Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brown Butter Berry Bars

Brown butter berry bars.  Try to say that three times fast.  It's no she-sells-sea-shells, but it's pretty close.  I used to get quite a kick out of the seashell store called She Sells Sea Shells in Sanibel Island when I was a kid.  We went there many a time to add to our shell collections, and I'm sure the name didn't hurt when enticing kids to venture in.

The name "brown butter berry bars" should entice my readers pretty easily too, I would imagine.  Browned butter is heaven on earth and baked goods made with it have an even richer, deeper flavor, I find.  The berries are perfect this time of year.  I happened to use my fresh-picked boysenberries, but I left that out of the title because "brown butter boysenberry bars" just sounds plain silly.  And as for the bar-aspect of this dessert, doesn't everyone love a dessert you can eat on the go?

These bars have a delicious crispy shortbread crust on the bottom that is topped with a creamy browned butter mix and delicious, ripe berries.  It's almost cheesecake-esque but without the cream cheese flavor.

Natalie and I originally made these bars with the cherries we picked, and I decided the recipe was so good that I would make it with my boysenberries too.  Good call, me.  I think these bars were even better with berries than with cherries, but that's because I think berries improve upon cooking but cherries don't.

This recipe can be made with any berry you have around.  If you use tart berries like I did, you will probably want to sprinkle an extra couple teaspoons of sugar on the berries before you pour on the filling.  If you use raspberries, you probably won't need this extra step.  This recipe works equally well with ungodly amounts of berries as it does with just a couple handfuls - feel free to customize for your fruit preferences.  The name, however, must stay as it is, because everyone loves a good tongue twister.  

Brown Butter Berry Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 16 2-inch bars

7 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter, cut up into cubes
At least two large handfuls of berries - I would suggest at least two clam shells

To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper - use two overlapping rectangles so the paper covers the sides as well.

Mix together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Then add in flour and salt and mix until incorporated.  Add dough to papered pan and use fingers or a spatula to press the dough evenly into a thin layer in the pan.  Bake a 375 degrees until just lightly browned, about 18 minutes.  When done, cool the crust in the pan before adding the filling.

To make the filling: 
Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until light brown in color.  Stir often and be careful not to burn it.  The browning will take at least five minutes, maybe more.  Once browned, remove the butter to a glass measuring cup to cool slightly. 

In a medium bowl whisk sugar, eggs and salt.  Add flour and vanilla and whisk until well incorporated.  Slowly stir in browned butter until smooth.

Arrange berries on top of crust and pour filling over top.  Bake at 375 until a tester comes out clean, roughly 35 minutes or so.  Cool completely in the pan and then remove the bars for slicing using the parchment paper overhang.  After a day the bars need to be kept in the fridge.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

All That's Missing is Goldilocks

Do you need something to cheer you up on a Monday morning?  I certainly do.  Nothing like three doodles and three bears to bring a smile to my face.  Harper joined her best buddies Latte and Mochi at their house on Sunday afternoon and got to meet the newest teddy bear addition in their household.  And just like any teenager, she's been whining every since about asking how come she doesn't have a huge teddy bear and telling me that all her friends have giant teddy bears.  Sigh.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Five Things - Outlet Mall Edition

Ladies, do not go to an outlet mall by yourself.  I repeat: do not go to an outlet mall by yourself without your man's boredom or your friend's judgment to curb you from buying literally everything your heard desires.  This can also be exacerbated by a hard week at work when you feel like nothing but shopping can ease the pain.  I went under such circumstances last weekend and literally filled an entire trunk with shopping bags by the end of the day.

I naturally enjoyed my visit to the Le Creuset outlet.  All their red, white, and blue merchandise was 25% off, and clearly I needed this ceramic mortar and pestle to make guacamole!

The mean, evil, horrible salesclerk asked me at the register "Do you have any of our cast iron?"  Do I have any of your cast iron?  Please!  I said I had lots, in all different colors, and he said he would give me 40% off one piece of cast iron cookware.  An offer I couldn't refuse, clearly!  I decided to pick up this smaller cast iron saute pan for when I'm just cooking up a few vegetables and don't want to use the big ones.  This allowed me to finally get rid of my last Teflon saute pan so all I have left are cast iron and stainless steel.  Huzzah!

