Posts Tagged: make this tonight

Baking Break

Tonight H. went over to the house to work on some things, but I stayed here because I’ve fallen super behind on work. Whoops. And, okay, I did get a lot of work done, but I also took a little break to bake something because…well, because. That’s why. Life’s been pretty full of work lately, and sometimes you just need to step back and bake some chocolate zucchini bread.

Here’s the thing about baking: I’m pretty confident that I can do it. I am not really confident that I’m great at working on a house and my confidence in my writing waxes and wanes, but I know that I can pretty much always turn some sugar and flour into something everyone will want to eat. It’s nice to tackle something you know you can do every once in awhile. Thank God for recipes.

This chocolate zucchini bread comes together super easily, and if you have a lot of extra zucchini hanging out in your garden/CSA box/fridge, it’s the perfect way to use it. I’ve already made zucchini sautés, zucchini & panko bakes, and zucchini, cilantro, and lime stir-fries. Those things are all good, but you know what they don’t have? Chocolate.

I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly because I ran out of white sugar, but I stuck pretty closely to the original.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients:
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
3 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups shredded zucchini

Directions:
In a large bowl, beat the sugars, oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder; gradually beat into sugar mixture until blended. Stir in zucchini. Transfer to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

While I was baking, I listened to The X-Files Files, Kumail Nanjiani’s new-ish podcast devoted to, you guessed it, The X-Files. It’s pretty amazing if you love the show like I do. And if you haven’t seen the show, the first episode is a great introduction to why it’s so awesome. Mulder + Scully forever.

Make This Tonight: Drunk Blondies

Do you ever do something and think, “Oh my God, I’m just like my mom/dad”? I do all the time. Although I didn’t inherit my mom’s cleanliness (seriously, my place is always a mess), her perfectionism, or her aptitude for cake-decorating, I did get her obsessive need to feed people. H. and I always joke that when we go to my parents’ house, my mom is definitely going to make him a turkey-bacon sandwich, whether he’s hungry or not, and there will be at least one type of cookie in a tupperware container on the counter. That’s just how it is. Even if you’re a surprise guest, my mom always has something to feed you.

I guess that’s why I always feel bad when people come over and I don’t have any snacks for them. Our friends Mindy and Sam come over every week to watch Game of Thrones with H., and last week I worried that I didn’t have any snacks for them. This was dumb for a couple of reasons, firstly that they’re adults and they’re all perfectly capable of finding food, and secondly that no one even asked me for snacks! But still, I channeled my inner Mama W. and set to work making some Drunk Blondies, the baked good with the best name in the world. These are a good go-to cookie because they’re simple (they don’t even require a mixer!), they involve booze, and they will make you think of the LCD Soundsystem song Drunk Girls. Well, maybe they won’t make you think of it, but that’s what always happens to me.

This recipe comes from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, which I highly recommend. Of course, I altered this recipe to make it dairy-free. If you aren’t baking for anyone with allergies (lucky duck), feel free to use butter and chocolate.

Dairy-Free Drunk Blondies
adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup Earth Balance, melted (I bet coconut oil would be really great, though)
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1/4 cup carob chips

Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over two opposite edges of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Put the Earth Balance and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir with a spoon until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and bourbon, and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the pecans, coconut, and carob chips.

Put the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut the blondies into bars.

Make This Tonight: Cookie Dough Dip

Most of the time I have pretty good self control, but there are a few foods that I could keep eating almost to the point of exploding. Quiche, pumpkin pie, pizza…well, I guess anything triangular with a crust. My other weakness? Party food. Meatballs, those little cocktail weenies in barbecue sauce, fruit trays, and dips galore.

I don’t talk about my job too much on the blog because, as I’ve mentioned before, I think blogging about your work is sorta tacky. But I’ll break by self-imposed rule to tell you about something fabulous that happened in my office recently…Dip Day. It was a day that should become a national holiday. Everyone brought in a dip along with the appropriate accoutrements, we set them out in the conference room, and then I ate all of them and fell into a deep dip coma because everything was delicious and I couldn’t stop eating.

