Blossom Cookies, Two Ways (Sugar Cookie and Chocolate Peppermint)

Happy New Year! It’s been a rough year for everyone, but there is a glimmer of hope in 2021. New year, new president thank goodness, I got a new job, and as a healthcare worker I was also able to get the first dose of the COVID vaccine! So there are a lot of things to be grateful for. What better way to celebrate good things than some delicious cookies?

I had some leftover special Hershey’s kisses from the holidays, a sugar cookie version and a dark chocolate mint truffle version, so I decided to adapt this recipe from Table for Two, and I ended up doing half sugar cookie blossoms and half peppermint chocolate blossoms. I made the base dough first, then added peppermint extract to half the dough for the peppermint blossoms. These cookies are wonderfully soft, a little chewy, and the Hershey’s kiss added just after baking melts into a lovely burst of flavor in the center of each cookie. They even stayed soft for a whole week! If you don’t like peppermint chocolate, you can just do all of the sugar cookie version. Anyway, here’s the recipe I ended up with!

Sugar Cookie Blossom Cookies and Peppermint Chocolate Blossom Cookies

Makes 30 cookies

Adapted from Table for Two

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp milk (I used nonfat)

2 cups all-purpose flour

For sugar cookie blossoms:

Optional red sugar crystals

15 unwrapped sugar cookie Hershey’s kisses

For peppermint chocolate blossoms:

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Optional green sugar crystals

15 unwrapped mint truffle Hershey’s kisses

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Cream together the butter and sugar until a smooth paste forms. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the baking soda, salt, and milk and beat until thoroughly combined. Add in the flour then mix well until a smooth dough forms.

At this point, separate the dough into half. Keep one half of the dough as-is, and to the other half, add the peppermint extract and mix well to incorporate the peppermint extract into the dough.

Alternatively, if you’re just doing sugar cookie blossoms, leave out the peppermint extract. If you’re only making the peppermint version, add 3/4-1 tsp of peppermint extract to all of the dough.

Scoop out small balls of dough (about 2 tsp, I use a small size cookie scoop) and roll them into balls. Place about 1.5-2 inches apart on ungreased nonstick baking sheets (or you can line with parchment paper). At this time, you can sprinkle the optional red sugar crystals over the sugar cookie blossoms, and the green sugar crystals over the peppermint blossoms (I did this to differentiate them just in case I lost track of which pan was which dough).

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until the cookies are spread out, just set, and very slightly pale golden on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and allow to cook 1-2 minutes, then press one sugar cookie kiss gently into the middle of each cookie made from the base dough. You don’t want to push the kiss all the way down, just about halfway down in the cookie. Press one mint truffle kiss gently into the middle of each cookie made with the peppermint dough. Allow the cookies to cool completely. The kisses will melt as the cookies cool, which makes them lovely and soft to bite into.

Once the cookies are cooled, enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

The weather is finally cooling off, and we’re well into fall, which means it’s officially baking season! Not that I don’t bake year round, it’s just that I’m less inclined to turn on the oven in 95 degree weather. I came across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen a while back, and only recently had a chance to try it. I don’t have whole wheat flour, and I reduced the amount of oats in the recipe, but I do love the little bit of crunch from the turbinado sugar. We’ve had a little bag sitting in our baking cabinet for a while, so I thought, why not use some of it with this recipe? I’m glad I did, because these are wonderful cookies. They’ve got chocolate, a bit of a crunch, and even include some oatmeal and oat bran so you can pretend that they’re healthy! The first time I made them I ran out of oats but they were delicious so I kept that ratio. I’m sure the original recipe also makes fantastic cookies, but this is the recipe that I’ve come up with:

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen small cookies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup raw or turbinado sugar

1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar (light or dark)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup oat bran

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Cream together the butter and sugars with a fork (or mixer) until a smooth paste forms. Beat in the vanilla and egg until smooth. Add the salt, baking soda, and baking powder and beat to combine.

