets between the birch trees. Thus far, highlights have included a Lego Movie Quote-Along with Aaron, chilly afternoon runs decked in fleece, going shot-for-shot with Dad's side of the family (who knew the Kohrs could handle their tequila so well?!!?!), and excitedly brushing up on my Italian...(!!!!!!) 

On Christmas morning we ate cinnamon buns with an orange cream cheese frosting and I painted a gingerbread cake. Gingerbread is my all-time favorite treat when it comes to holiday goodies. I love that the cookies look like little people and that I can dress them in whatever edible outfit I so choose. I love blending molasses and spices and then licking the beaters for that spicy warmth. I love it because it's so perfectly cozy. 

It's the season we long for extra arms to cover us in hugs and lips to soak our skin in kisses. Peppermint hot chocolate reminds us that we are not alone, and gingerbread traces our back with gentle fingertips. The holidays are SO DAMN COZY; a season for warm laundry and secrets and I really love that.

After we had sipped our port and the grownups retired the couch, Alec, Felix, Tina, Alex, and Ian all floated into my family room and down around the poker table. This location has served as our stomp-ground for many, many moons.  Back in the old days, our evenings consisted of truth or dare and shots and tumbles into the hottub. One night there were 25 sleeping bodies in my basement, and Al, Fe, and Teens and I made a nest out of blankets on the floor of the bathroom, allowing fifteen-year-old kids to climb over our bodies as we stayed up all night and told stories. Now that we're older, we casually drink beer and talk about our lack of funds and our excitement for what has yet to come.

gingerbread2.jpg

Whenever these kids come over, I make them eat. I made them eat this cake, which sounds like it's not very good, but I promise you it is. The gingerbread and caramel and buttercream play together in a sweet game of leapfrog perfectly suited for the holidays. This year, I made them a pile of desserts: chocolate covered marshmallows, toffee, mexican wedding cookies, vanilla cupcakes, and gingerbread cake.

You can find the entire recipe, including the cake and caramel buttercream HERE, at Top with Cinnamon's adorable little blog. This cake demanded I make wet caramel for the first time ever, finally succeeding on attempt #3 (the first two attempts burnt as I stared over the saucepan and swore.) The original recipe calls for whiskey, but my cousins brew a mean spiced rum so I threw that in there instead. And then I threw the rum caramel into the frosting and OH WOAH. Four layers of nothing but cozy, delicious sugar.


spiced rum caramel sauce

1 cup plus 2 tbsp  granulated sugar sugar

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 tsp spiced rum 

1 – 2 tsp flaky sea salt

Heat the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the sugar around the pan to break up any clumps without stirring. If necessary, use the bottom of a rubber spatula to gently smash any of the clumps.  

While the sugar melts, warm the cream and the butter in a separate saucepan until the butter is fully melted. Set aside. 

After the sugar is melted and has taken on a warm, amber color, remove the saucepan from the heat. Immediately whisk in the warm cream and butter. If the sugar begins to solidify, return the pan to the medium heat until the mixture is liquid. Stir in the salt and the rum. Pour the caramel through a sieve and then into a heat-proof bowl.  

You can put this caramel sauce on anything. Brownies, vanilla bean ice cream, apples, or the gingerbread cake. And said cake consumed with some sort of fire (candles always do) and sweet wine and laughs on a late night.

- Stay cozy 

 

Paleo mini pumpkin pies with a vanilla-coconut crust

It's about time.

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Pumpkin pie and I have a long history. Sometime around elementary school, I asked for pumpkin pie over the traditional yellow-and-chocolate frosting birthday cake. Mish happily obliged, providing me with a giant orange circle of spiced goodness. Plastic pink-and-white candles stood stacked in the pumpkin like naked trees on fire, and I wore an old gypsy Halloween costume as I made my wish.

