Thanksgiving Faves

IMG_4672{pumpkin pie cookies}

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Are you ready for Thursday? I’m clearly running behind this week, as this was supposed to be a Friday Faves post, and then a Monday Faves post, and now here we are, two days before the big day. You probably have all of your menu planning figured out, your shopping done, and everything prepped as much as possible by now.  But hopefully a few of these links might still come in handy, or perhaps like me, you can just bookmark them for next year.

FullSizeRender{Glassybaby + glitter leaves}

IMG_4646{my favorite side dish}

IMG_1041{Harper’s Thanksgiving present from Auntie}

IMG_4767{I got these outfits on sale at Baby Gap last fall – so excited they finally fit}

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White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies (with or without Pancetta)

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About two and half years ago, in the infancy of this blog, I posted a recipe for Barefoot Contessa’s chicken pot pies. In that post, I told you all that I don’t actually eat chicken pot pies. That still holds true to this day – I’ve made them a number of times between then and now, and I always give them away – I have a bite here and there just to make sure they’re edible, and I know they’re good, but they’re just easy for me to pass up. I first made this white bean version when Deb’s cookbook came out three years ago, and I haven’t made them since (until now) because I actually do eat them. I ate half of one when they came out of the oven the other night, even though I was going to dinner an hour later. I’m debating defrosting one for dinner tonight. My mouth is literally watering just thinking about them, that’s how good they are. They’re worth an extra mile or two on the treadmill – even if it’s an extra mile or two every day for the next two weeks.

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I think one of the reasons I love this recipe so much is because I just adore the white bean and greens combo – remember my soup? Deb also introduced me to this stew, which is essentially a fancier version of my soup – but it calls for wine, which is always fun, and you get to serve it on a piece of garlic toast. Next on my list: Molly’s braised beans with escarole.  Beans and greens just feel healthy and hearty and comforting to me, I guess – the perfect cozy fall or winter meal – although the sauce and crust definitely negate most of the health factor in this case.

Another reason I have a hard time turning these pies down is because the filling is absolutely divine – the sauce is creamy and velvety and decadent, basically like a chicken pot pie sauce without the chicken, but not quite as rich (it doesn’t actually contain cream). The recipe as written is technically called “Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies” – although Deb tells you to feel free to skip the pancetta. I eat chicken but not pork (don’t ask me to explain why) so I’m ok with chicken broth but I leave the pancetta out. You can make it fully vegetarian by using vegetable broth, but the chicken broth is pretty dang good. Of course I don’t miss it at all, but I’ve made these pies with pancetta in the past and the people I fed them to felt pretty strongly I was missing out, so if you don’t have an issue with pork I would recommend trying it – I include instructions for either version, or a combo of both, below.

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But finally, the thing I love most about these pies, the reason I was burning my tongue inhaling one the other night as they were steaming-hot-out-of-the-oven and I needed to save my appetite for dinner, is the crust. Yes, I love the beans and greens, but if I’m craving that I can make my soup (in a fraction of the time). If I want something richer and heartier I’ll make Deb’s stew. This pie crust, however, takes these from being really really good pot pies to absolutely freaking to die for delicious pot pies. And I’m not really even a pie crust person! Deb describes it as croissant-like, and she’s right, it’s a pie-crust-croissant-combination in the best way possible. She adds sour cream and vinegar to the dough, and I don’t know why we haven’t been doing that all along, with all pie crusts, because it does something really miraculous. The crust is flaky and buttery and slightly tangy – the filling really would make a delicious stew all on it’s own, but once you try this crust you would never not make it (although I will say, Ina’s version holds it’s shape much better, thanks to the crisco). If you’re wondering why I wouldn’t just use this crust for chicken pot pies, it’s because I’m perfectly happy not eating them, and I’m afraid trying them with this crust would give me a newfound love for chicken pot pie – which is basically the last thing I need.

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So now you know why I can only make this recipe once every three years, and/or for very special occasions (funny story, I actually made these for my cousin who just had her third baby, and who is a strict vegetarian – so as I was pouring the chicken stock into the pan it dawned on me that I’ll need to make her a new batch….and thus these are calling my name from the freezer). Apologies for the excess of photos, and the entire paragraph devoted to pie crust (it’s a long recipe, an even longer blog post – if my high school English teachers/law school legal writing professors could read this they would cry). Full disclosure, this recipe will take you about two hours – longer if your pies need extra time in the oven like mine did – but I think you’ll find it time well spent.

Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Pie Cake (there’s no “one year ago” as apparently November 2014 was a bad blogging month for me!)
Pot Pies, Previously:
Chicken, two ways

White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies, from Smitten Kitchen (on her blog and in her cookbook)

Yield: 4 large pot pies (would also work well in an 8×8″ baking dish)

For the Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
13 tablespoons (1 stick + 5 tablespoons from a second stick) unsalted butter, cold and diced
6 tablespoons sour cream or greek yogurt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash (for topping crust)

For the Filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces (3/4 cup to 1 cup) 1/4″ diced pancetta, optional*
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped (I used 2)
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped (I used 2)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Thinly sliced swiss chard leaves from an 8-10 ounce bundle, approximately 4 cups (I just use an entire bunch, large or small, without worrying about ounces or cups)
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (remainder of second stick from crust, plus an additional 1/2 tablespoon)
3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, ideally low-sodium
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from about 1 and 1/3 cans (I used two whole cans)

Make Crust: In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add butter, and using a pastry blender or your fingers, mix butter into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. In a small dish, whisk together sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine with butter/flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, combine until mixture forms a dough. You may need to use your hands to knead it a few times (it will be sticky). Pat into a flat-ish ball and refrigerate for one hour (or up to two days – but it needs at least an hour, which conveniently is about the time it will take you to chop your veggies and make the filling).

Make Filling: Heat olive oil in large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat (if using pancetta, see * below). Add onions, carrot, celery, pinch of red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook for about 7-8 minutes, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add greens and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Make Sauce: Wipe out your pan, add butter, and melt over medium-low heat.  Add flour, whisk to combine, and cook for two minutes. Slowly whisk in the broth, one ladleful or splash at a time, mixing completely with each addition. Once all the broth is added, bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until sauce is thickened and gravy-like, about 10 minutes, and then remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Add white beans and veggie mixture (and pancetta, if using).

Assemble Pot Pies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Divide filling between four large ramekins (you could also use ovenproof bowls).  There should be a total of 6 cups of filling, or 1 1/2 cups per ramekin (I somehow had a greater volume of filling and chose to fill all four ramekins very full rather than filling a fifth, which was fine except that they all boiled over; if you would rather have a pretty crust than a super-hearty portion – I certainly would! – make sure not to fill ramekins too full). Set the ramekins on a baking sheet. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each into a circle large enough to cover the ramekin and leave a 1″ overhang (I used large ramekins and had plenty of dough). Whisk the egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water) and brush it lightly around the top rim of the ramekins so that dough will stick. Drape pastry over each ramekin, pressing lightly so that the dough sticks to the dish. Brush crusts with egg wash, then use a sharp knife to cut slits or decorative vents in each to help steam escape. Bake until crust is bronzed and filling is lightly bubbling (hopefully only lightly!) through vents, 30-35 minutes (mine took about 45 to get the crust bronzed, and still not as bronzed as Deb’s photos).

To Make Ahead: the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap and then in a freezer storage bag, will last up to two days in the fridge or a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge.

*If Using Pancetta: Before cooking your veggies, sauté pancetta in one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove pancetta from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Leave pancetta renderings in the pan, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil, and then sauté veggies as written above and go from there. Add pancetta back to filling when you add veggies and white beans to sauce. If you’re feeding a group that’s half pancetta-friendly and half not, rather than cooking all the veggies in the pancetta renderings, just make the pancetta-free version, cook the pancetta separately, and then stir it into the individual pot pies.

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Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachios and Lemon

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Ugh, you guys. I’ve been trying to get motivated to cook all week, and I really just couldn’t do it. When I first started this blog, I had so many recipes I was excited to make and share. I’m not sure if I’ve made all of them or what, but here it is November, the month of roasted veggies and soups and comfort foods and pumpkin spice and basically all of my favorite things, and I’ve been completely uninspired. Yesterday I decided I would perhaps just take the month off. I mean, I had posted consistently for the past seven weeks – that’s almost two whole months – so certainly I deserved a break. But then, this morning I remembered a recipe I’ve been meaning to make for the past five Novembers now (I know that it’s five because the cookbook where it comes from was a hostess gift from my friend Lindsay, when a group of us threw her a baby shower for her little guy who turns four next week, sob!). Butternut squash and risotto are two of my favorite things, so I don’t know how it’s taken me so long, but for whatever reason it has. All of the sudden I inspired not only for the blog, but for dinner too.

