Honey Marshmallows

Honey Marshmallows Did you know it was national S’mores day this past weekend? I didn’t either. I’ll be honest and admit I don’t quite understand these “national” food days. Why do we need a national cheesecake day? Or a national biscuit day? And who gets to decide which month gets the chocolate chip cookie and which month gets broccoli?

But, when I found out I had somehow “missed” national S’mores day yet again, I was inspired to make marshmallows. So I guess this mysterious and odd marketing scheme worked.

Honey Marshmallows

After making graham crackers a few weeks ago, I was eager to see if I could create a more healthful marshmallow. Not only did these turn out beautifully, but they’re made with only honey! No refined sugar at all. Making marshmallows sounds complicated, but it’s not. It’s far easier than I imagined, and my results turned out this good the very first time!

These taste delicious and are far better for you than the packaged kind you find at the store. So even though, at this point, we’ve all missed National S’mores Day, you should give these honey marshmallows a try. They could (and should) be enjoyed every day of the year.

Honey Marshmallows

Honey Marshmallows

3 tablespoons gelatin

1 cup ice water

1 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly grease a square nine-inch pan. Line with parchment paper and grease again.

Place 1/2 cup of water in a medium bowl (or in the bowl of a mixer with attached whisk) and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Set aside to soften.

In a small pot, combine the honey, salt, and the other 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a low boil on medium heat. Using a candy thermometer, gradually raise the mixture to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. (Took me about 8-10 minutes to reach this temperature). Remove from the heat.

With your stand mixer on low, carefully pour the hot syrup in a drizzle down the side of the bowl. Add the vanilla and increase speed to high. Beat for 12- 15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Scrape into  prepared pan and leave, uncovered, for 4-12 hours to dry. Cut into squares (or circles) and serve!

Little One Eats: Peanut Butter Stuffed Pretzels

Peanut Butter Stuffed Pretzels

I love soft pretzels, but I do not like hard pretzels. Ryan eats both constantly and actually prefers the hard variety on most occasions. It’s one of the few foods we don’t agree on, and we’ve had to compromise on road trips (because in Ryan’s opinion, hard pretzels make the most perfect traveling snack). Enter: Trader Joe’s. Only recently have we been blessed with Trader Joe’s here in Colorado. But snack lovers across the country know that Trader Joe’s is the place to go to stalk up on all things sweet and salty.

A few months ago, we discovered their peanut butter stuffed pretzels. And surprisingly, I fell for them fast. We’ve bought two bags, both of which have stayed in our car. Despite my strong will, I cave EVERY SINGLE TIME. I simply can’t stop eating them. And while they aren’t necessarily unhealthy, they’re still full of ingredients and preservatives I’m not too thrilled about.

Lulu Pretzel

So when Lucy started to reach her hand out for a peanut butter stuffed pretzel, I knew I had to try to recreate them at home. Not surprisingly I took the HARD out of the equation and made these beautiful peanut butter stuffed soft pretzels. And they are out-of-this-world good. The key is to use cold peanut butter when shaping the pretzel balls. If your peanut butter is too warm, this recipe gets messy fast. But because I buy all natural peanut butter, it’s in the fridge already, which made for an almost effortless adaptation to one of my favorite soft pretzel recipes. Everyone–mama, papa, and baby–enjoyed these!

Peanut Butter Stuffed Pretzels

Peanut Butter Stuffed Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzel Dough

1/2 cup peanut butter, chilled

Coarse sea salt

After dough has risen, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, break off small balls of dough and stretch out to form a 2-3 inch flat disc. Scoop 1-2 teaspoons of chilled peanut butter in the center and wrap dough around peanut butter, forming a smooth ball. Set aside and repeat with remaining dough.

Drop balls into boiling water. Allow to boil for 30 seconds, turning once. Remove balls with slotted spoon and allow to drain on cooling rack. Sprinkle balls with coarse sea salt, if desired and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until pretzel balls turn a deep golden brown. Best enjoyed the same day.

Arugula Pizza

Arugula Pizza

I’m not the first to say it, but Arugula is the New Basil. Ryan and I aren’t shy about our affection for a good pizza. In fact, we fell head over heels in love with Apizza Scholls in Portland and we celebrated the news of our first pregnancy at Home Slice in Austin. Whenever we visit a new town, we make sure to try out the city’s best offering.

Back home, we make pizza at least once a month (and more often, once a week). Homemade dough, a sweet and spicy tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese make for a delicious and easy weeknight meal. I’ve always loved adding fragrant basil to my piping hot pizza, but as you mighty know, the vibrant green leaves quickly turn dark black once met by heat. And although the pizza still tastes good…it looks a little disappointing.

Arugula Pizza

And if I believe anything about food its this: food should be appreciated by all five senses.

So enter arugula. Spicy, flavorful, and shockingly resistant to melting pizza cheese, arugula is now my greenery of choice. I throw it on my pizza for the nutrition, for the taste, and for the visual appeal. It transforms an ordinary cheese pizza into the belle of the ball.

