Monday, December 28, 2015

Best-Ever Brownies

Day 119

My daughter, Tate, found this incredible brownie recipe a month or two ago, and we can’t stop talking about it. If you’re looking for a traditional brownie with an even more decadent twist, this recipe is for you.  What a great way to kick off the new year, unless of course your New Year’s resolution involves losing weight because you won’t be able to eat just one of these!

Brownie recipe:
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar

1 Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil and spray foil with non-stick spray. Set aside.
2 In the bowl of an electric stand-mixer, add the melted butter and cocoa powder. Using the paddle attachment, blend until smooth.
3 Add the flour and sugar. Beat together then add eggs and vanilla. Mix just until combined. Don't over mix. (Batter will be thick)
4 Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread out evenly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove brownies from oven and let stand 15 minutes before frosting. You want the brownies still warm when you frost them!
5 FOR CHOCOLATE FROSTING: Beat together all the frosting ingredients until smooth. Pour and spread over warm brownies. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
Yields: 12 large brownies or 24 small brownies

life in the lofthouse

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lemon-Garlic Edamame “Hummus”

Day 118

My daughter— My Very Favorite Person—is in the hospital. I’m here with her and couldn’t be moved with a stick of dynamite, so I’ve had some time to think about lots of things. Mostly food. And prayers to make Tate better. And then food again. She hasn’t been truly hungry in days, so when she woke up this morning and said “If I go home today, can you make me a chocolate chess pie? (YES!) And what’s for dinner? (ANYTHING YOU WANT!),” I was elated. Overjoyed. We decided on homemade reubens with real corned beef, but reaching that decision made me reflect on our favorite sandwiches in general. Tate and I essentially agree on most foods other than sweets. She doesn’t really have a sweet tooth. It has made me question whether I’m her mother, but all signs point to yes. She is just choosy about her desserts, I suppose.
She’s one of those people who, when I ask her if she’d like some of my coveted Ritter Sport Chocolate Butter Biscuit Bar (offering a bite= true love), she says sure and takes a bite no larger than a hamster might make.  No second bite. Nothing. She’s had her fill after a portion that Barbie could hold in her hands. I don’t get it, but I do admire it. I eat the WHOLE bar so fast I look like a threshing machine. Then, I want another. 

So, tonight, because she has been so sick and because she never asks for sweets,  she’s getting the best doggone chocolate chess pie I’ve ever made and homemade reubens. This is all contingent on getting discharged from the hospital, of course, so pray for her and wish us luck, if you’re so inclined.

Okay. I’m ready to get to the point of this recipe post. Just please bear with me; I haven’t slept much in a few days. 

Much healthier than reubens, one of our favorite sandwich toppings is a generous layer of hummus. It’s delicious with rich cheeses and tons of veggies on a baguette. Hummus really is a staple in our kitchen; we love it as a spread for naan bread, or even with cucumbers and olives as a dip.  To boot, it’s so easy to make! 

Recently, while brainstorming a recipe idea for my friends at Hedonist Shedonist (, I was researching edamame as a pureed bean. Many recipes support using it in similar ways to chickpeas for an interesting flavor variation.

There is a great deal of debate about the health benefits of soy, for sure, but I figured that organic edamame couldn’t be that bad for us, so I gave a new recipe a shot. I tried it twice, changing one aspect to increase creaminess and to improve texture. I think you’ll agree that the thickness and texture are just right. I even tried it without the extra 1/8 cup of olive oil and it was still very nice, just a bit thicker if you’re craving a hearty dip instead of a smooth spread. It’s totally up to you. 

Lemon Garlic Edamame “Hummus”
1 large garlic bulb
1 tbs. olive oil plus 1/8  cup  (Olea)
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup ricotta cheese
4 tbs. chopped FRESH basil
2 tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 cups cooked and shelled edamame beans 
salt and pepper to taste

Cut off pointed end of garlic bulb, brush with 1 tbs. olive oil and place in foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from foil and squeeze cloves into food processor. Add edamame and pulse until a smooth paste forms, scraping down sides of processor as needed. Add lemon juice and zest, basil, sour cream, and ricotta cheese. Process until smooth. Add rest of olive oil slowly into food processor chute while running until entire mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste to salt and pepper properly. Serve with raw veggies or bread. 

Adapted from Southern Living recipe at this link:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blackeyed Pea Salad

Day 117

Happy Labor Day weekend! You’ll want to try this for your summer send-off picnic this weekend. My daughter, Tate, discovered a very similar recipe on a Pinterest link, adapted it to suit our tastes, and made it this morning. I’m really glad she did; I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s that good, and so quick and easy! Thanks Tate!

Photo by Taylor Fowler
 Blackeyed Pea Salad

For the salad-
3 cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 large jalapeno, deveined and chopped finely
¼ large red onion, diced
6 medium green onions, sliced with greens
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 medium or 1 very large tomato, diced
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed well and chopped finely (we used a food processor)

For the vinaigrette-
½ cup really good extra virgin olive oil (I STRONGLY recommend Olea Estates olive oil)*
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In the bottom of a large, glass serving bowl, mix vinegar, garlic, mustard, some salt and pepper, and sugar. Stir until blended. Add olive oil. Mix well. Add all bean salad ingredients to vinaigrette and stir gently until fully incorporated and mixed. Taste, then salt and pepper to your seasoning preference. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to combine properly. Allow to rest outside of refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to serving.

*Olea Estates is amazing. You’ll never want to purchase your olives or olive oil elsewhere after trying theirs.

I had the chance recently to enjoy an informal email chat with Demos Chronis, one of the owners of Olea Estates about his family’s traditions and products. Here’s just a sample of what he had to say. I’ve never been more impressed with a family business, and I’m sure you’ll agree.

About Olea olives:
We hand pick them one by one, when the olives are ready. So we go through our fields multiple times a day, during the harvest season, to catch them at the right stage. The brine is made from spring water, sea salt and organic vinegar. Also the containers we use are all BPA free (and we have the certifications on our website). We prefer these BPA free plastic containers, cause in that way our olives are lacto-fermented and preserve the probiotics that are found on the surface of the olives. All the glass jars that contain olives must be boiled with the olives in them in order to be out in the market (a sterilization law of EU and US). But that kills the probiotics, alters the nutritional value of the olives and the taste. That is the reason for our containers. So the moment we pick the olives we put them in salt water to remove most of the bitterness and then transfer them to the brine and pack them.”

About Olea olive oil:

“We hand pick the olives, transport them straight to the mill, wash them thoroughly and cold press them. Only olive oil from the first press makes it to the glass and tin containers of Olea, where the rich, full flavor of the oil remains sealed for you to enjoy. There are no preservatives, additives, colors or any kind of foreign oil added to Olea. We do not further refine byproducts of the first press to produce more oil. The difference is the stage of the olives that we use to produce the olive oil.

The Olea Estates olive oil is produced when the olives are mature and ready to be harvested. Here is an important aspect of our process. Even 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil like this will be cloudy right off the press. This is because it contains tiny particles of olive flesh and skin that remain in the oil during the pressing process. These particles have to be removed, to ensure a uniform clarity and no cloudiness. To get rid of these particles all mass produced olive oil goes through a filtering process that separates these particles from the oil or eliminates them using chemical treatment. Along with the particles goes some of the olive flavor and nutrients. At Olea we patiently use a natural process to retain the full olive oil flavor but still guarantee the clarity of filtered olive oil. We seal the olive oil in stainless steel tanks and let it sit idle for 60 days in special and monitored temperature and humidity conditions. During this time the particulate matter naturally settles to the bottom of the tank. After two months we extract the olive oil from the top of the tank and ship directly to the USA. Of course, this is not possible for mass produced olive oil as the overhead of two months, the tanks required to do this job and the work involved (including cleaning the tanks at the end of the season) would prohibitively increase the cost in a competitive market. However, we use this olive oil to feed ourselves and we do not like feeding on chemicals (even though they are obviously safe for consumption); we also sure appreciate the full flavor of unfiltered olive oil.”

