Apple Butter Blondies #oxogoodbrownie

Apple Butter Blondies | Healthy. Delicious.

Apple Butter Blondies | Healthy. Delicious. Apple Butter Blondies | Healthy. Delicious.

Once I got it into my head that I wanted to make apple butter blondies, there was no stopping me. What can I say? I’m really stubborn. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Anyway, this weekend I went through an entire box of brown sugar, a pound and a half of butter, a dozen eggs, and the better part of a jar of apple butter in my quest. The first batch was too soft (it ended up being a delicious apple cake, but that’s not what I wanted), the second batch wasn’t apple-y enough and tasted way too healthy, the third batch was delicious and buttery, but just a little bit too greasy. The fourth batch? Perfection.

A Day of Remembrance

"I am one of the many craft, cooking, lifestyle and DIY bloggers who had posts to share with you today, but the events of Friday's shooting in Connecticut have left us heartbroken. Like you, we cried as news reports poured in and wondered out loud about how something so cruel could hurt the most innocent and tender. We not only grieved for the lives lost and wounded, but for that part of the magic and wonder of this holiday season that was taken from us all. We know that no words, no gifts, no acts of service will ever take away the pain, but we, as bloggers and parents collectively, want those affected by this to know how close to our hearts they are: We love you. We pray for you. We're so heartbroken for your loss. To honor the memory of lives cut short, we choose to step away from our blogs and computers today to celebrate the gift of life and those we love most: our children, families, good friends and community. We're holding our kids a little closer, reaching out to neighbors and giving thanks for the moments we have together. Thank you for stopping by today. We hope you'll join us in remembering, praying, and gathering close. We wish you and your families a safe and blessed holiday."

{Tazo Cookoff} We Have a Winner!

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Congratulations to Joanne, who won my Tazo Giveaway!

I apologize for taking so long to pick a winner. I’ve been having computer difficulties all week. Four trips to the Apple store and a new hard drive later, but I think they’re finally resolved. Now that I have my laptop back I have a few other projects that I need to get caught up on, but I’ll be back in the next day or two with a new recipe. Here’s a little preview of what’s to come:

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Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Feasting on Flowers

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Spring has sprung and the flowers are in full bloom! What better way to celebrate than with a floral-themed picnic in the park?

In addition to being gorgeous to look at, flowers can be a source of inspiration and flavor in the kitchen. For this month’s 24, 24, 24 event, I created a multi-course picnic dinner inspired by — and including — flowers. On the menu: Orange Blossom Brioche with Pate and Orange-Balsamic Marmalade, Green Salad with Flower Petals and Lemon-Poppy Vinaigrette, Tuna-Strawberry-Rose Maki, and Lavender Creme Brûlée. The biggest hits were definitely the brioche and the creme brûlée — yummy!

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Hunting down flowers to use in my dishes was a little more difficult than I anticipated. It’s still a little early in the season for the farmer’s markets to have any, and even though many common flowers are edible (dandelion, chrysanthemum, pansy, etc), you don’t want to just go and pick them or buy a bouquet because they’ll be full of nasty chemicals. Make sure that any flowers you intend to eat are sold as being edible or grow them yourself without any chemicals or pesticides. ;)

Anyway, I was having trouble finding exactly what I wanted, so I had to make do with using only one type of fresh flower (I’m honestly not even sure what they were, since they weren’t labeled other than “edible flowers” anyone know?) as well as dried rose buds, dried lavender, and a bottle of orange blossom water. Dried flowers have a more concentrated flavor and tend to be more “floral” tasting, so it’s best to use them in applications where the flavor is infused into another ingredient. Fresh flowers have a more subtle flavor that’s less like eating perfume — they’re a little bitter and almost peppery. I like to balance them out with something sweet or rich.

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Want to have a flower picnic of your own? Recipes can be found by following these links.

Would you like a Taste of the Nation?

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Foodbuzz and Share Our Strength have generously given Shawn and I tickets to this year’s Taste of the Nation event in Hartford. And one of you gets to go too! (Well, one of you gets to go for free. Anyone can go if they buy a ticket ;))

You and me, we’re pretty lucky. Sure things don’t always go our way, we’re tired and overworked, and there’s an endless list of things to complain about. But we don’t have it that bad.

You’re here. I’m assuming that means that you, like me, have a computer and access to the internet. Or at least access to a nice public library.

You’re reading a blog about recipes. I’m assuming that means you, like me, have money with which to buy food, a store to buy it in, a kitchen to cook it in, and at least basic knowledge of how to assemble ingredients into a meal.

And maybe you, like me, can even afford a fancy meal out once in a while or have the luxury of throwing out that experiment-gone-bad and ordering a pizza. You are probably fairly confident that when you’re hungry, there will be something around to eat. For us, food is more than merely sustenance. It’s something to be experimented with, considered, and thoroughly enjoyed. It’s something to b celebrated.

Some people aren’t so lucky. And that breaks my heart – especially when those people are children. Right here in the US, there are millions of people who don’t have a fully functioning kitchen, don’t have the tools necessary to create a nourishing meal. Their “neighborhood” grocery store is far away and difficult to get to without a car. When the do get there, the selection is horrible: produce rotting on the shelves, fruit flies buzzing around. Not that they’d know what to do with it anyway, since they don’t know how to cook. So they buy some prepackaged meal full of chemicals and preservatives, lug it home, heat it up, and feed it to their kids for dinner before heading out to their second minimum-wage job.