Arugula Pizza

Arugula Pizza

4 Whole Wheat Pitas

8 ounces mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

1/2-3/4 cup prepared tomato sauce

8 ounces organic arugula, washed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line two small baking sheets or one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pitas two inches apart. Generously spoon tomato sauce on pita bread and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle arugula on top. Serve with a glass of wine and Parmesan cheese.

Chewy Snickerdoodles

Chewy Snickerdoodles

We live behind a neighborhood elementary school. In a few days, our street will clog with parents and eager students; we’ll begin to hear the excited shrieks that accompany afternoon play. I’ll open up my back door to watch the kindergardeners interact in what will be the first of many social playgrounds. I’ll remind it won’t be long before Lucy joins them.

Growing up, I looked forward to the occasional sweet treat in my lunchbox. On most days, my mom wisely sent us to school with fresh fruit, but occasionally we’d find a cookie or a blondie. A special treat that brightened up my seven-year-old self. Unlike most children, I didn’t find much appeal in chocolate. I’d always take a slice of apple pie, a sugar cookie, or a date bar over a brownie or a chocolate chip cookie. And so my mom often packed treats laced with cinnamon…and I so fell hard and early for the ubiquitous baking spice.

Chewy Snickerdoodle

When I think about the perfect back to school treat, these snickerdoodles easily come to mind. They’re a classic cookie–soft, chewy, and simple–and they hint to fall with their heavy helping of cinnamon. I’ve tried many snickerdoodle recipes over the years, but this is my favorite. These cookies bake up well in the oven, lending to big and beautiful cracks in the otherwise cinnamon coated surface. They won’t grow hard after they cool, and you’ll find they’ll keep well for several days.

So if you have a little one returning to school soon, make these cookies. And even if you don’t…they’re well worth an afternoon.

Chewy Snickerdoodle

Chewy Snickerdoodles

1 3/4 cup sugar, divided

1 tablespoon roasted cinnamon

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tarter

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a shallow bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tarter, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter, shortening, and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Reduce mixer to low and slowly add flour mixture until combined.

Working with two tablespoons of dough, roll into ball. Then roll ball in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheets. Repeat and space balls two inches apart.

Bake cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are just set but the centers are still soft and puffy, about ten minutes. The cookies will look almost raw. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for ten minutes, then transfer to write rack. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach CousCous Salad

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

We returned home from West Virginia late Monday night. It was a good trip. One of those trips you almost wish was a little less good…because then it wouldn’t hurt so much to say goodbye. My little sister and I are four years apart, and we’re now over one thousand miles away from each other. She’s one of the brightest, most loving and sacrificial people I know. I miss her more than words can convey.

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

And so, as is custom around here, I’m baking and cooking to work through my sadness. There’s nothing quite as comforting to me as a clean kitchen and a refrigerator stocked with fresh produce. Give me a few hours…and I can work through most tangles of emotion.

Happily, these therapy sessions tend to be good for both my heart and my stomach. I’ve made quite a bit of salmon over the last few years, but I’ve finally hit on recipe gold. This salmon is slow baked, which means that my days of overcooking salmon are officially over. You’ll find that this method almost always guarantees an intensely moist and flavorful filet. I couldn’t stop rejoicing as we ate our way through dinner–I finally figured out how to do this!

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

And then this simple couscous salad is packed full of good things: toasted pine nuts, feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, organic spinach….This simple spinach couscous salad was meant to serve at least four, but Ryan and I couldn’t resist going back for seconds and then thirds.

So if you’re finding your emotions running high this week, get into the kitchen and make this meal. Your heart and your stomach will thank you.

Slow Baked Salmon and Spinach Couscous Salad

Slow Baked Salmon

12-ounce fillet of salmon, skin on (or 6 ounces per person)
Finely grated zest of a lemon (1 loosely packed tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A generous pinch of flaky sea salt

Place a pan 1/2 full of water (I use a 8″ round cake tin) in the oven on the lower rack and preheat to 250┬░F. Lightly grease a baking pan. Place the filet of salmon on baking pan, skin side down. Brush olive oil on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and lemon zest.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Check for doneness at 20 minutes. Place a knife tip in the thickest part of the salmon and gently pry. If the salmon separates into flakes, it’s done. If not, return it to the bake for another five minutes.

Spinach Couscous Salad

One pound organic spinach

Four cups prepared couscous (about 2 cups uncooked)

1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

1 pint cherry tomatoes tossed in about 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 8 ounce package feta cheese

1/4 cup high quality olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread tomatoes (tossed in olive oil) on a baking sheet. Roast until they just begin to burst, about 20 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat spinach until it starts to wilt. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, gently toss together roasted tomatoes, wilted spinach, cooked couscous, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and honey. Pour over salad, toss again, and serve at room temperature.