Kitchen Adventures: Fall Treats

I’ve been focusing a lot recently on wellness at work and my own mindfulness practice. I’ll post something about both of those soon. As part of this focus, I’ve actively been trying to do more things that matter to me or that I just enjoy. One of the things that brings me the most joy is food – whether making it, eating it, thinking or talking about it. So I spent some time today in the kitchen trying out/creating some new recipes: Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew (from Smitten Kitchen) and Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing (from my kitchen). The stew took a little time (mostly in prep time to chop all the veggies – totally worth it, this stuff is GOOD); the cake was easy (as pie? Much easier than pie, actually.).

For the cake: I used a boxed gingerbread cake mix and made according to directions on the box, adding a cup of pumpkin puree to the batter. For the cinnamon cream cheese icing, I combined an 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened), 1/4 c butter, 1  1/2  t. vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. milk, ground cinnamon to taste (I’d guess about 2 teaspoons), and confectioner’s sugar until it got to my preferred taste/consistency (again guessing about 2 1/2 c.). The icing was almost the consistency of a cinnamon roll icing, which I thought was fine for the gingerbread cake, as I find it to be more crumbly than moist. You can use more butter and confectioner’s sugar and omit the milk to make a thicker frosting (like this one) – I just don’t like frosting that is too sweet.

Perfect treats for this lovely autumn day!

 

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Kitchen Adventures: Fresh Flavors

I love cooking in the summer. Well, anytime really, but especially summer. Everything is fresh, and the grill is always ready to go. This weekend, I took advantage of both for a couple easy bites.

 

Grilled Shrimp

shrimp

Quick marinade (just peel and devein the shrimp first), grill for a couple minutes until pink – it doesn’t get any easier than that. And SO GOOD. For the marinade, I used:

Couple tablespoons melted butter

Few dashes of Worchestershire sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Garlic salt

Onion powder

Smoked paprika

Chili powder

Old Bay seasoning

Oregano

These could be great for a BBQ appetizer or as a meal with grilled veggies.

Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo

pico

Another recipe that’s not really even a recipe, it’s so easy. Just chop the ingredients and gently mix together. You’ll need cherry tomatoes, onion, minced garlic, 1 jalapeño pepper (seeds removed), juice of 1 lime, cilantro, and a dash of salt. Provecho!

Kitchen Adventures: S’Mores Brownies

Today is a two-fer with a dinner and dessert post! These brownies took two tries to perfect, and I was more than happy to taste test them both times to make sure I got them right. That’s dedication.

A couple things I learned by trial-and-error. First, bake the graham cracker crust for about 10 minutes before pouring the brownie batter on top. This will save you from a gooey, crumbly (though still delicious) mess when trying to cut and serve the brownies later. Second, some recipes I found suggested using sugar in the graham cracker crust. Don’t do it. You don’t need it. These brownies are decadent as is, and the sweet and slightly salty combo is a winner. I also suggest using a dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate brownie mix or making your own brownie batter to control the sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c crushed graham crackers
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) melted butter
  • 1 box brownie mix or your own brownie recipe of choice
  • Marshmallows

Press graham cracker crumbs and melted butter into bottom of greased brownie pan. Bake for 10 min at 350F. Pour brownie batter on top and bake according to package directions/recipe. Cover with marshmallows and broil for a couple minutes, until the marshmallows are toasted.

brownies

Forgive me for not getting a better picture. Once we cut into these, I was so excited to bite into the gooey goodness before me that I forgot to take a photo showing all the delicious layers. I think you’ll understand when you taste these brownies.

Kitchen Adventures: Summer Comfort Food

Sometimes a simple meal just comes together so deliciously. Nothing fancy but still flavorful. Tonight that magic happened in my kitchen. I went back to basics, with a little twist: grilled lemon pepper chicken wrapped in prosciutto, gouda mac & cheese, and marinated tomatoes. My favorite part of the meal was the fact that the basil and cherry tomatoes I used were grown in my own little patio garden! Simple instructions are below (I won’t use the word recipe because I don’t really measure when I cook but, like my grandmother did, estimate amounts by sight and taste).

Chicken:

  • Marinate in olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic salt and lemon pepper for about 30 minutes
  • At the end of grilling, place a large basil leaf on top and wrap in prosciutto, then grill for 1 minute longer (adding a piece of cheese would take this over-the-top delicious, but I restrained myself since there was plenty of cheese in the mac)

Gouda mac and cheese:

  • While the pasta is boiling in salted water, make a roux with roughly equal parts butter and flour. Add milk or half-and-half (for the quantity I made, I used about 1 – 1 1/2 c skim milk). Stir in shredded cheese, both smoked gouda and cheddar, about 8-10 oz total. Season cheese sauce with ground mustard, onion powder, and salt.
  • Pour sauce and cooked, drained macaroni into greased baking dish. Stir in a little extra shredded cheese and top with some more shredded cheese and cracked black pepper.
  • Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Marinated tomato salad:

  • Gently toss cherry tomatoes,  basil, and thinly sliced sweet onion in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and let sit for about an hour before serving.

That’s it. So easy, so tasty.

dinner

Toast!

Today I’m toasting the official first day of summer (and my dad) by relaxing with a refreshing drink, enjoying nature-watching in my backyard. My dad is an outdoors lover and expert gardener, something I’m trying to cultivate in myself by starting with some container gardening on my deck. So it was only right that I use some of the home-grown mint I have to make a mojito, my favorite summer drink. But not just any mojito – a ginger peach mojito. I remember my dad making homemade peach ice cream with fresh peaches from the local orchard when I was a kid – it was creamy, fresh, and so delicious. So when I came across a recipe for ginger beer mojitos, I knew I had to add some muddled fresh peaches to properly celebrate today. A toast to summer and Fathers’ Day!

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From Gimme Some Oven