April 1st is probably my least favorite day on the internet. Why did anyone ever think pranks were fun? Like running marathons and tequila shots. Just don’t get it. But April 1st is also the beginning of my birthday week and the start of my favorite month. Things happen in April. Trees bloom and ramps grow and people get happier because they’re walking around drinking lemonade and eating fro-yo in the sunshine and how could that not make you happy?
On the note of happiness and birthdays, it’s not surprising I want celebrate with something chocolate and fudgy. While I prefer cake, these Chocolate Chunk Brownies with Salted Fudge Frosting and Pistachios would absolutely do the trick. Use whatever is your favorite brownie recipe, then add this salted fudge frosting – kicks them up a notch to be birthday-worthy. Chopped pistachios bring in one of my favorite spring flavors (and colors).
Don’t be gullible…April rules. Just add chocolate.
Chocolate Chunk Brownies with Salted Fudge Frosting and Pistachios
- 6 oz dark chocolate chips
- 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips divided in half
- 8 oz butter
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup cocoa
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt dark chocolate, half of the semi-sweet chocolate, and butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Let cool.
- In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and eggs. Mix in cooled chocolate. Slowly incorporate the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix to combine. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips.
- Pour into a greased cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until set.
Salted Fudge Frosting
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg with 1 1/2 cups sugar on low speed, add the cocoa into egg mixture. Add remaining 1 cup sugar, vanilla, butter and sea salt and beat to combine. Spread onto cooled brownies. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
Trying to regularly get back to this blogging thing. Something has been off for the last few weeks. Maybe it has something to do with not spending time here. So let’s try it again. We’ll start with something simple. The basics. Breakfast.
I’ve been thinking about breakfast a lot recently. Rumor has it, I might be cooking breakfast on a tv show with one of my all time favorite legends. I’m still afraid of jinxing it, so while I don’t want to over-gush just yet, I do want to talk about breakfast.
To me breakfast isn’t about starting the day off right physically. Sure, I try to eat mildly healthy so that happens. But for me, breakfast is about starting the day off with a feeling. Letting yourself feel maybe for the first time, getting yourself ready for all the other things you’ll feel that day. Nothing has changed since you were in bed…you’re still in your pajamas, your eyes are still a little shut because it’s bright out, you probably haven’t even spoken yet. But then there’s that first sip of coffee that makes your brain tingle. The sound of cracking an egg. The flavors of an everything bagel or cheddar cheese that remind you of breakfasts mom and dad used to make. Tastes and smells and little observations that make you feel. It’s your first chance to connect with something. Isn’t that what you get out of bed for? Those feelings, that connection, is what wakes me up. What gets me going in the morning and keeps me going all day long. It’s how you start your day off right.
I often fall into breakfast habits, so I’m trying to switch it up a bit. Stay in tune with what inspires me. Find new connections. A few weekends ago I had a friend over and we made these cinnamon brown butter waffles with maple berries. The thing about breakfast is that there isn’t and there shouldn’t be too much work to it. After all, your eyes might not even be open. A few stirs, a machine that does the work for you, and a new friend to talk food with. It’s simple. We should eat more breakfast.
Cinnamon Brown Butter Waffles
- 7 Tbs butter
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbs cinnamon
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
Preheat waffle iron. Brown butter over low heat. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Beat in eggs and milk until combined. Pour mixture over headed waffle iron and cook to your iron’s instructions until waffles are golden brown and crisp.
Maple Berry Compote
In a small saucepan, cook berries (I used raspberries and blackberries) with some good maple syrup. You could also add some bourbon. Cook until reduced into a sauce.
Are we over this snow yet? Another day at home…bundled up in a fuzzy blanket, sipping coffee, working, as the snow falls sideways. It’s nice actually, to have time to myself. Power through emails, no distractions, wearing the comfiest pajamas all day long. A break from trying to impress and entertain constantly. So maybe for one last time, I’m thankful for the snow. Last one though!
One other snow day perk, a craving (maybe more so than usual) for a rich and comforting pasta. Hopefully your fridge is stocked with a few simple ingredients – spinach, cauliflower, cheese – because you’ll want to crawl into this dish and hibernate. Mmmm. My no-recipe version below…
Creamy, Cheesy Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach
Chop cauliflower in small bite-sized pieces and place on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 20-30 minutes at 400°. Meanwhile, sauté chopped onions and garlic in butter and olive oil for a while until onions have softened. Add a whole bag of baby spinach and stir as it wilts. Add some heavy cream and and a spoonful of mascarpone into the sauce. Toss in roasted cauliflower and cooked pasta. Serve with fresh grated parm and a dollop of fresh ricotta.
Kicking off the week with something sweet. I sure need it. I’m having one of those moments/days/feels like a lifetime of stress and I just want to crawl into a big fluffy cocoon and never come out. Ok, it’s not that bad, but I’ve definitely been having moments. When even the idea of making a cake sounds stressful and I actually contemplated using a box mix. That’s when I know something is off.
Anyway, you take it one ingredient and one step at a time. You may not think you have time for it but it helps slow you down. And watching the mixer gradually turn liquid cream into frosting is one of the best sights ever…it’s worth slowing down for.
I’ll get back to feeling like I’m on top of things. I can’t not get there. In the meantime, you just have to try to not get so down on yourself. Focus at what’s hand. Surround yourself with only supportive people. (I’m lucky to have many.) Don’t sacrifice things that make you happy for time or punishment…you just might find that those are the things, like cake and cream or a Justin Timberlake concert, that can pull you out and get you back to your stride.
Dulce De Leche Cake
Start with a basic white cake – like Martha Stewart’s. Frost layers with dulce de leche – like La Salamandra. Top with this dulce de leche whipped cream.
Cinnamon Dulce De Leche Whipped Cream
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 cup dulce de leche
In a mixer using a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until whipped. Slowly beat in the vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. Gently fold in the dulce de leche.
I made this pasta for a boy but I ate it alone. More for me. I made it spicy cause he likes it spicy. But turns out I like spicy too now. Sometimes, well most of the time, things don’t work out the way you plan them out in your head. But other times, like in the case of this pasta sauce, they turn out even better. It could be the incredible pork belly. It could be the anticipation of sauce bubbling on the stove for hours…letting my favorite smells (garlic, onion, mmmm) fill my entire apartment. It could be that because the boy didn’t show, I got to eat this in sweatpants while watching Pretty in Pink and sending silly snaps to my girlfriends. Clearly I won this one.
I definitely improvised with this one, but you can too. Here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:
Pasta With Spicy Slow-Roasted Pork Belly Sauce
In a heavy pot, sauté minced onion, shredded carrot, a big pinch of red pepper flakes and garlic with some butter and olive oil. Add a large can (or more) of crushed tomato and bring to a simmer. Add cooked pork belly. (I got mine from Chef Dimitri at Cava Mezze, but you can easily make your own too. I like this 3-step recipe.) You don’t need a lot. I used about a half a cup. Shred in sauce. Simmer for as long as you can stand it…an hour at least. Serve with pasta (homemade if you’re feeling ambitious) and fresh grated parm.