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Risotto is one of those things that I think a lot of people are afraid to try at home for fear that it’s too much work. Or at least, risotto is one of those things that I used to be afraid to try at home because I feared it was too much work.  While it does require a half an hour of hanging out near your stove, it’s a half hour where all you have to do is stir a pot and maybe drink a glass of wine (the recipe calls for one third of a cup, which leaves a lot of wine left for drinking). The prep time is pretty minimal – at least if you use a food processor to grate the squash – so all things considered this is a relatively easy meal to throw together. Once your squash is grated and your leek is sliced, you get to just stand by the stove and stir, chatting with whomever is in your kitchen or scrolling through your instagram feed from the day. I minced my garlic straight into the pan, and once the risotto was done cooking zested the lemon and squeezed the juice right in as well.

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I have a few tips, but they’re pretty minor. (1) I wasn’t sure how much half a pound of squash was, so I used two cups, the better part of the small squash I had on hand. (2) At first I found the rice was sticking the the pan quite a bit, which was why I used a little extra wine to deglaze the pan. Nothing like dumping wine straight from the bottle into a Le Cruset to make you feel like a real chef! (3) At the beginning my rice was absorbing the stock pretty quickly, so I was worried I would get through the 6 cups before the 25-30 minute cooking time, which is what happened. Although the sauce was creamy after 30 minutes, the rice was still a little crunchy, so I added a bit more stock and left it on the stove for five minutes longer, at which point it was perfect. (4) The reason the cheese is optional in the recipe as written is because Melissa’s husband doesn’t eat cheese. As such, she uses it as an optional garnish, but I stirred a bit in as well. The risotto doesn’t really need it, but I find that parm makes everything better. Finally, (5), I was a little iffy on the pistachios but decided to follow the recipe to the letter for the sake of the blog (you’re welcome). They’re $$$ – even buying a small amount in bulk was $10 – and hard to chop. I expected I would write that you didn’t need them – but while again the risotto would be delicious on its own, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they in fact add quite a bit both in terms of flavor and crunch.

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OK so there you have it – my “weekly” post at 4:30 on a dreary Thursday afternoon – late, but still with enough time for you to make this for dinner tonight. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

One Year Ago: Green Chile Posole
Two Years Ago: Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Risotto, Previously: Corn Risotto-Stuffed Peppers
Melissa Clark, Previously: Double Coconut GranolaOlive Oil Banana BreadSplit Pea SoupCorned Beef and CabbageRoasted HalibutCarrot Mac and CheeseKale SaladSesame Soba SaladBrown Butter Nectarine CobblerPort-Braised Short Ribs, Capellini with Bacon, Rosemary, and Tomatoes

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachios and Lemon

1/2 pound peeled butternut squash
6 cups (approximately) chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
2 rosemary branches
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste (I used low sodium chicken stock and found that I needed quite a bit more salt)
1/3 cup dry white wine (I added a couple additional splashes)
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste ( I used quite a bit more)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped salted pistachios
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

1. In a food processor fitted with a grating attachment, shred the squash. (Or use a box grater, but it will be harder to do.  You can also just dice into small cubes, which will taste just fine but won’t dissolve into a sauce like the shreds do). In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. Melt the butter in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute longer. Add rice, squash, rosemary, and salt. Stir until most of the grains of rice appear semitranslucent, 3-4 minutes. This means they have absorbed some of the fat from the pan, which will help keep the grains separate as they form their creamy sauce.

2. Pour the wine into the pan and let it cook off for about two minutes. Add a ladleful of stock (about 1/2 cup) and cook, stirring constantly and making sure to scrape around the sides, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue adding stock, one ladelful at a time, and stirring almost constantly until the risotto has turned creamy and thick, and the grains of rice are tender with a bit of bite, 25-30 minutes (Melissa says you may not need all of the stock, although I found that I needed more – my risotto was creamy after the 6 cups were used up but the rice was still a little too crunchy – it needed a couple more splashes of stock and five more minutes on the stove). Remove rosemary stems and stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and black pepper. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed (mine needed both). Garnish with the pistachios and optional cheese before serving.

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Friday Faves

IMG_1812{Seaside Beach on the Fourth of July}

Happy Friday to my loyal B&B readers! Can you believe it’s been so long since my last FF post? 15 weeks, isn’t that terrible? And in the summer, when there are so many favorites each week! Not to mention all the Cooper and Harper pics I’ve failed to post. But now we’re back into the swing of things and I’m hoping to be better about blogging this fall.

