Gourmet Veggie Mama

Author Archives: Lauren

I’m a recovering lawyer-turned-freelance writer and editor, aspiring domestic goddess, and mom to a spunky, demanding and truly awesome 2-year-old girl. I love all things food and drink, and I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking now that I’m not spending most of my days locked in the office, but I often have to improvise, since having the ankle-biter around makes it more challenging!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Yep. That title says it all.

best chocolate chip cookies ever

They are the best. The. Best.

My love affair with chocolate chip cookies is well-documented. I have tried out more than my fair share of recipes, and I have a few old standbys… but this one takes the cake. When Nora wanted to bake cookies* last week, I decided to give a Pinterest find a try, just for kicks. And, man oh man, was I lucky.

* A favorite pastime of hers… though “helping” mostly involves licking the beater and taking “samples” of ingredients like sugar.

I was wary of trying a recipe that included shortening, since I am a butter believer, but it was worth it. So worth it. Plus, you can get shortening without all the nasty stuff (no hydrogenated oils and such) from Spectrum Organic (sold at Whole Foods), so it’s not as bad as it sounds. And the results are indisputable. These cookies were thicker and richer than any I’ve ever been able to achieve with butter alone.

The cookies came hot and fresh out of the oven and cooled on a rack until just warm enough to stick in a tupperware to take with us to a dear friend’s house for a play date with her kiddos. The reviews were rave, and not a crumb was left. The 9-year-old was effusive — he kept telling me how rich and melting and delicious they were. I was duly flattered, since this is not a child from whose lips fall idle praise.

Try them. You won’t be disappointed.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: makes 3 dozen cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 14½ oz (2¾ cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line two baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, cream the butter and shortening together at high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the brown and white sugars and beat on high for an additional 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the chocolate chips. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
  5. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough and round them out with your hands, placing about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and cool until set, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to eat. Enjoy warm with a nice, tall glass of milk!

 

French 75

It somehow feels indulgent to open a bottle of bubbly just to make cocktails. But, it’s summer, and prosecco is the name of the game — and a good-for-mixing bottle can be had for under $20. So why not?

What really convinced me to try out a French 75,* though, was MetropoChris’s write-up, which told me that not having simple syrup on hand was no excuse. All I had to do was put a 1/4 cup of water and a 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds. Okay, done.

* Which I had never had, despite trying a sister cocktail, the Soixante-Neuf, a while back.

french 75

And it was good.

French 75
Author: 
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2½ oz gin
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 6 oz sparkling wine
  • lemon wheels, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Mix the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until cold and strain into two goblets.
  2. Top with sparkling wine. Float a lemon wheel on top of each drink, and enjoy!

 

Veggie BLTs (aka PLATs)

OMGVeggieBLTs.

You guys. So good.

PLAT

I’m super-excited, because, after a long dry spell with very little cooking inspiration, we have just started up with a new CSA. This is how I always used to cook — get the fresh, in-season, local veggies, and go from there. Waste not, want not (especially for dinner inspiration).

Then we had a new baby. And we decided to cancel our CSA for a bit, since we knew we wouldn’t be cooking that much for the early weeks, and well… we’ve been planning dinner in a less organic, more what-can-we-make-happen-in-the-next-few-minutes-before-meltdowns-occur sort of way for a while now. Yeah.

But we’re back in the groove! Last week was out first delivery from Farmhouse Delivery, which is kind of a local aggregate CSA for the Austin area. I love it already. In our first box, we got sweet corn on the cob, avocados, limes, giant slicing tomatoes and a beautiful head of butter lettuce, roots and all.

bushel

I also sprung for a weekly staples package, complete with organic, low-temp pasteurized milk from Mill King, fresh-baked multigrain bread and local free range eggs. Yes yes yes. Back.

We made a mixed grill with the corn and some tomatoes and peppers from our garden this weekend for dinner, served alongside a salad with red quinoa, feta, kalamata olives, red onions and some of that avocado, cubed. It was good stuff.

And, well, with such beautiful lettuce and tomatoes, I could think of only one thing: BLTs.

I am, of course, a vegetarian. But I live in a mixed household, and the omnivorous members of the family enjoy bacon. Naturally. Well, I remembered a staple from my childhood that I hadn’t had in a while — fried provolone. Yep, the cheese. If you fry deli slices of provolone on the stovetop, they bubble up, brown and become crispy, just like bacon, and they slide right out of the pan after you cool them slightly, with no need to add oil. Fried provolone is a fabulous substitute for bacon in a sandwich, and it did just the trick here. Plus I couldn’t resist adding some of that delicious avocado, because, let’s face it, just about everything is made better with a few slices of avocado. So, rather than a veggie BLT, perhaps we should call this sandwich a PLAT — provolone, lettuce, avocado and tomato.

