Lavender Shortbread

I have always been curious about edible flowers. I've seen them, heard of them, but have never eaten them, until now. A few weeks ago, at my local farmer's market, I came across lavender buds, and knew that I had to have them.

Lavender is typically used in fragrances, candles, and cleaning products. I would guess that most people are unaware that it is actually edible! I decided to purchase the purple flower and try it out in some shortbread cookies. Coincidentally, Joy the Baker had blogged about lavender cookies a few weeks before I had bought some, and decided I would use her take on the cookie.

The dough was easy to work with, smelled delicious, and tasted even better. These are the perfect tea cookies, and give your mouth a lovely feel and taste! I will most certainly be making them again, as they make me feel quite sophisticated and feel as though I could easily fit in among the British :)

Lavender Cookies
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon raw turbinado sugar- I used granulated sugar for the cookies, but turbinado for the topping

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 eggs, beaten (for egg wash)

extra sugar for sprinkling on top (I used turbinado)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.

In a small spice grinder to grind up 1 tablespoon lavender and 1 tablespoon sugar. You could also use a mortar and pestle to grind the sugar and lavender together.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fit with the paddle attachment add butter, ground lavender mixture, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cream on medium speed until slightly more pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. There will still be raw sugar bits floating around. Add the flour. Mix on low speed until dough comes together. The dough will be crumbly, then begin to form when it continues to mix- about 5 minutes. Dump dough mixture out onto a clean surface and form into a ball with your hands. Shape each ball into a tube. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Grab the dough out of the refrigerator, and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Use a fork to prick the tops of the cookies. Brush very lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate cookies while oven preheats.

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When oven is preheated, bake cookies for 8 to 11 minutes, until just browned around the edges. Mine erred on the 8 minute side. Remove from oven. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies last, in an airtight container at room temprature, for up to 4-5 days.


Baked Eggs with Sauteed Mushrooms & Spinach

In my home, eggs are typically a breakfast food or included in any baked good. They are not, however, often served at dinner, with vegetables. I was intrigued by a recipe in Food & Wine in the October issue that highlighted an egg dish made with spinach and mushrooms, and decided to try and incorporate it into one of our weekly meal plans.

At first, I could not understand why someone would want eggs at any other meal besides breakfast, but after devouring this delicious dinner, I totally get it. Eggs are meant for dinner too. The combination of wine soaked mushrooms and a sauteed kale (spinach if you'd like), is heavenly, and paired with some sunny side up eggs, the meal turns into a real winner. Additionally, this meal is quick to make, so it's a perfect weeknight dinner!

Food & Wine magazine has truly wowed me with their last few issues. I am certainly glad that I subscribe to it now, and most definitely will in the future, as long as the recipes are this great. Unfortunately, this will also mean my stack of magazines will not diminish any time soon. Any suggestions for keeping recipes from magazines in a more organized, less space taking way?

Baked Eggs over Sauteed Mushrooms & Spinach
adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch pieces- I used an onion
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine
5 ounces baby spinach- I used kale
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs
4 slices of whole-grain toast

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the leek and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the butter and mushrooms. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are softened and most of the liquid is released, about 7-10 minutes. Uncover and add the soy sauce and red wine and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons, 5 minutes. Add the spinach (kale) and stir until wilted, 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Coat four 1-cup ramekins or small gratin dishes with oil. Transfer the mushrooms and spinach to the ramekins and crack an egg on top of each. At this step, I just kept my entire dish in my cast iron skillet, and cracked eggs on top. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the white is barely set and the yolks are runny. Let stand for 2 minutes; serve with the toasts.


Salted Caramels

I love salted caramels. Like LOVE. Like Super Duper LOVE them. The salty sweet combination is not only melt in your mouth delicious, but also addictive. Thankfully, this recipe makes more than I can possibly eat. I think.

I have never made salted caramels, and frankly did not want to even try to make them for fear of overeating them. This all changed when I received my swag bag at the Boston Brunchers Birthday Bash. The lovely little swag bag contained two different, beautiful cookbooks. One of them, the new Cook's Illustrated book, which hasn't even been opened yet,and the other, Salty Sweets, just begged me to open it. I have since made two recipes from this book, and both are extraordinary.

As soon as I turned to the Salted Caramels page, I knew I would be making them. I had some heavy cream waiting to be used, and a sweet tooth that needed to be satisfied. So my caramel making adventure began.

Caramel making can be tricky, and more importantly, the cook needs to always keep an eye on the hot liquid so that it does not burn. The directions in the book are very helpful, and ensure that the caramel will turn out well. A few words of caution though: always where shoes when making caramel in case the liquid splatters, keep stirring the pot to ensure even heating, and be prepared when the caramel bubbles profusely when the heavy cream mixture is added.

Overall, this recipe was very easy to make, as long as precautions are taken, and a careful eye is always on the pot. I suggest that you try it too! You'll love it, and more importantly, never have to buy caramels again!

Salted Caramels
from Salty Sweets, by Christie Matheson

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp fine sea salt
1.5 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel

1. Line the sides and bottom of an 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment
2. Combine the sea salt, butter, cream and vanilla in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil the mixture for roughly 4 minutes, and then remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a heavy medium sized saucepan (err on the larger side), combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved completely. Once the sugar is dissolved, boil without stirring- swirling the pan occasionally to keep the mixture cooking evenly- until it is a light amber color and the candy thermometer reads 340 degrees F. This should take about 7 minutes.
4. Turn the heat down to medium low, and carefully stir in the cream mixture. The addition of the cream will make everything foam a lot, so be prepared. Simmer the caramel, stirring often, until the it is 246 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 6-8 minutes. The temperature may hover in the 200 to 220 range for a while, and then it will start to increase pretty quickly, so watch it carefully.
5. Stir in the fleur de sel, then pour the caramel into the prepared baking dish. Do not scrape the saucepan or you might get some burned bits that might be stuck to the bottom. Let the caramel cool for at least 3 hours. Cut the carmel into 1 inch squares and wrap each square in waxed paper or aluminum foil. The caramels will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.