This little bowl may not seem like a lot, but I can assure you it is worth its weight in gold.  I make oatmeal every morning for breakfast, as I've said numerous times on the ole bloggie.  I am too lazy to make the stove top kind, so I use the microwave.  This bowl is absolutely perfect, because due to the magic of modern science, the little handle bit stays cool while the rest of the bowl heats up.  Any oatmeal lovers out there should head to the Corning outlet and get yourself several.  (On this latest trip I picked up 2 to bring my set to 7.  Just enough to make it through the week.)

The item I actually intended to purchase at Le Creuset was this sugar dish.  Naturally, I did not fail in my quest, and found out the sugar dish also comes with a creamer pitcher.  Don't mind if I do!

At Caphalon I finally picked up some spring form pans that I had been intending to buy for awhile.  After my last cake baking required some serious prying out of the pan, I decided I needed to get some real pans for the next effort.  I got two since no birthday cake is complete without multiple layers (though I suppose the shape of a bunny will do).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beer Battered Shrimp

I think that when you're a kid you assume that as you get older you will amass more and more knowledge with each passing year and will eventually know everything.  Like Mom and Dad.  What you don't realize, is that once you stop going to school your brain slowly releases all that information you once learned until you know less history than you knew in the fifth grade.  Foreign languages are a doosey in terms of brain hemorrhaging (I would also say that the spelling of "hemorrhaging" falls into this category, but I never knew how to spell that word until I typed it ten times into Blogger hoping it would eventually auto correct).  And last but not least, there is math.  Remember those times tables you memorized in the third grade?  Or was if forth (see, getting dumber by the second)?  Well I can barely remember what 7 x 8 is, and dont' even begin to ask me about those twelve times tables.

Oh math, I used to be so good at you.  We used to be pals and I never thought you'd fail me.  But perhaps I failed you such that I couldn't even count the weeks in June and realize that I don't have enough Fried Things posts to last the entire month.  Alas, dear readers, this is my last Fried Things post for the month because I clearly cannot count to five.  This post isn't even really a different recipe, but is more of an illustration of what you can do with your beer batter.

Not to go all Paula Deen on you, but you can really fry just about anything.  And if you're frying it in beer batter, all the merrier.  So long as your item can cook through in 5 minutes, you can fry it in beer batter (read: no pork or chicken).  Shrimp cooks up in a jiffy and tastes amazing in beer batter.  I also fried up some beer-battered zucchini slices that were absolutely incredible.

So while you have managed to lose all your knowledge of world history, the Spanish language, and simple math, at least you have become more proficient in the kitchen.  Right?

Beer Battered Shrimp

As many pealed, de-veined shrimp as you like - the batter will cover at least 30 medium shrimp
Enough canola oil to have at least 2 inches of oil

1 bottle beer
1 1/2 cups flour
Couple shakes of kosher salt
Shake of garlic powder
Shake of black pepper
Shake of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup flour for dredging

In a large bowl, pour one bottle of beer.  Sift into the beer 1 1/2 cups flour and your spices.  Whisk together until just combined.  While the batter sits, heat 2 inches of canola oil in your dutch oven until 375 degrees.  Dredge shrimp in flour and shake of excess.  Dip in beer batter and fry in 375 degree oil, flipping occasionally, until browned evenly.  They should be fully cooked in 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle with kosher salt when done and keep warm in a 225 degree oven until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar

Everyone knows the classic Mary Poppins song, "A Spoonful of Sugar."  My mom never seemed to take to this approach with me and my brother, much to my dismay, though my grandma did use quite a few spoonfuls of sugar to try and get my hiccups to go away once.  I remember knowing that it wouldn't work but allowing her to feed me sugar anyway because it was so delicious.  What a brat.

Nowadays I can choke down medicine without any sugar - likely due to my militant mother training me early on to do this - but sometimes I need a spoonful of sugar to get down my salad.

You see, it started this winter when the greens at the market were neutral at best and bitter at worst.  I make my own salad dressings now, and I had been making our balsamic vinaigrette with just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper for months.  John and I were both choking our salads down but not really enjoying them.

