Back at It- Finally!

I promised to be back to blogging after my wedding, and I didn't come back. Then I made several attempts of setting deadlines for myself to be back at it- you know, after the family vacation, after a major job switch, after my birthday- you know the drill. Finally though, I realized that I missed blogging terribly and needed to have it back in my life. I'm hoping to be more regular with posting, and am super excited to really put my new DSLR to use. It was a wedding present to myself, and has gone very unused, much to my dismay. Typically I forget I even have it, which is quite awful. I plan to move it to a spot in my house that is much more in eyesight so that I never forget to pull it out when cooking.

Thankfully, I was still cooking and using all of my lovely shower and wedding gifts during my long absence, which means that my skills have not diminished, but rather, improved. I'm super excited to be back at sharing my meals with a bigger community!

Sidebar to all of this- while I do plan on posting more regularly, I also plan on broadening this blog's focus to include more aspects of my life. While I do love to cook and chat about it, I feel that it is probably better to keep the scope of my blog space a little wider which will allow me to discuss many different topics. There have been quite a few changes in my life, and I would love to write about my ever evolving situations, and how I try to cope with them, and use food as a method to both relieve stress, and provide community for others.

Without further ado, here are a few things that I've done in the past 6 months.

Visited family in Atlanta- This is my cousin's wife, me, and a few of her friends at Sweetwater Brewing Company

Loads of carrots from our garden this summer. Surprisingly, the carrots grew extremely well in our crazy New England weather

Using up lots of chard from our garden to make a delicious baked chicken and chard dinner courtesy of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

The first of many, many batches of Christmas cookies.

Meet Porter, our new puppy aptly named after my favorite style of beer. We now have both a beer and a cheese dog.

Camping in Freeport, Maine with the dogs.

Jack and me on our wedding day at the winery where we held our reception

Took part in my very first Reach the Beach relay in New Hampshire with my new co-workers.

My husband (eek!), and me on our annual vacation at the New Jersey shore with my family

This is a picture of the cake table at our wedding and the 18 cakes that Jack and I made for our guests.


OXO Giveaway Winner

Goodness it has been a while! I apologize for the long delay in announcing the winner of the OXO giveaway, however life and work have both been a little crazier than normal.

So without further ado, using Random.org, I picked the winner of the giveaway! Comment #4, Ashley,who mentioned a Yoshi Blade has won the giveaway! Please contact me with your mailing information to receive the generous gift from OXO.

In the meantime, in light of my busy schedule, and my wedding that will be occurring in 3 weeks, I am going to take a break from blogging, and will be back in late June. Don't worry though, I will still be cooking and baking. In fact, I just baked 20 cakes for our wedding last weekend! Hope everyone has a great few weeks!


OXO Giveaway!

Whoever told me getting married was easy, was clearly incorrect, or had a wedding planner. I have been swamped with both a new job at work and with planning our upcoming wedding (6 weeks away! Eek!). Unfortunately, I have not even had a chance to blog about anything that I have been up to, including trying out all of the new kitchen toys I received at my shower! I have certainly been in the kitchen though, making tiered birthday cakes, peanut butter eggs, and Easter dinners, but have not even had a moment to even take a picture of anything I have been doing. Yikes!

Recently though, I was given the opportunity to test out OXO brand locking storage containers. I have always been a huge fan of OXO and all of their products. In fact, all of the utensils and some of the kitchen gadgets I registered for my wedding were OXO. Everything they make has been tested countless times for quality, durability, and most importantly, effectiveness, so when given the chance to review the containers, I knew I was in for a treat!

The containers were sent in 3 different sizes, one medium sized, one smaller sized, and one that was appropriately sized for salad dressings and any other condiments. As a daily lunch packer, I was so happy to see that I would be testing out the perfect storage piece for my salad dressings! I have come home to many lunch boxes saturated in vinegarettes and Cesar dressings, which always make for a miserable me. The OXO containers did not leak at all though, and I am pleased to report that I will be making the switch to them entirely, especially because they are BPA free.

As a thank you for my testing, OXO has given me an additional set of locking containers to give away. To enter to win, please post a comment on my blog about your favorite kitchen gadget by Friday, May 11. Using a random number generator, I will choose and contact the winner. Good Luck!