In case you’re jonesing to start Dip Day at your office (and you should be, duh), here’s what I brought in: Cookie Dough Dip. It involves the holy trinity of sweet dip ingredients…cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. The toffee bits make it taste surprisingly cookie dough-like. Give it a try, attempt not to eat the entire bowl, and let me know how you liked it.

Cookie Dough Dip (from Add a Pinch)

Ingredients:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
½ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toffee bits (you can find these near the chocolate chips)

Directions:
Using a handheld or stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter.
Add all remaining ingredients and mix until well-combined.
I served mine with graham cracker sticks, but I ate more of it later that night with pretzels and apple slices. Clearly I have a problem.

Recipes for People Who Are Tired & Grumpy: White Bean Soup

I like to cook. Really. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I like to meal plan. But don’t get the wrong idea…I don’t step into the kitchen every night with a spring in my step, just happy to be making a meal. I would say about half the time I actually enjoy making something. But the other half? Well, I like to eat, and cooking is just a means to an end. As I’ve mentioned before, that guy I live with doesn’t care at all about the quality of the food he eats (seriously, the other morning for breakfast he was eating pieces of bread with nothing on them…I AM NOT KIDDING), so I do the cooking. And honestly, sometimes I do not want to. Sometimes I’m just pouring things into a pot thinking, “WHEN WILL THIS BE READY I AM SO HUNGRY GOOD LORD,” and I don’t cheer up until I’m watching the X-Files and I’ve already eaten half my dinner.

In that spirit, here’s a recipe for you fellow tired and grumpy cooks. This one’s easy to make, relies on things you probably have in your kitchen, and really cannot be messed up.

WHITE BEAN SOUP FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE TIRED AND GRUMPY

1. Think long and hard about getting take out. Remember that you’re trying to save money on food and stick to your meal plan. Remind yourself that you purchased all the ingredients to make this and it won’t even take that long!
2. Rebel against yourself by sitting on the couch until you’re so hungry that you want to murder someone.
3. Stomp into the kitchen. Find your soup pot. Halfheartedly chop up half an onion and a few garlic cloves.
4. Heat up some oil in your soup pot, then dump the onions and garlic in. Stir them around a little until the onion is browned. Burn it a little bit and think to yourself, “That’s just caramelized. Don’t worry about it.”
5. Add in some spices. Which ones? It’s up to you! The world spice cabinet is your oyster! Thyme, sage, oregano, and rosemary are all good choices. Let the fragrant scent of the herbs carry you away to a place in which you’re already eating and in a much better mood.
6. Find some leftover, already chopped ham in your fridge. Dump that in the pot and let it get brown.
7. Pour in some water. Don’t bother finding a measuring cup. Ugh. Just use your drinking glass. You don’t even care! WHATEVER.
8. Add in 2-3 cans of white beans. Remember how much you inexplicably hate draining beans. Why do you hate this so much? It’s not even hard! Just dump in the first can without draining it, bean juice be damned!
9. Start to feel gross about that bean juice. Drain the other can.
10. Let soup simmer 20-30 minutes while you make Jiffy cornbread muffins because LIKE YOU ARE EVEN GOING TO BAKE SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH RIGHT NOW. There is just no way.
11. Mash up some of the beans a little with a potato masher.
12. Don’t salt the soup. Remember all that bean juice you dumped in there? Sodium city.
13. Eat. Apologize for all the things you said when you were hungry.
14. Definitely do not take a picture of anything because you don’t even want to deal with it right now.

Party Food, Welcome to Ladyville Style

This is not my party, but I sort of wish it was.

This is not my party, but I sort of wish it was.


I don’t know what it is about my family, but all of us end up being The Party Planners. Our family get-togethers (for BOTH sides of the family) always happen at my parents’ house. H. and I host a lot of parties, dinners, and hang-outs. And Alex said that even in college his house was the one friends gravitated to. What’s the deal? Are we just really, really awesome? Does everyone just love us way, way more than they love anyone else?

Or are we just the ones who end up making the most food?

As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, I know it’s mostly that last one (for me, anyway). I follow Mama W’s party food philosophy: overwhelm them with sheer quantity. Why have one dip when you can have three? Why make two pies when you can make six? Why make one kind of cookies when you can make 12, and then display them on an entire dining room table? That last one may or may not be an example from Christmas at my parents’ house.