What are you up to this weekend? I’m on day five of a 20-day detox, so I’ll be staying in for most of the weekend eating lots of healthy foods and not drinking any wine (woe is me). Thank goodness there’s lots of football to watch! Wishing everyone a lovely weekend. Go Huskies and Go Hawks! And now some fun links and pics. TGIF!

  • This little boy and I are on the same page
  • I’ve been eating this salad on repeat all summer (thus my need for a detox!)
  • Dying to try this soup – and it’s *almost* detox-friendly!
  • Rumor has it this lip pencil in ‘Dragon Girl’ is Taylor Swift’s go to red – I bought it for three friends this week and am thinking I need it for myself too!
  • This book arrived yesterday and I can’t put it down – Mindy and I speak the same language.

IMG_0959{wine on the beach – that’s an old photograph of my grandmother on the bottle}

IMG_1193{banana nutella waffle – this is why I’m now on a 20 day detox}

IMG_1930{my latest additions to Harper’s headband collection – they say the first step is admitting you have a problem}

IMG_1741{and the little glitter hair bow model herself – Harper and her cousin love fantasy football!}

Coconut Bourbon Banana Bread

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I’m pretty sure that were this a legitimate food blog, the kind with paid advertisements and readership beyond friends and family and the odd instagram or pinterest searcher, I would have posts scheduled months in advance and planned to coincide with seasons and holidays. Instead, I’m realizing as I sit down to post this banana bread that Easter is in three days and I should probably be sharing a delicious brunch recipe. Not that you couldn’t serve this for Easter (because you definitely could), but it’s more of a it’s-raining-outside-and-I-have-rotting-bananas-sitting-on-my-counter-and-I’m-in-a-baking-mood activity than a holiday centerpiece. Luckily for all of you, I have no paid advertisers and am not that organized – so despite my best intentions I end up posting whatever I want, whenever I want. For example, I made this banana bread last fall (as evidenced by my dark red nail polish) and meant to post it back then, but it somehow got buried in my drafts folder. And when I discovered it there last night I decided I might as well just post it today. Though it may be sunny now, we all know the rain will be back soon enough. So even if you don’t make this between now and Sunday morning, bookmark it for the next gray day that coincides with rotting bananas.

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Deb has a “healthy” banana bread recipe on her site, which I’ve made quite a few times since she posted it two and a half years ago. I had been avoiding trying this one for fear I wouldn’t be able to go back – the healthy one is divine while still letting you feel at least a little healthy, so why introduce a richer version that makes no apologies for it’s butter and bourbon?  But with a bottle of Knob Creek calling my name from the pantry one afternoon, I decided to mix things up a little bit. I’m not sorry I did, because this one is really freaking good.  And while I’ll still use the healthy version most of the time, it’s never a bad idea to have something a little more exciting in your repertoire.

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One of my favorite things about Deb, besides the fact that I can always count on her recipes to be delicious, is that she writes them with the goal of using as few dishes as possible.  This is one-bowl banana bread (two, I suppose, if you count the pan or bowl you use to melt the butter): you just mash the bananas in your mixing bowl and then stir the other ingredients in. I added a cup of unsweetened coconut in at the end and I thought it made the bread even more amazing – but if you’re not a coconut fan or don’t have any on hand it would be equally yummy without it. You could also add chocolate chips (with or without the coconut), or crushed pineapple (also with or without the coconut, but probably not with the chocolate), or anything else you can dream up. But whatever you do, don’t leave out the bourbon.

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One year ago: Miraval’s Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette 
Two years ago: Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan

Coconut Bourbon Banana Bread, (adapted) from Smitten Kitchen

3-4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup salted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar (or up to one cup if you prefer your banana bread extra sweet)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional but highly recommended)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup coconut (optional; ideally unsweetened)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and butter (or oil or spray) a 8″x4″ loaf pan. Mash your bananas in a large mixing bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add sugar, then egg, then vanilla and bourbon, and then the spices.  Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the flour, and then the coconut (if using). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (mine always seem to take the full hour if not longer; if you use mini loaf pans start checking them at 40 minutes).

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Melissa Clark’s Port Wine-Braised Short Ribs

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When I first started this blog two years ago (!!!), it felt like I was posting a Melissa Clark recipe every other week.  I forced myself to take a break for awhile, so that I wouldn’t post every recipe she’s ever written, but tragically that meant that this, my most successful dinner party recipe to date, never made it onto the blog. Since I don’t eat red meat, I can’t tell you from personal experience how delicious these ribs may or may not be. However, I’ve made them a number of times now, and have passed on the recipe to family and friends, each time with rave reviews. Since I cook primarily for the accolades, I make these ribs a lot.