Homemade Bagels

Recently, I have started to try to make a few recipes that are a little on the challenging side for me- homemade marshmallows, vegetarian meals as I have given meat up for Lent, and this recipe for bagels. When I started to see a lot of fellow bloggers in the blogosphere attempt bagels successfully, I decided that it was time to get over my fear.

Of course, being a little bit crazy, I decided to make bagels for the first time, and bring them for my swap item at one of the Boston Food Swaps. Daring, yes, but isn't that what sharing food with complete strangers is? Either way, these bagels turned out fantastically! They were much easier to make than I had originally thought, much like marshmallows, and I even had a lot of fun poking the holes in them and swinging them around my finger.

I highly suggest making the bagels on a free afternoon. Even better, pair with some cinnamon honey butter or homemade jam.

Simple Bagels
from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) cool water
pinch of yeast

4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) cool water
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Water bath
water to fill a 10"-diameter pan about 1" deep
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or brown sugar

Combine the starter ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Next day, combine the puffy starter with all of the dough ingredients and knead—by hand, electric mixer, or bread machine—to form a stiff but not dry dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour. Gently deflate the dough, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They'll puff up very slightly.

While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water and malt (or sugar, which I used) to a very gentle boil in a wide-diameter (about 10") pan. A 10" electric frying pan works well here. Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole until it is about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 3 ½" across). Be careful as it is easy to fling the bagel off of your finger. Place each bagel on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Be sure to grease or use parchment. I did not and ruined a baking sheet.

Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the simmering water. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil, if necessary. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, or the end of a wooden spoon, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Bake the bagels for about 25 minutes, or until they're as deep brown as you like. To top with seeds, remove them from the oven after about 15 minutes, spray with water or Quick Shine, and sprinkle with seeds. Return to the oven to finish baking. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.


February Foodie PenPal Reveal!

During early February, I stumbled across a blog post from a fellow blogger that detailed a foodie penpal group, and gifts she had received from her penpal. Also in the blog post was a link to the organizer of the event, and the opportunity to participate. As soon as I saw that I could join, I jumped for joy! I love a surprise package in the mail, and if I can send one to someone else, even better!

The premise of the event is that you are assigned both a blogger to send treats to, as well as someone you will receive treats from. You exchange information, food allergies, and anything else important, send the packages by the 15th of the month, and then blog about what you received. While there are no strict guidelines on what to send, the gifts should stay under $15 total, which makes this a super affordable event to participate in.

I was super excited to receive my package in the mail from Lindsay, and fortunately for me, it arrived about 5 minutes before I was to go away for a weekend. I opened it immediately, and saw a giant cookie that was waiting to be eaten. It was both gluten free, and delicious! The rest of the box contained a variety of granola bars and gourmet nut butters. It was a box made for someone like me! My favorite surprise was a jar of Biscoff spread that is so addicting!

This was so fun to take part in, and I will definitely be doing it again in March. If you would also like to join the fun, here's the deets:

If you’re interested in participating for March, please send an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)

Email Lindsay by March 4th if you would like to participate.


Bulgur and Chickpea Salad and Roslindale Community Kitchen

My neighborhood, Roslindale, has started this great community kitchen that meets monthly. I have only been able to attend one session, but the basic gist is that a group of about 15 people get together, bring ingredients for a specific recipe, and cook together. When all have finished cooking, the dishes are divided amongst the attendees, so everyone goes home with a whole host of meals. This worked really well for me as my fiance is out of town during the week, and as such, my desire to cook for one dwindles.

At this event, I was introduced to Bulgur and Chickpea salad. I have seen dishes like it, such as tabbouleh, but had never tried this variety. After watching fresh parsley being chopped, and smelling the mix of garlic and lemon juice, I knew that I had to try this recipe at home- one portion wouldn't be enough for me!

The recipe is super simple, makes enough for 4-6 people, and tastes even better on days 2 and 3, making it ideal for leftovers and lunches. Most of the non perishables will probably be stocked in your pantry already, so the salad is great for weeknight meals as well.

If you would like more information about the Roslindale Community Kitchen, hop on over to Greening Rozzie's website for details. It's really a great concept, so if your neighborhood does not have one, start one!

Bulgur and Chickpea Salad

1 cup fine or medium ground bulgur- this can be found in the bulk section of grocery stores
2 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 3 lemons
salt and pepper
7 tablespoons EVOO (adjust to taste, I used a little more)
1 14 oz can chickepeas, drained
3.5 cups loosely packed flat leaf parsley
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves

Soak the bulgur in lots of cold water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and squeeze out excess water. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, lemon juice, S&P, and EVOO. Soak the drained chickpeas in this mixture for 10 minutes, and then stir in the bulgur. Mix in the parsley and mint when ready to serve.


