The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: Hummus and Kale Melts

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Since I started running last July, I’ve found myself eating healthier–this was partly the result of some conscious lifestyle changes (kicking soda and limiting my red-meat intake, for instance), but as I became more active, it started to feel like my body was starting to crave different things.  I also learned the importance of post-workout refueling so that I wouldn’t be wiped out for the rest of the day after a long run.

So, when I came across smoothierecipesforgoodhealth ‘s pin on Pinterest, I knew that this was something I wanted to try. I used kale in my version, since I love it and it happened to look really fresh at my local supermarket, but any dark leafy green will do. They turned out great, and were so fast and easy to make–which is key when you’ve burned a few hundred calories and just want to eat something five minutes ago (a brain-addled state I call being “RUNGRY”). Here’s step-by-step instructions for my version of this healthful take on the “English Muffin Pizza”:

What You’ll Need:

1 Whole-Wheat English Muffin

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil* (Vegetable/Canola works too), or enough to coat your saucepan.

1 Bunch Kale, rinsed, removed from stem and torn into pieces, and dried completely

Hummus

Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese Shreds

What To Do:

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add kale, and lightly toast the English muffin while sautéing the kale leaves.

After toasting, spread a generous amount of hummus on  each half of the English muffin.  Add sautéed kale leaves and top with Mozzarella Cheese shreds.

Microwave until cheese is melted, about 1 minute, 20 seconds. (I usually microwave them for thirty seconds at a time, checking after each interval).

And there you have it–a filling, healthy, and satisfying lunch in 15 minutes or less.

Be well,

The Saucy Scholar

*If you want to give this recipe a little more Italian flavor (and emphasize the “English muffin pizza” connection), you can sub Sun-Dried Tomato-flavored hummus and Broccoli Rabe for the Kale.

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Recipe: Glazed Cornmeal Cookies

photo (7)When I first saw a recipe for cornmeal cookies in Everyday Food a couple of years ago, I was pretty skeptical. I’m not sure what it was that convinced me to give them a try, but I’m glad I did. The Boyfriend tried them right out of the oven, and not only did he say it was the best cookie I had made to date, but one of the best he’d had ever. I’ve made plenty of cookies since then, and these are still one of his favorites. And, according to the recipe, a serving of two cookies is only 176 calories! (The first time I made them they came out a little too big, but still, they’re fairly light and, with icing, can also satisfy a sweet tooth!)

I’m planning to make these again soon as a nice Valentine’s day treat, but I’ve used the same dough recipe to make other cutouts too. You can view the original recipe on Everyday Food, and, if you’re interested in my less-competent, real-life experience making them (as adapted from my former blog!), you can find my version below.

What You’ll Need:

2 cups  all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg 1

1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-2 drops food coloring (They suggest red or pink, but I say, go crazy. Who says a heart can’t be blue some of the time?)

What To Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. mix the flour, cornmeal, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the butter and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar until creamy. (I also slap some flour on the beaters to keep the batter from sticking, since I have a pretty crappy electric mixer. I mainly bought it because it was a Black and Decker, and they also make power tools.)
  2. After about 3 minutes, add the egg and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Then gradually add the flour mixture. (Also, at this stage, I try to use my hands as much as possible, since the batter should be pretty doughy at this point.
  3. Place the rest of the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Coat them with sugar, and then transfer to two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. use a glass  (or in my case, a beer bottle) to flatten, and then press the cookie cutter into each, being careful not to cut all the way through.
  4. bake until cookies are golden at the edges, they say approximately ten minutes but mine sometimes take longer even though my oven gets pretty hot. (They also suggested to rotate the two baking sheets about halfway through, but really, who does that.)  Anyway, when done, let them cool. Un-iced, you can save them in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  5. now for the icing! whisk together confectioners’ sugar and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 3/4 teaspoons cold water. then add your food coloring of choice and spread the glaze in the heart with a small spoon or something with a flat edge. allow it to set for 15 minutes.

Apparently, in addition to being a key ingredient in tasty cookies and dishes like polenta, cornmeal can apparently be used to kill skin fungus! The more you know…

<3,

AM

Blueberry Bonanza

I finally finished my first qualifying exam last week! If you’ve noticed a dearth of posts, it’s partially because I was frantically typing away, and, if it weren’t for The Boyfriend making me coffee, tea, and TGIFridays Potato Skins every few hours, I probably would have forgotten to eat.

A trip out of the city was just what the Dr. ordered. We drove out to Mattituck, Long Island with some friends, and I had my very first berry-picking experience at Patty’s Berries and Bunches. It being late July, it was prime time for blueberries, and there were even some blackberries ripe for the picking. Of course, I couldn’t resist sampling a few of each as we went along. The blackberries were some of the sweetest I’ve had, and some of the blueberries were downright huge, not to mention juicy.

They were so good, in fact, that I picked extra so that I would have enough to make Blueberry Cobbler and Blueberry Muffins, neither of which I had attempted before, but how could you go wrong with fresh blueberries picked right from the bush?

Once we got home, I began an intense online recipe search, though I really should have looked no further than Mark Bittman’s book, How To Cook Everything. (By the way, if you are serious about learning to cook, you absolutely need this!) His recipes for both cobbler and muffins are classic and simple, and can be made with any and all kinds of fruit. Fortunately, he happened to post both of these recipes on his website, and so here they are for anyone who is interested in trying these out for themselves:

Blueberry Cobbler: 

I was especially pleased with the Blueberry Cobbler. The berries were tart and sweet, and went nicely with the buttery crust. (Jeff asked me what the “filling” was made of–ha! Just fresh fruit and some sugar, plain and simple.) A scoop of vanilla ice cream was the perfect finishing touch for this classic summer dessert. Definitely serve warm, or immediately after baking if possible.

Muffins, Infinite Ways (see his suggestion for Blueberry Muffins)

The muffins turned out well too, and, as you might predict, the fresh blueberries were the stars of that show too. These came out moist and a little hearty (probably on account of the substitution of cornmeal for some of the flour), making these muffins ideal for a light breakfast.

I still have some blueberries (and quite a few blackberries) left over, so I may try to make something else, but something tells me I might need to go back to Patty’s for a refill.

What’s your favorite blueberry treat? Feel free to sound off in the comments!

Happy summer, The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: Plum & Blueberry Upside Down-Cake

One of the most valuable pieces of advice that I have for fellow novice cooks is this: Unless you are working in the sparkly, magical kitchens in cooking-show land, things will inevitably go wrong. Your eggs could go bad. You could run out of spices. You could mistake baking powder for baking soda, or vice versa. Or, you could use a springform pan instead of a regular cake pan, almost set your apartment on fire, stub your toe, and scare your cat into hiding for three days.

That’s what happened the first time I tried to make this Plum & Blueberry, Upside-Down Cake from the September 2011 issue of Everyday Food. It smelled so good while it was baking–until the kitchen filled up with smoke. Watching the cake literally deflate after being rescued from the gaping maw that was my oven made me even more determined to try this recipe again–with the right cake pan. A good 8 inch cake pan that is also 2 inches deep is hard to find, but it is absolutely worth it. (You can also use them to make layer cakes!) Anyway, I was a bit more successful the second time around:

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Click here for the original recipe and the full list of ingredients–below is my shortened version, including photos:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and line the bottom of your buttered 8 BY 2 INCH CAKE PAN (figure I couldn’t emphasize it enough!) with parchment paper. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter into the pan, and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of packed, light brown sugar over the butter. Finally, add the plum slices, and use the blueberries to fill in the gaps–I may have overdone it with the blueberries myself, but the top came out tart and sweet, almost like an old fashioned jam.

Transfer your batter (butter, brown sugar, eggs, egg whites, orange zest, flour, poppy seeds [I omitted these], baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk [I found reduced fat in my supermarket!], vanilla extract) to the cake pan. Smooth the top and make sure there are no air bubbles. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and passes the toothpick test. Watch this one like a hawk–burned fruit is not a good look, trust me.

Wait until after it cools to invert, and then serve warm or at room temperature.

And that’s all there is to it!

–Stay cool and eat your fruit, The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: Iced Coffee

If you’re a fellow coffee drinker,  you probably know that an iced coffee generally costs more than a regular hot coffee. But, on those hot summer workdays, sometimes nothing else will do. The good news is, after searching high and low, I found a recipe for iced coffee that actually works–in fact, I think it’s actually better than store-bought. It does require some forethought and planning, but it’s surprisingly easy and well worth the extra five minutes in the morning. It definitely got me through a very busy summer at work last year.

Recipe from The New York Times:

What You’ll Need:

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best), water, milk (if using)

What To Do:

Stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. The Times suggests to cover and let it rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours, but I like to put mine in the fridge. It keeps it safe from the cat and I think it yields a slightly stronger flavor. I also use a Pyrex measuring cup instead of a jar or glass for an easy pour the next morning.