During my senior year of high school, my family would occasionally buy ginormous pumpkin pies from Costco during the fall season. They stuck around for about a week, steadily making their disappearance as we grabbed after-dinner (and often late-morning) slices. One night, I was up until four am annotating Memoirs of a Geisha. Annotating was a regular practice in my AP Literature class; each month we picked a novel for the month's theme (black history, women's rights, utopian societies), read it, and filled the margins with dozens of notes and ideas. My teacher, Mrs. Buckley, was phenomenal, and introduced us to so amazing reads that to this day I continue to use her list of recommendations. That being said, I had gotten so caught up in Sayuri's journey down the rabbit hole into Geisha-land (especially in regards to her infatuation with the Chairman), that I had ...ahem...skipped over some annotations to finish the story. So there I was, in the black of a November night, scribbling away at the margins as if my life depended on it. (Mrs. Buckley, if you ever read this, I loved this book and I'm sorry I was up until 4am making my annotations. Thank you for being understanding and wise.) Luckily, there was that Costco pumpkin pie. I dined on a hefty slice, looked a the oven clock and to see that it was 3:56, and thought "well this isn't such a bad way to spend my evening."

College was a time full of microwavable dumplings and lucky charms and dixie cup jello shooters. I rarely took the time to bake, and when I did it was often outrageous baked goods covered in commercial baked goods (example: the zebra cake cake).  Luckily, come late October, our dining hall began serving slivers of some of the most amazing pumpkin pie I've ever tasted. The crust was likely industrialized, and possessed small imprints along the ridges that looked as if a squared-footed bird had confidently stomped in a neat circle. The pumpkin custard was perfectly spiced, and there was a wonderfully moist padding at the point where the crust and pumpkin made contact. The only problem was that the pieces were small, and so I would often return for seconds, earning myself the nickname "pie girl." It could have been worse.

I'm surprised it's taken me this long to tackle a pumpkin pie. For a bit I trusted that it would be available Thanksgiving Day, but that sort of hubris can leave a girl alone and pie-less. I needed to control my own destiny. I had to bake pumpkin pie, and I had to do it before Thanksgiving was over and everyone moved onto cranberries, eggnog, and gingerbread. (Though I really do love cranberries, eggnog, and gingerbread. Don't worry. I'll get to you guys.)

So I opened my brain and tackled the task at hand.  I've been doing a lot of paleo baking, a rather like the end result. Almond and coconut flours provide a nice texture, and my gut tends to thank me the next day. So after some internet research, I found a recipe. I had no pie plate but I did have a muffin tin, and from said muffin tin came irresistible baby pies that I love like my own children. My children that I eat.

The thing about making pumpkin pie is understanding the spice ratios. This is where you're allotted some freedom, but it's a bit like playing God with a blindfold on. You don't really know what the pie is gonna taste like, you just kinda throw in some nutmeg, maybe a bit more cloves, and hope and pray the thing tastes good. Libby's has a solid recommendation of spices, but I've made this before and it did not taste like my beloved dining hall pumpkin pie. After mixing around a bit, I think I've got it.

In most pumpkin pie recipes, you either go for a handful of spices or opt for the all-in-one pumpkin pie spice. The trick is to do BOTH. That's right, get your hands dirty and sprinkle all those babies right in the batter. I'm fairly certain dining hall pumpkin pie relied heavily on pumpkin pie spice, but I love the addition of extra nutmeg. It's adds savory warmth, and brings me back to those moments of dining hall dinners consumed before heading to rehearsal.  

I'm a proud pie girl. 

paleo mini pumpkin pies with a vanilla-coconut crust

crust

1 cup coconut flour

1 cup tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch)

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup coconut cil, melted

1 egg 

5 tbsp raw agave 

1 tbsp vanilla extract

filling

1/2 of a (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree, or 1 cup 

1/4 cup coconut milk (canned, full-fat)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp ground cinnamo

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice 

1 1/2 tbsp agave 

1/2 tbsp tapioca flour 

 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with your choice of oil or fat.

Combine the crust ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix unto thoroughly combined into a smooth, dough ball. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a bit more coconut oil. If it seems too oily, add a bit more tapioca flour.

sing your hands, drop a small ball of dough into each muffin cup. Use your fingers to press and shape the dough into a small cup, forming the crust. You can use a tart tamper, or a wooden cocktail muddler, to help flatten everything out.

