the beautiful things

things i made

{things i made} cream-cheese frosting-filled pumpkin muffins

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Happy Fall! While I'm super sad to see summer go, I'm just as excited for autumn. I'm celebrating the start of my favorite season with this amazingly tasty recipe for pumpkin muffins. They're moist–seriously, they have the mouth-feel of a cake–and are absolutely bursting with spice-infused flavor (I throw my own version of pumpkin pie spice in anything that can support it). I adore desserts with pumpkin as the main ingredient so this is easily my new favorite any-time-of-the-day-treat. The cream-cheese frosting isn't overpowering but rather a "something special" that makes the muffins feel ever-so-slightly decadent. 

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​3 cups pum
pkin puree

3/4 granulated sugar

4 egg
​s + 1 egg white​
 
9 oz olive oil
 
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4  + 1/3 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
 
2.5 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp cloves 

3/
​4​ tsp
 ​nutmeg 
 
​2 ​tsp
​ ​
​allspice
1 tsp ginger

12 oz
​​
 
raisins 

Cream cheese ​frosting, see below​

 

​1. ​Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
In 
a large 
bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
 
2. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, 
​and spices​
 over the wet mixture. 
Whisk together until just blended. 
Add raisins and fold until blended.
 
​3. Fill two greased 12-cup muffin trays evenly with batter. Bake for 25 minutes
​ (c​heck with a toothpick
​ for done-ness)
Allow muffins to cool for
​at least 30 minutes.
 
​4. For cream cheese filling: 
​soften 
​4 ounces low
​-​fat cream cheese 
​and mix with 4 ounces strained Greek yogurt. Stir in ​1 teaspoon vanilla
​ and​ about 
​a 1/
​4​ cup of powdered sugar
 (t​
aste
​-​test
​ and adjust as necessary). ​ Punch a small but deep hole into the center of each muffin and pipe 
or spoon ​frosting into the center
 and ​finish with a small rosette
​ or peak​.

{things i made} cheese manicotti

 

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I love manicotti. For all their heavy Italian ingredients–it's seriously cheese and egg overload–they're incredibly light and tender. My mother always made them from scratch and only on special occasions, I tradition I reinstated one year for a milestone wedding anniversary "surprise" for my parents. It's one of the first recipes (if not the first) that I undertook on my own, digging out her old card while they weren't home and faking confidence the entire time. This one's been scaled way up–it's for guests or freezing–but can easily be dividing down for one or two trays. And remember: it was simple enough for a teenage me with zero cooking experience to complete to rave reviews.

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Yield: 4 trays ​

12 large eggs
6 cups water
3 cups flour 
1.5 teaspoons salt 

4 lb (6 cups) fresh ricotta
4 large eggs
2.5 oz (1.5 cups) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb mozzarella, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces

tomato sauce, as needed (about 3 cups per tray)

1. Crack eggs, beat, and add water. Sift in flour and salt, then stir batter until just combined. Force through a mesh sieve into another bowl to remove lumps. 
2. Lightly brush an 8-inch nonstick skillet with oil and heat until hot. Ladle about 1/4 cup batter into skillet, tilting and rotating to coat and reducing heat if crêpe sets too quickly. Cook until underside is just set and lightly browned, about 30 seconds, then flip and cook other side for the same amount of time. Invert crêpe onto a clean towel to cool completely. Repeat for remaining crêpes, brushing skillet with oil as needed and stacking crêpes in piles.
3. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Stir together ricotta, eggs,
Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, salt, and pepper. Spread about two cups of tomato sauce on the bottom of baking dish or trays.
4. Arrange 1
crêpe, browned side up, on a work surface, then spread about 1/4 cup filling in a line across center and top with a mozzarella strip. Fold in sides to enclose filling, leaving ends open, and transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Fill remaining crêpes in the same manner, arranging snugly in one layer. Spread about one cup sauce over manicotti. Repeat for remaining trays.
5. Tightly cover trays with foil and bake until sauce is bubbling and filling is hot, about 25 minutes. Serve any remaining sauce on the side and grated cheese. 

 

{things i made} key lime pie

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I thought I'd send summer off in style so I decided to make a sunshine-y dessert before the season officially changed. I always loved key-lime pie–my first memory of tasting it is in Florida and since it's one of the state's most famous desserts, I'd like to think it's accurate. It's unique and tasty in a completely uncomplicated way. In fact the acid in the juice "cooks" the egg yolks in the filling, making the custard practically fool-proof. There's a lot of debate as to how to topping the finished product: it's pictured here with a meringue but would be equally tasty with whipped cream. When it comes to desserts, I don't believe in compromise: just choose to try somthing else the next time you make the recipe!

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1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, crushed from about 9 crackers
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons oil

2 large egg whites
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lime juice (if using bottled, Manhattan brand reccommended)
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 2 limes

3/4 cup chilled whipping cream 
OR
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 teaspoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and oil until combined well, then press mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate. Bake crust in the of middle of the oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat the two egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. In a larger mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Add the lime juice, vanilla, salt, and zest and whisk until combined. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture then add the remaining egg whites and fold until just evenly combined.

