Puff Pastry with Havarti, Prosciutto and Asparagus

I am officially the mom of big kids. My youngest ‘graduated’ from preschool last week and will attend kindergarten with her brothers at their elementary school in the fall. To say she is excited and ready would be an understatement.

For seven straight years I’ve had at least one preschooler. Most of that time I was also holding a grumpy toddler or wrangling an infant car seat while also attempting to get my preschooler to school. I was the mom with the spilled coffee and spit up on her shirt, just trying to make it through the day hour by hour. Those were some wild years and at times I thought they would never end.

And now suddenly here we are. On to the next season of life. It seems like all those hard and beautiful days were over in the blink of an eye. The more seasoned moms in my life constantly remind me that time only speeds up. I believe them.

I am looking forward to summer break, to soaking up time with my three wild and crazy big kids. I won’t think too much about kindergarten but instead try and squeeze every drop of fun out of our days together. I’m sure as the dog-days of summer catch up to us, school and structure won’t seem like such a bad idea.

After preschool graduation we had a little celebration. I whipped up these special puff pastries stuffed with cheese and prosciutto and thin pieces of asparagus. The buttery and flaky pastry with a rich and savory filling was out-of-this-world delicious. Puff pastry can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store, usually near the frozen desserts. Simply allow the pastry to thaw on the counter or in your refrigerator until the dough is very cold but not frozen anymore. We made a big bowl of fruit salad to go along with our pastries but this dish could easily be served for lunch or dinner alongside a simple green salad. Served warm or at room temperature, you can swap the filling for whatever kinds of meat or cheese you prefer. Brie, smoke gouda or sharp cheddar are lovely cheeses to try as well.

 

Puff Pastry with Havarti, Prosciutto and Asparagus

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 9 squares
  • 4-5 slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Lightly roll out the pastry so the dough is even and has no creases. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 9 squares.

Rinse asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel. Select the thinnest spears and cut them in half. Discard the bottom half the spears and set the tops aside.

To make the puff pastries, layer half a slice of cheese, one slice of prosciutto and two to three spears of asparagus diagonally on the puff pastry. Fold two corners over the filling. Place the pastry on the baking sheet and continue until all nine puff pastry squares have been filled.

In a small bowl, whisk an egg with a splash of water until well combined. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the pastries with the egg wash. Sprinkle the pastries with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes.

When the pastries are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and melted, they are finished baking. Allow them to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before serving.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

I’ve got the perfect cake to make for Easter brunch. This cake is full of bright orange flavor and a hint of almond. It’s sweet without being overly sweet and the dollop of whipped cream and handful of tart berries on top are not only a pretty garnish but delicious with the orange and almond flavors of the cake.

Cardamom, often used in Indian cooking, is available at your local grocery store and gives a wonderful subtle warm spicy flavor to the cake. Cardamom has a bit of a citrus flavor too, and is often paired with orange and apple flavors.

As for our family, I’ll be wrestling my children into clothes with collars and buttons and hopefully some cute little sandals all the while throwing down coats and fleeces into the car for the inevitable Pacific Northwest weather you can almost always count on this early in spring. We will go to church and have an Easter egg hunt. My kids will eat way too much candy and shed their ‘fancy’ clothes and eventually we’ll sit down together for a late brunch.

I like to balance whatever sweet dish I make with something savory. I’m thinking a frittata because it’s ridiculously easy and quick to throw together. Sauté chopped asparagus, a shallot and spinach in olive oil over medium heat for a couple minutes. Turn the heat to low and pour 12 whisked eggs into the pan. Salt and pepper liberally and allow the eggs to set. Put the whole pan in the oven under broil for a couple minutes until the dish is cooked through and golden brown on top. Sprinkle with whatever cheese you like (maybe Beechers?) and brunch is ready.

You can also search the breakfast tab for a bunch of different egg dishes.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it includes a dose of sunshine, some fresh air and good food. Spring is finally here and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 tablespoon cardamom

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 large eggs, at room temperature

• 1 teaspoon almond extract

• 1 cup sour cream

• Zest of 2 medium oranges (about 2 tablespoons)

• Powdered sugar

• Whipped cream*

• Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan or two loaf pans and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the almond extract, sour cream and orange zest and mix for one more minute until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, mixing until just combined, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a platter and dust with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice pieces and top with a dollop of whipped cream and berries.

