An Autumn Feast

Note:  I'm STILL working on getting the rest of the pictures from our European Summer trip up on the blog, and hopefully all of them will be present and accounted for in the next week.  But until then...

You know what I love about fall where I live? 

90 degree days.  Which essentially means that summer just lasts a littttle bit longer--more pool days, more ice cream cones, more sunshine.  But there's a certain golden hint in the late afternoon light, combined with a hint of a breeze and leaves on the ground that tell me that cooler weather is, most certainly, right around the corner.  And fall weather means that we roast instead of grill our meat and veggies, and bake instead of freeze all of our desserts.  I think I can be good with that.

And here, for your enjoyment, is a Fall Menu, curated from some of my favorite websites and blogs around the 'net. (<--sorry)  Happy Fall eating!

Fall Dinner

Roasted Chicken -- I use this method from NomNomPaleo, and add a sliced lemon and fresh rosemary sprigs to the cavity.  It's poultry perfection every single time.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes -- If you have time, slow roast them like this.  They're pretty much out of this world, though I hardly ever have it together enough to use that method and am throwing them into a very hot oven an hour before we eat.  Don't be like me.
Roasted Broccoli -- So easy, there's no recipe needed.  Simply spread broccoli spears on a foil lined roasting sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with large-grain salt.  Roast at high heat (400 degrees or so) for 15-25 minutes, depending on how "done" you like it.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Sourdough Rustic Rolls -- This recipe is gooood, and it comes from one of the websites most responsible for wasting my time.  I don't care for olives, so they didn't make it in.  No sourdough starter on hand?  No prob.  These ones will stand in for you nicely.
Dutch Apple Galette -- The perfect dessert for the feast.

 

 

Cookie Butter Cup Ice Cream

Remember our conversations about Trader Joes, the cool kids who shop there, and how I joined the club?  I just took it to the next level.  

I put those cookie butter cups in ICE CREAM.

 Not only that, it's no churn ice cream, which is basically the easiest way to make really good homemade ice cream.  Last year, recipes for no churn ice cream started blowing up my blog feed, I totally turned up my nose.  There was no way whipping up some cream and mixing it with sweetened condensed milk could be as good as the much more time intense custard and cream concoctions I was perfecting in my traditional ice cream maker.

Well, I was wrong.  So wrong.  It's creamy, and soft, and EASY.  So easy it's almost embarrassing, but I'm sure you'll quit blushing soon enough.  I hope so, because I'm going to be making lots more this summer.   

The perfect summer food just became perfecter.

Cookie Butter No-Churn Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 1 batch of cookie butter cups, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Speculoos cookie butter
  • 2 tsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chop the cookie butter cups and set aside.  Beat together the cookie butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and canola oil until well combined and smooth.

Beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form, then stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla bean paste.  Pour mixture into an 8x10 dish. Dollop tablespoons of cookie butter mixture onto the top and swirl in with a table knife.  Sprinkle the cookie butter cups and mini chocolate chips over the ice cream and gently stir in.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours.  Serve with more cookie butter cups on top.

Normandy // D-Day Sites

If you looked at my Instagram posts from the last two weeks, you would probably assume that all we've done in France is eat baguettes. That's not entirely the case though-- we've traveled around and seen the sites while eating baguettes. 

Some of the things high on our to see list in Normandy was the D-Day landing sites. Our rental house is just down the street from Sword Beach, which was the most eastern of the five landing beaches and was taken by British, Canadian, and French troops. It's mostly just a great beach for families to enjoy now, but all along the length of it there are memorials and tributes to the battle and the men who fought it. 

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Omaha Beach  

On Saturday, we headed for Omaha Beach, which was the main landing site for othe American forces.  To give a little pop culture context- if you've seen Saving Private Ryan, it's the site of the first battle. The day was overcast but not uncomfortably cool, and we walked along the beach after lunch. There are remains of the bombed out German fortifications at the far end of the beach, and a pier that is build on part of the temporary dock built by the Allies for access during the invasion of Normandy. 

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The American Cemetery  

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This was one of the most sobering places I've ever been. There are more than 9,000 crosses in this graveyard, each one representing a husband, father, son, and brother. And there were no words for the feelings as I walked through with my two boys. 