3. Gently spread the mixture in the pre-baked crust and bake until just set in the center, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. For whipped cream topping: just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream. Or, make a meringue: In another bowl with an electric mixer beat egg whites with cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar in a slow stream, beating until meringue just holds stiff peaks. Spread meringue on top, covering filling completely, sealing it to the edges of the crust. Draw meringue up into peaks of your choosing and bake in middle of oven until just golden, about 15 minutes.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. The pie can be baked and stored, covered, in the refrigerator, up to 3 days, without the topping. 

 

{things i made} crust-less zucchini pie

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I love making–and eating–quiches (check out some past variations here). But to be honest, mixing, rolling, and fitting a crust to house the custard-y filling is not only time-consuming but heavier to eat. I love crust-less recipes because the name is a bit of a misnomer: the eggs and flour in the mixture create a light crust for you while the pie bakes. This one's simple to assemble–I used a food processor to shred both the onion and zucchini and was sure to drain both very well. The fresh herbs and touches of cheese (cheddar and parmesan) are incredibly tasty but the overall effect is light and airy.

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2 cups shredded zucchini (after squeezed of liquid)
1 large onion, finely chopped 
1/3 cup fresh parsley, 
chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, 
grated
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp olive oil (plus extra to grease dish)
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp salt
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste

​1. ​Shred zucchini and squeeze to remove extra liquid. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish with oil.

2. Combine zucchini, onions, parsley, basil and cheddar cheese in a bowl.

3. Add

 

 flour and baking powder to a medium bowl. Add milk, olive oil, beaten eggs, cayenne pepper, onion powder, salt and pepper to it and blend well. Combine with zucchini mixture and pour it into prepared dish.4. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

{things i made} deli-style cole slaw

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The last of summ​er doesn‘t m​ean the end of barbequing for m​e but a lot of the fun does go with it. Sunshine and warm​ weather m​ake certain foods taste so m​uch better (right?). I used to prepare cole slaw often but was never very happy with any recipie.The vegetables never wilted and the dressing lacked punch. This one is perfect–sweet, creamy, and flavorful. It is like the ones they sell in a deli but better–homemade mayonaise and fresh ingredients ensure that.

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1 head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 carrot, peeled and grated ​ 
2 tablespoons onion, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/​2​ cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar​)​
​1/2 teaspoon celery seed​
​1/2 ​teaspoon ​horseradish

 
​1. Place the coleslaw and 
​carrot ​in a large bowl.
 ​Toss with salt and allow to drain 1-2 hours. Squeeze dry.​
 
2.
In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, pepper
,​ mayonnaise, 
buttermilk, celery seed, and horseradish, 
​whisking​ until smooth. Pour mixture over the slaw and 
​add ​onion
​.​
 ​S​tir well and chill for
​ at least​ one hour.

 

{things i made} lemon shortbread sandwich cookies

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I love shortbread–like eat-an-entire-box-of-it love it, like want-to-try-different-varieties love it, like dream-of-going-to-Scotland-to-have-an-authentic-version love it–which is why I held my breath while making this olive oil-based recipe. Butter-less short-bread did not seem possible but I was pleasantly surprised after just one bite. These cookies are crunchy, crumbly, and oh-so tasty. The dough is a bit tricky to pull together, but with a little elbow-grease and refrigeration (when in doubt always refrigerate these, both raw and after filling, to firm things up) they are absolutely perfect. I love the lemon flavor throughout but would like to experiment with different add-ins, like orange or lavender.

 

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for the cookies:

3 cups flour
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup olive oil 
1 teaspoon salt
2 lemons, zested
​lemon curd, recipe below

1. Combine all ingredients, excluding the curd, with a fork. Finish mixing dough by hand (it will be crumbly).
2. Roll dough into a log shape in plastic wrap. Square edges of log by pressing each side against a surface to create long rectangular shape. Chill in fridge for about 20 minutes and cut into thin 24 slices.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, carefully avoiding browning. Let cool completely, then spread ​lemon curd on inside of one cookie to create twelve sandwiches.

 

for the curd:

2 large lemons, juiced and strained
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp lemon zest

1. Place strained lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on low and stir until sugar has dissolved.
2. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl. Remove lemon syrup from heat and pour slowly into beaten egg while stirring mixture with a whisk. Continue to whisk by hand for one minute.
3. Return mixture to saucepan; add lemon zest, and heat on low until it thickens, about two minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a container and cover, then refrigerate to firm (yield: 1 cup).

 

{things i made) blueberry pie

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As I said yesterday on Instagram, this summer has belonged to blueberry pie–I've made this recipe three times so far, each time bringing it to a barbeque as part of my contribution to a dessert spread, and it's always been a big hit. The filling is the reason I'd say–it has layered flavors, starting of course with the in-season fruit, building to bursts of lemon, and finishing with subtle spices. If you haven't had luck with pies before, don't fret, this one's fool-proof: by mashing some of the blueberries with the sugar and flour, plus making sure the mixture boils, the filling won't run when sliced.