I think sandwich recipes are kind of silly, since you basically just throw everything together according to your own taste, but here’s a good starting point for you, because this sandwich is just too delicious not to share!

Veggie BLTs (aka PLATs)
Author: 
Recipe type: sandwich
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 2 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 slices sandwich bread (preferably freshly-made sourdough)
  • mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper
  • butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried with paper towels
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
Instructions
  1. Put a nonstick griddle or frying pan over medium high heat and add the cheese slices in a single layer. Allow to fry, turning the pan to ensure even heating as necessary, until bubbly and golden brown on bottom. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and then tear into strips or large pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the bread and slather one side with mayo. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the bread with lettuce leaves, and layer the tomato slices on top, using as many of each as suits your taste. Top with the provolone, and add avocado slices.
  4. Assemble, cut in half and chow down!

 

Between the Sheets

I’ve been loving experimenting with rum this summer. It’s just the best spirit for hot weather — besides, arguably, tequila — since it’s so bright, light and refreshing, and it’s fantastic paired with citrus and other fruity flavors. As I browsed my Pinterest cocktail board, though, I realized something: I was out of lemons. This would not do. So, with my shiny new membership card, I went to Costco* and bought a giant bag of limes and a giant bag of lemons. Problem solved.

* It’s practically the law when you have two small children. Plus I can’t even tell you how much Nora digs the samples. It’s like a theme park for her. Free entertainment!

With those lemons and a bottle of Flor de Caña Extra Seco, it was time to try out a Between the Sheets.

between the sheets

Okay, so it sounds a little racy. And for this cocktail’s era (it was around pre-Prohibition) it sure was! But the drink itself is a class act. Combining rum, cognac and citrus for a spin on the classic Sidecar, it’s a sure bet for summer. Cheers!

Between the Sheets
Author: 
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ oz light rum (such as Flor de Caña Extra Seco)
  • 1½ oz cognac
  • 1½ oz Grand Marnier (or Cointreau)
  • juice of one lemon
  • lemon twists for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

 

Cherries for Cocktails and More!

Oh, you guys. I have so many interesting things all photographed and in recipe-notes form… but I am suffering from the worst case of writer’s block. And I know the best cure for writer’s block is to just effing write.

Something. Anything.

So, I might as well write about the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do in awhile. I got to take a preserving class and make cocktail cherries and cherry pit syrup with Stephanie McClenny of Confituras at Whole Foods fabulous new store at the Domain. How cool is that?

confituras class

I’ve been a huge fan of Confituras since moving the Austin and learning about Stephanie’s sublime products. Frankly, I kinda have a crush on her — she’s my canning idol. Her recipes are just mouth-watering, and they’re all made in small batches and locally sourced. My all-time favorite is her Rio Red Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Jam.

And here it is, cherry season.

cherries

I do love cherries. We all know, further, that I love a good cocktail, so these two recipes go hand-in hand. Plus, one uses the pits from the other — you can’t go wrong! Make them both at once and reap the rewards for weeks to come.

The cocktail cherries are made with port, and are infinitely more delicious than any florescent red maraschino cherry you might find on a typical store’s shelves. They’re prefect for garnishing a cocktail or even a homemade soda (perhaps even one you’ve made with that cherry syrup).

cocktail cherries

Speaking of which… the cherry pit syrup is brilliant, too. It gets a deep, vanilla, okay flavor from the pits, and it makes a great mixer with soda or prosecco (a combination I tried out a the class, taking advantage of the mimosa and sangria bar generously provided by Whole Foods). The other night, I shook some up with whiskey and added a splash of soda — a great, easy cocktail. You can also pour it over pancakes or waffles, or even ice cream. Enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cocktail Cherries
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup ruby port
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1¼ pound Bing cherries, pitted
Instructions
  1. Place port, sugar, and lemon juice in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  2. Add cherries and continue to simmer on medium heat for about 1 minute.
  3. Ladle cherries into a clean quart glass jar, pouring port mixture over.
  4. Allow to cool until room temperature, then and refrigerate for at a few days before serving. Keeps for up to a year refrigerated. Enjoy!
Notes
Makes 1 quart

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cherry Pit Syrup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound Bing cherries
  • Leftover cherry pits
  • ½ cup water
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (or to taste)
  • ½ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Place cherries through peppercorns in medium sauce and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until cherries begin to lose their color. Remove from heat and strain liquid.
  3. Add sugar and bring to a boil once again, lower heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by about ⅓ and appears syrup-like.
  4. Add almond extract to taste. Allow to cool slightly then decant into a bottle and chill. Keeps for several months refrigerated.
Notes
Makes 2 cups.