Enter Share Our Strength.

You’ve probably heard of them. They’re a great organization committed to ending childhood hunger in America. They increase access to programs provide food to children and their families and strength community resources so to connect kids to healthy foods through school breakfast and lunch programs, after school snacks, and summer time meals. AND they teach parents about food budgeting strategies; Teach them how to cook healthy meals with limited resources. They send participants home with a bag of groceries at the end of each class, so they can practice the skills they’ve learned and share it with their family. They aren’t about giving people handouts. They’re about empowering people with the knowledge and skills they need to provide their family with a healthy, nutritious meal.

If you ask me, that’s pretty awesome.

One of SOS’s most talked about fundraiser is the annual Taste of the Nation series. Since 1988, Taste of the Nation has brought together the most creative culinary minds across the nation. Each spring and summer, pioneers of modern American cuisine, national celebrity chefs and mixologists including David Burke, Stephan Pyles, mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, Bravo’s Top Chef Tom Collichio, Food Network stars Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse and thousands more like them donate their time, talent and passion at nearly 40 events across the United States and Canada with one goal in mind: to raise critical funds needed to help end childhood hunger. At the event, you’ll get to sample food and drink for some of the areas leading chef’s as well as participate in live and silent auctions. 100% of the proceeds go to Share Our Strength.

Want to win a ticket to this year’s Hartford event? Just leave me a comment indicating that you will be able to attend the event in Hartford, CT on May 6. That’s all. If you support Share Our Strength, I ask that you put one of their banners on your next blog post or tell a friend about them if you don’t have a blog. But you don’t have to do that to win – just leave a comment.

I’ll pick a winner on Monday, April 26th.

Review: Secrets of a Skinny Chef

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They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and in this case I’m glad that I didn’t. I’ll be honest: Secrets of a Skinny Chef probably isn’t a cookbook that would catch my eye if I was browsing around Barnes and Noble. The cover is a dull yellow-green color (I couldn’t even take a decent photo of it!), the cartoon is kind of hokey, and there’s something about the word “skinny” that really turns me off. But the description pulled me in – Jennifer Iserloh and I share a similar food philosophy that includes moderate portions of real foods, lots of veggies, and not falling victim to food fads. Plus, her recipe for mac and cheese loaded up with cauliflower sounded really good (ever since I made that gratin, I’ve been obsessed with the combination of cauliflower and cheese).

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In terms of layout, the book is very no-frills. Although there is a small insert of photos in the middle, the rest of the book is printed simply in two colors with a few small illustrations here and there. So you’ll have to use your imagination and actually read a little to decide which recipe’s you want to try. Which might be a good thing because, if your like me, you probably don’t usually bother to cook the recipes that don’t have photos. And you just might be missing out on some good ones.

The book covers a really wide range of dishes, with chapters dedicated to everything from breakfast to side dishes to desserts. There are also some really cool extras, like a “skinny shopping list” and a section dedicated to using up leftovers. None of the recipes call for “diet” foods or specify that you use a specific brand of something, and all of them include nutrition information. The recipes are straightforward and easy to make — not intimidating at all for those of you who aren’t “cooks.” They don’t involve complicated or expensive ingredients, and they’re fast to cook up.

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The first recipe that I made was the shrimp and corn fritters with sweet chili sauce. It was incredible!! The fritters were light and fluffy in the center, but crisp on the outside, and the seasoning mixture in them was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. The sauce was a lot spicier than I expected, but it was full of flavor and paired perfectly with the fritters. The sweetness of the corn also went really nicely with the spicy sauce. One serving didn’t look like much on my plate, but the three fritters (302 calories) and a side of asparagus was more than I could finish. I plan to make these again soon!

The second recipe I made was the mac and cheese that I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, this recipe and I didn’t get along very well. It was most likely my fault – I was in a horrible mood when I started cooking and it was late and I was cranky. But my pasta turned to mush and my sauce was more solid than creamy.

The last recipe I tried was the pork lo mein, hold the grease. While I wouldn’t call this dish lo mein (the sauce wasn’t what I was expecting) it was, again, an excellent dish. It was packed full of filling vegetables, and the sauce had a ton of flavor. I also really enjoyed the use soba noodles in this recipe. For 293 calories, this dish was not only much tastier than take-out, but much healthier too.

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The verdict: Secrets of a Skinny Chef contains 100 healthy recipes that are easy and accessible to make. It may not appeal to the more experienced cook that is looking to be challenged and inspired, but it’s a solid collection or recipes for more casual home cooks who are looking to eat healthier without sacrificing flavor. The recipes are family friendly, and I think they would also be great for parents who are trying to encourage their children t eat more vegetables (you might just have to tone some of the spicier recipes down a little).
Would I buy this book? A few years ago, I not only would have nought the book, but I would have cooked from it almost every day. I wouldn’t buy it today, but only because my cooking skills have evolved and the books that I buy tend to be more specialized or “gourmet.” I’ll still refer to it though, and I have marked a few more recipes that I want to try. While I wouldn’t buy it for myself, I would have no hesitation recommending it to a friend who was looking to lose weight in a healthy way or just wanted to learn how to cook without relying on processed foods.
Secrets of a Skinny Chef is available at Amazon.com for $13.49.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this cookbook to review, but the opinions are my own.