So when we have a party, I like to have a lot of food on hand. You never know what people are going to want to eat! And some people are allergic to dairy while others don’t eat meat, so I want to have at least a couple of things everyone can eat. Not to mention you need a good balance of sweet and savory, hot and cold, healthy and not-so-healthy…basically, yeah, I make a lot of food. H. always forgets this and before every party there’s a moment at the grocery store where he tries to talk me out of buying so much stuff. SORRY DUDE! THIS IS HOW WINFREYS PARTY.

But the thing is, as much as I enjoy feeding people, I don’t really enjoy spending a ton of time cooking. I hate things that involve too many steps, I don’t want to spend a week’s paycheck on food, and I immediately reject anything too time-consuming. Planning parties used to stress me out, but by embracing a lot of easy, not-so-sophisticated snacks and channeling my inner Nora Ephron I’ve grown to truly LOVE having people over and forcing them to eat too much. So if you’re looking for quick and easy party snacks, let me be your guide! Here’s what I made for our recent New Year’s Eve party.

Olive Cheese Bread

First off, if you’re not reading The Pioneer Woman on the regular, get on it. I love her. She lives on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, which is simultaneously my biggest dream and my worst nightmare. This cheese bread is one of my favorite things ever, and it’s also supremely unhealthy because it involves the unholy trinity: butter, mayonnaise, and cheese. You can prep the spread the day before and get everything ready to go right before your guests show up! So easy!

Oreo Truffles

This is a Mama W. classic, and for good reason. They’re extremely easy and everyone loves them. You only need three ingredients…Oreos, cream cheese, and chocolate. Oh, and you definitely need a blender or a food processor, unless you have a lot of generalized rage that you need to take out by individually crushing Oreos, in which case you should probably treat that situation in a non-cookie manner.

Bacon-Brown Sugar Crackers
What sort of black magic is going on with these crackers? Why do three ingredients taste so good together? Why do I have to bake them for two hours at low heat? Why do they curl up like the bacon is strangling the cracker? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to understand these appetizers; I’m simply presenting them to you. These felt VERY much like something you would eat a cocktail party in the Midwest in the 80s, and that’s the vibe I like to channel.

Pita Chips

These are definitely better than the pita chips that you buy in a bag (although I love those and would never turn them down), and they’re a lot cheaper, too. They take hardly any time to make!

Black Eyed Pea Salsa
Super easy, super good with the pita chips.

Apple Tart
As far as I’m concerned, puff pastry is a gift from God. It makes everything look and taste WAY fancier than it is. And, yes, you got me, this is ANOTHER Pioneer Woman recipe, but listen: I love her. She knows how to make party food, okay?

Tortellini Skewers
This isn’t really a recipe so much as it is various things on a stick. I just threaded cooked Buitoni cheese tortellini and cherry tomatoes on a skewer, then drizzled them with a simple balsamic dressing (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil). Weirdly enough, this was what people at the most of. Everyone loves eating stuff off of a stick, I guess. More food on sticks in 2014!

Li’l Smoky Cheese Ball
Our friend Chad happens to be a great cook, baker, and ice cream maker (I think I just wrote a great slogan for his business cards!), and he brought a cheese ball to the party, which was a delight. I love cheese balls. This isn’t the one he made, but when I make cheese balls (as we all should, often), I use the classic Amy Sedaris recipe. It has never steered me wrong, and once in college a man called me at 2 a.m. and asked me to bring it to a party. Yes, he was drunk and yes, he was gay, but it counts, okay?

Upside-Down Cake Cocktail
I’m a firm believer in having one signature drink per party (in addition to our absolutely ridiculous spread of booze and mixers we still have leftover from our open bar wedding), and I usually stick with a bowl of punch or a crock of mulled wine or something else that people can easily serve themselves. But this time, H. played bartender and mixed about a million of these incredibly sweet cocktails. Confession: we used whipped cream vodka instead of iced cake vodka, but guess what? No one cared! They were still great.

The moral of the story? You should probably read The Pioneer Woman next time you have a party. She’s a wealth of recipes.