Add the flour, oats, and oat bran and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir together until evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Scoop small portions of dough, about 1 tablespoon each (I use an OXO small cookie scoop) spaced an inch or so apart on baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Alternatively, if you use the OXO medium cookie scoop (or scoop portions about 2 tbsp each), increase baking time to 12-14 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or so on the baking sheets before removing and transferring to racks or plates to cool completely.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Apple Muffins (or Bread)

Happy Fall everyone! Hope everyone is still doing as well as possible during the pandemic. It’s 90+ degrees outside here in California, despite being well into October, which means baking in the toaster oven to avoid excesssively heating up our already warm house.

Our neighbors have a bunch of apple trees, so they gave us a bunch of apples, and so I’ve been looking for recipes to use up apples. Trader Joe’s is in full swing with their fall items, including canned pumpkin, so I thought, why not go full-on fall flavors and try some pumpkin apple bread? I found this recipe over at Yellow Bliss Road and thought I’d give it a try.

I made a few changes, and I’ve now made this recipe in three different variations. The first time, I ran out of white sugar, and it seemed like a bit too much sugar in the recipe, so I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and only 1 cup granulated sugar. I also made muffins instead of loaves, and baked them for a few minutes at a high temperature to get puffier tops. The second time, I used two 9×5 bread pans, but only baked for 35 minutes, instead of the 50 recommended by the recipe. The third time, I didn’t add the apples and just made a half recipe in an 8×4 pan, and baked it for about 40-45 minutes. All the versions turned out great! I would recommend using some brown sugar along with the granulated since it seems to help hold the moisture in a little bit better. All three times I’ve made this recipe, I’ve increased the spices because why not, and all three times this bread has stayed wonderfully soft and moist for up to 3-4 days after it was baked (it hasn’t lasted any longer than that!) Here’s the recipe, with the changes I’ve made and some notes on variations at the bottom.

Pumpkin Apple Muffins (or bread)

Adapted from Yellow Bliss Road

Makes 19-20 muffins, two flat 9×5 loaves, or two taller 8×4 loaves

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups apple, diced into small pieces (I didn’t peel mine)

Directions for muffins:

Preheat the oven to 400˚F, and grease two 12-cup muffins tins.

Sift together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, and oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold together with a spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour starts to get incorporated, add the apples, then continue to gently fold until everything is just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full (mine turned out to be 19 muffins).

Bake at 400˚F for 5 min, then turn the oven down to 350˚F for another 12-15 minutes. Check after 12 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.

Allow the muffins to cool a few minutes in the muffin tins, then loosen them or take them out to cool completely.

Notes for making bread:

-Instead of greasing muffin tins, grease two 9×5 loaf pans (for flatter loaves) or two 8×4 loaf pans (for taller loaves)

-Preheat the oven to 350˚F and bake at 350˚F for the entire bake, do not start at 400˚F. If using two 9×5 loaf pans, bake for 35-38 minutes, and if using two 8×4 loaf pans, bake for 38-45 minutes. Allow to cool in the pans for about 5 minutes before turning out and placing on racks or plates to cool completely

-You can omit the apples for a great pumpkin bread recipe

-This recipe also makes a half recipe quite nicely if you only want one loaf!

Enjoy!

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Two 9×5 loaves
One 8×4 loaf (no apples)

Pistachio Macarons with Pistachio Buttercream

Well, the smoke from all the California (the entire West Coast, really) wildfires has broken our heat wave, although it does come with an orange haze, terrible air quality, and ash falling from the sky. But at least it’s not 106˚F anymore. So I decided to do a little baking, since we’re all stuck inside and it’s not too hot to turn on the oven anymore. I made my French macarons a few weeks ago before the heat started, and I wanted to branch out and explore other flavors, so I decided to try making some pistachio macarons.

I did a combination of my regular recipe and this recipe from House of Nash Eats for pistachio macarons, and they turned out great! I added a little green food coloring for more green color, but that’s definitely optional. The only real difference between my recipe and House of Nash Eats’ recipe was less granulated sugar, more powdered sugar.

