the beautiful things

things i made

{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.



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.


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


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!


​​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. 



​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.


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.

{things i made} spinach soufflé

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A soufflé is one of those buzzword-y type of dishes. It's French (fancy!), complicated (folding beaten egg whites!), and most of all dramatic (it could collapse once out of the oven!). While all those facts are true, this recipe is something else: easy. Following the order of steps is of course important but I've paid less-than close attention some days without any noticeable repercussions. It's as beautiful and impressive as it is delicious–golden, airy, and slightly sweet from minced onions.


2 16-oz bags frozen chopped spinach 
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 

1. Thaw spinach; squeeze well, discarding water. Preheat oven to 350°. Oil a 2-quart soufflé or casserole dish.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; stir until smooth and bubbling. Add salt and pepper. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. When mixture is thick and boiling, remove from heat. Stir in finely chopped onion and nutmeg.
3. In a mixing bowl beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks have formed. In a separate bowl, beat yolks until frothy and lemon colored.
4. Stir egg yolks into the sauce mixture; stir in the spinach. Stir about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the spinach mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture.
5. Pour into the prepared
 dish. Set dish in a large pan then add water to a depth of about 1 inch. Bake for 60 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

{things i made} strawberry rhubarb crumble


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It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be to track down rhubarb. But after a few phone calls and confused produce department managers, I had a heavy bunch of the technically-a-vegetable in hand. I had never had the opportunity to taste a piece raw (it has been baked up in pies all the way for me), and was surprised to find that though it resembled celery, it had the firm texture and tartness of some types of apples. This is why it pairs so well with strawberries–their juicy, sweetness offsets the rhubarb, making for a dessert that is deliciously well-balanced–of course that is after it's topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. For best results, eat outside and under the stars.


1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
pinch salt
1 pound trimmed rhubarb, sliced 1/4" thick (about 4 cups)
3/4 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered if large or halved if small (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 egg, beaten well
6 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 tablespoons coarse sugar, for sprinkling

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven, and preheat to 375°F. Place an ungreased 10" tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and set aside.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the rhubarb and strawberries, and gently toss to coat. Spread the fruit in the pan and set aside.
3. In another bowl, sift together the granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the oats. Add the egg and using your hands toss and pinch the mixture to produce moist crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
4. Drizzle the oil over the topping, and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
5. Place the crumble in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the top is deeply golden and the fruit is bubbling and thick. Cool slightly. Serve the crumble warm (reheated in 300º oven) or at room temperature, preferably with ice cream and a sprinkling of minced candied ginger.

{things i made} summer desserts

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Last week I shared a list of entrees and side-dishes that would be perfect for a Fourth of July party (check out the post with links to my recipes here). Today it is all about desserts. The common, summery theme here is fruit as the star ingredient–strawberries, blueberries, cherries, lemons, lime, bananas, pineapple, and peaches. Be sure to check back tomorrow when I add one ​more to the list–rubarb! 



peach pie // cherry brownie ice cream sundaes // lemon bars // lemon blueberry layer cake // mango pie // strawberry shortcake // blueberry crumb bars // hummingbird cake // cornbread peach cake


{things i made} barbeque classics

The Fourth of July is next Friday–I know time flies–and whether you're going out, staying in, hosting a party, or attending one, chances are you'll encounter something BBQ-related on the holiday. I have always loved putting together meals arranged around grilled meats and varied side dishes, so I've rounded up some of my favorite recipes that fit that bill that I have featured over the past few years on my blog. Hope they help you craft your menu!

{things i made} zucchini-banana bread

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Sometimes you just want a cookie–or at least sometimes I do. But there are plenty of times I crave something a little less sweet with more chew and a better chance of filling me up. Enter muffins and fruit breads. They are perfect for a quick breakfast or midmorning snack (or later in the day too, of course). Loading them up with sugars and fats undoes a lot of their selling points, which is why this recipe is great:​ the sugar can be substituted for maple syrup or ommitted entirely, the white flour can be replaced with whole wheat, and the applesauce can be doubled instead of using oil. Why all that flexibilty? The small amount of banana goes a long way for moisture and sweetness, as do the raisins. 



1/3 to ​1/2​ a​ cup​ m​ashed​, very ripe banana (from​ about 1 large)​
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup oil
​1​/​2​ cup sugar (or 3 tablespoons maple syrup for a less sweet bread)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini​ (from about one medium)​, squeezed and drained of so​e of its liquid ​
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
​2​ teaspoon​s​ cinnamon
/​2​ teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1​/​2​ teaspoon salt
​3​/​4​ cup chopped walnuts
​3​/​4​ cup raisins

​1. ​Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8×4 
​loaf​ pan.
​ ​In a mixing bowl, mash banana until smooth. Add applesauce, canola oil, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in 
​2. ​Sift together 1 cup of flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt. Add the walnuts, raisins and final 1/2 cup of flour, and mix just until no visible flour is left.
​3. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick or knife. If it needs more time, reduce heat to 325 F and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Slice and serve, with butter if preferred. ​





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