This recipe comes from the January chapter of Cook This Now (Melissa organizes the recipes in this cookbook by month), so I had every intention of posting it two months ago. But as you may have noticed, Blueberries and Basil is off to a slow start this year, so my “January Short Ribs” are a little delayed – I hope you can forgive me.  After all, most of the country is still experiencing January weather. And even in the Pacific Northwest, where it feels like May, it turns out short ribs are still well received even when it’s 50 degrees at dinner time.

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Many of you are probably familiar with how to braise short ribs – but I really wasn’t, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is. it’s the perfect make-ahead meal (dinner party or otherwise) because you can prepare it in advance, pop it in the oven, and not give it a second thought for the next three hours. Simply reduce your port* and wine**, brown your meat, sauté your veggies, dump everything into your Dutch oven and bake (technically braise, I suppose) for three hours while you clean your kitchen, make dessert, take a nap, run errands – you get the idea. Three hours to do whatever you like while a delicious meal comes together in the oven, all on it’s own. *Melissa uses port and wine, but if you don’t feel like buying a bottle of port only to use half a cup, I confess I’ve made them without the port before and haven’t heard any complaints. **The recipe calls for a dry red wine – I googled “dry red wine for short ribs” (because that’s the level of sophistication I have when it comes to using wine in cooking) and found most people recommend a petit syrah, so that’s what I’ve been using, but I think you could use whatever you have on hand.

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Meat usually grosses me out, but even I have to admit, they’re kind of pretty.  And they make your kitchen smell amazing!  The original recipe is technically for oxtails (speaking of being grossed out) rather than short ribs, so Melissa tells you the meat should be “almost” falling off the bone after two and a half hours. I’m assuming the rules for short ribs are different, as mine are usually actually falling off the bone after an hour or so. Again, I don’t eat them so I can’t say for certain, but I’m constantly asking people if they’re overdone and am assured they are perfect. But that said, if you needed to shorten the cooking time a bit I think you’d be ok. The beauty of braising, I’m learning, is that you really can’t go wrong. Bon appétit!

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Port Wine-Braised Short Ribs, from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine
1/2 cup ruby port
3 lbs beef short ribs
Kosher salt, for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 shallots, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium leeks, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary  sprigs
1 bunch parsley stems (use some of the leaves for garnish, if you like)
2 bay leaves
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and diced small
Balsamic vinegar to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the wine and port to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, brown the short ribs. Season them generously with salt and pepper (you will need at least two teaspoons salt and one teaspoon pepper, or possibly more – enough to get the meat well coated). In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil. Working in batches, arrange the short ribs in a single layer and brown on all sides.  Take your time with this and let them get good and brown; don’t crowd the pan, or they will steam and never develop that tasty caramelized crust. Transfer the short ribs to a bowl.
3. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the Dutch oven and add the shallots, garlic, leeks, and celery.  Cook the vegetables, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan, until softened, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.
4. Arrange the short ribs over the vegetables and add the reduced wine-port mixture. Using kitchen twine, tie together the thyme, rosemary, parsley stems, and bay leaves, and drop into the pot. (You can skip the twine and simply drop the herbs into the pot if you don’t have kitchen twine on hand – although it’s a bit of a pain to fish them out before serving).  Bring the liquid to a boil on the stovetop, then cover and transfer the Dutch oven to the oven. Cook, turning the ribs occasionally (or not), until the meat is tender but not yet falling off the bone, 2 to 2 1/2 hours (mine always seem to be falling off the bone by the two hour mark, but I give them 2 1/2 regardless if time allows). Add the carrots and cook another 30 minutes.
5. Season with balsamic vinegar and additional salt, if desired. Serve over mashed potatoes and top with parsley.

*If you’re serving the short ribs right away, as I usually am, you can spoon some of the fat off of the surface if it looks a little greasy (mine never seem to). You can also refrigerate and serve the next day; in that case the fat is easy to scrape off – although you lose a lot of your vegetables with it.

**In lieu of short ribs, you could use: 4 1/2 pounds oxtail pieces, 4 lamb foreshanks, 2-3 pounds brisket or chuck roast, or 2 pounds boneless beef stew meat.

***In lieu of mashed potatoes, you could serve over polenta, roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables, or anything else that suits your fancy. You could also serve it on its own, as a simple stew.

