Happy Things

Hello all! Can you believe that February is already well on its way? Also, it’s only 10 days until my due date. I’m so ready for this kid to arrive!

Here are some things that have brought me joy over the past few weeks.

{2/52} Splash!

My first attempt at a splash photo. It made a huge mess.

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Grapefruit + Avocado salad (spring greens, grapefruit, avocado, sea salt + fresh ground pepper, and a grapefruit juice vinaigrette). See the completed salad HERE.

Sam & Amanda

My sister, Amanda, got engaged. I had the fun of taking the engagement photos. See more HERE.

Flowers From Reuben

Reuben surprised me with flowers one evening.

Wintry Walk

On days when the weather will permit, it’s been fun to take leisurely walks through the woods.

Terrain Order

I decided that with part of my birthday money I should make an order from Terrain. I chose the Weck jelly jars and a wooden spoon.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons. Something new-to-me. So far I’ve made creme brulee with them, but I also want to try my hand at lemon curd.

Honey on Fresh Bread

Honey on fresh baked bread (with butter, of course). Is there anything better?

Hope you all are having a smashing 2013 so far. What has brought you joy lately?

Crunchy Maple Granola + Baby Update

Maple Granola

Hello there! Hope you all had an awesome holiday season. I wish I could say ours was rockin’, but it seems like we’ve been battling one sickness after another.

I was going to make Nutella Stuffed Cookies for ya’ll, but after the indulgence pigging out from the holidays, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Maple Granola

So I went a little healthier route and made granola instead.

{1/52} Granola

For Christmas I received the lovely Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, from which I got this granola. I think I’m going to really enjoy cooking my way through that book.

This granola is bonkers good. The flavors are simply wonderful and it bakes up nice and crunchy. Plus, it super-customizable — always a good thing in my book. You can change up the type of nuts or fruit for a totally different result.

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And now for a bit of a baby/pregnancy update. I’m at 34.5 weeks (the above photo was taken at 33 weeks), or 5.5 weeks from my due date! It kinda scares and excites me to think that we’ll be responsible for the life of a tiny, helpless baby in a little over a month.

For now I’m doing my best to eat right to keep this life inside of me healthy. Onward to this new adventure!

You can read more about my pregnancy on my personal blog.

Maple Granola

Recipe Notes:

  • I think the use of egg white to help bind the granola is brilliant. It didn’t make the granola as “clumpy” as the recipe suggested it would, but it was still quite crunchy.
  • The fruit made the granola get a tad softer. Next time I might leave it out altogether. After all I’m not a huge fan of fruit in my granola.
  • Coarse sea salt makes this granola really lovely. Every once in a while you get a bite with a little salt crystal. Delightful!
  • The original recipe called for olive oil, but I used butter since olive oil can break down with baking. You could also use coconut oil if you prefer.

Crunchy Maple Granola | adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | makes about 7 cups | PRINTABLE PAGE

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup pecans or nuts of choice
  • 1/4 flax seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 cups dried fruit of choice (I used figs and apricots), optional

Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 300° F (150° C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) In a large bowl, mix together the oats, coconut, nuts, flax seeds, cinnamon and salt. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Mix in the maple syrup.

3) Pour the butter/maple syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and toss to coat well. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add to the dry ingredients and toss.

4) Spread the granola out onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until the granola is nicely toasted, golden, and feels dry, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

5) Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. When completely cool, break up the granola and stir in the fruit. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. You can also store in the refrigerator of freezer for longer periods of time.

Simple Sage Stuffing/Dressing from Scratch

Sage Stuffing

Confession: I have a special place in my heart for boxed Stove Top dressing. Granted, my mom doctors it up quite a bit with wild rice and turkey, but there’s just something about it that says “Thanksgiving” to me.

Sage Stuffing

I’ve always wanted to try making stuffing from scratch. Though tasty, boxed dressings are often loaded with unnatural ingredients. But making it myself always seemed a bit daunting. How are you supposed to find a recipe with just the right amount of spices so it’s tasty and liquid so it isn’t soggy?

Sage Stuffing

Then I decided to jump right in and give a recipe a try. To my surprise, it was uber easy and no-fuss.


Sage Stuffing

Will it replace your beloved Stove Top? No. But what could without using high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and MSG? Is it a good natural, healthy alternate? Definitely yes!

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s a great canvas for your culinary creativity. You could so easily add your favorite ingredients: cranberries, wild rice, turkey, nuts, whatever you please!

Recipe Notes:

If you’re using homemade or low-sodium chicken broth, you’ll probably want to add a little extra salt to the stuffing mixture.

Simple Sage Stuffing from Scratch | adapted from Martha Stewart | Printable Page | makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf bread (whole wheat, white, or whatever you please) torn into bite-sized pieces to make about 8 cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dish and foil
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage (depending on how “sagey” you like your dressing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 350° F (175° C). Place the bread crumbs on two rimmed baking sheets and bake in preheated oven until nice and dry, about 14 minutes, stirring & rotating the pans halfway through baking. Set aside to cool (these can be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container for up to 1 week).

2) In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery, season with salt + pepper to taste, and cook until nice and tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sage and celery seeds and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

3) Place the bread crumbs in a bowl and add the sauted vegetables. In a separate bowl, mix together the chicken broth and egg. Add to the bread crumbs and toss together until evenly moistened. If you’re using homemade or low-sodium chicken broth, you may want to add a bit more salt at this point.