Enter: sugar.  I found that if I put just a teaspoon of sugar in our salad dressing it brightened up the flavor of the entire salad immediately, and John and I were eating tons more salad as a result.  I rationalize that the downsides from the extra sugar calories are balanced out by the leafy greens nutrition anyway.  That's Nutrition by Kathy, at least.

Here's my new "recipe" for salad dressing, in case you need to find a way to boost your leafy green intake too:
Add in a ratio of 3:1 good olive oil (not the cheap stuff): balsamic vinegar (depending on how much salad you're making).  Whisk in a teaspoon of sugar, a shake of salt, and a few cranks of the pepper mill.  Toss with greens immediately before serving.  Enjoy your slightly sweetened salad!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Five Things

Our time with Cody is coming to a close, and we will be sad to see him leave.  This visit, in particular, he has been indispensable.  John and I are both so busy working that he and Harper can entertain each other with only the occasional "hey cut it out" and "leave it" from us.  The dogs don't even need long walks since they get plenty of exercise indoors.  Who knew that having a second dog around would actually make life easier?

My newest Trader Joe's snack attack item are these sesame honey almonds.  It's hard to describe how these taste, but I can guarantee they taste a lot better than plain ole almonds.  The sesame seeds provide almost a smoky flavor and make the almonds even more savory tasting.  Yum.

Since I post about doughnuts a lot on Five Things, I figured I should also include the current doughnut in my life - doughnut peaches.  This picture doesn't really do justice to how much these peaches resemble doughnuts, but if you've seen them in person you know what I mean.  Doughnut peaches have a slightly milder flavor than regular peaches and have less fuzz and acid.  They are delicious, and I highly recommend you eat this "doughnut" as your next.

Since it's cherry season, it's high time you went out and bought a cherry pitter.  These are necessary if you ever have any intention of baking with cherries.  Even with this little guy you have to do the cherries one by one, and I cannot fathom having to do all that with a paring knife.  After cherry picking last Saturday I convinced Natalie and Hilary to both get one, so now it's your turn!

Better early than late, right?  John and I were both convinced that LAST Sunday was Father's Day and only realized our mistake when John called his dad.  At least their presents arrived early...though I can attest that my mom has been hoarding mine - per my instructions - until the actual day (I am very fussy about opening presents on the actual day they were meant for).  Happy Father's Day, Dad!  This Sunday, last Sunday, and all the Sundays to come!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Buttermilk Onion Rings

My month of fried things continues with another undeniably delicious item that I personally adore - onion rings.  What's not to love about onion rings?  Well, onions, if you are an onion-phobe like my husband.  When I make this recipe, I get them all to myself because John inexplicably detests onions.  Not that I would complain about an extra serving (or 3) of onion rings.

I think even non-onion-lovers will go crazy for these onion rings, because a short bath in buttermilk removes any of the egregious raw onion flavors.  (Not that I could get John to even glance at these - his loss)

These were literally the best onion rings I have ever tasted, and one of the best things I have ever made.  They are that good.  Life changing good.  Onion-loving-converting good...if you are willing to try them.    

If you are like me, the worst part about onion rings is that with that first bite of onion the entire oniony ring comes into your mouth, burning your tongue and making the rest of the ring just beer batter.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love just eating fried dough, but the goal was to eat fried dough with onion.  Miraculously, homemade onion rings do not have this Achilles heel, so you are even more inclined to eat plate after plate of them.  Whether this is the right decision for you is your call.  I know it is the right decision for me.

There was a time when I was advocating we buy a deep fryer, because I knew how much fun it would be.  Now that I have made this recipe, I know that a deep fryer is the last thing I need to own.  If I did, all I would do it make buttermilk onion rings and the occasional doughnut.  This is no problem for me because I would be eating my veggies in the form of onion rings, but poor John would be vegetable deprived - eating a diet of only doughnuts.  Alas, my deep fryer dream must die.

Hopefully I have a few readers who actually like onions and onion rings.  I promise this recipe will not disappoint!