Bake the tarts in the preheat oven for five minutes.  Remove the tarts. They will have puffed up some, so gently the middle of each tart with a toothpick or fork to release steam. Use the muddler or tart tamper to press down and bubbles. 

While the crust cools, prepare the pumpkin filling. Combine all of the pie ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, fill the cooled tart shells all the way with pie filling. Cook for ten minutes, or until the edges of the crust are just browned. 

Allow to cook completely on a wire rack. Using a spoon or small paring knife, separate the tarts from the muffin tin. Served with coconut cream, if desired.

This was adapted from a recipe on Our Paleo Life.  

Enjoy in the late morning with a cup of chai tea, with friends around the kitchen table, or alone, while reading a book, at 4am. 

P.S. No list links today, but I did read this wonderful article about letting go of the guilt revolved around "shoulds." Find it here!

- stay cozy

Dark chocolate brownies with strawberry cream cheese frosting

I've been keeping a secret. Well, several secrets, really.  Somethings just aren't meant to be discussed right away, and it's nice to keep a teacup full of private thoughts. But now I'm feeling guilty and it's time to do some sharing.  1) At summer camp, I once hid under the bunkbed during a fire drill so that I could read the sex scene in Judy Blume's Forever without fear of judgement  2) I wrote fanmail to gay Broadway actors asking if they wanted to get coffee on my NYC school field trips and was sad when I never got a response, 3) I have a brownie recipe. (!!)

While now I tend to gravitate toward the homemade version, I was raised a boxed brownie kid. They were simple and I thought the batter was better. Artificial Ghiradelli was the best, and my mother taught me to swap out the water for some espresso, leading to a very hyper, chocolate-covered child. Then I started to blossom, slapped on my baker's backpack, and ventured out into a world of homemade brownies.  I explored my palette, sampling brownies with caramel, often chocolate chips, and then the occasional super brownie that came decked out with a cream cheese design and lookin' like it was headed to the Tony's. 

About two weeks ago, my friend Blake celebrated his 26th birthday. Blake and I get along well; as fellow libras we understand the value of balance and can appreciate a really good party. Blake's soiree consisted of a backyard decked with fairy lights, iron-wrought tables and chairs, and an outdoor bar for wine and whiskey consumption. The dress code was "Sunday Best" and the menu consisted of cannolis, birthday cake oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and red velvet cupcakes.  It was so fancy, the beer pong table had a tablecloth. 

As for my contribution, I envisioned something a la "Alice in Wonderland", where the frosting doesn't completely cover the cake, but rather glops over in a rustic-storybook-kinda-way.  Cake would have been nice, but brownies sounded better. Don't get me wrong, I worship all sorts of flavors and types of cakes,  but if it's gonna be chocolate, I say go big or go home. Go for the brownie. 

This brownie recipe is not just any ordinary brownie recipe. These are the brownies that cause diets to crumble and tears to fall. These are the brownies that you give to potential lovers to keep them around and to your mother to say "thank you." They're deeply chocolate-y, a good median between cake and fudge, and when cold, quite literally, melt upon meeting the tongue. If I sent these bad boys instead of some stickers plastered on Hello Kitty stationary, those broadway actors may have written back. 

dark chocolate brownies with strawberry cream cheese frosting 

Ingredients 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/4 packed brown sugar 

3 eggs, at room temp

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. 

Whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder until incorporated. 

Place the chopped chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add one egg to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey!!

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, or until a knife comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the foil. For a super clean cut, chill the brownies in the fridge before slicing. 

The brownies were adapted from Michelle over at Brown Eyed Baker, and there are plenty more delicious recipes to choose from over there. To make the frosting, I simply used this super easy recipe here. 

These brownies are pretty stellar hot and gooey, but they're out-of-this-world after they've been chilling in the fridge for a few hours.  For me, it's reminiscent of mornings I would head downstairs for breakfast, check the fridge for eggs, and quickly opt for the cold, melt-in-your-mouth-y brownie leftovers instead. 