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If you go, take the time to walk through the visitor's center/ museum. There are several films and quite a few displays that are very well done. 

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Pegasus Bridge  

Our last D-Day site was Pegasus Bridge, captured by British paratroopers. It was strategically necessary to take it intact so that the Allied forces could get their tanks over the Arne river into the country. The original bridge isn't actually spanning the river anymore- they replaced it a few years ago with one that looks nearly identical, but is larger. You can go to the Pegasus Memorial to see the original bridge, as well as a small collection of other military vehicles, large guns, etc. 

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For some reason, Prentice has developed an affinity for the "ganks." It probably has something to do with really large wheels.

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Things to Know...

If you're planning to visit the D-Day sites, there are a few things you should know before you go.  

  • The beaches cover over 50 miles of coastline, and it takes a long time to drive in between. For instance, from where we were on Sword, it was about an hour to Omaha, and would have been another 45-55 minutes to get to Utah.   
  • There are a million and one museums. We're not really museum people (especially with a tired two year old in tow), so we only did the American Cemetery musem, which is free, and the Pegasus Bridge. Admission to most is usually between €6-8, so not too expensive, but you may want to pick the areas that interest you most.  
  • Watch The Longest Day (and maybe Saving Private Ryan) before you go. I'm serious. TLD isn't a very entertaining movie, in my opinion, but it at least gave me a general idea of what was going on where. Some of it didn't make much sense while watching, but I at least vaguely know what happened at any given site. SPR isn't really an overview of the whole battle, but it gives you a very realistic (if somewhat gritty) picture of what the battle entailed. 
  • Always take a light jacket with you. Even in July, we had a cold morning at Omaha and a warm afternoon at the cemetery.  


Off to See the World

So, things have changed a bit around here. As in, the around here is now...France. We picked up and left our little house behind for a few weeks, and are living by a little house near the sea in Normandy.  

I've kept the trip fairly quiet for several reasons. First of all, the itinerary wasn't even finalized until last week. "No minute like the last" is totally our motto. And we rock it. Also, I've felt a little bit, I dunno, awkward about it all. Almost like taking a trip that we've dreamed of ever since we got back from Europe the first time is just showing off, and too much. But I realized that's silly. This is a blessing God has given us. And there's nothing wrong with delighting in it and sharing it with friends and family.  

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Here's what we've accomplished so far-- two days in New York, surviving an overnight flight with a 2 year old, and a loooong drive from Brussels, Belgium to Normandy, France, plus a visit to the boulangerie.  Micah can't take all of the time off, so he'll be working during the week and we'll spend weekends taking it all in. I have my heart set on Monet's house, Mont St. Michel, and we'll definitely visit the landing beaches and World War II memorials. Our AirBnB is just down the street from the beach (see picture above), so The Bops and I will probably spend a good portion of our days there. And the boulangerie, because who am I kidding?

After Normandy, there will be a weekend in Paris (don't tell, but I think that's what I'm most excited about. Best. City. Ever.). Then we'll fly down to Florence, Italy to check out all of the art, and then wrap  it up in Rome to visit our pal the Pope. Just kidding! We're not friends with him. He seems nice and all, but we're a bit too Protestant to be BFFs, if you know what I mean. 

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All told, we'll be gone for about 4 weeks, and while I know it will be long and we'll miss home, part of me feels like I'm are back home. Europe was where Micah and I made our rather nomadic home for the first few months of our marriage, and in spite of the jet lag and the frustration of a lost bag (why, United? WHY?), it feels kind of like we're right where we belong. 

So all of that to say, expect a picture explosion that is not (all) food related (le gasp!). Instagram won't know what hit it. I'll probably break this blog with all of the photos. I'll tell and show you everything I see that's worth sharing, and if you think that's obnoxious, come back in August. I'll be too exhausted to be annoying then. 

Kisses! 

 

Strawberries and Cream Donuts

When it comes to food, I have strong convictions.

Pie crust should never be whole wheat (just eewww).  Cookies should never have raisins (they shouldn't be in anything else, for that matter).  And donut day shouldn't be confined to one paltry day a year.