Buttermilk Onion Rings

1 cup buttermilk
1 large onion, sliced into rings
Enough canola oil to provide 2 inches of oil in your pot

Beer batter:
1 bottle of beer
1 1/2 cups flour
Shake of kosher salt
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Sprinkle of black pepper
Sprinkle of Cayenne pepper

1/2 cup flour for dredging
Kosher salt, to taste after frying

Heat canola oil in large dutch oven at 375 degrees.  Cut onion into 1/4 to 1/2 inch-wide rings.  Separate rings and allow them to soak in buttermilk for at least 30 minutes to remove the strong onion flavor.  Add one bottle of beer to a large bowl and sift in 1 1/2 cups flour.  Add kosher salt, garlic powder, and black pepper and whisk until combined.  Dredge onions in 1/2 cup flour and then coat then in beer batter.  Fry in 375 degree oil (be careful not to over crowd the oil), stirring oil occasionally to cook both sides evenly.  Remove when onion rings are browned, about 4 minutes.  Immediately sprinkle with kosher salt and keep warm in 200 degree oven or eat immediately.

Cherry Picking

I have great memories of visiting strawberry farms in Pungo with my best friend and her family.  We picked so many strawberries that when I came home with my haul, my mom had to make jam out of them or else there would be no way of using them all up.

Strawberry picking is done in California too, but it's not as popular as cherry picking!

The great thing about cherry picking is that it is so much easier and require no hunching and crawling around on the ground.  We managed to go at a time of year when there are so many cherries in huge bunches on the trees that you barely even need to move to grab huge handfuls.

Of course, when they are so easy to pick you may end up walking away with 4.3 pounds of them, like I did.  Only $10 though, so it was quite the bargain!

I suppose if you are three years old you may have to stand on your tippy toes to reach the cherries though. Hard labor!

Bridget ate cherries like you would eat a peach.  She would eat all around the pit and bite into it like an apple. Once she so much as saw the pit though, she would send the rejected cherry flying to the ground.  Good thing there were plenty more where that came from!

Babies and fruit picking is a beautiful thing!

So are picnics full of heavenly food.  Natalie made this incredible curry chicken salad that we all (well everyone but Bridget, who recoiled in horror) chowed down on.  Bridget contributed chocolate chip cupcakes while lazy me - I brought a bag of chips and lemonade!

Olle was practicing his serious/studious look for when he starts wearing horn-rimmed glasses.

After our picnic we went berry picking.  Remember how easy I said cherry picking was?  Well there is a phrase called "cherry picking" for a reason - because it is easy - and that phrase does not apply to picking boysenberries.

The farm had olalliberries, loganberries, and boysenberries.  Olallieberries are 2/3 blackberry and 1/3 red raspberry, loganberries are a cross between raspberries and blackberries, and boysenberries are a cross between loganberries, raspberries, and dewberries.  I read this all on the farm's website after we got home.  I could have impressed someone with that information - doh!

I stuck with the boysenberries, mostly because once I figured out how to tell they were ripe, it was easier to master that beast than deal with the other berries.  I was crawling around the ground reaching into thorned bushes to get my berries.  Ugh.  It made me realize why berries are usually so expensive.

But when you do the work yourself, they practically give them away.  I think I paid less than $4 for this huge box-worth.

What do you do with pounds and pounds of fresh fruit?  Bake with it of course!  Natalie and I made brown butter cherry bars and I made individual boysenberry cobblers.  And I still have pounds left!  Better get in the kitchen...

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The first Doodle in our lives, Cody, arrived at our house on Thursday and is with us for ten days while his family is on vacation.  He and Harper have become completely inseparable during this visit, palling around like the closest of friends.  They take all their naps near one another, but mostly like to spend their time playing instead of napping.  I haven't managed to get a photo of it yet, but occasionally they lay down literally on top of one another.  I usually squeal with excitement whenever I see them do this, because it is simply too adorable.  When we get home from work it seems they are happier to see one another (they spend the day in different parts of the house, by our design) than to see me or John.  Hurmph!  Apparently the excitement over a friend is better than seeing her mom or dad.  Did Harper turn into a teenager on us?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Five Things

When I'm putting in long hours at work, I find that no matter how tired I am, it can be hard to fall asleep at night with all the work thoughts bombarding my brain.  Luckily, my faithful food has been pulling me through, and I fall asleep thinking of what fun thing I will cook next.  Thinking about food has to suffice for now, since I don't have as much time to cook it.  At least the fantasizing provides me some respite.

