new blog!

It’s moving day here at Chow Bella. I (unfortunately) no longer live in Italy, therefore I decided to create a new blog, one that is more well-suit to my life nowadays.

New blog: Stir/Crazy

www.stircrazynyc.weebly.com

If you enjoyed reading my posts here at Chow Bella, please subscribe to Stir/Crazy (you can still do this via email) and continue joining me in my adventures in cooking, baking, and being a first-year teacher!

You can also like my facebook page to get informed about new posts and updates!

Happy snacking!

brown sugar chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

DSC_1747

Things teachers get excited about:

  • Abandoned, slightly used 3-ring binders
  • Tape
  • Stolen Questionably obtained beakers and graduated cylinders
  • Filing cabinets
  • Tape

Through the course of my preparations for my first year of teaching, I’ve learned many things. The most important of all my newly developed skills is the ability to forage for supplies. As in, if you are walking down the hall and see something semi-usable that does not seem to have a current owner, you grab it. Then you hide it. Because somehow, somewhere down the line, you’ll need it.

My most recent acquisitions include the aforementioned binder, some scissors, a stack of old National Geographic magazines, and 4-5 previously used (but only 25% filled) notebooks. Don’t ask me where I hid them. I’ll never tell.

I currently have my eye on some hanging wall pocket folders, but that heist is going to require some premeditation, strategizing, and possibly a wig.

DSC_1736

Definitely a wig.

After a long day in the Blackboard Jungle, sometimes cookies are a non-negotiable necessity. You try to talk yourself out of it. You eyeball the carrots in your fridge and contemplate what your life would be like if you were the kind of person that could find those a satisfactory alternative. You look wistfully at your skinny jeans, banished to the Shame Corner in your closet. You spy, with your little eye, your yoga pants, so friendly and stretchy, ask the Muffin Top Gods for forgiveness, and reach for the measuring cup.

You solemnly do ab workouts the entire time the cookies are in the oven.

DSC_1743

 

These are chewy and delicious and the chocolate chips add a little extra punch of sweetness. You could also add nuts, or, if you have no shred of decency and morals whatsoever, throw some raisins in.

Recipe for Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper) and set aside.

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in thirds, combining after every addition.

Add oats and chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Drop cookie dough by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until edges are golden-brown.

spinach quinoa cakes with lemon dill sauce

DSC_1753

This is the pinnacle of healthy indulgence. The crown jewel of Things That Taste Sinful But Aren’t. Step aside, FroYo, and surrender your throne. You were only ever a vehicle for cheesecake bites and Reese’s peanut butter cups anyways.

Everybody is all about quinoa lately, and if you aren’t, you need to be. Not only is it delicious and versatile, it’s a complete protein! It contains all nine amino acids that the human diet requires. Once upon a sophomore year, I would have been able to recite AND draw out all of those chemical structures. Now I just munch on them.

DSC_1734

I happened to have Rainbow Quinoa on hand (hence the pretty colors), but any type will work. Before you cook quinoa, you want to be sure to give it a good rinse, otherwise the end product might have a strange, bitter taste. The general formula for cooking quinoa involves a 2 : 1 ratio of liquid : quinoa, and typically takes about 15-20 minutes. Cooking it in chicken stock (or any other kind of stock) is nice because of the added flavor boost, so what I typically do is use water and add half a bouillon cube to the pot.

Bouillon is not spelled at all how I expected.

DSC_1740

Another important lesson I’ve learned is that you should always chop way too much baby spinach, because when you wilt it down, it will all disappear and you’ll be sad about it. Just wildly overestimate how much you’ll need, because too much spinach is never a bad thing. Also, I used both white onions and green onions for these cakes, but you can use whatever kind you like.

I served these with a really quick and equally healthy sauce made from greek yogurt, lemon juice, and dill. So fresh and so good. (Good.)

DSC_1751

I lightly pan-fried these, but next time I’m going to try making them even healthier by baking them. Then I’m going to make them way less healthy by putting them in a burger bun and putting some avocado on top. Or in a pita pocket with tzatziki and onions and tomatoes. The possibilities are endless.