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – barely! (and let’s not talk about how I didn’t post a single recipe all of January). I read about these cookies awhile ago, and have been patiently waiting for the right time to make them. And while one could argue that anytime is the right time for pink cookies, I think these are best saved for either a (baby girl) baby shower or Valentine’s Day. I made them for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago, but of course didn’t think to take pictures, so I had to make them again this week for the blog (the sacrifices I make for you people!). They’re super easy, adorable, and delicious, so if you’re in need of a last minute treat for Saturday, I think these might be it.

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I read about these cookies in Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and Delancey, so if she’s writing about a sugar cookie you know it must be good.  I’m guessing Jimmy is her friend; she credits him with the recipe.  I make sugar cookies pretty frequently so I’m a little disenchanted with them, but something about these – be it the excessive amount of butter, the cream cheese frosting, the pink – really makes them extra special.  They might not be as fancy as my usual royal-icing holiday cookies, but they taste a lot yummier – and you can frost them in about one-fifth of the time.  Coming from someone who was up an extra three hours last night (and missed Scandal) outlining and flooding three dozen Valentine hearts, that’s worth a lot.

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Please note the cherry extract in the photo. The frosting calls for kirsch or cherry extract – per my Google research, kirsch is a cherry-flavored brandy, traditionally used in fondue (gross?). I couldn’t find it anywhere, although if I’m being honest I didn’t look that hard, because cherry extract sounded more like something that belongs in frosting. However, when I made these for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago I couldn’t find the cherry extract either, and I actually DID look – at seven different stores.  SEVEN. Including a Wal-Mart, because when I Googled “cherry extract” Wal-Mart popped up. Again, the things I do for this blog – it takes a lot to get me into a Wal-Mart. But alas, they didn’t have it, nor did any of the other six places I tried – so I just used vanilla and the cookies were delicious. And then for purposes of blog accuracy I ordered cherry extract on Amazon and used it this time, and I have to admit I kind of liked it. But I have a weird palate for artificial fruit flavor I think – it smells just like cough syrup, which I also weirdly love.  All of this is to say, if you have kirsch on hand (or find yourself at a liquor store and feel like splurging on a bottle, even though you only need a teaspoon for this recipe), by all means please try it (you can always use the rest of the bottle for fondue, apparently). If you’re planning ahead and want to order cherry extract on Amazon, I definitely wouldn’t discourage you (you could also just borrow mine). But if both of those options sound stressful, you could definitely use vanilla – or almond – or any flavor you like – and your cookies will be just fine.

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Aren’t they so cute? My only regret is that I didn’t use more frosting – Molly tells you to spread it on thick but I was worried about running out so I scrimped a little, and then of course I had tons left over. The frosting really makes the cookie – I think it should be as thick as the cookie itself. Happy Valentine’s Day! (And incidentally, happy second birthday to B&B! Valentine’s Day Year One and Year Two, if you want to kill some time). XOXO.

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the Cookies
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, or 3/4 of one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons kirsch, or more to taste, or a capful of cherry extract
Red (or pink) food coloring

To make the cookies, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat, first on low speed, and then slowly increasing to medium, until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk well. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is just absorbed. Add the vanilla and beat well to incorporate. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a large, clean surface, and turn the dough out onto it. Gather the dough into a ball, press it into a thick disk, and wrap it well. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. On a clean, floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 3/8 inch. (If you don’t have a lot of room, cut the disk of dough down the middle and work with only one half at a time, leaving the second half in the refrigerator until ready for use.) Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you like. Molly uses a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, which, once the cookies have puffed slightly during baking, yields a 2 3/4-to-3 inch cookie. Jimmy uses a much bigger cutter, often in the shape of a heart. I used small (2″) and medium (3″) hearts – the cookies are pretty rich so I opted not to use my large (4″) heart, but you definitely could just go for it and make them huge.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake them one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet in the refrigerator or freezer until the first one is done, for 16-20 minutes, or until the cookies are pale golden at the edge. Do not allow them to brown (oops, some of mine did!). Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies completely on the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to fully incorporate, then raise the speed to medium or medium high and beat until there are no lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the kirsch (or extract) and a couple drops of red (or pink) food coloring and beat well. The frosting should be a pretty shade of pale pink. Taste, and if you want more cherry flavor, beat in a bit more kirsch (or extract). Generously spread frosting onto fully cooled cookies. Decorate with sprinkles if you’re so inclined.

Stored in an airtight container, pink cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days – and they’re delicious cold – or you can freeze them indefinitely.

Yield: 20-24 (3-inch) cookies (I yielded 15 3″ hearts and 15 2″ hearts)

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