Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strawberry Trifle

This is quite possibly the world's easiest trifle recipe, and it could also be the best. People ask for the recipe whenever I serve it, and that's got to mean something, right? If you're looking for a great summer dessert that won't heat up your kitchen, this is for you. Hurry and make a beautiful strawberry trifle before the berries are out of season!
(Displayed in Trifle Bowl)

Strawberry Trifle

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 angel food or pound cake
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream

Prepare strawberries, and slice cake. Mix together remaining ingredients.
Layers: Cake, strawberries, cream mixture. Repeat twice, and top with strawberries.
As with most trifles, this is best if prepared several hours in advance.

Lots of big, beautiful strawberries will put you in a great mood every time! These are in the large colander from the Colander & Bowl Set.

When I slice large berries like this, I use the stems as handles to keep my fingers away from my knife. Then I just give a quick cut to the area surrounding the stem so I don't waste anything. I'm using the Large Cutting Board with the 3 1/2" Paring Knife, and my sliced berries are in the Small Batter Bowl. The batter bowls are convenient because their lids can be used if you slice berries ahead of time and assemble the trifle later.

This is just a frozen pound cake I let thaw. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to the trouble of making a pound cake that's going to be cut apart and covered in enough stuff to make people wonder what kind of cake it is anyway. I'm using the 5" Utility Knife from the Forged Cutlery Collection.

The Smooth-Edge Can Opener will be one of your favorite things if you try it. I can't get over how it removes the entire lid, leaving everything smooth and clean. This is especially nice when the ingredient is, oh... I don't know... insanely thick and sticky.

Time for assembly! I beat the cream mixture together in the large bowl from the Colander & Bowl Set, and I'm about to layer it with everything else in the Trifle Bowl. The Mix 'n Scraper will ensure I don't waste any of this creamy, rich goop because that would be tragic. Notice the thick sides of the Trifle Bowl - no chipping here! Also, it's off its removable base so you can see how easily it will fit in the dishwasher. I truly enjoy the Trifle Bowl, and I think every kitchen needs one.

Enter: Trifle Bowl lid awesomeness. The lid and removable base make this a convenient bowl to use for anything you can imagine. It's also got a larger capacity than standard trifle bowls to keep your recipes from hitting the lid and ruining whatever prettiness you've got going on top.

This is a rich trifle, and it's perfect for summer. Layer in some blueberries, and you've got a perfect Fourth of July dessert. Enjoy!

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rich Homemade Brownies

Brownies. They seem so simple, but they're one of the best desserts in the world. Rich, dense fudge with just enough flour to allow it into the bread family... bliss. This is my second attempt at homemade brownies, and the first was too bad to discuss. After hearing several people say they'd never had a homemade brownie that was as good as the ones from the box, I decided to end my search. You know, the one that included one recipe so far. Then my friend Elizabeth (one of many Elizabeths in my life) gave me this. She's a reliable recipe source because she knows when something is worth repeating. These brownies are perfect. They're rich, moist, and satisfying. Also, they come together easily and bake up beautifully. The bottom line is that these are a win.

This is my fiftieth recipe post, and I can't think of anything better to share than a favorite from a friend. The giving of a recipe is special in that it provides regular reminders of others in the middle of what could otherwise become routine. I don't know what Elizabeth was doing yesterday afternoon, but I was in my kitchen thinking of her and counting myself blessed to have her in my life. The Lord has used her in many ways I won't discuss here, and my simple decision to make a batch of brownies made me stop and thank Him for her friendship.

Rich Homemade Brownies

2 sticks unsalted butter
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour (1 tbsp. is for tossing with chocolate chips.)
1/4 tsp. salt
12 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together, stirring regularly. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and let cool 10 minutes.

Whisk sugar, eggs, espresso, and vanilla in separate bowl, and add to chocolate mixture. Whisk in flour (minus 1 tablespoon) and salt. In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips with 1 tbsp. flour, and toss to coat. Fold into brownie batter.

Spread mixture in prepared 9x13 pan, and bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out with crumbs but not wetness.

(For a version with nuts, fold in 6 oz. chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts.)