Some tips: To make pistachio flour, I ground up the pistachios in a food processor, sifted the large chunks out, then re-processed them until I got 25g of pistachio flour. I used the leftover large chunks to make the pistachio buttercream. I also sifted together the pistachio flour, almond flour, and powdered sugar, then sifted it again as I was adding it to my egg white mixture, to keep everything light and avoid chunks. I also dried my macarons for about an hour, then they were still sticky, so I blew a fan over them for about 20 minutes, which helped form some feet. The feet aren’t as spectacular as some batches I’ve made before, so I probably could have let them dry a little longer under the fan, until they were really not sticky to touch. However, even though the feet on these weren’t amazing, these macarons were great! A little chewy, a little crispy, with plenty of pistachio and almond flavor from both the shells and the buttercream. Here’s the recipe I ended up with:

Pistachio Macarons with Pistachio Buttercream

Adapted from House of Nash Eats

Makes 76-80 shells, or 38-40 filled macarons

Ingredients

Macarons

100 g egg white (3 egg whites)

45 g granulated sugar (about 3 tbsp)

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

75 g almond flour

25 g pistachio flour (*see note below)

175 g powdered sugar

3-4 drops green food coloring, if desired

Buttercream:

2 tbsp finely crushed pistachios

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

2-3 drops green food coloring, if desired

Directions:

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed for about 30 sec-1 min. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip until soft peaks form. Add the granulated sugar then continue to whip until stiff peaks form. This means, when you take the whisk attachment out of the bowl, the egg white should form a stiff peak that doesn’t melt out of shape. Do not over whisk, check every 5-10 sec after you reach the soft peak stage, and stop once stiff peaks have been achieved. 

Sift the almond flour, pistachio flour, and powdered sugar together, then sift it again into the bowl with the whipped egg whites and granulated sugar. If you’re using food coloring, drop it in at this point. Stir gently with a spatula, running the spatula around the outside of the bowl then drawing the spatula with some batter towards the middle. Continue stirring gently in this way until the batter is slightly runny, melting off the spatula in a thick ribbon when you lift it out of the bowl. Do not undermix or overmix at this stage.

Place the batter in a plastic bag (my favorite hack is to put the bag in a large glass, opening the bag and flipping the sides of the bag over the sides of the glass then pour the batter in), and cut off about a 1/8-1/6” corner of the bag (or you can use a piping bag).

Pipe rounds about 1 1/4-1 1/2 inch diameter on baking sheets line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. I pipe in swirls just because that works a little better for me, but you can also just pipe straight down and let the batter spread out to the sides of the tip to form a circle. Rap the baking sheet a couple times on the counter to knock out any air bubbles.

Allow the macaron shells to rest about an hour, or until when you touch them, they don’t stick to your finger. This step is important to create the “feet” during the baking. To speed up this process, you can turn on a fan and aim it at the macarons. 

When the macarons are dry and ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300˚F. Bake the macarons for 16-18 min. Most recipes will tell you to bake one sheet at a time, but I use a convection oven and I’ve baked them on all 3 racks before and they turn out fine. To test if they’re done, try removing one macaron from the sheet and if it comes off cleanly, then they’re done.

Allow the shells to cool completely before removing the rest from the pan.

While the shells are cooling, make the buttercream. Cream the butter in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth, then add the powdered sugar, pistachios, almond extract, and food coloring if desired. Add heavy whipping cream until desired piping consistency is reached. 

To assemble, pipe a round of buttercream into the center of a macaron shell, then top with a second macaron shell and press down lightly to push the buttercream to the edge of the macaron shells. You can push straight down or push down and lightly twist. 

Store in the fridge for a week or so (if they last that long), or you can freeze these for a couple months.

Enjoy!

*Note: To make the pistachio flour, process pistachios in a food processor until a fine powder forms, sift the mixture through a sieve, and put the remaining larger pieces back in the food processor to process again. Repeat until you have 25g of flour. You can use the leftover larger chunks for the buttercream, and just pulse additional pistachios if needed for the buttercream in the food processor until the desired size of pistachios is achieved.

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Black Lives Matter and a recipe for Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

As June comes to an end, I wanted to share a really helpful resource I’ve been using to educate myself about the Black Lives Matter movement, a Google doc called Justice in June. The more time I’ve spent reading, listening, and watching content about what it’s like to be black in America, the more horrified I am about how these TED talks and so many resources which were published years ago are still so scarily relevant today. My goal is to continue to educate myself and try and support the black community long-term, not just for the month of June, but that Google doc was a good start. I have also started donating to a few organizations, including the Legal Defense Fund and Campaign Zero, which are both doing important work in the fight for racial justice, along with so many other organizations. Social media is also great for finding new content posted by my friends, to keep the learning process going, and I have been trying to actively start conversations with friends and family to discuss what we have been learning and seeing in the community and how we can help.

On another note, COVID-19 is still a very real, very pressing ongoing public health crisis, which means that I am still cooking at home more than usual. Most recently, I made this creamy roasted red pepper pasta, based on a recipe from Damn Delicious. I use orecchiette instead of shells, since I love how the little ridges in the pasta really help the sauce cling onto the pasta, and I was going to use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce, but when I went to look in the fridge to gather my ingredients, turns out the tomato paste got thrown away. I substituted Field Roast vegetarian sausages instead of the Italian sausage to keep the dish vegetarian. Also, roasted bell peppers are expensive, so I just decided to roast my own. Overall, this pasta was lovely and creamy and the roasted bell peppers gave is a sweet, charred flavor, perfect for a summer evening! Here’s the recipe I ended up with!

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Makes 6-8 servings

Adapted from Damn Delicious

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 red bell peppers

8 oz orecchiette, or pasta of your choice

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1 tbsp minced garlic

2 links of Field Roast Italian vegetarian sausage, or sausage of your choice, sliced

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp Italian seasoning, or herb seasonings of your choice

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream

5-6 basil leaves, thinly sliced for garnish

Parmesan for garnish if desired

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Slice the bell peppers, and toss them generously with olive oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the peppers are nicely charred. *This step can be done ahead of time and keep the peppers in the fridge for a few days until ready to use.

Bring a salted pot of water to boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions. When you drain the pasta, reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water to make the sauce.

To make the base of the red pepper sauce, blend together the roasted bell peppers with the reserved pasta water until smooth.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the remaining olive oil to the heated pan. Sauté the onions, garlic, and Field Roast until the onions are translucent and the sausage is heated through. Add the flour, seasoning, salt, and pepper and stir for about a minute.

Add the roasted pepper sauce blend and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and add the heavy cream, stirring occasionally until heated through.

Garnish with basil and Parmesan if desired. Enjoy!

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I served this with a side of apricot, goat cheese, and lemon zest toasts, and sautéed zucchini, and it made a great summer meal!

Chewy Almond Cookies with Chocolate Ganache

My wonderful aunt gave me the recipe book from the Flour Bakery in Boston, and I decided to try out her almond macarons for Mother’s Day last weekend. If you’ve ever had almond crescents, or almond horns, these have a similar flavor, with a lighter, chewier texture, and my mom loved them (as did I). They were labeled as macarons, but you don’t make meringue with the egg white, although the ingredients are similar to French macarons, but regardless of the name, they’re delicious!

Since this recipe only uses egg whites to make an almond paste, I ended up with three egg yolks, and I made this lemon curd recipe with them! We had some of the lemon curd with scones at Mother’s Day brunch, then I made the rest of the curd into lemon tarts, which were also a hit with my parents, so don’t let those egg yolks go to waste!

If you love almond and chocolate, I would recommend these cookies. I had some almond meal on hand, so I used that instead of blanched almonds recommended by the recipe, and I did approximately a half recipe. I’ve been using my scale for many recipes, since I find that it’s faster, more precise, and fewer measuring items to clean! So most of the measurements here are in weight. Here’s the recipe I ended up with!

Chewy Almond Cookies with Chocolate Ganache

Adapted from Flour

Makes 18 sandwich cookies, or 36 rounds

Cookies

260g almond meal, divided

270g granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 egg whites

1 1/2 tsp almond extract

Chocolate Ganache

4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use the Trader Joe’s pound plus dark chocolate bar)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Reserve about 1 cup of the almond meal, and place the rest in the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the egg whites and almond extract and process until well combined into a paste. This is your almond paste.

Transfer the almond paste to a bowl and add the reserved almond meal. Stir to combine.

Drop small rounds of dough (I used a small cookie scoop, about 2 tsp) onto the prepared baking sheets. Use slightly damp hands (to prevent sticking) to shape the rounds into slightly flattened balls of dough, about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, until lightly golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool a couple minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

While the cookies are baking and cooling, you can prepare the ganache. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave until bubbles start to form around the edges of the measuring cup, but the cream is not boiling, about 1 1/2 min in the microwave. I recommend doing this in 30 second bursts and keeping an eye on it to make sure the cream doesn’t start boiling. You can also do this on a stovetop, and heat the cream until it is simmering with small bubbles around the edges of the pot.

Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth and silky. Allow to cool to a piping consistency. You can put it in the fridge for about an hour to speed up the cooling process.

Once the cookies and the ganache have cooled, place the ganache in a piping bag (or a plastic bag with a corner cut off) and pipe dollops of the ganache into the center of one cookie, then top with a second cookie and gently push down until the ganache reaches the sides of each cookie. Repeat until all the cookie rounds have been used, then sit back and admire your lovely cookies!

Enjoy!

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Tomato Basil Risoni and Back to Work!

Well, the clinic is opening up at reduced capacity this week, which means I go back to work (part-time) tomorrow! Side note, if you or anyone you know needs physical therapy, we have in-clinic and telehealth sessions! I work at BreakThrough Physical Therapy in Sunnyvale, CA, and we’re excited to be starting up with telehealth, which can allow us to reach people who cannot come physically into the clinic. More information on our website: https://www.breakthroughpt.com/

Anyway, back to the food! Over the weekend, I made another delicious spring meal, featuring risoni, a chickpea and lentil “pasta” I found at Trader Joe’s, which has the same shape as orzo, but more protein so this can be a filling main dish! If that’s not your thing, just replace the risoni with orzo!

This recipe is quick and simple. You cook the risoni (or pasta of choice), add some olive oil and lemon zest, along with tomatoes and fresh basil, and your dinner is served! I paired it with some sautéed rainbow chard that looked good at the grocery store, and added some ricotta strawberry basil toasts, which were a big hit with my mom in particular. Here’s the recipe!

Tomato Basil Risoni

Makes 8 servings

1 box (10.5 oz) of Trader Joe’s risoni (or 10 oz orzo pasta)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 oz sugar plum tomatoes

1 cup (approx) of fresh basil leaves, loosely packed

Directions

Cook the risoni or pasta according to package directions, then set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Whisk together the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and seasonings. Halve the tomatoes, and slice the basil into thin ribbons. Add the tomatoes and basil and mix to coat with the dressing. Stir in the risoni/pasta and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the risoni can soak up the lemony flavor. Garnish with more basil or cheese, if desired.

Serve warm or cold.

Enjoy!

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Dinner is served!

Lemon Cream Orecchiette

I know everyone is looking at the pictures and thinking: “But that’s… not orecchiette.” I know. As often happens to me during this time, the exact products that are on my list are not on the shelves at the grocery store, and today it happened to be that instead of orecchiette, the pasta that was in stock at Trader Joe’s was conchiglie. So that’s what’s in the photos. However, the conchiglie was still tasty, but weirdly fell apart, and when I made this earlier this month, I used orecchiette and I prefer it with orecchiette, so that’s what I’m keeping in the name. Also, it’s called lemon cream orecchiette, but once you make the roux with butter and flour, it thickens nicely using just regular milk or soymilk, without having to add heavy cream. So maybe I should think of a different name, but I couldn’t really think of anything better, so here we are.

Anyway, conchiglie or orecchiette, the taste is still the same, and it’s delicious! Spring has definitely sprung here in California. In fact, it seems like we went from rain to spring then straight to summer heat in the span of a week, so here we are. I’ve been trying to add more spring flavors to the meals I cook, and everyone loves asparagus in the spring, but I don’t like asparagus, so I settled for peas, mushrooms, and corn, with a side of broccolini for this dinner. Lemon has a nice spring flavor, and when I finished cooking my mom commented that it smelled like a restaurant in our kitchen, so I must have done something right! Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Lemon Cream Orecchiette

Makes 6 large-ish servings (or 8 smaller-ish ones)

Ingredients

12 oz orecchiette pasta (or your pasta of choice)

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

½ cup onion, diced

1 tbsp minced garlic

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup frozen peas

One 10 oz package of Gardein meatless chick’n strips

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter

1 ½ cups plain soymilk (or use whole milk, low fat milk might also work)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, for garnishing

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and mushrooms and cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms start to release their juices, about 5 minutes.

Add the corn, peas, and chick’n strips to the pan and cook until heated through, another 5-10 minutes. Remove the veggies and chick’n from the pan and set aside.

In the saucepan (or you can do this simultaneously in a different saucepan while you cook the veggies if you have more multitasking skill/more stove burners than I do), melt the butter over medium-low heat, then stir in the flour to create a roux. Pour in the milk and simmer over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon zest and juice once the sauce has thickened, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Add the pasta, veggies, and chick’n and stir to coat evenly with the sauce.

Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

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Served with toasted baguette and sautéed broccolini, this made a delicious spring meal!

Cabbage Mushroom “Beef” Piroshki

Shelter in place continues, which means I have more free time to help my mom cook! I’ve been making dinner a couple nights a week for my parents, but I don’t often take photos since it doesn’t always look that pretty, but these piroshki were a bit of an adventure to make, and also turned out really tasty! This was a bit of a challenge recipe for myself, since it involved yeasted dough, filling, and shaping them. My goal was to end up with that wonderfully fluffy dough, wrapped around a delicious savory filling, and I think I actually did pretty well!

I first had piroshki at Piroshky Piroshky in Seattle, and they are delicious, but my favorite piroshki place in Seattle is actually Piroshki on 3rd. All the piroshki I tried there were delicious, but one of my favorites was the smoked salmon. I went a couple times during my time in Seattle, and both times had a great experience, with no crazy lines and waiting like the Piroshky Piroshky at Pike Place. I would highly recommend Piroshki on 3rd if you’re in the area!

For these piroshki, I made the dough from The Nosher, and then made up my own vegetarian “beef” filling. I would make a few changes to the dough recipe though, since it was definitely much stickier than I was expecting, and I needed a LOT of flour during the rolling out process to make it manageable. The original recipe calls for 4 cups, which I weighed out as 480g, but I would recommend increasing it to 4 1/2 cups, or 540g to have a more manageable dough. I probably used at least 3/4 cup when rolling out the dough, probably closer to a full cup, so if I make this recipe again, I’ll just add more flour to the dough in the first place.

The issue that arises when adding flour is you have to add more yeast. I did have an issue with my dough not rising very much, so I would probably increase to using about 1 tablespoon of yeast, or a packet and a half, to get a better rise. Who knows, perhaps I’ll try this again in the next few weeks with these adjustments and see what happens!

Update 5/23/20: I made these with my adjustments, including using a packet and a half of yeast and more flour, and they turned out better! The dough was easier to work with, rose properly and was more fluffy after being baked. Success! Also means I got better photos out of them, so it was a double win!

For the filling, I wanted to make a vegetarian filling but also one with protein, since these piroshki were going to be the main dish for dinner. I like Beyond plant-based “meat,” so I went with Beyond plant-based ground beef. If you’re not vegetarian, you could just use regular ground beef for this recipe. In any case, here’s the recipe I made!

