Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peach Crisp

Can you believe it's almost July already? It definitely snuck up on me. I'm all for the cozy winter months but there's just something extra special about summer. Longer evenings, gorgeous sunsets, baseball (sweeping the Dodgers, ahem!), watching a confused Poppy try to figure out how and why the fan is blowing on her, but most of all, eating summer produce!

I definitely think that when baking with summer fruit like strawberries, apricots, cherries, and peaches, simpler is better. You don't want to overwhelm the fruit with fancy spices or lots of sugar, just let it stand out on its own! This peach crisp is a slight variation on a recipe that my mom usually makes multiple times throughout the summer, and it never gets old. Plus, it's even more delicious for breakfast the next morning.

Peach Crisp:

For the filling:
8 peaches, peeled and cut up into chunks
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of one orange
Pinch of salt

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter (1 and 1/2 sticks), cubed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I know it's awful to have a hot oven when it's warm outside, but it'll be worth it in the end! Combine the peaches, flour, sugar, orange zest, and salt in a large bowl. Be careful not to overmix or the peaches will get smooshed.

Pour the peaches into a 9 by 13 baking dish. Mix all the topping ingredients except for the butter in a bowl until combined. Then, use your fingers to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients (the tried-and-true technique that I've mentioned before for pie crust and scones), or use a pastry cutter or a food processor. 

The mixture should be crumbly, about the size of small peas. Sprinkle it over the top of the peaches...maybe also use a spoon to eat any topping that remains in the bowl...I know, so disgusting but SO good!

Bake the whole thing for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees, until it is bubbly and golden. Best served slightly warm with vanilla ice cream - the ice cream just melts into all the crevices of the crisp, mmm.

Here's the Popster (as we like to call her), sleeping peacefully. I know she looks so innocent but just wait till she's awake...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Sip - Say It with Me: Lah- goo- knee- tuss!

Hi everyone, this is Gabe. Casey asked me to write this week's Sunday Sip post and without hesitation, I have chosen to talk about a beverage near and dear to my heart: BEER.

For those that don't know I consider myself a craft beer fan and more accurately, a beer geek. As such, I love sampling different styles of beer from the many craft breweries throughout the U.S. Currently my favorite, Lagunitas Brewing Company hails from nearby Petaluma, CA. This is a short review of their beer and brewing campus.

This past Friday I stopped off on my way home from Santa Rosa, just off Highway 101 and was amazed to find that at 3:30 pm the parking lot was packed full of visitors! The campus, consisting of brewery tourists as well as brew pub frequenters, was buzzing. Commonly, live music fills the outdoor dining area, adding to the social atmosphere. On this visit, I picked up a to-go bottle of the brewery's flagship, Lagunitas IPA to enjoy throughout the upcoming week.

In case I've piqued your interest in either visiting this great establishment or in sampling one of their beers, here's a list of five of the varieties offered:

1. Lagunitas IPA - A strong floral, citrusy hopped india pale ale with excellent balance and a crisp, dry finish that demands another sip.

2. Czech Pils - A light, easy drinking summer beer with a traditional, light bitterness and refreshing appeal, my recommendation for someone new to craft beer.

3. Little Sumpin Sumpin - A delightfully deceiving American Wheat ale with a surprising burst of fruity hop flavor and aroma.   

4. Cappuccino Stout - A hearty dark ale with strong flavors of coffee, espresso, vanilla bean, chocolate, and roast character for those cold winter months.

5. Censored Ale - A malty amber ale with great caramel flavor and a balance of citrusy and herbal hop character. 

Most, if not all, of these can be found at your local neighborhood craft beer store. Also, these five are just the tip of the iceberg as the brewery releases numerous seasonal releases in 22 oz. bottles and crafts a plethora of styles available only on draught from the brew pub in Petaluma.

