June 18, 2016

Brown Sugar Pie

I made this brown sugar pie, a traditional French-Canadian recipe, last fall when I wanted to bake something for school but didn't have much in the way of ingredients at home. The brown sugar melts into a caramel-like filling. Think pecan pie without the pecans. It's rich and sweet, almost too sweet.

But, I'm thinking this would be a lovely dessert topped with summer berries...something fresh and tart to balance the sweetness. I can also see lining the bottom crust with big juicy blackberries and pouring the filling over them. 

Yes. That.

Brown Sugar Pie (aka Tarte au Sucre Brun)
recipe from Pizzazzerie

1 pound light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
1 pie crust 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Prepare pie pan with a bottom crust of dough, crimp edges.
  • Whisk together eggs and add in sugar, butter, and vanilla.
  • Whisk together until combined well and smooth.
  • Pour into pie pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. (It might need longer. Check to see that pie is baked through; it will be gooey but it should be set all the way through.)

June 8, 2016

Roasted Eggplant with Grilled Flatbread

Whenever I'm feeling down or need to feel inspired, I watch cooking shows like Parts Unknown (or anything with Anthony Bourdain), Chef's Table, Michael Pollan's Cooked (a new Netflix series), and my favorite The Mind of a Chef

While the newest season of Mind of a Chef (season 4) isn't yet available on Netflix, you can watch two episodes on the show's webpage.

In the first episode, New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton roasts eggplants over a gas burner just like you would roast a red bell pepper. When the eggplants are charred and meltingly tender, she mixes the smokey flesh with lemon, garlic, and olive oil. This simple spread is served with grilled flatbread. 

I've watched that episode three times now.

Disclaimer: I know this does not make the most appetizing-looking dish. I couldn't even get my boyfriend to taste it. But trust me when I say that it is quite delicious. Think unpureed, unadulterated baba ganoush. Please. Just trust me.

Incidentally, this is perfect at room temperature, so it's a great addition to summer picnics. Leftovers are good when mixed with cooked pasta and cheese or layered in a lasagna.

Trust me.

Smokey Eggplant
from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton

June 6, 2016

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Ahhhh, summertime. All school year, I look forward to summer break...the lazy mornings, breakfast on the porch, endless hours to read and knit...

Except this summer.

This summer...I decided to teach summer school. It sounded like such a good idea in February. In the 20 years I've been teaching, I've never taught summer school. I thought I'd give it a try. After all, I could use the extra money.

There have only been four days of summer classes so far, but I'm already regretting my decision. 

I had convinced myself it wouldn't be that bad. I'm teaching two sections of English from 8:00-1:00. I am focusing on Gothic literature, particularly Poe and Jeykll & Hyde. The session ends on July 1st. Piece of cake, right?


I absolutely did not want to get out of bed this morning to go to work when all of my teacher friends are enjoying their summer break. If I talk about teaching summer school again next year, punch me in the face...okay? 

I can make it until July 1st. Right? RIGHT? 19 days left...

I am, however, still trying to make the most of my summer. I'm taking a road trip to Chicago this weekend with my BFF to see The Cure. I'll be in Chicago again in mid-July for my first visit to Wrigley Field. I'm flying to Florida in early July to spend 4 days on the beach. And I'm planning to visit a few museums in St. Louis that I've never been to. 

Tonight, I'm seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream in Forest Park, my all-time favorite event in St. Louis. I haven't yet decided what to make for our picnic, but I'm considering this smoked salmon mousse, which I made for the Mother's Day brunch class I taught. It's easy, light, and delicious...and would go well with a bottle of wine and some Shakespeare.

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Makes about 25 appetizers

3 ounces smoked salmon

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh minced dill

Black pepper
2 English cucumbers, sliced

  • Place the smoked salmon, cream cheese, lemon, dill, and pepper in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth. 
  • To serve, spoon the mousse into a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe onto cucumbers slices or crackers (or serve as a dip).

June 2, 2016

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

First of all, I'm using the word muffins liberally here.

In mid-April, I started a fitness program in an effort to get healthier and drop a few pounds...as my size 12 clothes were starting to feel a bit snug. I chose to follow the Fit Girls Guide 28 Day Jumpstart exercise and meal plan after seeing amazing progress pics online.

I've found that the daily exercises are easy, and the suggested meals are simple and tasty...refrigerator oatmeal, pita bread pizza, sweet potato & avocado tacos, pumpkin lasagna, cauliflower mac & cheese, Cobb salad, shrimp and grits. It's not about sacrifice; they focus on clean eating and moderation. The meals are 400 calories with a daily piece of dark chocolate and a 200 calorie snack. I'm eating lots of fruits and vegetables and, thankfully, carbs are allowed. Pasta! Pizza! Yeah!

Plus, the Fit Girls focus on community support...with daily inspiration, photo challenges, and check-ins on Instagram. Their motto is "progress not perfection." 

After the first 4 weeks, I was fitting into size 10 jeans. I've lost about 8 pounds, and there is a noticeable difference in my before & after pics. Go me!

I started another 4-week round on Tuesday. So, tonight I made one of the suggested recipes for a flourless banana oatmeal muffin-like breakfast that's supposed to resemble a cinnabun. I adapted a few of the ingredients & quantities and omitted the cottage cheese-based topping they include. My version makes a dozen "muffins" that taste very much like banana bread. Mmmm. Banana bread.

It just needs a little crunch, so next time I'll add a bit of chopped nuts or maybe--even better--some flax seed. Otherwise, the flavor is very good...sweet and satisfying. Doesn't taste at all like "diet" food!

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

April 26, 2016

Farro & Spring Vegetable Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This dish is so good that I made it twice last weekend...in my Girls' Night Out cooking class and as a side dish for a BBQ.

Consider the recipe a guideline, not something to follow exactly. On Saturday, I used arugula, asparagus, peas, green onions, fresh radishes, dill, mint, and Parmesan cheese. On Sunday, I added spinach, peas, radishes, zucchini, tomatoes black olives, parsley, and feta to the farro. The possibilities are endless. Really.

As a side dish or main course, this salad is delicious...light but filling...and keeps well in the fridge. I took leftovers for lunch yesterday and today.

Farro & Spring Vegetable Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette