Sweet And Crumby

Baking, a Love Story


Life’s Rough? Let’s Throw Some Salad At It {Stone Fruit and Arugula Summer Salad}

This grilled plum, peach and pluot salad atop peppery arugula, dotted with crumbles of fig goat cheese, sprinkled with toasted pepitas, sauteed pancetta and chopped prosciutto, was exactly what the doctor ordered so to speak. Now, that’s a mouthful, figuratively and literally my friends. It was dreamy.

Food, it’s what I throw at every problem. And no, not as in, “Duck! A tomato is coming your way!”, but as in, “Here’s a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies to heal what’s ailing you.” For the most part, my kids are pretty happy with this first line of defense. I can’t tell you the number of chocolate chip cookies we have eaten while listening to the woes of the first days of school or while studying for exams. Continue reading


To Beet or Not to Beet, That IS the Question {Grilled Beet Pizza with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts}

So, beets… are you in or out?

If you’re in, then you have my permission to skip to the asterisk. Beet hater? Tsk, tsk, tsk…that’s soooo yesterday. Haven’t you heard? Beets are the new carrot, the bees knees, the whole ball of wax and the top banana.

It’s probably not your fault. I’ll try not to judge, but it may be difficult. Maybe your only beet memory is when your grandmother pulled a can out of the cupboard, opened it up and then plopped a very purple-y and pickled beet onto your plate, watery juice oozing everywhere, and said you had to eat the whole thing. Were you five? Did you give them a whiff and scrunch up your nose?

Although, personally, at five I was stealing those canned monstrosities off of any unsuspecting guest at the table. I loved ’em, but I was a bit of a loose cannon at five, and usually there’s no accounting for taste at five unless you are Miss A. or Mr. N. perhaps.

If your only introduction to beets was the canned variety, then that my friends is the entire problem. Canned beets do not smell that good and canning really gives them a squishy texture and a totally bad rap. So bad. Canning can do that to any unsuspecting vegetable really. Take green beans or peas.

Have you ever tried a beautifully roasted beet though? One that has been carefully wrapped in foil, baked at 350, peel sliding right off, and then bathed in a little olive oil and dusted with sea salts (for the perfect how to roast beets photos and walk through go here)? Those are an entirely different beast my friends. Roasting brings out such a complex sweet but savory note in beets, and those beautiful purple souls will stay fairly firm, if you roast them right, with a nice toothsome bite to them…think roasted potatoes.

Blanching them for salads is also a great choice to bring out their eye-popping color,sweet flavors and keeps them a bit crisp. I like to steam the golden beets in the microwave with a sprig of rosemary for my Cover Girl Beet Salad. Add some chevre to your salad or side dish and you will be in beet heaven. I kid you not.

*Take this pizza. Thinly sliced (quarter inch thick), brushed with a touch of olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, these beets were first grilled to get them a little charred and smoky. Bare handed, I snatched a few off the grill because I just couldn’t wait. Honestly, grilled beets are like candy people and much better for you. What ARE you waiting for?

I then brushed my pre-grilled crust with a bit of olive oil, layered on the golden and red beets, sprinkled the top with sliced prosciutto, Blue cheese crumbles and toasted pine nuts and put it back on the grill for a little melting action. The piece de resistance was some fresh spring greens (try arugula) that I threw on top just before taking that first perfect bite. Heaven. Sheer heaven.

Still not totally convinced with my beet pleas…then go shop around and check out these great beet posts. Chef in Disguise has a beautiful citrus layered beet salad, or try Eats Well With Others’ slow roasted beets with buttermilk Blue cheese, and finally Offaly Tasty’s rosted beet and barley salad.

Maybe one of these wonderful bloggers’ dishes can finally sway you to the beautiful beet side of things.

Grilled Beet Pizza with Blue Cheese

Serves two (I made this as a mini-pizza, but be my guest to double the recipe for a whole, large pizza)

One good ball of fresh pizza dough, use only half of the dough for a mini pizza with the quantities of toppings listed below.
one red beet
one golden beet
1 T. olive oil
prosciutto (thinly sliced), as much or as little as you like
2-3 T. blue cheese crumbles
2 T. pine nuts
A couple handfuls of arugula or spring salad mix

To Make the Pizza: Roll out the pizza dough about 1/4-1/2 inch thin on a floured pastry board. Slide your pizza onto a lightly floured FLAT cookie sheet (with no lip on it) and set aside.

To prepare your beets, lop off the greens (save these) and rinse your beets, then peel and slice them into 1/4 inch layers. Put just a smidgen of olive oil in a bowl large enough for all the beets. Put your beets in the bowl and grind some fresh pepper and sprinkle a little salt over them. Toss them a bit in the oil. Set aside. You may want to wash your beet greens, chop off the “stems” and chop up the leafy greens. You can toss them in with your arugula later to use on top. Thinly slice your prosciutto so it’s ready as well.

You may want to heat up your grill now because you want your grill nice and hot when you are ready to cook your pizza.

Toast your pine nuts next. Place them in a small saute pan with the stove on medium heat. DO NOT WALK AWAY unless you love burnt pine nuts. Use a spatula to flip them over now and then or simply toss them about using just your talented hand and the pan handle. Cook them until you can smell a nice, roasted, toasty aroma. Some can be a little golden brown, but DO NOT wait for them all to be brown because that’s what we like to call them “good and burnt”.

Get your crumbled blue ready as well so all of your toppings are lined up and ready for the pizza.