Thanks for letting me guest star in this newest post. I'd love any feedback (good or bad) and any brewing or beer questions. Casey (and Poppy) will be back later this week with a great summer dessert.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Apricot Almond Granola

This past weekend, Gabe and I went to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. It was almost difficult to shop because there were so many vendors with incredible looking produce, local cheese, meat, and pastries. While we were there, we had a delicious breakfast - I'm not normally into savory breakfasts, but this one was an exception for sure. It was an egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich from Prather Ranch Meats, and I didn't even get a picture because we gobbled it up so fast! 

I'm happy to report that this granola recipe is very simple but a nice way to step away from my usual exclusively sweet breakfasts. It balances sweet apricots, rich coconut oil, and toasted almonds, with just a little bit of salt. You can eat it plain like trail mix, with cold milk or yogurt and fruit, and let's be real, it would probably be tasty as an ice cream topping too!

Apricot Almond Granola:

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup each raw almonds and dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 or more tsp honey/agave

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine oats, apricots, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.

If you've never cooked or baked with coconut oil before, I highly recommend it. There are apparently all kinds of health benefits to it, and it adds a nice nutty taste to whatever you're making. It usually comes in a jar and is almost waxy and semi-solid at room temperature, but melts into a liquid when heated. 

See what I mean about the texture? Scoop out a few big spoonfuls and heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just until it is completely melted and measures about half a cup. Pour it over the oats mixture and stir until well combined. Then drizzle on one to two tablespoons of honey or agave nectar - you can adjust this depending on how much sweetness you prefer.

Pour the whole thing into a rimmed baking sheet or dish and bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or until it just starts to turn golden. Bonus, it will make your house smell amazing!

Let the granola cool completely, then scoop it into an airtight container for storage. It will keep for a few weeks at room temperature but you can always freeze it if you have too much.

The opportunities to change up this recipe are endless! Keep the oats, spices, honey, and coconut oil the same, but you could substitute in dried cherries, cranberries, or apples for the apricots, and walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts for the almonds.

And here's Poppy, sitting on the kitchen table.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cheers to you, Dad!

Happy Father's Day to my amazing dad and all the other dads out there! Thank you for being a rare stay at home dad and letting me crawl around in the garden when I was a baby, thank you for introducing me to Tom Petty and NPR, thank you for teaching me to drive (and giving me your car!)...thank you for being the best dad ever!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers and Baseball

I know I'm blogging on the later side this week, but I promise I have a good excuse. Last night I had the privilege of being at a Giants game which just so happened to be a perfect game thrown by Matt Cain. It was hands down the most amazing baseball game I have ever been to, the crowd was incredible and just got better as the night went on! Cain was dominant, obviously. After the last out, everyone just stayed and watched the players celebrate on the field and gave a never-ending standing ovation. Pretty darn cool to be a part of something like that.

Cain before the game

And after! back to food. These veggie burgers (loosely adapted from this recipe) are a weeknight staple for us. The recipe makes a TON and they freeze really well, so if you've had a long day you can easily defrost a patty and cook it up in less than 10 minutes. They're almost falafel-like with a crunchy outside and softer, slightly spicy middle.

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers:

1 large sweet potato or 2 smaller ones
1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed
1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed
1 onion, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup panko or regular breadcrumbs, plus more for breading
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

First, microwave the sweet potato but before you do, poke it all over with a fork to make sure it doesn't explode. It'll take about 6-8 minutes in the microwave, just check on it occasionally and cut it in half a few minutes in so you can poke it to check if it's soft all the way through.

Using potholders, take the potato out of the microwave and let it cool for a few minutes, then use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh from the skin and into a large mixing bowl.

Add in the rinsed beans, chopped onion and garlic, all the spices, and 1/2 cup panko. You can use regular breadcrumbs but panko tend to be a bit more crunchy and add a great texture to the burgers.

Using a fork or pastry cutter, gently mash everything together until it is well combined but still has some chunks in it. Scoop out about eight portions of the mixture and form it into patties.

Pour about a cup of panko or breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or rimmed plate and gently cover the patties with crumbs, pressing down lightly so they stay in place.

Heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the veggie burgers until both sides are crispy and golden brown, about two or three minutes per side. If they start to burn, just add more oil to help absorb the heat.

Serve on a toasted bun with whatever fixings you like - barbecue sauce is surprisingly delicious as a condiment! And as I mentioned earlier, they freeze very well. Just place the patties on a plate or cookie sheet and let them freeze through, then you can put them all in a plastic bag or airtight container and they'll keep for a month or two. When you're ready to eat one, defrost it in the microwave for about 45 seconds and then fry it up! The burgers are on the messier side and tend to fall apart a little bit as you eat them, but they are still delicious.

Last but not least, here's Poppy looking wistful and longing to escape the confines of her prison.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Sip: Watermelon-Mint-Cucumber Cocktail

You know how sometimes the weekend just goes by too fast? Ok, maybe that's all the time. Especially now that the weather is so gorgeous, it can be hard to sit in an office all day! As it's gotten warmer outside, I've rediscovered my cocktail shaker and have been experimenting with all kinds of fruity, refreshing drinks. So I thought it would be fun to start a weekly post about cocktails/beer/wine. Those of you who know my boyfriend know that he is super into beer, so I'm hoping he'll do an occasional guest post about brewing or a beer review.

First in this series, a perfect drink for a scorching Sunday evening. Juicy watermelon, fragrant mint, and cold cucumbers are all muddled up and poured over ice in this delicious drink. 

Here's what you need for two drinks - you could easily double or even quadruple these quantities for more people...or more for yourself! These would also be delicious without alcohol if you so choose.

About 1 cup watermelon, cubed
1/4 of a cucumber, sliced
5-6 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of lemonade
2 shots of light rum (you could probably also use gin or tequila, whatever is on hand)
Handful of ice cubes

First, muddle the cucumber, mint, and a few cubes of ice in a cocktail shaker. Sadly I don't have an actual muddler so I just used a spoon and it worked pretty well!

The point is really just to mash up the cucumber and mint so they release lots of flavor and mix well with the liquids.

Once they are well combined, add in the watermelon cubes and muddle again briefly until the watermelon cubes start turning into juice. 

Then add in the lemonade, rum, and a handful of ice - crushed ice is ideal - and shake it like crazy so it gets nice and frothy! If you don't have a cocktail shaker, you could probably just stir everything together and strain out the chunky parts before drinking.

Serve over ice and if you feel like getting fancy with presentation, place a thin slice of cucumber on top of the drink, or add a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Orange Cranberry Scones

When I was in high school, I worked in a local bakery after school and on weekends. I wasn't actually doing any baking, just serving people, but it was a great experience and taught me a lot about dealing with "difficult" customers. Of course it was also a plus to be able to sample all the baked goods - I mean, I had to know what they all tasted like in case customers asked, right? This bakery had a huge selection of cookies, brownies, and cakes, but my favorites were the breakfast items. Carrot muffins, blueberry muffins, enormous cinnamon rolls, and several types of scones. These orange cranberry scones are crumbly, buttery, and fragrant - I highly recommend them!


1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons orange juice
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/4 cup cranberries

In a small bowl, zest the orange and squeeze out two tablespoons of juice, being careful not to let any seeds get in.

In another larger bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add in the butter and use your hands or a pastry cutter to combine the dry ingredients with the butter until the mixture is sandy and crumbly. 

Cold butter chunks

Before mixing

After mixing - you can see most of the butter incorporated but a few bigger chunks are ok!

Next, whisk the eggs and half and half into the orange juice/zest.

Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and stir gently, just until the dough comes together. Add the dried cranberries and mix until they are evenly distributed. If you overmix, the scones will be on the tougher side and you don't want that!

Scoop out the dough into 12 evenly sized balls and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. Serve right away, there's nothing like breaking into a scone with a crunchy exterior and a steamy, tender interior!



Looks like Poppy has eaten one too many scones...check out that belly!