4) Place the stuffing in a buttered 13×9-inch pan or a 10-inch cast iron skillet and bake at 350 until warmed and the bread has soaked up the broth, about 25-35 minutes. You can also store the un-baked dressing in the refrigerator until ready to heat.

Honey Roasted Pears

Honey Roasted Pears

I must admit that November is not my favorite month. In Norther Minnesota, most of the colorful leaves are long gone and everything seems brown, grey and cold. I long for the lakes to freeze over so we can go skating and for snow so we can ski.

Honey Roasted Pears

But this is the month to catch your breath before winter settles in. A time to dig out your extra warm coats, boots and sweaters in preparation for the freezing-cold days ahead.

It’s also a time to enjoy warm tea on grey days and hot, filling desserts on chilly evenings.

Honey Roasted Pears

These roasted pears are the perfect little treat for an otherwise gloomy evening. They cook up without fuss and are fantastic with a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream. You really must serve them with ice cream.

HONEY ROASTED PEARS | adapted from Sprouted Kitchen | Printable Page | makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe pears
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • good quality vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450° F (230° C). Slice the pears in half lengthwise and cut out the centers.

2. In a small cast iron skilled place the butter, honey, vanilla and salt. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Add the pears to the pan, cut side down. Continue to simmer for 2 more minutes. Turn the peaches over and transfer to the oven. Bake for 12 minutes or until the pears are nice and soft and the sauce has caramelized.

4. Serve hot or warm with vanilla ice cream and the caramel sauce. Enjoy!

Honey Roasted Pears

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Perhaps I have been spared a bit of the usual hatred for Brussels Sprouts by the simple fact that my mom didn’t cook them much when we were kids. Of course I’d heard so many bad things about this leafy green that I somehow had it in my mind that they were gross and to be avoided.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Then I saw beautiful pictures of roasted Brussels Sprouts floating around the web. They didn’t looks so bad. In fact, they looked pretty good, delicious even.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

So I purchased a small bag from our local health-food store and roasted them up. They. Were. So. Good. It is my firm belief that roasting will transform nearly any vegetable into something scrumptious (perhaps with the exception of beets).

00Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts3

These little veggies pack a pretty good nutritional punch as well. Just one cup provides over 100% of your daily intake of vitamins K and C. Perfect for a pregnant me.

If you are an avid Brussels Sprouts hater and have never tried roasting them, may I suggest purchasing a small bag and giving it a try. There’s not much to lose, and you may find that you love (or at least don’t hate) them.

Note: this is a method, not a recipe with specific ingredient amounts. Tailor it to your own tastes!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts | by Erica Lea | Printable Page

Ingredients:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • good-quality butter for serving, optional (my favorite brand)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205° C). Wash the Brussels sprouts and remove the outer layer of leaves and any that are yellow or ugly-looking. Cut off the brown stubs and slice in half.

2) Arrange the sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, cut side up. Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground pepper.

3) Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes, flip the sprouts over and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender and the outsides are nicely colored.

4) Serve with extra salt and pepper and (my favorite) good-quality butter. Enjoy!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Spicy sweet pumpkin cupcakes with freshly ground espresso, whipped cream and caramel sauce. Convinced yet?

As Reuben and I drove home from a birthday party for my little niece (I made these for the occasion), I mentioned that I was going to eat a cupcake when we got home. “My cupcake?!” Reuben protested. I assured him there were two left.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

You can check out the step-by-step instructions and recipe over on the Tasty Kitchen Blog.

Hope you’re having a marvelous Monday!

xoxo

Erica Lea

Strawberry Galette + The Winner

Strawberry Galette 004

If I were to choose my bane in baking, it would be pie crust. No matter what I do, it seems, my crusts inevitably turn out tough or crumbly, even if I use all white flour.

Grandma K. agrees with me. Pies are evil.

Strawberry Galette 006

This recipe may of have changed my mind. Slightly. It was the first pie crust that I was sort of proud of. There was no toughness in sight, it was flaky not crumbly and had lovely flavor. I’m still mighty leery of pies, but I just might have the courage make another using this crust recipe.

Recipe notes:

  • The original recipe called for a basil cream sauce, but it sounded a bit strange to me so I left it out.
  • Reuben, who does not like overly sweet desserts, thought this was bit tart. Perhaps another time I would increase the sweetness slightly.
  • With the leftover dough and strawberries, I made little hand pies.

Strawberry Galette | adapted from Martha Stewart | makes 8-10 servings | printable page

For The Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water

For The Galette

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Make the dough: (I mixed the dough by hand using a pastry cutter) Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add ice water, and pulse until just combined (dough will still be crumbly). Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out a 10-inch round, and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the galette: Cut strawberries lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Reserve end pieces for another use. Toss slices with 1/4 cup sugar and the cornstarch, and immediately arrange them in concentric circles on dough. Start 1 inch from edge, overlapping slices slightly. Fold edge of dough over berries. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. Whisk together yolk and water. Brush dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Dot berries with butter. Bake until crust is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm with basil cream and fried basil.

Now For the Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of Pioneer Woman’s Cooking Essentials is…

Commenter #77, Nikki Sportsman, who said: “on toast, with jam.”

That’s one of my favorites, too!

Congratulations, Nikki! I will contact you soon.

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Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! Have a lovely day.