Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Peach and Blackberry Bars


Peaches from the Northwest are the BEST!  I don't think as an East Coaster I ever knew that until I worked for Harry & David in Oregon for a spell.  I then realized that the peaches grown in the Pacific Northwest are the most juicy, sweet, peachiest peaches anywhere!

At grocery stores here, starting in early August, stacks and stacks of fresh picked, local peaches taunt you as you walk in to simply buy eggs or broccoli. Each week this month I have been tortured into make fresh peach ice cream, peach coffee cake, peach bars, grilled peaches - you get the idea.  My life is so hard sometimes.


The picture above is of the gorgeous peaches I picked up this week coupled with blackberries growing wild (nice way of saying out of control) in my backyard.  I think the two fruits are perfect compliments to one another.  Sweet and tart. Light and dark.  Soft fuzziness and lethally prickly.  

This recipe is a breeze.  Buttery shortbread crust with peaches and blackberries tossed in brown sugar and a few spices, dotted with crumbly streusel, baked until golden brown without overcooking the fruit into oblivion.  





Ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom - the spice trifecta!  



Sliced peaches getting saucy in brown sugar, a little lemon juice, and spices. You could add a little white wine or liquor if you were feeling like getting a little more fancy.



Ingredients:
Yields 16 bars
Time: 15 prep 30 cooking

Crust and Crumble
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 large egg
Peach Prep
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick)
1/2 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed well, patted dry
2 T brown sugar
1 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
sprinkle of cinnamon and a sprinkle of cardamom
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Use a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, blend the butter and egg into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly.
Cut peaches into thin slices and add to a bowl of 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a light sprinkle of cinnamon.  Stir gently and let stand for 5 minutes. 

Arrange peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. Add blackberries. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over fruit and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.







Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School Lunches Made FUN!


When I think of Back to School, I think of freshly sharpened pencils, new clothes smell, and a brand new lunch box.  My mother was a world class lunch packer. There was always fruit, carrot sticks, some kind of baked good (mostly home made but sometimes there was a Tastycake, which I was naive to think was better - WRONG) and the traditional sandwich.  In my house, crust was a must. Like the fiber in an apple peel, my mom told us that the crust was where the vitamins were,  :)  Oh and there was always a note and a sticker - I love you too Mom. 

Knowing I wanted to write a Back to School post, I enlisted two fantastic helpers and an equally wonderful photographer to help me.  I sent a variety of Tovolo Sandwich Shapers to the littles in my family - Isaac who is 6 and starting first grade. He knows a thing or two about making school sandwiches. And his lovely assistant/cousin, 2 year old Avery.  As you will see from the photos, they did a terrific job.  My favorite pictures are of Isaac with jelly on his nose.  He works very hard and takes helping me seriously. 






Tovolo has six varieties of sandwich shapers.  Each sandwich shaper has two shapes like a train/boat or flower/bug so from one sandwich you create two distinct designs.









The shapes are easy to hold in smaller hands and are really fun to share.  Each of the sandwich shapes comes in its own little box for easy storage.  They are also dishwasher safe.






A BIG thank you to Isaac and Avery for helping us out with the blog this week and to the lovely Marisa for the photography and clean up duty. xoxo


To all the kids and parents, Happy Back To School!  It is a great time of year full of anticipation, new friends, and new lunch boxes!



Friday, August 12, 2016

Breakfast A Go-Go!






Doughnuts are not our friends. I know that's a harsh statement but it's true. I have had to accept that they are not the nutritional powerhouse food as my dreams would suggest.

However, in defense of the mighty doughnut there is one indisputable positive attribute of a doughnut and that is their portablily. (Definition: the ability to be portable as well as the ability to make me portly!)  That is why our Bacon Stuffed Breakfast Shaper is the PERFECT Back-to-School accessory!  Grab n' Go breakfasts have never been easier or more delicious.  With these molds you can shape pancakes or eggs into easy to travel pockets of breakfast fun.  The example above are pancakes stuffed with peanut butter and bananas or raspberry jam.  Super easy whether using a mix or my family's recipe which I will share below.  As the name would imply, you can also layer in bacon or whatever other stuffing you and/or your family would find irresistible. 


For more whimsical pancakes, I used the Tovolo Whale Breakfast Shaper.  We do a whole line of Breakfast Shapers from a basic round, ideal for bagel sandwiches to pigs, anchors, and yes, whales.




Pancake Recipe

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1 T sugar (you could add maple syrup instead)
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 T butter, melted

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add milk and eggs and stir until just incorporated, then add butter. Some lumps left are ok - you want to mix until all the ingredients are incorporated but not to the point of over mixing.  Ideally, pour onto a griddle over medium heat. (you can use a non stick skillet as well) Wait until bubbles form around the edges and then flip over.  Remember that the first pancake always gets thrown out - that is the best way to determine whether your heat is too high or too low.  





Friday, August 5, 2016

Avocado Pasta



What's better on a hot summer day than a dinner that tastes decedent, is deceivingly nutritious, and is ready in under 5 minutes?  That's right - nothing!  If you are like me, by mid summer I am kind over salads for dinner.  This dish is fresh, plant based (although you can add a little shredded parm on top if you like) and super flavorful. It is really simple to make and you can make the sauce in the same time as it takes for fresh pasta to cook.  

Avocado, lime, cilantro, olive oil, and a little pasta water blended together results in a pseudo-cheesy, luxurious sauce that rivals the silkiest cream sauce. It can be eaten hot or cold, as a side or entree, and travels well to boot!  

It all starts with Tovolo's Avocado knife.  We came out with this last year and I have been in love with it ever since.  It is a multi-tool, which I have to say is usually not how we design products, however in this case we really wanted something that you could use for all the needs of an avocado. It is in extension of our knife collection, which is important because most of the avocado tools on the market are plastic and look like toys.