Donuts? Doughnuts?  Do two spellings mean we get to eat two do(ugh)nuts?  I think yes.

And see that bright, pretty glaze?  It was made with nary a drop of artificial flavoring or food coloring.  Just powderized freeze dried strawberries, which have officially become my new food crush.  Can we start making them trend?  So much flavor and color in such a small size and usable texture.  They could very well world peace, or at least world kitchen peace.

And if you look reeeeeaaallly closey, you can maybe see that my first food love made it in too.  The cream filling is filled with tiny, itty bitty black specks of vanilla bean perfection, courtesy of vanilla bean paste rather than extract.  They just make food so real, you know?  

All of that to say... There's so much to love here for your warm weather baking.  They look like summer.  They taste like summer.  You don't even have to heat your oven because SUMMER.  You'll probably definitely love them (even if your swimsuit won't).

And look!  They'll even love you back. XOXO

Strawberries and Cream Donuts

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups peanut, vegetable, or canola oil for frying
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
     
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries, powdered
  • 2-3 Tbsp. milk

For the donuts: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract.  Dump all of the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir and knead into a soft dough.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

After the rest, knead for 6-8 minutes, or until the dough is soft, supple, and smooth.  Place it in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap.  Allow to rise for 1 to 1.5 hours or until doubled.

Once dough has finished rising, deflate and turn out onto well floured counter.  Roll out to a 1/4" thick and cut into 2 to 2.5" circles.  Place on parchment paper, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about a half hour.

In a frying pan, heat at least 3" of oil until 350 degrees.  place 2-3 donuts in the hot oil at a time, allowing it to cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown and puffy.  Set aside and allow oil to return to to 350 before adding the next batch.  Allow to cool completely.

For the pastry cream: While the donuts are rising, make the cream filling.  Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.  In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolk and vanilla bean paste with a fork until they are well blended and slightly lightened.  Gradually beat in the sugar mixture until completely combined and smooth.  The mixture will be quite thick.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge, but it's not boiling.  Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the eggs while stirring, making sure that the eggs aren't being cooked by the hot milk.  Scrape it all back into the saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent scorching, and cook until it comes to a boil.  Cook until mixture is smooth and glossy, about ten seconds.  Place in a clean bowl, press plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until cold.

For the frosting: In a small mixing bowl, crush the freeze dried strawberries until they are powder.  You can use a pestle, the end of a french rolling pin, or your psychic powers, but they need to be well powderized.  Whisk in the powdered sugar, then gradually add the milk until a glaze like consistency has been reached.

To make the donuts: Place the cream filling in a pastry bag with a medium/small round tip in the end.  Use a sharp paring knife to cut a slit in the side of the donuts, insert the pastry bag tip, and squeeze until you feel the donut begin to bulge slightly.  Dip the tops in glaze and allow to dry.

Enjoy!

Chicken Fajita Salad

I try to fit a salad in for dinner about once a week.  It's healthy, it's budget friendly, and usually pretty easy to throw together.  

But if it's nothing but a bed of lettuce with a few pieces of chicken thrown on?  Ugh.  It leaves you a) feeling like a foraging creature of the woodland, and b) still hungry.

Enter ALL THE TOPPINGS!  They fill you up, they add so much variety in flavor and texture, and they make the salad so much more enjoyable.  And since fajitas are one of our favorite dinners, this salad is pretty likely to make the rotation frequently.

You can get pretty crazy with the toppings here.  I made some avocado rose because they're so pretty, and crisped up some tortilla strips.  But you could totally channel the Chicken Bacon Fajitas and throw on a good crumble of bacon.  Or add some lime rice over the top if you're a grain on the salad sort (I totally am.  Micah's totally not).  Whatever you love and makes your fajita dreams come true can happen on this salad.

Chicken Fajita Salad

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tsp. red chilli flakes (add less if you aren't into spicy foods)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs

Combine all ingredients except chicken and put half of the mixture in a large zipper bag. Add chicken to bag and allow to marinade at least two hours or overnight. Grill and allow to cool some before adding to salad.

