For Everyday Life

I’ll confess – I meant to leave you with a sweet treat before heading out for vacation, I swear it. Because I knew that when I got back, I’d be cutting back on the sweets for a while. The truth is, I totally forgot to, and there’s really no excuse other than that. I opened up this here site after another week of being away from it and saw that I’d started this post, meaning I’d added the pictures and the recipe according to my usual system of doing things, but that was it.

Funny how things like that happen, eh?

Anywho, we’re back from the weirdest vacation I think I’ll ever take (in a totally good way) and I’ll tell you all about it once I get the chance to clean up the pics and sit here for a while. But the summary is this: we had a bunch of quick, fun trips from the Midwest through the Deep South, and I’m not kidding when I say we ate our way through each and every stop. You won’t be surprised to hear that we even found a few wineries along the way.

But we’ll get to the rest later – promise.

Today, I wanted to finally share these gingersnaps, since I didn’t manage to pull through last month. More ginger cookies? Why, yes. Sure, we have graham crackers and triple ginger cookies already, but can you have too much ginger? I think not. Plus, they’re all just a little bit different. Graham crackers? Well, silly, those are for s’mores (there’s a gluten-free version, too!). Triple ginger cookies? Those are for eating over the Holidays with a mug of spiced (or spiked) cider at the fireplace. Gingersnaps? These are for everyday life.

These aren’t nearly as crisp as the ones in the goldenrod bag that you buy from the snack aisle in the grocery store. These are crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle. They remind me of a cool, fall Chicago morning – those mornings you wake up to and just know they’ll be perfect. They’re meant to be eaten on a day when the leaves are falling, crisp and brilliantly colored – brick, burnt orange, and pumpkin-tinged. For days when the sun glistens through the trees and reflects brightly off the windows, but the breeze around the corner provides that perfect counter-attack against the heat that is slowly waning for the year. Man, I miss those mornings some kinda bad.

If you’re like me, and perhaps those sure-fire signs of Fall aren’t quite lining up for you the way you’d like, that’s fine too. Summer in October suits me just as well, truth be told. Either way, gingersnaps are a welcome addition to any day – warm, breezy, and fall-ish or sunny, clear, and reminiscent of July.

from David Lebovitz’s Ready For Dessert; makes 60

time commitment: 2 hours (includes 1 hour for the dough to chill)

printable version

3 c all purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 t g cinnamon
2 t g ginger
1 1/2 t fresh g pepper
1/2 t g cloves
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 molasses
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temp
turbinado or regular granulated sugar, for coating the cookies

in a medium bowl, combine flour through ground cloves and whisk until mixed well.

in a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar, mixing on medium until smooth. mix in molasses and vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. add flour mixture and mix until completed combined.

divide the dough into four pieces. lightly flour a surface and roll each piece into an ~8″ log, then roll up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour (alternatively you can freeze for less time).

preheat oven to 350 F. pour coating sugar into a small bowl. working with one log at a time, slice into 1/2″ cookies, and press one side of each cookie into the sugar, then place the other side down on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. bake for ~10 minutes. if using two sheets, rotate sheets halfway through to even cooking of each sheet. remove, let cool for a few minutes, and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

ps – you can store the dough in the fridge or freezer if you want to bake sections off at a time. or you can do it all at once – whatevs. 

More than Manwich

Having a food blog ultimately means that you care what your food looks like. You pretty things up, attempting to only post recipes of the dishes that are presentable, neat, and well-primped.

But seriously, some things just taste better when they’re messy.

A taco, for instance, should always require a napkin, or your pants if you’re in a pickle. An ice cream cone full of decadent, rich dulce de leche ice cream with fudge on top should always leak through the bottom of the cone, through the paper liner, and down your hand as you eat it, licking furiously. A hot dog should always be stuffed so full that you can barely get your mouth around the whole thing, but when you do, mustard and/or ketchup (depending on where you’re from, I suppose) should almost always squirt from the other end onto the picnic table you’re eating at.

Sloppy Joes are the epitome of this very subject. By definition alone, they are an utter mess. The sandwich is packed, overloaded truthfully, and when the top and bottom halves are pressed together in an effort to take a hefty bite of both bun and meat, the mixture oozes from between the bread in an effort to escape its fate. But fear not – this is when tortilla chips, if you have them (fingers if you don’t), come in handy.

I am a closet fan (no longer) of the Sloppy Joe. I’ll tell you a secret: I used to buy cans of Manwich on the regular, probably as recently as 3 years ago, and I enjoyed every single bite of those runny, goopy, lovely sa’miches. I must have made them a lot, because eventually Chris decided to let me know that they “weren’t his favorite”, which is his nice way of saying he loathes them. Of course I’m stubborn, so I tried a couple more times, but eventually we had to put them to rest, and the Manwich cans were no longer a part of our monthly repertoire.

But now I’ve found the replacement, a sandwich to fill the void, the gap between those days of tofu and pasta. Meaty, hearty, unpretty, and totally messy – this is the solution to a problem I’d pressed out of my mind for quite some time. The best part? I can take a bite, beef splurting out between my fingers, and all the while I can rest assured that it won’t be the last time. The bonus? the ingredients are fresh, sans can, but still just as messy and delicious as I remember, and even more so.

Beef & Mushroom Sloppy Joes
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2011; serves 4-6

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

1 T olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 lb cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 c onion, medium dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c tomato paste (2 small cans)
1 t dried oregano
2 T red wine vinegar
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T molasses
1/4 t salt
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t hot sauce (Franks)
4-6 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add beef; cook for 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

While beef cooks, place mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to pan; cook for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to pan; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates. Stir in pepper and hot sauce. Spoon about 1 cup beef mixture on bottom half of each bun; top with top halves of buns.