Note: Whole Foods invited me to participate in the preserving class free of charge, but I was not otherwise compensated for this write-up, and my opinions are my own.

 

Iced Vodoo Chocolate Almond Mocha

When we lived in Sunnyvale, my favorite local coffee shop, Barefoot Coffee Roasters, had a sublime drink called the Voodoo, made with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate and coconut. I’ve craved it ever since, so naturally it was the inspiration for the recipe I’m about to share. But, it is eleventy billion degrees outside, so this is an iced version.

We all know that cold brew coffee is the way to go, especially for tasty iced coffee at home — but did you know that CoolBrew was doing cold brew before cold brew was cool?* This New Orleans company has been brewing their coffee using the cold-dripped process since 1989. Yep, they’re the original.

*Okay, cold brew was always cool, technically.

cool brew

When they offered me a sample, I enthusiastically said yes, and I received a big box of goodies to experiment with — which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. The recipe I am about to share is the first of a few I’ll be tossing out over the summer months — and perhaps beyond — to keep you nice and cool.

But first — here’s a cool trick to make sure you don’t water down your iced coffee. Use coffee ice cubes!

coffee ice cubes

It couldn’t be simpler. I just used some of my Original Cool Brew to make a batch of coffee, and then froze it in an ice cube tray to use in coffee-based beverages. How’s that for a stroke of brilliance? Of course, I can’t take full credit for the idea — Dolce Vita, a local espresso bar here in Austin, offers an “upgrade” of coffee ice cubes in any of their iced beverages for a small fee.

coffee 3

As for the Iced Voodoo — you guys. You are going to have to taste this to believe it. I slung together** my Iced Voodoo Chocolate Almond Mocha based on that Barefoot Roasters drink I crave, and I have to say — it’s not the same. I’m not a copycat artist. But when you take inspiration and use the tools you’ve got, sometimes something beautiful happens.

coffee

** I was gonna say “crafted” but, meh. That’s kinda pretentious, at least when you’re talking about my aimless kitchen experimentations. Artist I am not, but I do like to experiment, and I know what tastes good!

Beautiful it is. And delicious. And ever-so-simple to sling together.

Iced Vodoo Chocolate Almond Mocha
Author: 
Recipe type: Drinks
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 1 oz CoolBrew Chocolate Almond coffee concentrate (or other flavor of your choice)
  • 8 oz cold water
  • 2 Tbsp coconut milk (vanilla or regular)
  • 1 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
Instructions
  1. Measure the coffee concentrate and stir into the cold water.
  2. Add the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup and coconut milk and stir vigorously or shake to combine. Pour into a glass over ice (using coffee ice cubes if you desire).

Note: I received samples of CoolBrew coffee in exchange for this review, but I was not otherwise compensated, and my opinions are my own.

Dirty Martini (Gin, Please!)

Back in the day, when I worked long hours and sometimes went out for drinks with colleagues (sometimes before heading back to the office, natch), my go-to drink was a dirty martini. It was a rather trendy drink at the time, and I heard someone order one and decided to try it. I think the real appeal for me was that you could get one with blue cheese-stuffed olives! Of course, being a relative young ‘un, I ordered my dirty martinis with vodka. Because, well, that’s what you do. At least it was usually Tito’s or Grey Goose (only because Tito’s used to be hard to come by in NorCal).

Long story short, the hubby has been traveling for business a lot lately, and I’m often in need of a good, stiff drink after the kiddos are safely tucked into bed. I decided I wanted a dirty martini on one of those evenings, and I wondered if people made them with gin. A quick Google search later, I was entranced by this article on the dos and don’ts of the dirty martini. To the point: “Purists” (ha!) make dirty martinis with gin, not vodka, because vodka is rather tasteless (by design), so drinking a vodka dirty martini is basically just like drinking olive juice. Huh.

dirty martini

Clearly I had to test this theory. So, I broke out my trusty bottle of gin, cracked open a jar of local olives* and got to shaking. If I had been feeling extra-ambitious that evening, I probably would have stuffed the olives, once pitted, with blue cheese, but — again — hubby out of town, two kids finally in bed, exhaustion.

*Yes! Texas is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can successfully grow olives. We’ve just planted a couple of olive trees in our yard, but it will be years before we reap the rewards. Still, they’re pretty.