 Reserve remaining mixture and use as salad dressing.

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, cut or torn into bite sized pieces.
  • 1 avocado, sliced or made into a rose
  • 1 small white onion, sliced thin and sauteed in a skillet until brown
  • 1 small bell pepper, sliced thin and sauteed in a skillet until brown
  • 2 corn tortillas, sliced into small strips and crisped over medium heat in a sprayed skillet
  • A sprinkling of cheddar cheese.
  • Anything else your heart desires.  You want bacon, just so you know.  Black beans are also a stellar option.  Use your creativity.

To assemble the salad, spread lettuce on one large platter or 3-4 individual plates.  Start with the chicken, and add onions and peppers.  Top with avocado, cheese, tortilla strips, and any other toppings you may have.  Pour some of the reserved marinade/dressing over the salad(s) and serve immediately.

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Israel // Lamb Kufta Kebab Pita Sandwiches

I was a reallly, really hard letter to pick for, because let's be real-- Italy.  Israel.  Ireland.  Some of the best cuisines in the world are from countries starting with I.

But eventually, I had to go with Israel, because this Such a Lot of World to Eat project got started with an article in Saveur magazine about Michael Solomonov, an Israeli chef who's currently heading up Zahav, a restaurant in Philadelphia that is supposed to be fabulous.  Someday, I hope to visit both Philadelphia and Tel Aviv, but for now I just have to pita here at home.

Israeli food tends to focus on fresh, seasonal produce prepared well, which makes for perfect spring and summer eating.  It also means that it's generally healthy, which you can tell just by looking at the toppings and garnishes-- baba ganoush with roasted eggplant, Israeli salad with fresh cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper, and matbucha, which is essentially a cooked salsa with the nicest hint to spice and a lovely roasted tomato flavor.  I've linked to several recipes in the ingredients that I used to create the pitas, comparing and finding the most standard, traditional, and flavorful recipes I could find.  I came across a really lovely blog by Tori Avey, full of traditional and fresh Israeli recipes, and I have a feeling I'll be going back for more really good food!

When you have all of that flavorful goodness tucked into a pita with some grilled lamb, you have the makings of a really stellar meal.  Kufta means pounded, so these kebabs (kabobs?) are made from ground lamb (or beef, if you must) and formed into oblong patties before being skewered and grilled. Forget hamburgers this summer, all you need for barbecued happiness is some grilling skewers, pitas, and all the fresh veggies.

As for the pitas, well, you can make your own at home (it's pretty straightforward and simple), or you can buy them-- it's all good!  We don't judge here, but I will say that there's pretty much nothing like a fresh, hot pita, whether filling it or just filling your face with it.  Your choice.

Shalom!  (I think that's how they say bon appetit in Israel.  But don't quote me on that)

Kufta Lamb Kebab Pitas

  • 1.5 pound of ground lamb or beef
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped very fine
  • 1/2 cup of white onion, minced very fine
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  •  1/2 tsp. black pepper
     
  • 4 pitas, cut in half
  • Baba ganoush, hummus, or tahini
  • Matbucha
  • Lettuce
  • Israeli salad

In a mixing bowl, combine the lamb, salt, parsley, onion, cumin, garlic, and pepper by hand.  Divide it into about 12 even portions and shape them into oblong patties and place on grilling skewers, three on each skewer.  Spray your grill with oil and place the meat on it, carefully turning every 2-3 minutes, and cooking until the insides reach 160 F.

Once the meat is ready, pull it off the skewers and set it aside.  Cut the pitas in half, and spread the insides with baba ganoush or hummus and line with lettuce leaves.  Layer in matbucha, Israeli salad, and meat, topping with more salad.  Serve immediately  

Hungary // Dobos Torte

Hungary was a pretty rough ride.

Usually, I like to think of myself as pretty flexible and resilient when it comes to schedules and getting things done.  But my game has been completely off recently between traveling recently, and preparing for more traveling in the next few months. How many days does it take to get a child's passport and all the necessary paperwork?  Three. THREE WHOLE DAYS. That's how many.  