-Demosthenis Chronis, Ph.D, Olea Estates

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Day 116

Recently, while visiting back home, my Aunt Bettye and Uncle Frank stopped by to say hello. As I’ve mentioned here before, Bettye and I share a love for cooking, and we talk often about recipes we enjoy. If we lived closer, she’d have to change her phone number (and probably move to another address without telling me…) because I’d be calling her constantly for cooking advice.
Yes, she’s that good. Remember her brown sugar pie on Day 44 of this blog? If you haven’t seen it or have forgotten how good it is, check it out here: . Bettye’s cooking is a blend of passion, talent, and intuition that I’m still trying to cultivate for myself, at least the latter two components.
Photos by Maggie Kapustin

During their visit, Bettye gave me two new cookbooks, one by the QVC chef, David Venable. Since I’m not a QVC watcher, I was not familiar with Venable’s recipes at all, but I have had a field day trying some. I stumbled upon one recipe because I happened to have two baked sweet potatoes in my fridge, leftover from a pork chop dinner earlier in the week. As I flipped through the cookbook, In the Kitchen with David Venable, I saw a recipe for sweet potato biscuits that called for the exact amount of sweet potatoes in my fridge and I had just enough buttermilk leftover too, so a star…no, a biscuit was born!  

A really, really good biscuit. I am confident that Bettye’s version of this same biscuit would taste better. She’d know precisely when dough is overworked. She’d know to add a pinch less or more of whatever might make the biscuits perfect. I am not a natural, so for me, it’s trial and error. I tried these biscuits as the roll-out variety, using a biscuit-cutter as well as making a few as “drop” biscuits. Both turned out. I also experimented with an air-bake cookie sheet versus a cake pan. Again, both worked but there seemed to be better lift in the cake pan, as Venable suggested.

My husband wasn’t around to take the picture for me, so my phone shots will have to do. They were light, fluffy, and teeming with sweet potato flavor. We ate them with butter and honey. Take a look at Venable’s original recipe if you are interested in a book purchase, and give a few of his other recipes a try as well. Everything looks incredibly good! They are delicious as stand-alone treats or as an accompaniment to pork and fried apples for a meal this coming fall. Enjoy, and thanks Bettye, for the cookbooks and for never steering me wrong with recipes and chefs!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked, mashed, and chilled (about 2 cups)

2 cups buttermilk
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray three 9-inch round cake pans.

Mix the cold mashed sweet potatoes with 1 cup of the buttermilk until well-combined. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter pieces into the flour mixture and blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the sweet potato mixture and all but one tablespoon of the remaining 1 cup buttermilk. Mix until the dough is just combined, moist, and shaggy.

Scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands and gently push the dough into a ½ inch thick round. Fold the dough into thirds like an envelope, and using your hands, press the dough into a 1-inch thick round. Do not overwork the dough. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, press down without twisting and cut out as many biscuits as possible.  Gather the remaining dough and press out to a 1-inch thickness and cut out additional biscuits. Place the biscuits in the prepared pans, fitting them snuggly next to one another. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk. Bake for 12-16 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe from 2014 copy of In the Kitchen with David Venable, pages 291-292.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Country Apple Fritter Bread

Day 115

Country Apple Fritter Bread

My daughter made this bread and wowed us, recently. With fall just around the corner, this is a recipe you’ll want to save for those chilly weekend mornings when your family deserves an unexpected breakfast treat.
Photos by Taylor Fowler
It is so good and so easy that you’ll probably make it again and again. I know we’ll be asking Tate to make it again with our first fall apples.

Country Apple Fritter Bread

Bread Loaf
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
2 apples, peeled and chopped (any kind), mixed with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Old-Fashioned Creme Glaze
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1-3 tablespoons of milk or cream- (depending on thickness of glaze wanted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9x5-inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray or line with foil and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.

In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.

Combine & whisk flour and baking powder together in another bowl and add into creamed butter mixture and stir until blended.

Mix milk into batter until smooth.

Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.

Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes.

To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed.

Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.