This, my friends, is a knife.  There is a serrated edge that cuts through the skin. There is a pitter on the flip side of the blade.  The best part for me is the rounded, angled tip that not only takes the fruit from the skin but does it so precisely that you can lift the whole half right out of the skin.  The slits in the tip are there so you can mash the avocado either right in its skin or in a bowl.  (I use the Avocado knife often because I am a big fan of avocado toast for breakfast or an afternoon snack.)  






The Avocado, lime juice, garlic, and olive oil go into a blender to pulse until the avocado is broken down.  I then add the cilantro but if you aren't a fan of cilantro you could just use it as a garnish or use basil instead. Add some salt & pepper.  Then once the pasta is done, add the pasta water and blend until pretty smooth. The recipe I use was originally from iamafoodblog.com - she did it as a single serving but the recipe below is for 8 ounces of fresh pasta.



This dish is a beautiful color, has a really summery, fresh flavor but is essentially a blank canvas.  I love cherry tomatoes so I always throw a few on top.  You could add a fried or poached egg for protein.  Any seasonal vegetables would be great - carrots, peas, green beans.  You could make it Southwestern by adding fresh corn and black beans.  

If you close your eyes it could be macaroni and cheese.  CRAZY!  




Avocado Pasta
Serves 4

8 ounces of pasta (reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid)
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
juice of 1 lime 
3 T olive oil
a handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Blender the avocado, garlic, lime juice, and olive oil in a blender until the avocado is broken down. Add the cilantro and salt and pepper.  Pulse for just a second of two.  
When pasta is cooked add about 1/4 cup of liquid to blender and blend until smooth.  Add a little more pasta water if needed a teaspoon at a time.
Mix sauce into hot pasta and serve.  You can garnish with more cilantro, salt and pepper, and any other ingredients you wish.  
Enjoy!  This is a summer staple!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Cookies!


Straws and cookies go together like peanut butter and jelly.  It doesn't roll of the tongue quite yet, but it will.  Tovolo's mini cookie cutters really make any drink more fun.  Not to mention their ability to make people of all ages smile in delight.
These cookie cutters are just the right size for those re-rolled scrapes of dough you have left over after making a pie crust or sugar cookies.  They are happy little shapes that raise the milk and cookie bar a bit.  




When we were developing the cutters, we tried a million cookie recipes before we came across this almost foolproof dough recipe.  I now have a chocolate version to share with you as well.  I thought they looked particularly adorable when stacked.  There is a small gasket on the straw that acts as a stop for the cookies so they don't slide down the straw into your drink unexpectedly. 
Cute and Smart!  My favorite combination.

Here is the link to our perfect roll-out butter cookies:

And the chocolate version:







Friday, July 15, 2016

Tovolo Ice Cream Sandwiches!



I LOVE Ice Cream Sandwiches!  I make them a lot.  I make them because they are easy, diverse, and a crowd pleaser for all ages.  Last week I made Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream sandwiches with Butterscotch Ripple ice cream and this week I decided to use Tovolo's Classic Cookie Cutters to make the most adorable Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches.  The Tovolo Classic Cookie Cutter makes easy work of the cookie component AND they are also the perfect size! Not too big and not too small.  I love that the cookie cutters are designed just right so that the designs don't bake out.  



The cookie recipe is from smittenkitchen.com and is fabulous.  It comes together fast and was very low-maintenance in rolling out the dough.  You want to underbake them slightly for two reasons.  1) They are very thin so you can go from just right to just burnt really quickly.  2) You want them to be crisp for texture but not so crisp that the ice cream shoots out from the middle, making a huge mess.  







I often make ice cream but today I used good old store-bought!  It is ok - this is a judgment free zone.  It is a time saver and doesn't disappoint on flavors and texture.  This is a great, fun recipe for kids (of all ages).  They can pick their flavor ice cream and scoop it onto the cookie.  I find that one generous scoop is perfect.  I put the ice cream into the Tovolo Glide A Scoop because it make it much easier to get a good scoop.  Additionally, if you want to pretend you made the ice cream (again, no judgement) or if you want to upgrade the look of the ice cream container at a party - you can't do better than the Tovolo Glide A Scoop. 

I am also a HUGE fan of Tovolo's Tilt Up Ice Cream Scoop.  It is heavy enough to dig into hard ice cream but the handle shape makes it easy to scoop.  It also has two little feet on the bottom so that it stays off your counter.  Genius!  I used classic vanilla ice cream and salted caramel with toffee.  

Chocolate Butter Cookies 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup lightly salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa 
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


To assemble the Ice Cream Sandwiches:

I chose 2 cookies that had the same pattern, mostly because I was using two different kinds of ice cream and I thought it would help me keep them straight.  In the end, NO BODY cared that the ice cream centers were different and they were gone before I even offered the explanation of the different patterns.  OK, so back to assembly.  You need the ice cream to be a little soft but not runny.  I left mine on the counter for about 10 minutes. (The temperature in your house will make 10 minutes too short or too long so use your best judgment.)

Take a cookie and scoop a generous 1 scoop of ice cream and place it in the center of the first cookie.  Take the second cookie and place it on top of the ice cream scoop.  Press gently.  If the ice cream is too hard, you can break the cookie.  If the ice cream is too soft, it will squish out of the middle OR the top cookie will not stay in place.  If your ice cream is too soft put it back in the freezer for a few minutes.  

I then wrap the individual ice cream sandwiches in a little waxed paper and pop them all back into the freezer.  If they are soft, you can put them all on a cookie sheet and pop them into the freezer first to firm them up before you wrap them. I love that the waxed paper makes them easily portable but also gives the eater a little hand protection.

Have fun!  Be creative!  Eat more cookies and ice cream!