Recipe for Spinach Quinoa Cakes (adapted from Panini Happy)

  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced/grated
  • 7 oz. chopped baby spinach
  • 1/4 white onion, diced (you can use more or less, if you prefer)
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • 1 Tbsp. dill
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and spinach, and cook until spinach is wilted and onions are soft. Transfer mixture to a medium-sized bowl.

To the mixture, add quinoa, dill, salt, bread crumbs, eggs, and goat cheese crumbles. Gently combine all ingredients.

Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the skillet (it may be necessary to rinse the skillet from the previous use), and heat oil at medium heat. Once oil is hot, drop the quinoa mixture in and flatten to form cakes of desired size and thickness.

Allow cakes to cook on one side for 1-2 min before flipping. Once cakes are golden-brown on both sides, remove from pan. Serve cakes hot, with lemon dill dipping sauce.

 

Recipe for Lemon Dill dipping sauce

  • 1 cup Chobani (or any brand) non-fat plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. dill
  • 1 tsp. chives
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.

new digs and resolutions

My list of recent achievements:

  • I finished grad school and I am now a Master of Disaster Science Education
  • I got a job. Somebody actually wants to pay me a teeeeeeeny tiny amount of money to teach kids about science!
  • I found an apartment in New York City. This was by far the most challenging task on this list. It was hellish. I think that I saw every.single.apartment. on this island. But I found one and I LOVE IT.
  • I went to Ikea and bought furniture, because I did not previously own any.
  • I assembled said furniture all by myself (with the exception of the couch, which a friend was nice enough to do for me).
  • I only almost impaled myself with a screwdriver twice during the whole assembly process, and I only managed to sustain 11 bruises. This is particularly impressive, because, not unlike Ross, I bruise like a peach.
  • I spent two and a half hours making labels for my spice jars (pictures to follow). And then I alphabetized them. (kindly hold your applause till the end, Mother)
  • I did 90 minutes of hot yoga and survived to tell the tale.

Having done all of that, I feel as though I’m teetering dangerously on the verge of Growing Up, and one good Swiffering session is all it will take to push me over to the other side.

(I previously viewed the Swiffer as a means to push my possessions around on the floor. I now PICK THINGS UP before I Swiff.)

Surely someone who has matured to the point of no longer viewing the floor as an extra shelf can manage the added responsibility of, say, blogging more often? I think so. That is why I am resolving to blog once a week, instead of the pretty solid once-every-six-months pattern I’ve adopted. I now have my own kitchen (small, but allllll mine), and I have cookbooks, and the World Wide Interweb. I am going to come at you once a week with something delicious. It may not be fancy. It may be something as simple as grilled cheese with caramelized onions (a complete revelation, go try it). But it will be shared right here every single week. And if I can keep this up for the entire school year, next summer I will treat myself to a fancy new camera lens. And a damn cupcake.

See you soon!

Now look upon these adorable spice labels.

DSC_1755

These little magnetic jars are great, they stick right on the fridge, leaving you with more countertop and cabinet space for your two types of peanut butter and myriad of different hot sauces. I got them from my parents’ basement, a veritable treasure trove of housewares, but I’m pretty sure you can get them at Bed, Bath and Beyond too.

DSC_1756

Yes, one of the jars is missing a label. It’s driving me crazy. I have to go.

happy mother’s day!

Back Camera

I think this is the first time that I have been apart from my mom on Mother’s Day in my entire 23 years as a daughter. I wish that I could be home right now, making my mom some delicious brunch, and spending the day together having fun, watching movies, and probably cleaning out my dresser drawers (I WILL GET TO IT, MOTHER).

But although I can’t actually be there, I can use this blog post to talk about all of the things that make my mom awesome.

Let’s talk about how, even if I were at home right now, it would be impossible to arrange a Mother’s Day surprise that would be nearly as elaborate and well-executed as the surprises that she puts together for us every Christmas, birthday, Valentine’s Day, or any other celebratory occasion. This is the lady who BROKE INTO my apartment on my 21st birthday (while I was in class), covered everything in streamers and confetti and left Diet Coke, chocolate pizza, and an assortment of mini liquor bottles on my desk. Slightly amazing.