*To make homemade whipped cream, pour one-pint heavy whipping cream into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until soft peaks form. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to three days.

The Very Best Fudge Brownies

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Do you listen to audio books? I’m listening to Exit West right now. I walk around the house with my phone in my pocket, listening to the book while I go about my day. It’s weird and awesome at the same time. I find I’m not as absorbed into the story as I would be if I was physically reading a book but I really like listening to the author’s voice and being able to fold laundry or make lunch or just in general multi-task at the same time.

I started the month with noble ideas of cutting out all refined sugar from my family’s diet for the month. And we did pretty good for a couple weeks. Last week, a new Yakima Magazine was published and the recipes I wrote in November were suddenly calling to me. Namely these decadent fudge brownies sprinkled with coarse salt.

I stumbled across a brownie recipe on Pinterest a couple years ago. Over time I’ve tweaked the recipe, adding instant espresso powder and vanilla to get it just right for me. The result is a rich, dense, deeply chocolate brownie with a crackly top and a soft fudgy interior. If you like a more cake-like brownie, you could always increase the flour by 1/3 cup.

I make these brownies for friends with a new baby or if I know someone is going through a hard time. I know we aren’t supposed to attach emotion to food, but if anything was going to cheer you up or help you through a rough patch, these brownies would do it. They literally take 5 minutes to prep and are just as easy as throwing a box mix together. The only difference is they taste 100 times better and you’ll never make a box mix again.

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Fudge Brownies with Coarse Salt

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ¾ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line the bottom of an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder, instant coffee and salt over low heat. Stir until butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. When the mixture is warm but not hot stir in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring constantly until the batter looks thick and shiny. Add the flour and continue stirring for another full minute. Spread batter evenly into the lined pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the center of the batter is firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle with coarse pink Himalayan salt and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. If you can’t find coarse salt, Maldon sea salt will work well too. You just need a coarse grain salt.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

Happy New Year friends. That’s how I think of you when I sit down to write in this little corner. I feel like I’m having a conversation with my friends, sharing a few thoughts, a little bit of my life and a recipe I think you might like.

I had a little existential crisis towards the end of the year. Ok, maybe that’s a tiny bit dramatic, but I received some tough feedback on a couple recipes I posted. They didn’t work well for a few people because the recipes were hard to understand.

All of a sudden I felt like I had nothing to offer, nothing to say, and the very real truth that I’m just* a home cook hit me hard. I have zero training. I am NOT an expert…actually I’m about as far away from ‘expert’ as possible. I’m just a mom who loves to putter in the kitchen.

I spent the last couple weeks thinking hard about why I keep coming back to this space. And I finally decided that regardless of outcome, whether people visit me here in this space or not, I’m going to keep at it. This blog holds me accountable to doing two things I love and need in my life: cooking and writing. I get to be creative, I get to try new things, I get to be a little bit brave. So I decided I’m going to keep at it and even more, those would be my new year resolutions this year.

As much as I’m not much of a resolution-type person, this new year somehow feels different. I’m eager for a fresh start. While last year was good (really good in fact), it was also an unbelievably hard year. And the sadness and challenges I was going through hung around me like a dark cloud for months. But finally, the past is fading and as this new year ushers in, I feel ready and excited. I want to keep cooking. Learning. Practicing being brave. All of it.

Alright, enough rambling. How about a recipe? These blueberry buttermilk muffins are super easy to throw together and taste heavenly. Although full disclosure: even though I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, yesterday I misread the instructions and only added one teaspoon of baking powder. The muffins were dense and didn’t have the lovely domed top I was going for. I realized my mistake and grudgingly started over again. I’m starting the year nice and humble, practicing laughing at myself, forcing myself to try again, even when I don’t want to.

Who knew a batch of muffins could bring on such deep thoughts? Sheesh. I’m chalking it up to the new year. I’m sure by next week I’ll be back to lamenting over the crazy shenanigans my kids are up to and how much I hate the gray cold winter weather.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins (recipe adapted from A Homemade Kitchen)

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (preferably NOT non-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (raspberries, blackberries or cherries work great too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners or spray liberally with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs until well incorporated. Stir in sugar, melted butter, buttermilk, yogurt and vanilla. Mix well.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just barely combined. Stir in the frozen berries to the batter. Don’t be surprised if the berries turn the batter a little purple.

Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins. Fill the tins right up to the top. You are going for a tall domed muffin. Sprinkle each muffin with raw sugar for a little crunch on the lid of the muffin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack. Allow the muffins to finish cooling upside down.

 

Pumpkin Muffins

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It just wouldn’t be fall without a batch of pumpkin muffins. I went on not one but two pumpkin patch field trips last week, traversing the corn maze with a group of preschoolers, herding them through the pumpkin patch until they found just the right pumpkin. Two days later, my first grader got his turn and we had a blast riding the tractor, eating lunch with friends and of course, picking out the perfect pumpkin.

We are in the idyllic couple of weeks when everywhere you look is quintessential fall. The Poplar trees I look at out the windows of my house are brilliantly yellow and I find myself stopping to marvel at their beauty several times a day. The apple and pear orchards bordering my house boast deep red and golden orange leaves, waving in the wind, almost as if they’re showing off. The backdrop of blue sky and green grass with the desert hills beyond is breathtaking and a scene I don’t want to take for granted.

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And when fall is this beautiful, it seems not only right but downright necessary to make something pumpkin. I’m the first to roll my eyes at all the pumpkin spice hype. I get it, the saying ‘too much of a good thing,’ is very real. But these pumpkin muffins will bring you right back around again — light and chewy with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust along the top — you’ll make batch after batch of these all fall long.

Sometimes I throw a handful of chocolate chips into the batter for my kids and the other week, I skipped the cinnamon and sugar on top and instead sprinkled granola on the muffins. They were delicious! Whatever you decide to do, you can’t go wrong. And if you’re local and can carve out a little time this weekend, go for a walk on the Cowiche trails or along the Greenway and enjoy the beauty of the Valley before it’s blanketed in snow.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar (if you don’t have any, just use regular granulated sugar)

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in 12 standard-sized muffin cups.

Stir or whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice in medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and 1 cup sugar. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 3/4 full). If you want to add chocolate chips, stir in one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter before spooning into muffin cups.

Stir together tablespoon of raw sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over each muffin.

Bake until puffed and golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Prosciutto and Nectarine Pizza

Today feels a little bit special. Four years ago this month I published my first column in the Yakima Magazine.  I’ve poured my heart into developing recipes, learning how to take food photos (something I am very much still learning about) and sharing a few words here and there. This little blog is an off-shoot of my column, both of which I cherish very much. The first recipe I ever shared was pizza on the grill so it felt fitting to revisit a house staple and a recipe I’ve tweaked and streamlined over the last couple years. Hope you enjoy!

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The very first article I ever wrote for Yakima Magazine was the September 2014 edition. I knew former editor Robin Beckett through mutual friends and earlier in the summer we ran into each other at a barbecue. She loved the cookies I made for the party (you can find the recipe on yakimamagazine.com, just search chocolate chip cookies) and after chatting for a bit, she asked if I wanted to write something for the magazine. I was floored and excited and spent the rest of the summer planning out exactly what I wanted to feature.

After much deliberation, I decided to write about making pizza on the barbecue. When the day finally came to have photographs done for the article, I had worked myself into a complete frenzy. I had three different pizzas ready to be photographed, my house was clean top to bottom (even though we weren’t taking pictures inside) and I was sweaty, frazzled and very nervous. I vividly remember burning the first pizza, trying hard to laugh off my embarrassment, secretly grateful I had prepped extra pizzas.

Fast forward three years and I’m still here, cooking and baking, making messes and occasionally burning things in my kitchen. I’m so grateful to have Kitchen Captivated in Yakima Magazine to share what I love most, which is making food that brings families and friends to the table together.

It felt right on this ‘anniversary’ of sorts to revisit pizza on the grill. Pizza continues to be a staple around my house because it’s a dinner the whole family loves and gets involved with. But like this column, my pizza-making skills have evolved a bit over the last couple years. My dough recipe is simple and quick, all you need is five minutes to prep and a few hours to let the dough rise. We almost always make pizza on Sunday nights when I have a little extra time in the day. I make the dough in the late morning or early afternoon and leave it on the counter. You could also make dough the night before and store it in the fridge, just pull it out an hour or so before you want to use it.