You can see here why brownies from a box are so popular. Granted, if I'm using brownies as a base in a recipe for something else, I probably won't go to the trouble or expense of making them from scratch. But when I just want brownies that can stand alone in all their glory without begging for a topping of marshmallows and chocolate (Mississippi mud) or nuts, chocolate and graham crackers (s'mores), I'll skip the box. Here, flour's in a Measuring Cup, and I've got salt, vanilla, and espresso in Adjustable Measuring Spoons and Measuring Spoons. Eggs are in a 2-Cup Prep Bowl, and everything is on the Large Cutting Board. I'm going to use the 1.5-Qt. Saucepan for melting my butter/chocolate mixture, and a Stainless Mixing Bowl with the Stainless Whisk and Mix 'n Scraper will be where the magic happens.

Baker's chocolate is so easy to chop, and it makes me feel like I'm really doing something in the kitchen. I'm using the 5" Santoku Knife to cut this up, and the Handy Scraper makes it easy to transfer from the Large Cutting Board without missing or melting most of it. See how there are light spots on the chocolate? That happens if it's been opened a while, but it doesn't change the taste of texture. An expiration date, however... that would change the taste or texture, so pay attention to that. This discoloration is no big deal. Trust me 'cause I googled it.

While my chocolate is cooling a bit, I mixed up the rest of the ingredients and got them ready to go. The espresso/sugar concoction is in the Small Stainless Mixing Bowl, and my chocolate chips are tossed with flour in a Dots Pasta Bowl from the Simple Additions Collection.

I love how the Mix 'n Scraper ensures all my batter goes into the Rectangular Baker instead of the dishwasher. For anyone who argues against scraping out the bowl because she wants to lick the batter out herself, let me just say there's plenty on the scraper that can still be enjoyed. And that's a little friendlier to the hips instead of the 1/4 cup that was clinging to the Stainless Mixing Bowl a second ago.

After baking, I wasn't sure what I was going to get. Would the brownies be dry? Would they fall apart? How would they taste? Did I just waste my time and money? Then this happened. I'll give you a second to take it in.

This is the texture of a perfect brownie in my book. Look at the Rectangular Baker in the background, and pay special attention to the brownies' edges. They're not hard and gross! Thank you, Stoneware!

One more picture? Ok.

I highly encourage you to try this recipe if you're interested in rich, satisfying brownies. Then share the recipe with a friend so he or she will think of you when making them for years to come.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

Side dishes can get a little willy nilly if you're not careful. Falling into a rut is the main problem people seem to have, so they serve the same sides with every meal. Then there's the problem of spending as much time on a side dish as you spent on the rest of the meal combined. This isn't a problem if you plan for it, but the "surprise - this is a two-hour task" can be a bit annoying. When I began cooking, I experimented with tons of recipes, and I found that many side dishes took forever to prepare. Worth it occasionally? Yes. Every night? No. So here I give you roasted smashed potatoes, a handy side brought to you by Cooks Illustrated. After I shared the Strawberry Cream Cake that took more time than I care to admit, I'd like to prove that not all Cooks Illustrated recipes are so labor intensive. In fact, some of them are downright simple.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds small Red Bliss potatoes (about 18), scrubbed
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Adjust oven racks to top and bottom positions, and heat oven to 500 degrees.
Arrange potatoes on pan, and pour 3/4 cup of water into the pan. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and cook on bottom rack until skewer slips in and out of potatoes easily (poke through foil to test), 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and cool 10 minutes. If any water remains in pan, blot dry with a paper towel.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of oil over potatoes, and roll to coat. Space potatoes evenly in pan, and press firmly, flattening until 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, and season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle evenly with remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Roast potatoes on top oven rack 15 minutes; transfer to bottom rack, and continue roasting until well browned, 20 - 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

This is originally from Cook's Illustrated.

The recipe is for 18 potatoes, but I'm cooking for one person, and I don't want to eat these potatoes more than three meals in a row. You mean I don't want two potatoes per dinner nine days running? Shocker. Give the potatoes a good scrub in the large colander from the Colander & Bowl Set, and let them hang out a bit while you do other stuff.

If you've followed by blog for any length of time, you know how I am about prep work. You also know I'm obsessed with Pampered Pantry Salt and Pepper. And the Bamboo Grinder Set. And the Pinch Bowls. I seriously adore all of these products, but let me just say this about high quality salt and pepper: "This recipe is good," vs. "This recipe just changed my life." That's all.