IMG_0076There is one very upsetting thing about my mother, though. You know that omniscience that is granted to mothers to allow them to know things that the rest of us just can’t? My mother’s got it in spades. The lady is ALWAYS RIGHT. Even if it takes me 6 years to realize it (looking at you, ugly prom dress), she is always, always right. And it only took me 23 years to figure it out.

Her resumé includes raising two daughters who, in addition to being a little stubborn, a little melodramatic, and a little crazy, are also incredibly photogenic.

DSC01349 DSC01174 DSC01831This blog is actually the perfect place to talk about my mom (and I do mention her frequently), because she is really the one who taught me how to cook and bake. She makes the most delicious food you will ever eat, and I hope I can one day do the same, and make it look as easy as she does. She’s always the voice of reason when it comes to eating well and being healthy, advocating for everything in moderation and depriving yourself of nothing. Everything I know (and lots of things I don’t know!) about food and love come from her, and I wish that I could be home right now, watching her scowl and surreptitiously remove some of the butter from whatever dough/batter I’m in the process of making.

I love you Mom also give me the Reporter Bag you never use it.

salty brown butter nutella-stuffed chocolate chip cookie bars

DSC_1681I spent 5 minutes trying to think of a shorter name for these bars (and, consequently, for this blog post). At the end, I couldn’t bring myself to leave anything out, and I decided that these bars are worthy of a 53-letter name. (Yes, I counted.) (No, I did not count carefully, so it might not actually be 53.)

These little monsters are going to become a regular occurrence in my life (jk Mom, never again) because they are THAT GOOD. I know this, because most of them were gone in about 12 minutes. And there were only two of us.

DSC_1665The first bit of magic is the browned butter. If you melt butter and let it stay on the heat for a little while, it starts to take on this beautiful amber-brown color, and suddenly the whole apartment is filled with this crazy, nutty smell that signals the imminent arrival of something delicious. You do have to babysit the butter though, because it will go from brown to burnt very quickly, and then it’s no good.

DSC_1671Once the browned-butter cookie dough is made, half of it is pressed into the pan, and that’s when good decision-making and rational thought go out the window. Because that’s when the whole thing gets covered in Nutella. Then the rest of the cookie dough gets pressed on top of the Nutella layer, sprinkled with sea salt, and baked. The salt on top is a perfect balance for the sugar-overload going on underneath it. You won’t be sorry.

Whatever you do, don’t do this while you wait for your cookie bars to bake…

DSC_1678Unless you are in the thick of final projects and papers, and in that case, you deserve a treat while you wait for your other treat to bake.

At least you worked it off by going to the gym exactly zero times in the past 2 weeks!

DSC_1679As you can see, a lot of my chocolate chips ended up melting into the cookie dough, rather than retaining their chippy integrity. This happened because the dough was still a little warm after the addition of the browned butter, causing the chips to start to melt on contact. This can be easily fixed by letting the dough cool for a little bit before throwing the chocolate chips in. The only reason I point this out is because the chips that didn’t melt into the dough re-hardened when the bars cooled, which added a nice little crunch to the otherwise soft and gooey texture.

Even if all your chips melt, this is still going to be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

DSC_1691Salty Brown Butter Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white (granulated) sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Nutella
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 325°, and grease an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ baking pan.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and continue cooking until amber flecks begin to appear, and butter takes on a rich, brown color. Remove from heat and transfer browned butter to a large mixing bowl.

Combine the browned butter with the brown sugar and white sugar. Cream the mixture using an electric hand (or stand) mixer until pale and smooth.

Add eggs and vanilla, and combine thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and combine thoroughly (either using the mixer or by hand).

Allow the mixture to cool completely, then add the chocolate chips.

Press half of the cookie dough into the greased pan. Spread a layer of Nutella (the amount is up to you!) evenly over the cookie dough.

Press the remaining cookie dough on top of the Nutella layer, then sprinkle with sea salt. (Again, the amount here is up to you, but I recommend not being too shy about it!)