With the grill on only a medium to low flame (I have a gas one, there’s no accounting for taste), slide your crust onto the hot grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes (take a peek with a spatula and see if it looks golden,a little charred from the grate) and then gently slide it off the grill and flip it over. Grill it for another 2-3 minutes. Both sides should look fairly cooked, with grill marks and the dough should have puffed up like when you cook it in the oven. For an EXCELLENT and step-by-step “how to grill pizza” post go here. It will answer ALL of your questions I am sure.

When done, bring the pizza crust in on a cleaned cookie sheet (no more flour at this point) and brush with a little olive oil. Place your beets on the crust in a circular pattern, alternating colors. Sprinkle on the blue cheese and pine nuts. Gently slide your crust back onto the grill and close it so that the cheese can melt just a smidge. You can leave it on for just a minute or so, peek and then take it off when it looks good to you. We have a gas grill (I think I just heard Jed and Greg gasp), so I turn off the burners below the pizza itself for the melting stage. I leave on the burners that surround the pizza. If you have a charcoal grill, I have NO IDEA what to do. At this point in the pizza cooking, you are simply warming the toppings and melting the cheese. You don’t need to cook the crust any more so do what you will with your charcoal thingy’s.

Toss your arugula and chopped beat greens with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Sprinkle them in mounds atop your pizza slices. Enjoy!


Well, Hello Margarita and Hello Zesty Lime Cookies

Do you know what? I really don’t care if Cinco de Mayo is not truly a celebrated holiday in Mexico and seems to be more of an invention of the U.S.  I am just too darn happy to have a reason to enjoy some good tequila, take a bite of a spicy enchilada and end my meal with a couple of zesty lime cookies.

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Sometimes Perfection Just Needs to be Messed With:Chocolate Squared Banana Bread

One heaping cup of excellent quality unsweetened cocoa powder, three-fourths of a cup of bittersweet (70%) chocolate chips and two very ripe bananas.  Are you with me yet?  I should say so.

Truthfully, I am such a fan of my plain and simple chocolate chip banana bread recipe that I really never have seen the need to take it a step further and make it a double chocolate loaf.  I had the, “Why mess with perfection?,” mentality.

Silly, silly girl that I am.  Sometimes perfection just demands to be messed with. I am a professed chocoholic so why on EARTH I haven’t tried this recipe from Dorie Greenspan before is totally beyond comprehension.

Yet, here we are, with an insanely decadent (oh crap I used the most overused word on the food blogosphere tied only with delicious—I think this post might self-destruct.), chocolate squared, banana bread, and all I can ask myself is why I have waited so, so long to meet up with this bread; to make it, pinch off a bite as I walk by, slather it with peanut butter, or justifiably eat a slice for breakfast.  After all, it is banana bread…a perfectly legit breakfast, no?

Are you starting to get the idea that I am a bit obsessed with this bread? If so, then right on sister (or mister…sorry guys) because I have truly lost my mind for this bread, and I am sadly in the middle of trying to diet, eat more healthfully and generally shed a few inches before that damned bathing suit season is upon me.  But alas, I think I have thrown in the towel, waved the white flag, and have sheepishly walked away with my tail between my legs.

I have been beaten by this bread because I just can’t be separated from it.  Try using a crow bar—my daughter did and yet I am still stuck to it as we speak.   Maybe I should instruct you not to make it.  Maybe this post should have started with a warning, a huge highlighted disclaimer that shouts MOVE ALONG TO THE NEXT BLOG…OR READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!  Maybe…

Chocolate Squared Banana Bread
From, Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (good quality makes a huge difference)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 c. buttermilk (I did not have this and used 1/2 c. milk and 1/4 c. lowfat plain Greek yogurt…worked out GREAT!)
3/4 c. chocolate chips (Dorie recommends 1/2 c. but I went whole hog)

For the bread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray coat a glass 9×5 inch loaf pan.  To prevent the bottom from over baking, place the loaf pan onto two cookie sheets stacked together.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk (Like I did) the flour through the baking soda.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar until creamy.  Then, add the eggs and the mashed bananas and combine.

Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine on low speed until ingredients are mixed together.  Add 1/2 the buttermilk or milk and yogurt combination and combine on low.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and the buttermilk or milk and yogurt combination and mix until just incorporated.  Do not over mix.

Put the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes and then turn your oven down to 325 and finish baking for another 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is firm to the touch.

* Dorie recommends placing a “tent” of foil over the top for the first 30 minutes and then bake another 45 minutes…all at 350 degrees.  I did the above mentioned and it came out perfectly but to each his or her own. I like simplicity and keeping things fast and easy for me.


A Parade of Easter Sweets

Whether you have big plans, little plans or no plans, you can whip up one of these spring-y sweets to help celebrate the day. I have rated these recipes based on difficulty and time needed so you can choose the one that fits into your life.

Braided Bread Stuffed with Lemon Curd. This soft, delicate, flaky filled bread is so tangy and sweet. It is really a perfectly beautiful bread to BRING to a brunch, one that you are not hosting and you are only responsible for ONE THING. Because this one is a solid 9/10  in difficulty level (maybe a 10…let’s not mince words) and is totally worth it if you have the time and energy.

Braided Sweet Bread

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A Tale of Two Irish Soda Breads (GF and AP Flour versions)

“Challenge Accepted!”, in true Barney style, was my answer when my mom asked me to bring a GF version of my semi-famous Irish Soda Bread to her St. Patrick’s Day Themed Sunday Dinner last year.


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