I put the potatoes in the Medium Bar Pan, but I'd use the Large Bar Pan if I was doing a full recipe. Honestly, I think my potatoes are a bit bigger than the recipe wants them to be, but I also think I don't care. They still smashed well, as you'll see later. Look at that beautifully seasoned Stoneware! This means I never have to grease it when I bake brownies, cookies, etc.

After you've baked the potatoes as instructed, give them a smash. That's right - just mess them straight up. The Meat Tenderizer is perfect for this because it's got this flat side for flattening meat and, well, smashing potatoes that have been roasted a while. After they're smashed, you get to drench the potatoes in olive oil and seasonings before sticking them back in the oven to turn golden and crisp.

Is this recipe insanely easy? Yes. Is it cheap? Yes. Is it kind of like something you'd get in a restaurant? Yes. Did I eat more than two of the potatoes with my dinner? Maybe.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Strawberry Cream Cake

This cake was a good decision. The fact that I was going to have a fab dinner with friends the week after picking a gallon of strawberries inspired me to go in the direction of, well, something that used two pounds of berries. This is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, and let me just tell you it's legit. Cook's Illustrated, when followed completely, is a no-fail source for recipes. When they say this is the best way to make a strawberry cream cake, I believe them. If you make this, prepare to do it exactly as the recipe directs. I promise you'll come out with a cake that is, in the words of my friend Christopher, "good enough to be sold in a high-end restaurant."
(Cake is displayed on the Cake Pedestal.)

Strawberry Cream Cake

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 oz.)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed, dried, and stemmed
4-6 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. Kirsch
Pinch salt

Whipped Cream
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, and heat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour Springform Pan, and line with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp. sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

In a clean bowl, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, about two minutes. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and increase mixer speed to medium-high. Beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites, and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 30 - 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, and release cake onto a wire rack to cool completely. Peel off and discard parchment paper, and cool completely (about 2 hours), top side up.

For Strawberry Filling:
Half 24 of the best-looking berries, and reserve. Quarter remaining berries, and toss with 4-6 tbsp. sugar (depending on berries' sweetness) in medium bowl, and let sit one hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries, and reserve (should yield about 1/2 cup). In food processor, pulse macerated berries to give about 1 1/2 cups. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3-5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake has cooled.

For Whipped Cream:
When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a clean bowl, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minute, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low, and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed. This should yield about 4 1/2 cups.

To Assemble:
Using a large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cake plate, and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, and spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about 1/3 of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle layer on top, and press down gently (whipped cream underneath should become flush with cake layer). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream. Gently press last cake layer on top, and spread with remaining whipped cream. Decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill up to 4 hours.

As I said, I got this recipe from Cooks Illustrated, thanks to the subscription my brother and sister-in-law gave me for my birthday. Excellent gift idea, by the way!

I didn't use the Kirsch in my strawberry syrup because I didn't have it. From what I read, it wasn't going to make a significant enough difference to justify the expense.

Know going in that two pounds of strawberries is a lot. Get comfortable, because it will take a while to stem, slice, dice, etc. all of them. Do this while the cake bakes, and you won't feel like you're spending an entire day in the kitchen. My station: Strawberries in the Colander & Bowl Set, Large Cutting Board over the sink, Dots Small Bowl with my "24 best-looking berries," and Classic Batter Bowl for everything else. The 3 1/2" Paring Knife is my favorite for working with strawberries, so I've become best friends with it for the summer. If it wasn't for an efficient knife, I'd have spent forever cutting strawberries.

To prep a pan for cake, don't take shortcuts. I rub mine with Crisco and use the Flour/Sugar Shaker to add the flour layer. This is the Springform Pan, and you'll see in a bit what great results it delivers. See the glass base? How about that for nice cheesecake presentation? If you don't have a springform pan, you can use a cake pan, but make sure it's at least 2 inches deep, or you'll have this time-consuming cake batter running all over your oven. How sad would that be?