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (except for a possible Nutella smear!). Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

lemon blackberry petit fours

DSC01830

Spring is coming, even if I have to drag it here by its teeth. For a dinner party tonight, I had to make a dessert that would be easy to eat, without the fuss of slicing and plating and other tasks that delay consumption. I landed on petit fours – they’re basically tiny, bite-sized layer cakes, and they are fun to decorate and easy to eat. In keeping with the impending season, I chose lemon curd and blackberry preserves as the fillings, to give these little nuggets a kick of citrus-y, fruity freshness.

p.s. The colors in that picture are not enhanced. They really are that obnoxiously neon.

ingredientsI’m not entirely sure why I bothered to take an “ingredients picture” if I was only going to include half of the ingredients in it, but it happened, and I think we should all try to move on. The diet Pepsi has nothing to do with the recipe, but it fueled me through the whole messy process, so it deserves a cameo in this post. And I forgot to remove it before I took the picture. Frazzled.

lemond curd 1

These are total cheater’s petit fours, as I used frozen Sara Lee butter pound cake rather than making my own cake. Judge not, this lets you skip one giant step in this multi-step process. Also – and I was surprised at this – the cake itself is actually delicious! Plus, if you start working with it right out of the freezer, it will be much easier to slice up. Of course, if you insist on being a baking rockstar and making your own cake, you can just freeze it yourself before working on it. I’m not trying to tell you how to life your life.

DSC01805While the cake is still frozen, slice off the edges and even it up so that you are left with a nice, smooth, symmetrical block. Save the scraps! They make a yummy little snack to munch on while you are baking. Or afterwards, with some coffee or some ice cream or whatever you want!

DSC01808The term “petit four” means “small oven” in French. Originally, petit fours were baked in coal-fired brick ovens as they cooled, to take advantage of the residual heat. They can be sweet or savory. I’m not entirely sure what the distinction between petit fours and canapés is, as both seem to refer to small appetizers that must be consumed en masse in order to feel anywhere near satiated. And then there are amuse-bouches, (translation: mouth amusers). I think generally “canapé” is used to refer to a savory appetizer, and amuse-bouches fall into this category as well. The term “petit four”, conversely, is usually applied to tiny little desserts. Somebody please straighten me out if I have this all wrong. Regardless of what these are called, we clearly have the French to thank for them (and for the resultant confusion regarding terminology).

DSC01816 DSC01814Before making these, I recommend laying out newspapers or wax paper all over your work surface – the icing will drip everywhere, and this will cut down the clean-up process substantially. The frosting is basically royal icing, so keep that in mind when selecting your fillings – something with a little tang or tartness will help balance out the sweetness of the coating.

I used coconut extract in the frosting, but almond extract, or even mint extract (depending on the fillings) would work well too!

DSC01826Recipe for Lemon Blackberry Petit Fours 

  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (recipe at My Baking Addiction)
  • 1/2 cup blackberry preserves (any other fruit preserves will work as well)
  • 2 frozen Sara Lee butter pound cakes

Prepare the lemon curd and let it cool (you can speed this up by putting the bowl of lemon curd in an ice bath).

Remove the pound cakes from the freezer and trim all edges and sides (including the top) until they are two smooth blocks. Slice each block into 3 layers (like you would to make a layer cake).

On top of two of the layers, spread a layer of lemon curd (amount of lemon curd is up to you, but don’t use too much or the petit fours won’t hold together as well). On another two cake layers, spread the blackberry preserves.

Stack each cake so that their is a layer with blackberry preserves, topped with a layer with lemon curd, topped with the final layer. You may need to trim the sides again to make sure they are perfectly even.

Slice each cake into squares – mine were about 1″ squares, but you can do whatever size you like.

Put all the squares back in the freezer until you are ready to frost them (this will keep them from falling apart while frosting).

Frosting:

  • 4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. coconut extract
  • food coloring (if desired)

Set up a double-boiler, or a heatproof bowl balanced over a saucepan of simmering water. Put all the ingredients in the bowl, and stir to combine. Bring the frosting up to a lukewarm temperature, so that it is “liquid-y” enough to easily coat the cakes.

Set up a cooling rack with newspaper/wax paper underneath to catch all the drippings from the frosting.

Remove the cake squares from the freezer and dip each one into the frosting, then set on the cooling rack. The icing will take 5-10 minutes to solidify. Once the icing is solid, you can remove the cakes from the cooling rack and place them on a serving platter. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!