While putting in my long hours, I have managed to go through my two pound tub of blueberries from Costco in five days.  Two pounds of organic blueberries for about $8 is the best deal on blueberries imaginable.  Considering how healthy and tasty these suckers are, I might have to suffer through the crowds at Costco for some more this weekend.

I'm not sure why I waited so long, but I finally picked up a cookie dough scoop (aka a small ice cream scoop) the other weekend, and I am addicted.  It's amazing that I suffered through using regular spoons for years.  If you make cookies as often as I do, one of these handy scoops is a must-buy!

One of the great things about baking is that I often get to share my creations with friends.  This box made a birthday gift for Trevor, and a few more cookies found their way onto my secretary's desk.  I may be insufferable as a boss and a friend, but at least I provide cookies.  (I promise to post the recipe for these cookies soon (toffee crisps!).)

I used to devour Fiber One granola bars when I was in need of a quick fix, but my new "granola" bar of choice are these disgusting Sweet & Salty Nut bars.  I call them "disgusting" because they are candy bars under the guise of granola bars.  There are three different kinds of sugar in the first five ingredients, leading me to believe there is probably more sugar than peanuts in these things.  They taste great, though, and I find having a candy/granola bar in the mid-afternoon is a good protocol to handle the afternoon slump.

Would you like some oatmeal with that fruit?  One of the greatest things about early summer is the bounty of fruit in the market and on my counter's fruit bowl.  I have so much to get through, that I have no choice but to load up my oatmeal with more fruit than oats.  This bowl had a yellow peach, an apricot, and a handful of blueberries.  It's always nice to start the day with something delicious...and occasionally there are no cookies around, so I turn to oatmeal.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steak Fries

It's Fryday, Fryday!  Gotta get some on Fryday!  Everybody's lookin' foward to eatin', eatin'!  Fryday, Fryday!  Eatin' some on Fryday!  Everybody's stuffin' their mouths with steak fries!

Oh Rebecca Black, how can I ever repay you for providing me with your inane song to get stuck in my head day after day and providing me with an intro to my steak fries post?  I'm afraid I will always be in your debt.

As promised, I am continuing my series of posts on fried items during the month of June, this time with fried, well, fries.  I promise not to start the rest of my Fried Things posts with horrible lyrics, but I just couldn't resist.

I've made faux-fries a few times now, which aren't fries at all because they are actually baked. I decided to bite the bullet and make fried fries.  As expected, they are infinitely tastier than the baked variety.

Steak fries are incredibly easy, and if you are already heating up some oil you might as well drop in some sliced potatoes for a few minutes and make fries!  Since they aren't breaded and aren't meat, they don't leave your oil with residue or an off-flavor.  That means you an fry your fries before pretty much anything else you might put in the fryer.

In my case, I was frying up the fish I posted about earlier, which made a mess in my oil, so it was important to do these fries first.  I find the the sign of a bad restaurant is if anything fried you get tastes fishy.  It means they are using the seafood oil to fry other things, like your plantains.  Disgusting.  (It kind of tastes like when you get Omega-3 fortified foods, which always taste a bit fishy.)  So do everything in the right order and you will have some perfect chips to go alongside your fish!  Or chips to go with your doughnuts if that's what you happen to be frying that day.  Not that I would ever do that.  Just like I would never sing along to a Rebecca Black song.  Never ever.

Steak Fries
From Paula Deen

2 large russet potatoes
Kosher salt
Enough canola oil for at least 2 inches in your pot.

Heat oil to 375 degrees in dutch oven.  Meanwhile, cut potatoes in half and then cut into steak-fry strips.  It is best if these pieces are uniform in size (especially width).  When the oil is hot enough, add one potato-worth of cut up strips at a time and fry until golden brown, about 7 minutes.  Be sure to flip occasionally.  Remove to a pan and sprinkle immediately with kosher salt.  Keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.
Related Posts with Thumbnails