Happy Birthday Pupcakes!

I never thought I would be one of those crazy dog owners that talk to their dog, take the dog everywhere, and make the dog a birthday cake. Then again, I never liked to cook before either...

In addition to it being my dog, Gorgi's (short for Gorgonzola), second birthday, it was also his first "adopt-o-versary," which meant that his treat had to be extra special. I perused a few websites with homemade dog treats, cupcakes, and cakes, and finally settled on this one because it did not have peanut butter. Of course, I would have a dog that does not like peanut butter.

The recipe is super simple to throw together, and is almost a twist on a cheddar apple biscuit, sans the cream cheese frosting. Gorgi LOVED the pupcakes, and I loved to watch him eat them! Unfortunately, he devoured them too quickly for my camera to catch.

Happy Birthday Pupcakes
adapted from here
*note that I halved this recipe and ended up with about 9 pupcakes

½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup water
1 large apple
1½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons of baking powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of honey
2 eggs
1 cup grated cheese

1-8oz low fat cream cheese such as Philadelphia
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons of honey
Dog Biscuits for decoration- I used Milkbone

Preheat oven at 375 degrees and grease muffin tins, if necessary.

Core, slice and finely dice the apple and set aside.

Mix flour, oatmeal, baking powder and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl.

Blend the yogurt, water, oil, honey and eggs together and then stir in the cheese and apple. Add the cheese mix to the flour mixture and stir until completely mixed. Spoon into the muffin tins, filling each cup about three quarters full.

Bake for about 20 minutes

Let rest in the muffin tins for a few minutes, then remove and let sit until completely cool.

For the frosting, combine the cream cheese (at room temperature), honey and yogurt until smooth. Spread on the cupcakes. Add dog biscuits for decoration if you choose.


Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake, or What to Do with Leftover Sauerkraut

I am not a believer in New Year's resolutions. I find that most people set up unrealistic expectations for themselves, only to end up disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I applaud those who are able to keep their resolutions, but for myself, I find that it is better to continually make small goals and keep working to achieve those goals. For example, I would really love to start blogging more frequently, but I also know that from now until June 9, I will be crazy busy with wedding planning, so I will not set a rigid goal until after that time.

Enough about resolutions, and onto how to use up all of the leftover sauerkraut in your fridge. Growing up in Central Pennsylvania afforded me the lovely chance to always eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. It was a family holiday and tradition. The only problem with the meal was well, no one seemed to love the sauerkraut part, so there was always a plethora of the fermented cabbage leftover.

Last week I stumbled across a chocolate cake recipe that incorporated sauerkraut, and after an initial "that can't possibly be good" thought, I decided to give it a whirl. It was this or the kraut was getting pitched in the garbage. The recipe came from a reputable source, so I believed that it would turn out well. After putting together the batter, popping it in the oven, and making the chocolate sauce, I was convinced that this would be a terrific chocolate cake.

I was not mistaken. The chocolate bundt was one of the best I have ever had, and the chocolate drizzle sauce was sensational. Come January 2nd next year, I will most definitely know what I will be doing with my leftover kraut!

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
from Scharffen Berger


2/3 cup sauerkraut
½ cup SCHARFFEN BERGER Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup low-fat milk- I used 2% organic milk

For the Glaze
4 ounces SCHARFFEN BERGER 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate- I used Ghiradelli 60%
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon light corn syrup


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Tip- Use cocoa powder to dust the pan instead of flour for a chocolate cake

Put the sauerkraut in a bowl of cold water. Squeeze it out with your hands a few times and drain. Do not squeeze all the moisture out. Chop the sauerkraut into fine pieces.

Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the vanilla. Slowly add the egg mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.

Add half the cocoa/flour mixture. Beat until well combined. Add the milk. Add the remaining cocoa/flour mixture.

Finally add in the chopped sauerkraut.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cake begins to come from the sides of the pan. Cool completely on a rack. Invert onto serving plate when thoroughly cooled.

To make the glaze, combine the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until thoroughly melted and combined. When the sauce is cooled to room temperature and is still pourable, glaze the entire cake or by piece.