Strain twice–I use a tiny hand-held strainer that works like a charm. Place some ice cubes in a tall glass, and then mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or adjust to taste. Remember to leave room for milk if you usually take it in your coffee. It might take a couple of tries and playing around with the measurements to get the exact flavor and strength that you want, but once you get it right, you’ll never go back to buying iced coffee. Enjoy!

Salud,

The Saucy Scholar

Pin Me!

The Saucy Scholar is now on Pinterest! I’ve finally seen what all the fuss is about–it’s terribly addicting, but it’s a great way to find and organize all sorts of content you find on the web, including recipes. (Not to mention art projects and DIY home improvement ideas, for those of you more craftsy than I am.)

So, if you’re on Pinterest and like one of the recipes you find here, feel free to add it to your Pinboard. (I’ve updated some of my past posts to include a “Pin It” button as well.)   You’re also welcome to check out my pinboards, most of which have something to do with food.

Happy Pinning,

The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: S’mores Cheesecake

This is probably one of the best things to ever come out of my oven. The combination of chocolate and a lightly-roasted marshmallow topping make this twist on the tried-and-true cheesecake a perfect finale to any outdoor BBQ.

The recipe below comes from Bon Appetit/ Epicurious.com, and is ranked one of their best. I highly recommend that you visit the original site and read through the comments for plenty of helpful suggestions. I personally substituted kind of fancy dark chocolate for the milk chocolate the original recipe suggests, and it came out melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

What You’ll Need:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs–about the equivalent of one packet, or 9 graham crackers, will do the trick. FYI, a food processor makes this much easier.
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 9 ounces chocolate, chopped
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs

Topping:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 large marshmallows, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Bunches of sweet summer berries to serve alongside your cheesecake.

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the crust by mixing crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl, then add melted butter and stir until mixture is evenly coated. Press onto bottom of  a 9-inch-springform pan with your fingertips.Bake on the center rack until set, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, and reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Now, the filling. Stir the chocolate of your choice in top of double boiler set over just simmering water until smooth. (Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a double boiler, you can use a carefully positioned bowl over boiling water–just don’t let the bottom touch!) Remove from over water, and set aside to cool. According to the original recipe, you should combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth, and then, with the motor still running, add the whipping cream, melted chocolate, and then the eggs 1 at a time. Because I also don’t have a food processor, I combined these ingredients in a large bowl and used a hand-mixer and lots of elbow grease. The cake came out perfect, but, again, the food processor will make it so much easier.

Transfer the mixture to your springform pan and bake for about 55 minutes. Your cake should have that just-baked cheesecake look, with raised, slightly puffy outer edges and a smooth,shiny center that jiggles a bit when you move it. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, and chill for at least 8 hours.

The Next Day…

To make the marshmallow topping, whisk sugar, egg whites, 3 tablespoons water, cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large metal bowl. Here’s where it gets tricky: place the bowl over simmering water, and whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. The mixture should be hot enough to melt the marshmallows. Remove bowl from over water, and, while it continues to simmer, stir in marshmallows–it may take 3-4 minutes for them to soften and melt completely. Set the topping over simmering water again, and using an electric mixer (woo! I have one of those!), beat into stiff shiny peaks, about 4 minutes, then mix in the vanilla extract.

Spoon topping onto cheesecake, making a swirl pattern, then let the cake set for about 15 minutes. The original recommends using a kitchen torch to lightly brown the topping. This is probably the best way, but I used my broiler instead–place the cake about 4 inches away from the heat source and whatever you do, keep an eye on it, as it can burn very easily.

Then, you’re done! For best results, serve outdoors with seasonal berries. You can also keep the topped cake overnight and serve the following day.

Enjoy! I hope this recipe works out as well for you as it did for me.

Happy Summer,

The Saucy Scholar

News Update!

These are exciting times over here at The Saucy Scholar–it’s (almost) officially summer, The Boyfriend graduated (again), and I’ve finished/survived my first year as a doctoral student! Even though I’ve still got a qualifying exam coming up, you can expect to see even more updates and recipes for decadent desserts, refreshing summertime drinks, and light and satisfying meals. I’m also thinking of adding a few new weekly features, so stay tuned.

Also, this is actually old news, but 5 Napkin Burger featured my review of their Hell’s Kitchen location on their Facebook page back in January!  If you haven’t already, take a gander at my review and drop by any of their NYC/Boston/Miami locations. Now that I’m back in the neighborhood, I will almost certainly be paying them another visit.