The beautiful thing about pizza is that just about anything goes when it comes to toppings. This sweet nectarine and prosciutto pizza is a bit of summer goodness in each bite. And while we might be seeing small signs that fall is just around the corner, my local fruit stand is bursting with amazing fresh produce, just begging to be enjoyed. Sweet juicy nectarines (which easily could be swapped for peaches) and salty prosciutto combine with tangy goat cheese, ample fresh basil and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a pizza that is literally bursting with flavor.

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Prosciutto and Nectarine Pizza

  • 1 12-inch pizza dough, rolled out
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • 1 nectarine (or peach), washed and thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt

Place prepared dough on a pizza pan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Brush dough with olive oil. Start with the prosciutto, evenly placing it across the dough, leaving a 1-inch crust around the edges. Top with sliced nectarines then goat cheese and mozzarella. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake or grill until desired doneness. As soon as the pizza comes off the heat sprinkle generously with chopped basil and balsamic vinegar.

This pizza dough recipe is a hybrid of several outstanding recipes including Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough, and Yakima’s Essencia Bakery where I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class last year. I simply took the ingredients and techniques from each recipe and adapted them to what works in my kitchen.

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Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup tap water, plus more if needed

Using an electric mixer with a dough attachment or a food processor, place the flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and honey into the bowl. Turn the mixer or food processor on and mix a few times. Slowly add the water to the flour mixture until dough forms. If the mixture is very wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is stretchy and moist but not gloppy or overly sticky. If the mixture is too dry and very stiff, add a tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture is just right.

Using well-floured hands, mold the dough into a round ball and place in a clean dry bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel and walk away. Let the dough rise for at least 2 hours or until it’s more than doubled in size.

When you are ready to make pizza, divide the dough in half and using well-floured hands and cutting board, work the dough a few times until it’s in a nice ball. Let the dough rest on the board under a towel for an additional 15 minutes. (use this time to shred cheese, pre-heat the oven, dice veggies, ect.) Preheat the oven to 450 degree.

Roll the dough out using a rolling pin to 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Lift the crust onto a pizza pan sprayed with cooking spray. Top with desired toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes.

To grill your pizza on the barbecue (which I highly recommend), simply heat your barbecue to medium high heat. If you have a thermometer, shoot for about 500 degrees. You can place your metal pizza pan directly on the barbecue or if you have a pizza stone, even better. Pizza on the grill usually cooks in about 8-10 minutes. When the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, your pizza is ready to come off the heat.

Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

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When all else fails in my garden, I can count on my zucchini plant to stick with me. I only plant one little plant each year and it never ceases to surprise me the way it grows into a giant zucchini producing machine by the end of the summer. I grate zucchini and keep it in a sealed container in my refrigerator to add to everything from scrambled eggs to pasta dishes to loaves of zucchini bread or cake. I make loaves and loaves of zucchini-based goodies all summer long, storing the extras in the freezer for a little taste of summer all winter long.

If you don’t happen to have a zucchini plant growing in your yard, just ask around, I’m sure someone in your life is looking to unload a few vegetables. If not, the fruit stands around town have them three for a dollar and just about as cheap at the grocery store.

This bundt cake is super simple and quick to put together. My 4-year-old daughter was my special helper in the kitchen this week and she loved doing everything from measuring the sugar to grating the zucchini. My 7-year-old and 8-year-old sons were all too happy to taste test our little project and gave a whole-hearted two thumbs up.

I ended up making this cake a couple different times to get it just how I liked it and for one batch I added an 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves. I didn’t include it for the official recipe because I wanted a summery light cake but adding the cloves gave the cake a hint of spicy warmth and something I’ll add once fall comes around.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

  • 3 room temperature eggs
  • 1 cup canola or coconut oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (about ½ a bag)
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan or two loaf pans. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat eggs and oil for 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add in sugar and continue to mix until well-combined, about 2 more minutes. Mix in zucchini and vanilla. In a separate bowl, using a wood spoon, stir together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. With the mixer on low, slowly mix the dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Using a wood spoon, stir in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes. Flip the cake out of the pan onto a cake platter. In a small bowl, melt the remaining chocolate chips in a microwave, heating for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well before putting back into the microwave for another 30 seconds (this shouldn’t take more than 1 full-minute, but it’s important to stir the chocolate every 30 seconds). When the chocolate is completely melted, use a spoon to drizzle over the cake. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.