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For the crust: 

2 2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
6-8 tablespoons milk

1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
2. Put the oil in a measuring cup. Add the milk without stirring. Quickly pour mixture into the flour and mix briefly. Do not refrigerate.
3. Flatten dough by rolling on floured surface or between two sheets of wax paper (the crust is easily repairable). Place in pan.
4. Repeat, using a second batch of above ingredients, to make a top crust. Roll to desired diameter. Cut vents of varying sizes into resulting circle. Set aside.

 
For the filling:
 
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs.

lemon ​j

uice

¼ teaspoon salt
 

6 cups (30 oz.) fresh blueberries, rinsed, dried, and picked over for stems

1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
 
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and set a foil-lined heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Heat the oven to 425°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, lemon zest, spices, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Add 1 cup of the blueberries and crush them into the dry ingredients with a potato masher or fork to make a paste. Add the rest of the berries and toss to coat.
3. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust with a rubber spatula, spreading evenly.
4. Put the pie on the heated baking sheet and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until the edges are pale golden, about 30 minutes, then cover the edges with foil and continue to bake until the top is golden-brown and the filling is bubbling, another 30-40 minutes more. Let the pie cool on a rack to room temperature, about 3 hours, before serving.
 

{things i made} ice cream sandwiches

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I feel like there was a meeting sometime recently where people sat with a calendar and a list of every marketable dessert and randomly paired the sweet treats with specific dates. Either that, or these daily matchups always existed and social media has been running with them as of late. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining–I love any way that inspiration gets to me and my kitchen. So when I found out this past Saturday was "National Ice Cream Sandwich Day" I couldn't let the opportunity go by with giving a recipe a try–and I can't think of a better way to spend a summer night than giggling as ice cream melts and cookies crumble (I've got the after-hours Instagram post to prove it). All kidding aside, you should probably plan better than I did and actually freeze the sandwiches for a more enjoyable–and less sticky–experience!

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​​1/​3​ cup​ olive oil​​
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/​4 cup cocoa powder
1/​4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Partially thawed ice cream, preferably vanilla
 

​1. ​Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Line a​n​ 10 x 15 baking sheet with parchment paper​ and grease​. ​ ​Whisk together​ oil and sugar​, then​​ w​hisk in egg and vanilla extract.​
2. ​Combine dry ingredients​ and add to ​wet​ mixture.​ Stir until incorporated. Spread evenly over parchment paper.​ Score with a pizza ​cutter​ and prick with dowel to for​m ​hole-pattern.
​​3.  Bake, removing​ from oven after about​ 8 to​10 minutes. Let cool​ completely​. Remove from parchment and place squared​ blocks of ​ice cream​ (cut with a knife and shape with a spatula and spoon)​ in between two cookies.​ Wrap individually with wax paper and freeze until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

 

{things i made} braised chicken with dates

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I have tried tagine-type recipes before, loading lots of spices, meat, and a braising liquid into a pot and cooking until all of the flavors blend. None have held that much of an appeal to me but not anymore–this mixture has the perfect balance of sweet and savory, thanks to the wonderfully unique taste and texture of dates and carrots. It was my first time cooking with carrot juice and I was pleasantly surprised–it tastes  just as hearty and full-flavored as the vegetable itself. 

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​3 lbs. ​bone-in, skin​ned​ chicken ​pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 large red onion(s), peeled and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
2 tsp. ground ginger
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1.5 cups carrot juice
3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/2 lb. (10 to 12) Medjool dates, pitted and halved lengthwise
fresh lemon juice and chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a straight-sided sauté pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan, cover with a splatter screen, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook until the other sides are deeply browned, 5 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Discard all but 1 Tbs. of the fat in the pan.
2. Put the pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it’s soft and begins to color, 8 minutes. Add the spices and stir into the onions for about 1 minute. Pour in the carrot juice and broth and bring to a boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
3. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, along with any accumulated juices. Cover and braise on the stovetop for 15 minutes. Add the dates and continue to cook until the chicken is tender and the meat starts to come away from the bone, 35 minutes more.
4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and dried fruit to a serving dish and keep warm by covering loosely with foil. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, and serve with a side of couscous.

 

 

{things i made} lemon drop cookies

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Authentic Italian cookie recipes can be a bit strange on paper: if you've found one with lots of eggs and baking powder for leavening and extracts or alcohol for flavoring, you've probably come to the right place. These small, soft cookies fit that description perfectly. They have a unique, spongy texture that's complemented well by the sugary, lemony glaze. They're perfect for dunking in coffee or tea and, of course, the occasional snack.

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3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
​4​ teaspoons lemon ju​ice 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

1. ​Preheat oven to 350 degrees. ​Beat eggs, milk, lemon ju​ice, sugar and oil until well blended.
​2. ​​Add flour and baking powder.  Mix until just blended​ (​dough ​will​ be sticky​)​.
​3. Drop the dough from a teaspoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart.
​4. ​Bake immediately for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove cookie sheet from oven.  Using a metal spatula, move cookies onto wire racks. Cool.
​5. For icing, mix 3 cups confectioner's sugar wtih 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/2 cup lemon juice until smooth. Frost the tops of the cookies (it will drip to coat the cookies). Dry the frosted cookies on wire cooling racks.
 




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