That’s all for now,

The Saucy Scholar

Ess-A-Bagel: Sometimes, A Bagel Is Just A Bagel

As a native New Yorker, I’ve oft been ridiculed for never going to the “real” bagel joints in the city. For me, bagels are simply a neighborhood thing, a weekend breakfast food that you pick up on a short walk, along with a cup of coffee and the day’s paper. While I have had the privilege of living near some excellent bagel shops (especially in Queens), I’ve never lived near any of the more famous ones, and so I never had reason to make the trip. Then, on one of my Fridays off, B brought me to Ess-A-Bagel in Midtown East after an early afternoon workout. While it was not the epiphanic moment I had been almost hoping for, it was a solid bagel and certainly better than what many of the delis and other breakfast places in the area have to offer. Also, all of their bagels (and most everything on their menu) is certified kosher.

Eager to go on a carb binge after a long cardio workout, I opted for the Nova Lox sandwich on a Cinnamon-Raisin Bagel. (I know, I’m crazy, and I don’t blame you if this causes you to lose faith in my review. It’s a taste I acquired at some point, what can I say?) In any case, I highly recommend this particular sandwich on the bagel of your choice. The cream cheese was generously applied but not overwhelming, the lettuce was fresh, and the lox was particularly outstanding. My only disappointment, actually, was the bagel itself–it wasn’t stale, but it was noticeably hard. Still, the Nova Lox made it thoroughly enjoyable, and now I’m curious to try the Belly Lox next time.

B and I ate our bagels there, which worked out fairly well since it wasn’t a particularly busy time of day. The line was long but moved quickly, and though seating is a little cramped at this location we found a table just fine. Service was short and surly–but at a New York bagel shop, that’s sometimes how it should be, especially when it helps move the line along. And finally, I don’t always comment on bathrooms, but theirs was impeccably clean. So clean in fact, that I was kind of embarrassed thinking about the condition of my own.

Domestic woes aside, Ess-A-Bagel is well worth a visit, and I would consider anyone who is able to make it their neighborhood bagel stop very lucky indeed. While the one particular bagel I had was not especially life-changing, they have an impressive selection of cream cheeses, fish, and salads, and all of these looked fresh and delicious.

Report Card

  • Food: B+
  • Coffee:B+
  • Service: B
  • Atmosphere: A-

GPA: 3.425 (B+)

The Saucy Scholar, Cincy Edition: The BonBonerie

It almost seems unfair to write a review of a bakery like The BonBonerie after one visit, and in most circumstances, I normally wouldn’t. But the fact that I have eaten their scones, cookies, cake, and even tried their coffee on this trip, and I still haven’t explored all of what they have to offer should give you some idea of the kind of magical place The BonBonerie is.

Once you step inside, it’s like walking into something out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, except brighter and a lot more whimsical. You’re instantly surrounded by well-stocked displays of cakes, cut-out cookies, pastries, and other treats, and there’s a little nook where you can serve yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Which brings me to one thing that TheBonBonerie is famous for that I didn’t get to experience this time around–the Afternoon Tea. With a reservation, you can take tea in either the tearoom or the Café, which is a few blocks away from the bakery itself, and includes an assortment of scones, savories, and pastries.

In addition to their award-winning cakes (especially wedding cakes), The BonBonerie is also known for their handmade sweets and cookies. They make their own marzipan in a variety of shapes, and have a constantly rotating array of meticulously iced cut-out cookies. And they aren’t just fun to look at–the marzipan is sweet and just the right amount of nutty, and the cookies are light and soft. The icing does make them a little sweeter than your average cookie, but the icings actually have a variety of distinct flavors, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just eating a mouthful of sugar–even the little non pareils on top are flavored too. They’re almost too pretty to eat, but not quite.

To celebrate our birthdays, The Boyfriend’s parents treated us to a delicious lemon cake–the cake itself was light and fluffy, and the inside was filled with a rich lemon cremes. Our names were iced onto a piece of white chocolate, and the top was decorated with marzipan flowers and lemons, with white chocolate shavings on the side. If they had left me alone with it, it was very possible that I could’ve eaten the whole thing. While I didn’t catch the price of this particular cake, their prices are generally reasonable for the quality of the food–I’ve seen bakeries in New York and elsewhere charge slightly more for things that just flat out aren’t as good.

It was obvious in every bite of everything that I had this week that these were all lovingly made desserts with high quality ingredients. If you ever find yourself in the Cincinnati area, this place is an absolute must-visit, whether for a special occasion or an afternoon tea with friends.

April 2012 Easter Egg Cutout from The BonBonerie

Report Card:

  • Cake: A
  • Cookies/Pastry: A
  • Coffee: A-
  • Atmosphere: A
 GPA: 3.925 (A)

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