And I ain't gonna lie, the #suchalotofworldtoeat project has gotten the short end of my falling-apart stick.  When I finally got it together and tried to make Paprikash last week, it was decidedly just meh. Not terrible, but the sauce part of it had almost zero flavor (wrong kind of paprika maybe?) and the chicken tasted like it had sat in a crockpot for 37.592 hours.  So I fell back on my favorite meal of the day-- dessert.

Enter the Dobos Torte, aka, the most perfect layer cake I've encountered in my life. The torte was created and named after it's creator, Josef Dobos and presented to the public in Budapest in 1885.   

Usually I'm not a huge fan of cakes, but this one made me stand in the kitchen and brag to Micah that it was the best cake I'd ever eaten, and I was going to say it even if I had made it and that isn't technically a nice thing to do.  It was tender and moist and flavorful without being just sugary fluff.  The icing was chocolatey and rich, but such a tasteful amount that you didn't feel like you were going to die from overload. 

Oh, but my version wasn't exactly perfect, because see those six layers? Um, yeah, traditionally there are seven layers.  But I burned the last one, so six it was.  Also, I skipped the caramel layer that goes on top.  So is it the most technical of all Dobos Tortes?  Nope.  But it tasted amazing, so it comes highly recommended.

Dobos Torte

Makes a seven layer 9-inch round cake (ignore the six layers in my pictures)
Recipe inspiration from many places, but mostly Smitten Kitchen

  • 10 large egg yolks
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 pound or 3.5 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
     
  • 1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks or 1/2 pound of butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar

Prepare your cake pans by cutting parchment circles to fit in the bottom of each, then butter and lightly flour each pan. If you only have two pans, precut all of your parchments, and wipe out the pans and rebutter and flour between each baking.  Then preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (I used my heavy duty hand mixer, but the motor really struggled, so I wouldn't do that again), beat the egg yolks on medium-high until smooth and lemon colored, about 2-3 minutes.  Gradually beat in the pound of confectioner's sugar and continue beating until smooth and glossy, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Reduce the speed to low and add in the flour and salt, then return to high speed and beat for 5 minutes.  Stir in the 1/2 Tbsp. of vanilla extract.

Making the Cakes: Using a clean bowl (you can transfer the batter to another bowl and then wash the mixer bowl) and beaters, beat eggs whites until they form stiff peaks.  Put a couple of large spoonfuls of the egg whites into the batter and stir-- it will be pretty stiff, so you get to work off some of the cake calories before you even consume them. #lifewinOnce the egg whites have softened the mixture, scrape the rest of them in and gently fold them into the cake batter.

Next, spread about a 1/4 inch of the batter into each of the cake pans and bake them on the center rack for 5-8 minutes each, or until they are a very pale golden color and not doughy in the center.  Remove them from the pans and allow to cool.  

Frosting/Filling: While the cakes are cooling, melt the 1/2 lb of chocolate, then allow to cool until room temperature but not hard.  Beat in the butter, vanilla, egg yolks, and confectioners sugar.

Assembling: To assemble the cakes, place one layer on a round cake plate.  Spread a thin layer of the filling evenly over it, and carefully center another layer on top of it.  Repeat this process until all of the layers are filled and stacked, then use the remaining frosting to cover the cake.  Refrigerate until serving, and allow it to sit at room temperature for a few minutes for the chocolate frosting to soften before cutting.  The cake keeps well for at least three days.

Note:  You will have a lot of egg whites leftover from this recipe.  It would be a stellar life choice to make macarons with them.

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France // Rosemary and Cheese Gougeres // Cheese Puffs

We've already established that France is pretty much my favorite, and that there will be many, many French recipes showing up in the next couple of weeks (and let's be real, always).  High up on the lists of reasons I love French food?  The pastries. Forever and ever.  Amen.

One of the most classic and popular French pastries are cream puffs and eclairs, both of which have a pate a choux dough as their base and then are crammed full of delicious, lightly sweetened and perfectly dainty pastry cream.  I've made about a million cream puffs in my time, give or take a few hundred thousand, and so the recipe is comfortable and familiar to me.  And if you've never made them before, you should know that it's entirely doable and un-scary.

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