Saturday, August 24, 2013

Kale and Watermelon Salad

Two weeks ago my colleague and friend, Candy and I spent a week in NYC at the Columbia Teacher's College Reading Workshop Project.  We learned so much about reading, took in two Broadway shows, and ate so much delicious food!  One of the things that I absolutely loved was a salad very much like the one I'm about to tell you about.  The funny thing was, it wasn't even my meal!  I tried one bite of Candy's salad and had to make my own version of this at home.  Neither of us could remember exactly what was in it, but I think I got the key components and made a few changes based on my tastes.  I'm not sure I'll go so far as to tell you it was better than the one we ate in NYC, but it certainly was delicious!

You will need:

1.5-2 cups of chopped raw kale
1 cup of watermelon, cubed
1/2 cup ish of quartered cucumber
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/4 cup of warmed hazelnuts

Lime Vinaigrette: (This serves 3)

Juice of 1 lime
equal parts olive oil and champagne vinegar (maybe 4 Tbsp. each)
salt and pepper

So basically, heat a dry saute pan and warm your hazelnuts over very low heat until you smell them, then take them off the heat.  While they are heating through, chop everything, make your dressing, and put it all together in a bowl.  Last, add your warmed hazelnuts, eat and enjoy.  

The bitterness of the kale is balanced by the acidity of the lime and the sweetness of the watermelon.  Try and get every component in each bite, it's so perfect!  I will definitely be making this one again and again!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

S'mores Bars

I don't bake.  No, seriously.  Baking and I broke up long ago and it was just too painful to even try to be friends.  If I'm being honest here, putting something in the oven relinquishes too much control of the process for me.  Come on, I'm a Kindergarten teacher, and you thought I didn't know I have a few small control issues?  Wrong.  Anyway, as I just mentioned, I'm a teacher and last year I had a parent of a child in my class who was an amazing baker.  She made us these S'mores bars for the winter holidays, and then, because of the way we all raved over them, again at the end of the school year.

After the first time eating them, I insisted on her sharing the recipe.  Again, if I'm telling the whole truth, I asked for it so that I could get one of my "baking inclined" friends (I'm looking at you, Christine!) to make them for me.  So, after 6 months of waiting for them to magically appear before me, I got tired of waiting. (I'm really only patient with children...) It was time to make things happen for myself.  

My friend, Allie was having a big BBQ and I decided this was my chance.  I had plenty of time to figure something else out if they didn't work, so I went for it!  

Let me tell you how good it feels when you sit at a party and hear person after person walk by with just a bite of something you made left saying, "Oh, man, these are SO GOOD!  Who made them?"  I was proud.  I also felt a little protective of the recipe.  So much so, in fact, that I almost didn't share it here.  And also, remember, it's not even my recipe!  I got it from a parent who got it from somewhere else.  But trust me.  Make these.  They are worth it. 

Spicy Smoky S'mores Bars
Recipe courtesy Anne Thornton
Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
2 hr 0 min
Cook Time:
20 min
24 servings

     2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more, softened, for pan
     18 plain graham crackers (about 2 packages)
     1/4 cup sugar
     1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
     3 cups milk chocolate chips
     1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder, optional
     3 1/2 cups mini-marshmallows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil. You want to leave about 4 inches of overhang on the 2 opposite sides. These are going to serve as your handles to remove the bars from the pan in 1 piece, so make sure that there is enough of the overhang for you to have a solid grip. Grease the foil well with the softened butter.
In your food processor, grind the graham crackers into a fine meal (you need 2 cups). 

In a large bowl, combine your crumbs with the sugar, sea salt and melted butter. The mixture should look and feel like wet sand. Set aside a heaping 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture for the topping. Evenly press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom the foil-lined pan. Pop your crust into the oven and bake until it is golden brown and your kitchen smells of graham crackers, 12 to 15 minutes. 

Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack or on a dishtowel on your counter.

Melt the milk chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously until fully melted. Do not turn up the heat to hurry this process, you must keep it on low. Alternately, you can microwave the chocolate on low power, stirring after 2 minutes. Once the chocolate is fully melted, it's time to add the chipotle pepper powder, if using, and stir it in completely.  I didn't use it because I was taking these to a party, but next time I will totally try it!

Preheat the broiler.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cooled graham cracker crust. Spread the chocolate evenly over the crust with a butter knife. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the chocolate and press them lightly into the chocolate. 


Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over and in between the marshmallows so that you cannot see the chocolate peaking through the marshmallows. 

Broil the bars 6 inches from the flame until the marshmallows are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Refrigerate the bars until the chocolate is hard, 2 hours or so. Grab the ends of the foil liner and lift the bars out of the pan in 1 piece. Move to a cutting board and cut into 24 squares.  

I would normally be the first person to tell you that 24 tiny bars is too many and that you should make the squares bigger.  In this case, the dessert is so sweet and buttery, that you really only need one small one (at a time, anyway!)  

So, I've given away my only secret baked dessert weapon (so far), and I hope that you go on to make them, share them, and swoon over them the way that I do.  Trust me, if I can bake them, anyone can!  Let me know how they go for you!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eggplant pizzas

I have a few "black hole" type time sucks on the internet, with Pinterest being one of the big ones.  The good thing is that sometimes I get really great recipes and recipe inspirations.  This one was based originally off of a Julia Child recipe, and then was adapted by this website  I made a few changes based on what I had around, but wanted to credit my source of inspiration!

These took a little bit of time, but were super easy and delicious!  I made these for 1, so double, triple accordingly.

You need:

1 medium sized eggplant
2 tomatoes diced
1-2 cloves of garlic minced
1 small shallot minced
1 tsp. tomato paste
olive oil
dried pizza seasoning
salt and pepper
pizza cheese, shredded

Start by pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees and slice your eggplant to about 1/2 inch slices.  Liberally sprinkle both sides with salt (I use kosher or sea) and then let them sweat out their moisture on two stacked paper towels for 30 minutes.  

 While they are sweating it out (which keeps them from getting rubbery when roasted), you can get your sauce ready.  I chopped up the garlic and shallot and got them cooking over low heat in a little olive oil.  Then I chopped up two tomatoes and a bunch of fresh oregano from my garden (maybe 2 tbsp?) and add them, along with the tomato paste to the saute pan.  Let them simmer slowly until the tomatoes break down a bit and it gets thick and sauce-like.  Then turn off the heat and it will thicken up even a little more than pictured below.

 Once the 30 minutes are up, use a dry paper towel to wipe off the remaining salt, and then place the slices on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spay.  Brush each slice with a little olive oil and sprinkle some pizza seasoning on them.  Pop them in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.  You can then julienne your basil (stack the leaves together, roll them up, and slice them thinly into little ribbons.)
When they come out, top each one with some of the sauce, some basil ribbons, and plenty of pizza cheese!


Lastly, pop them under the broiler for just a few minutes.  I did 5 and it was too long, or I had them too high in the oven because they got a little bit too toasty (although they were still delicious!)  My best advice is, watch them closely!
Here are a few that didn't get as burnt!  These taste so good that I almost felt guilty eating them.  I had to keep reminding myself that really they only "bad" thing for me in it was the little bit of cheese!  Give them a try!