Cabbage Mushroom “Beef” Piroshki

Makes 16 piroshki

Adapted from The Nosher

Ingredients:

Dough

1 tbsp or 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast/instant yeast (I used instant)

1 tsp granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups warm water (I did 125˚F, but follow the guidelines on the yeast packet)

4 1/2 cups (540 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup canola oil

1 large egg

Filling

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/2 sweet onion, diced

8 oz crimini mushrooms (or mushroom of choice), sliced

1 package (16 oz) Beyond Beef

12-15 leaves Napa cabbage, sliced thin

1 tbsp hoisin sauce

Paprika, salt, and pepper, to taste

1 egg with a splash of water for egg wash

Directions

Mix the yeast, sugar, and warm water together and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes, until foamy, which means the yeast has activated. Beat together the egg and oil.

Stir together the flour and salt in a stand mixer.  Add the yeast mixture and the egg mixture to a well in the flour, then knead with the dough hook until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes on low-medium speed, until the dough is soft and smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rise at room temperature for about an hour, until approximately doubled in size (it may not double all the way). While the dough rises, prepare the filling.

For the filling, heat a large skillet on medium heat. Heat one teaspoon of the olive oil over medium heat, then add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic, and saute until the onions become translucent and the mushrooms start to release their juices, about 6-7 minutes. Add the cabbage, hoisin sauce, and seasonings to taste and cook until the cabbage is wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.

Push vegetables to the sides of the pan and heat the second teaspoon of olive oil in the pan, then add the Beyond Beef. Cook for a few minutes, or until the Beyond Beef has taken on a slightly darker color (this doesn’t take long). Remove the filling from the pan and allow to cool slightly before assembling the piroshki.

To assemble the piroshki, turn the risen dough out onto a very well-floured surface and use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Roll one portion at a time into a circle about 6-7″ in diameter. Place approximately 3-4 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the circle. Fold the circle in half by pulling one edge over the top, crimping down onto the bottom half, then twisting the dough to close it. Place it with the seam up on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet, a couple inches apart.

Repeat with the remaining portions of dough, then allow to rise a second time for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and beat together the egg and a splash of water. Use this egg wash to brush over the outside of each piroshki. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the piroshki are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Enjoy!

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Best Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

So here I am, still on a carrot kick this spring while sheltering in place. I made a half recipe of this carrot cake a couple weeks ago, and compared it with a half recipe of the Super Moist Carrot Cake which I posted about in the first year of this blog. My parents and I agreed that we actually like this one from Live Well Bake Often better, so here it is!

This cake doesn’t really have a carrot flavor, but the carrot adds moisture to the cake. I also added raisins to it, which add little bursts of sweetness throughout the cake, but you can leave them out if you don’t like raisins. I actually made a half recipe of the super moist carrot cake this past weekend for Easter, which was also delicious, but not as good as this one. This cake also baked through much more evenly than the “super moist” one, which got overbaked on the outside and remained underbaked in the middle, so that was another check mark in the winning column for this cake. I halved the recipe, since I still don’t have my normal outlet of bringing it to work where baked goods magically disappear, so here’s the recipe halved!

Best Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Live Well Bake Often

Makes 1 9-inch round cake

Ingredients

Cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp allspice

90 ml (3/8 cup) canola oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup plain applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (150g) freshly grated carrots (about 1.5-2 medium carrots, or 1 large)

1/3 cup raisins (optional)

Frosting:

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1-1.5 cups powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, Grease the sides of the pan and the parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a stand mixer or by hand, beat together the oil and sugars, then beat in the applesauce, vanilla, and eggs until well combined. Stir in the grated carrots.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until just combined. Add the raisins, if using, and stir until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely while you prepare the frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, a couple minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat for another 10-20 seconds. Gradually add the powdered sugar with the mixer on low, until you achieve the desired consistency for your frosting.

Frost a completely cooled cake with whatever decorations you fancy!

Enjoy!

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Some nice spring flowers along with a nice spring cake!