I should have put the cake together and then worked on strawberries, but I didn't realize the eggs needed to be room temperature. Hi, I'm Jenny, and sometimes I break the common sense rule of reading an entire recipe before starting anything. My eggs are in a Dots Pasta Bowl, and ingredients are measured into Measuring Spoons, Adjustable Measuring Spoons, Stainless Mixing Bowls, Measuring Cups, and an Easy Read Mini Measuring Cup. I'm using Madagascar Double-Strength Vanilla, and the butter is in the 1.5-Qt. Saucepan from the Executive Cookware Collection. I've got the Mini Mix 'n Scraper in that, and the Stainless Whisk is in the flour mixture. Again, strawberries are in the Classic Batter Bowl. Most ingredients are on the Large Cutting Board.

The term "soft peaks" used to confuse me when it came to frothing egg whites. Here's the deal: A soft peak will remain standing when you pull the beaters back, but it will fall back into the bowl if given a little shake. A stiff peak, however, will remain standing when given a little shake. (That's what you would use to top a pie or banana pudding.) Egg whites are tricky to work with, but they're worth the effort. Make sure they're room temperature, and avoid rainy days. Weird, right? Apparently you'll never get them to form peaks on a rainy day, but I haven't put that to the test. I'm using the Stainless Mixing Bowls here along with the Stainless Whisk.

This is why you don't take shortcuts when baking. It's a lot more scientific than people realize, but you can get amazing results if you're patient and follow directions. Look at how beautifully this cake baked! A beautifully golden cake, and a perfect release from the Springform Pan. It's going to cool on a Cooling Rack for a while, and I'm going to either work on the next step or sit on the couch a while. Most likely the latter because I just spent forever and a day slicing strawberries and baking a cake.

I love the Colander & Bowl Set. The small colander nests inside the small bowl, so I can just pour my strawberries in there and turn my attention to other things while they drain. Plus, this guarantees that I reserve the juice instead of pouring it down the sink. This set also comes with a large colander, a large bowl, and lids. All of the bowls nest together for easy storage. That's the Small Mix 'n Scraper lying there.

The Manual Food Processor is seriously one of the best inventions of all time. It's so simple to use, and it has measurements on the side! Oh, spoil me!

A good test to make sure your reserved strawberry juice is syrupy is to see if it sticks to the bottom of the pan without a little help. If it runs easily, it's not quite ready to use. The Skinny Scraper and 1.5 Qt. Saucepan are a killer combination for strawberry juice reduction.

Slicing cake layers intimidates a lot of people, so here's how you do it. Get a long, serrated knife. This is the Color-Coated Bread Knife before it became color-coated, or you can use the 9" Bread Knife from the Forged Cutlery Collection. For slicing one cake into three layers, which is rare, mark the width of each layer before starting. Then slice each layer towards the middle a little ways. Rotate the cake, and slice again. Rotate, slice, repeat, until you've sliced all the way around. Trying to to straight across instead of following the rotation method is a recipe for disaster. Disaster = slanted layers, especially on a cake when the sides aren't covered by icing. This is on the Cake Pedestal, which makes it easy to rotate for slicing.

Strawberry halves around the outside, compote mixture in the middle and spread to cover crevices between berries, and then cream to top. I'm using the Classic Scraper to spread the cream. This picture reminds me just how good this was. The cream mixture is worth making by itself as a fruit dip.

See how this was worth the time and effort? The pictures don't explain how rich and decadent this cake was, but just know you won't be left wanting after eating it. My sweet friends Christopher and Elizabeth treated me to a dinner of grilled pork tenderloin, fried green tomatoes, and roasted vegetables (I know - they spoil me), and I was happy to share a special dessert with them afterwards. You know when you have friends who understand food and enjoy discussing what makes a good recipe? That's so fun for me! Cooks Illustrated Strawberry Cream Cake equals summer dessert bliss.

Here are a few little tips to save you some blood, sweat, and tears:

Don't substitute another cake. This requires a cake that's dense enough to stand up to the strawberry compote. If you throw in a typical recipe, you're going to end up with a big, soggy mess.

Allow time. The eggs need to be room temperature. The cream cheese needs to soften. The cake needs to bake close to 40 minutes and then cool about two hours. The strawberries need to be prepared and then left to marinate in sugar about an hour. In other words, this isn't a recipe you can just throw together in a couple of hours.