-stay cozy

Rustic paleo apple cake

Fall in California requires a little creativity.

I live in the desert. Sometime it’s also the mountains, and if I drive for fifteen minutes I’ll hit the ocean, but for the most part, there’s a lot of a dust and a lot of cacti and a lot of sun.

This weekend was supposed to be upper 90s (!) over on the Westside and 100 (!!!) in the Valley.  Many vague plans were made: go to the beach, go to the pool, etc, etc.  They were all very appropriate things for one to do when the heat comes wriggling in a thick magic carpet-style wave.  When it’s hot, you try to cool off. That’s why I bought a Chillow.

But I also had another idea in mind, and it was called Apple Cake.

During this heat wave, Sydney and I blasted the air conditioner, wore cotton socks, and lit pumpkin and vanilla candles. With autumn scents wafting through the air, and the glimmer of pines out the window (Yes, we have a few pines! That’s pretty great), it felt like your average, September afternoon. To heighten the experience, I explored the cabinets for fall-related goodies, and emerged in a pile of metaphorical crunchy leaves and holding a jar of applesauce.

I was never crazy about applesauce as a kid, as I’ve morphed into adulthood, I’ve grown to love it. Paired with a sprinkling of cinnamon, it’s a comforting and simple snack, and tends to make one feel slightly adorable. It’s a cute food. And when it comes to making cakes, it’s wonderful. With applesauce, gluten-free and paleo recipes are TRANSFOOOORMED into beautiful, moist desserts.  

The apple cake is a great example for this. I had a marvelous time slicing the apples, hearing them crunch, and allowing the aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon to dance through the kitchen.  I licked the batter off the rubber spatula, and it was earthy and sweet.  When the cake came out of the oven, the edges were golden and the apples had softened into a gentle dusting of tiny pillows.  Steam billowed out as I made thick slices. It was so moist that not a single crumb fell.

It’s paleo and gluten-free, and if that turns you away, please don’t let it. Using applesauce and banana feels so appropriate for this fall treat, and the coconut flour adds a richness that you simply can’t find with all-purpose.

rustic paleo apple cake

1 apple ( I used Gala, but any would do)

2 tsp maple syrup

¾ cup tapioca flour/starch

½ cup coconut flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp +1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided

tsp + tsp nutmeg, divided

tsp + tsp ground cloves, divided

2 eggs

½ cup agave or honey (I used agave)

1 tbs vanilla

2 tbs melted coconut oil

1 small banana (mashed up)

1 cup apple sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 8x8 cake pan in wax paper. You can also use a 9.25 X 5.25 X 2.75 loaf tin, if desired.

Cut the apple into thin, vertical slices and then cut in half horizontally. Place the slices in a small bowl and pour 2 tsp of maple syrup on top.  Add ½ tsp of cinnamon, and the tsp of both the nutmeg and the cloves. Mix everything together and set aside.

In one bowl, mix the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and the rest of the spices together with a fork. Set aside.

In a second bowl, mix the eggs, honey or agave, vanilla, coconut oil, and mashed banana together with an electric mixer until everything is well incorporated. Add the apple sauce and mix with the electric mixer until well blended. Pour the first bowl into the second bowl and mix using the electric mixer.

Use a rubber spatula to pour the batter into the pan. Vertically insert the apple slices into the batter in rows. Try to space them evenly apart, with not too much or too little space in between the apples. You might not use all the apples, but that’s okay because you can snack on the leftovers…!

Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown and let cool.

This recipe was found off of Perchance to Cook, which is very cute and should be explored.

So, A++++++++ for Apple Cake. It’s simple, rustic, and warm. It can be eaten for breakfast, dessert, or a simple snack.

By the way, the Chillow did not satisfy. Boyhood, however, is VERY satisfactory, and I could talk for hours about how much I enjoyed this film. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you do. It’s very, very good.

-stay cozy (even when it’s warm!)