I must say, I am a convert. The flavors of the gin mingled quite well with the briny olive juice, and my first gin dirty martini made the perfect drink to sip while winding down after a hard day.

Hubby is gone again this week, so this just may be on my agenda for tonight. We’ll see once the kids are in bed.

Gin Dirty Martini
Author: 
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 3 oz gin
  • ¾ oz olive juice**
  • 2 olives (blue cheese-stuffed if desired)
Instructions
  1. Pour the gin and olive juice into a shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly until very cold, and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with speared olives.
Notes
** Be sure to use relatively fresh olives! Something that has been sitting in your fridge for months is not going to make for a very appetizing drink.

Summer Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta

Things have been crazy around here. All in the past two weeks, I got a new part-time consulting gig, hired a part-time nanny and launched myself back into the working world. Oh, and Amelia got two teeth. So that’s been fun!

The point is, we have all been feeling the changes. So, instead of sitting down for leftovers or something frozen for lunch yet again, I took my first “real” weekend seriously and slowed it down a bit. I made a delightfully simple summer farro salad using tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden.

tomato cucumber farro salad

We all enjoyed it — even Nora, once she settled down enough to sit down and actually try it. And she’s professing to like both tomatoes and cucumbers these days — music to my ears, and a darn good reason to have your own garden, if you ask me! She’s much more into food she gets to help harvest.

This salad is so easy to make, and it really showcases the flavor of the tomatoes and cucumbers — so use the freshest ones you can get! If you don’t grow your own, get thee to the farmer’s market.

Summer Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cups farro, uncooked
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ½ large cucumber, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese to finish
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
  2. Add the farro and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the farro is softened but still retains a bite, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain out any leftover stock and transfer the farro to a large bowl to cool to room temperature. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and red wine vinegar and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper (along with more vinegar if needed). Serve topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese.

 

Taste of North Austin 2014

Another Monday is over. So, naturally, it’s time to think about next weekend! I already know what my family will be doing on Saturday. Austinites — if you need something fabulous, fun and foodie- (and family-) friendly to do, I’ve got just the ticket.

DSC01551

Taste of North Austin is coming to the Domain this Saturday, June 21, from 11 am to 4 pm. There will be free entertainment, including live music and fun stuff for the kiddos, but if you want to taste the goods — you do, don’t you? — a wristband is required. It’s $20 for 10 tastes, and $10 more for VIP access.

Participating restaurants include local favorites Cru Wine Bar, How Do You Roll?, The League, Punch Bowl Social, Schlotzsky’s, Tiff’s Treats,* Tony C’s, Top Golf Austin, Urban – An American Grill, Zed’s Restaurant and many more.

* Man, does that ever remind me of college. Warm cookies delivered right to your dorm room — what could possibly be better?

With that plus live music, children’s entertainment including face painting, caricature drawings and balloon twisting, as well as prize giveaways, there’s a little something for everyone. VIP access includes entry into the VIP tent with shaded, soft seating, two drink tickets (for beer/wine) and a goody bag. Wristbands can be purchased at Guest Services at The Domain.

What: The Domain’s 7th Annual Taste of North Austin

When: Saturday, June 21, 2014

Time: 11 am to 4 pm

Where: The Domain, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Suite 210, Austin

To find more details and updates about the event, follow along on the Facebook event page or The Domain’s website.

* Note: This is a sponsored post. I received compensation from Taste of North Austin for this write-up.

Sweet Potato!

Amelia is 6 months old today! How did that happen? We celebrated, naturally, with sweet potato.

sweet potato

And so we delve, once more, into the world of baby food. As I did with Nora, I plan to make all of Amelia’s baby food myself. It’s not that hard. Really. Can you scrub sweet potatoes and bake them until they’re soft? Peel off the skin with your hands? Do you have a food processor or a blender? Then you can make sweet potato puree yourself and not have to worry about what other ick might be in the food you’re feeding to your baby.

The best part, though, is that it’s super-easy to freeze baby food in cubes — using an ice cube tray or one of these trays specifically made for the purpose — and all you have to do is pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Presto — instant homemade baby food.

If you’re interested in learning more about homemade baby food, check out the Gourmet Baby tab up there ^^ for lots of tips, tricks and recipes. I’ll also be blogging every now and then about the food I make for Amelia, to the extent I make anything new and interesting.

So, stay tuned! Of course, I’ll still be writing about grown-up food and drink, too. Just, you know, in case you were worried.

P.S. If you’re on Instagram, please follow me! I’m new there, but I love it already.

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