Don't make this too far ahead of serving time. There's a certain "soggy factor" that comes with any type of shortcake recipe. Given how much work goes into this recipe, don't allow time for it to fall victim to the sog. If you'd like (what I did), bake the cake and prepare the strawberry compote ahead of time, and then finish the cream and put the cake together a couple of hours before it's being served.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Browned Butter Berry Muffins

Here's the thing... I picked strawberries with my best friend Elizabeth recently. Lots of them. Get ready for a few strawberry recipes because I just don't know what else to do. I mean, I came home with a gallon of strawberries that are ripe... like the kind of ripe where they'll die if I don't use them quickly. So we come to the first of many strawberry recipes: Muffins. Not just any muffins, mind you. Browned butter strawberry muffins adapted from these browned butter blueberry muffins I found at Joy the Baker. Scroll down, and you'll see that I also made a batch of blueberry to accompany the strawberry. You know, for comparison purposes and all. Between you and me, I'll always like blueberry muffins better than any others, but this strawberry version will definitely find its way to my life again... probably after next year's harvest.

Browned Butter Berry Muffins

7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh berries
For the Topping
3 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Put a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper or foil liners
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on the butter. Melt and cook down the butter until little brown bits appear in the pan. The crackling will subside and butter will begin to brown fairly quickly after that. Keep a close eye. Remove from heat.
Whisk milk, egg, yolk and vanilla until combined. Add the brown butter and stir to combine.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl Add milk and butter mixture all at one and stir gently to combine. Gently but thoroughly fold in the berries.
Divide the batter among muffin cups and spread evenly.
To make the topping combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend until crumbly. (A pastry blender works best.) Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the cups.
Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Like I said, I got this recipe at Joy the Baker. She got it from The Gourmet Cookbook.

I used to be intimidated by scratch baking. Now I don't understand what the big deal is, especially considering the results achieved through the little bit of extra effort. Besides, baking is relaxing if you take time to do it. So let's get started... Here are the products shown: Measuring Cup Set, Measuring Spoon Set, Adjustable Measuring Spoons, Easy Read Measuring Cup, Double Strength Madagascar Vanilla, Stainless Mixing Bowls, Large Cutting Board. By measuring everything out before mixing anything, you don't have to worry about forgetting ingredients or adding them twice. Ever started measuring salt, taken a phone call, and forgotten whether or not you already added it to a flour/sugar mixture? Considering what doubling the salt will to to baked goods, it's not a risk I'm willing to take.

This is what browned butter looks like. The recipe directions are very specific about how to do this, but just know it might take a little bit longer than you'd expect. Be patient, but be watchful. Browning butter brings out its nutty flavor, and it makes baked goods more complex and less run-of-the-mill. Also, it makes the kitchen smell good. This is the 1.5-Qt. Saucepan from the Executive Cookware Collection, and that's the Mini Mix 'n Scraper full of butter. I'm in love with all of the scrapers, and I adore the fact that I can leave them in pans without worrying about melting. Yes, this hung out in the butter the entire time it cooked. Silicone, baby!

Pop quiz: What's the thing full of strawberries called? Is it a bucket? Is it a basket? Neither. According to the box at the strawberry farm, this, my friends, is a busket. That tidbit of knowledge was worth the long drive, the hard picking, the sweltering heat, and the price of the berries. Did I mention the sweltering heat? This is Alabama. Ok, so it's time to get intimate with these berries, inspecting them for imperfections, cutting their tops off, that kind of thing. I'm using the Large Cutting Board laid across my sink, and the 3 1/2-inch Paring Knife is going to make quick work of cutting. Well, not quick, but it will take a lot less time than any other knife. My strawberries are in the Colander & Bowl Set, and I'm going to measure them into an Easy Read Measuring Cup.

And just like that, I've got two cups of berry pieces. My dry ingredients and egg mixture are in separate Stainless Mixing Bowls, and I'm about to whisk them together using the Stainless Whisk.

You'll see a picture similar to this one anytime I post cupcakes or muffins. The Stoneware Muffin Pan combined with the Large Scoop make for perfection every time.

For the topping, combine the cold butter, extra flour, and extra sugar, and use the Pastry Blender to mash it up. The key to a good topping: Do. not. let. your. butter. get. soft. That's why I never use my hands for a job like this. For one, I get butter and stuff all under my fingernails, and that's just nasty (for me and for you), but the main thing is just that the heat of my hands melts the chunks. So use a Pastry Blender, and thank me later.

