Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cacio e Pepe

I forget the exact context but Blake and I were at our favorite restaurant the other night talking about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. The usual. I'm of course going on and on about all the things I want to do this year. Small thing. Big things. Things of happiness. 

And my husband, the ever practical, looks at me and comments that we may not be able to all those things this year. And my response to him, "why, not". Why can't we hit the road in Utah for 10 days, go to Yellowstone to see the wolves, eat at Denver's top 10 bakeries in a day, go to Red Rocks for a concert or 2, fish, and spend weekend trips in about 40 different wilderness areas. Apparently practically is not my thing, which is why we are good for each other. This conversation occurs while I am enjoying a rather large pizza and flight of beer. Clearly I'm not in the habit of denying myself the things that make me happy. 

So when a cheesy, peppery, noodle recipe keeps popping up in all my food magazines, I'm all in. Cheesy noodle delights are my jam. Cacio e pepe is a traditional Italian dish. It contains four ingredients that when combined create the most wonderful comfort dish. Simple to make and utterly enjoyable. 

Cacio e Pepe
Adapted from Date Night In, serves 4-6, 25 minutes to make

2 teaspoon salt
16 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 cups parmesan 

Add salt to your pasta water and cook your pasta according to package directions. Before draining your pasta, remove a 3/4 cup of pasta cooking water and save. 

While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Once melted, add the pepper. Let pepper infuse for a minute. 

Once the pasta has cooked, add reserved pasta water to butter and pepper. Let simmer 2 minutes over low heat. Add drained pasta to the pan and 1 cup parmesan and toss with tongs or a fork until cheese has melted. Serve with remaining parmesan sprinkled on top.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fried cinnamon sugar bread

Sunday night's dinner this week consisted of corn beef and cabbage and fried cinnamon sugar bread for dessert. Maybe not the most likely of combos.

This is really like a big donut. And who doesn't want a big donut? I think you could make it for breakfast. A decadent breakfast but breakfast nonetheless. Or you could do as we did and make it for dessert. Or you could make it because it's Wednesday and Wednesdays call for fried sugary doughs.

I know most people fear frying. I'm here to tell you this is extremely simple and in my eyes quite fun. A very simple dough, a little oil in the pan, and loads of cinnamon sugar. It puffs up and becomes a chewy delight.

Fried cinnamon sugar bread
Makes 4 pieces
Time: 30 minutes hands off, 20 minutes hands on

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup canola oil
Generous amount of powdered sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling over the top
Honey for dipping

In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the middle and add your water. Mix together with a spatula. When mostly combined, knead a few times with your hands, until a smooth ball forms. Let rest covered for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Flour your kitchen counter or cutting board. Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out until about 1/4" thick. With a knife, make a small slice in the center of the dough.

Line a large plate with paper towels.

In a large saute pan over high heat, add your oil. You want the oil to be hot. Look for it to start glistening. One at a time add your dough rounds. Let cook about 2 minutes a side, flipping with a fork. Transfer to your paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Dip into honey. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The important places and trail mix cookies

Last week Blake and I attended Banff Mountain Film Festival. We have gone to this film festival every year, pretty much, since we started dating. In fact, the festival inspired our most recent trip to Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks in Canada.

As always, the festival inspires.  It's filled with films of people following their passions and accomplishing great feats. This year one film really got to me, The Important Places. In the film, a son is taking his 70 year old father back to raft the Colorado River, a trip his father had enjoyed many years ago. He shares the following poem his father wrote for him when he was born.

"Child of mine, come as you grow
You will learn the secret places
The cave behind the waterfall
The arms of the oak that hold you high
The stars so near on a desert ledge
The important places
 And as with age you choose your own way
Among the many faces of the busy world
May you always remember the path that leads back
Back to the important places."

Those words, backed by awe inspiring canyon scenery had me crying in the first minute of the film. Jeez. What a softy I am. Embarrassing. Not much makes me cry but wild places, you bet. Oh and the Broncos winning the Super Bowl.

The film was a gut check of sorts for me. It reminded me of all my important places. A desert arch towering out in the middle of nowhere. A chair next to a lake looking out over many glaciers. A magical mountain town where the flowers grow waist high. A secluded campsite in a labyrinth of canyons. My favorite mountain pass where columbines grow as far as the eye can see. The important places. That I have shared with my important person.

Point being. I think we should all go and go often to our important places.

And now to bring this back in a circle to food. Somehow we can always bring this back to food. In all those important places, all of those long desert and mountain hikes, food has sustained us. Blake and I are going back to Utah at the end of April. You should see our meal planning. It took almost as much time as planning the trip itself.

These trail cookies stemmed from the need (yes, absolute need) to have an energy boosting cookie on our long hikes. They are tweaked from my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with a little less sugar, a little less butter, and a little more emphasis on raisins, peanuts, and oats. Almost like a health food but not really, if you think about it too much. Don't worry we didn't forget the chocolate. Also, they are absolutely delicious. In my top favorite cookies list of all time.

Trail mix cookies
Makes 12-14 cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup raisins

First we are going to brown some butter. This is my key to the best cookies ever. In a large sauce pan over high heat, add 8 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted, keep a close eye on it. It will start to foam. Swirl it occasionally. Once the foam subsides, you will see little brown specks. Turn off the heat. Add last two tablespoons of butter to the sauce pan and swirl until melted. Add an ice cube to the butter to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk for 30 seconds. Let rest for a minute and then whisk for another 30 seconds. Whisk in vanilla extract.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet and use a spatula to combine. Add chocolate chips, peanuts, and raisins and mix in with a spatula until evenly distributed.

Now the part you are not going to like. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least an hour up to overnight. I know. Who wants to wait to eat cookies? I'm telling you this is key. It gives your cookies the loft and chewiness prized amongst chocolate chip cookie connoisseurs.

Preheat oven to 350 degree and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of dough onto the parchment and repeat. Bake for 10-14 minutes until cookies have browned slightly on the edges.