Hey, those don't look like strawberries! This is the Stoneware Muffin Pan of blueberry muffins, and I didn't want these guys to feel left out. They were amazing! The thing about these that made me so happy was that each muffin was pretty much overloaded with fruit. Note: This is not my way of saying each muffin was overloaded with healthy, just that you don't get jipped on the blue (or - let's just be honest - purple).

All of the muffins are loaded up and ready to go! I took these to my Sunday school class, and I was pleased that I didn't come home with leftovers. A clean plate is a nice compliment, especially when it started off with 24 full size muffins in a room full of people who already ate breakfast.

Take your favorite fruit, add it to this batter, and prepare to write a letter professing your love for me. I'll understand completely.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


A few years ago my sister-in-law Shannon made gazpacho for a party, and it made me a believer. The stuff was so good that I had to get the recipe two years later and make it for myself no more than two years after that, which was a couple of weeks ago. I know it's lame for me to sit on a recipe I know I love, but sometimes I'm a moron. The bottom line is that I finally made it and kicked myself for waiting so long before getting my act together. Now the ball's in your court, so make gazpacho.


1 cup each, chopped:
Red onion
Bell pepper
Tomatoes, peeled
1 1/2 tsp. garlic
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cups tomato juice
Thyme sprig

Mix all ingredients, and refrigerate overnight. Blend thyme sprig.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield 8 cups

Pretty complicated, huh?

One thing I love about this recipe is its color. Just look at all the vegetable action in my kitchen! Here's a tip on bell peppers. In this case, I'm using the whole thing, but if I needed to save half, I would save the part that still has seeds in it. This just makes it last longer in the fridge. All of this crazy cutting is on the Large Grooved Cutting Board, and I'm using the 5" Santoku Knife from the Forged Cutlery Collection to make it happen. See those peeled tomatoes? The Vegetable Peeler is an amazing tool, and it makes quick work of tomatoes and even apples... not just the standard carrots, cucumbers, etc.

Dear Veggie Wedger: I'm sorry I thought you seemed kind of stupid when I first saw you were introduced to the product line. I'm glad I got you for zero dollars as a consultant and that I got to experience just how great you are. I was wrong, and I love you.

The Manual Food Processor blows my mind. This recipe is ridiculously easy because of this tool. Look at how easily it chops the vegetables without turning them to soup! It's kind of funny for me to say that considering I'm turning them to soup.

And so all the beautiful colors come together! The Mini Mix 'n Scraper is the perfect size for the Manual Food Processor, even when the blade's in the base. I'm adding everything to the Large Stainless Mixing Bowl, and then I'll put the lid on it to store my soup overnight.

Check out that Smooth-Edge Can Opener! I hope I never get over how great this thing is. Smooth edge means no danger. No food on the can opener means no nasty crust. No lid in the can's contents means no... lid in the can's contents.

So here's something really cool about the Measure-All Cup. It has tablespoon measurements. Half a cup plus two tablespoons is 10 tablespoons, so there you go! Then there's the Mini-Measure All Cup (no longer pink) with tomato paste in it.

Most lemons yield about 2 tablespoons of juice, so you're pretty safe to cut it in half when you need one tablespoon. However, if you're not using a good Citrus Press, you may end up using the entire lemon to get the same amount. See how good tools help in the kitchen? I'm measuring into the Easy Read Mini Measuring Cup.

Garlic Press. That is all. Ok, it's not, but just ask someone who has this if it's not the most amazing garlic press in the world. He or she will answer yes every time. You don't have to peel the garlic, people! I repeat: You. don't. have. to. peel. the. garlic!

Take all of this, add it together, and give it a good stir. It's good right after you do that, but it's magic if you wait until the next day. Everything marries, and flavor babies are born like crazy! Tomato juice (which can be tricky to find - thanks, Publix) is in the 4-Cup Easy Read Measuring Cup, and cayenne pepper is in a Pinch Bowl. Vinegar is in a Measuring Spoon, and the Classic Scraper is covered in tomato paste beside it. I've explained everything else, so I won't make you endure it again. You're welcome.

So here's the bottom line on this soup. It's good, and you'll agree if you make it. Unlike many gazpacho recipes, this one doesn't require breadcrumbs. Don't ask me why, but that's a win. Also, this originates in Spain, and Spain is a great country. I love that place and everyone in it! Treat yourself to gazpacho soon, and let me know when you do.

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