Raspberry Nectarine Tart

I stopped in at Johnson Orchards last week to pick up a box of peaches and peek at what else was available. The white nectarines were calling my name and as I loaded up a bag to take home, my mind was racing as I thought of all the things I could make with them.

Of course, almost all of them were eaten over the kitchen sink, juice running down our hands, too lazy even to slice them up.

But the last couple nectarines were begging to be turned into something special. I needed a special dessert for a get together I was hosting and I had just the idea. I decided to make a batch of lemon scented shortbread cookie dough and shape it into a large rectangle. I baked it until it was lightly golden brown and the house smelled of sugar and lemon. I whipped up a frosting with unsalted butter, a little cream cheese, vanilla and more lemon zest. I slathered the giant cookie with the frosting and topped it all with those glorious nectarines, some raspberries, and a tiny bit of mint from my garden. And just to be a little fancy, I added a few nasturtium blossoms, also from my garden, which technically are edible.

The dessert was light but so wonderfully decadent at the same time. I cut the pieces into thin rectangles to serve and before I knew it the entire thing was gone. I was admittedly a little obsessed, so I made the recipe again a few days later. This time I just piled the top with fresh blueberries and a little more lemon zest. It was perfection.

Use this recipe as a guide but feel free to play around and make it to your preferences. Don’t like lemon? Skip it. Have blackberries growing in your yard? Use those. My only recommendation is to use fresh fruit so the cookie stays crisp and doesn’t get soggy.

Peaches, strawberries, blueberries, nectarines and raspberries are all readily available right now and any combination will make a delicious and special treat.

Raspberry Nectarine Tart

For the cookie:

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

• ½ cup sugar

• ½ teaspoon almond extract

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• Zest of 1 lemon

• 1 ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the butter mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, almond and lemon zest and mix to combine. Add the flour and pinch of salt all at once and mix on low until a crumbly dough comes together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Working quickly, gather the dough and shape it into a rectangle about 14 inches long and ¼ inch thick. It helps to flour your hands when working with the dough. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cookie is lightly golden brown and the center of the cookie is cooked through. Remove cookie from oven and set aside to cool.

For the frosting:

• ½ cup softened butter (1 stick)

• 4 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• Zest of 1 lemon

• 2 cups powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer, combine butter and cream cheese and beat until well-mixed. Add in vanilla and lemon zest and mix for another minute. On low speed, add in powdered sugar until frosting is smooth and creamy.

To assemble the dessert, generously frost the cookie making sure the entire cookie has a thick layer of frosting. Wash and slice two nectarines. Top the cookie with sliced nectarines and raspberries. Garnish the cookie with minced mint and nasturtium blossoms.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the cookie in half down the middle. Cut small rectangles from the two pieces.

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Last week I rallied my motley crew of three capable, but less than enthusiastic, kids and we headed to Sloop Blueberry Farm out in Naches. There’s a few things to know about me, and one of them is: I’m serious about blueberry picking. I’ve picked blueberries in 90 degree weather and 9 months pregnant, I’ve picked blueberries at 6 in the morning, I’ve picked blueberries with a 1-week-old infant. I don’t mess around. My goal is to stuff enough blueberries in my freezer for the entire year. It never quite happens, but every year I try.

I promised the person who picked the most blueberries (fully expecting it to be me) got to pick the ice cream treat on the way home. Well, my two boys ‘teamed’ up and they picked 25 pounds of blueberries, leaving my daughter and I in the dust with just 23 pounds. They gleefully announced to everyone within a one-acre radius we were headed to Dairy Queen for giant blizzards.

Before you think we were toiling away for hours, we picked almost 49 pounds of blueberries in under two hours. Blueberries grow in clumps, almost like grapes and picking them is literally the easiest thing you can do. The berries practically fall into your bucket as you gently pull the fruit from the stems. I want to go out and pick some more but I’m not sure I have the room in my freezer. To preserve my berries, I filled my clean kitchen sink with ice cold water and dumped the berries in. I laid out clean towels on my kitchen counter and using a colander, scooped the berries out of the water after a minute or two. I allowed the berries to dry on the towels and then stored them in gallon-size freezer bags. At just $1.75 per pound, I have enough berries for pancakes, smoothies, treats and snacking to last months. If you’re local, and want to find a u-pick farm near you, go to www.farmfreshfun.com for a list of farms and what’s in season.

These blueberry crumb bars are the perfect way to use blueberries. Whether you pick them yourself or buy a container at the grocery store, nothing says summer like this sweet, fruity dessert. The crust is basically a lightly sweetened shortbread cookie with a hint of lemon zest. The filling is just blueberries with a bit of corn starch to thicken the juices and the crumb on top is the same as the crust, just crumbled over the blueberries. I found this recipe on a website called smittenkitchen.com years ago and it’s one I go back to every summer once blueberries are in season. The original recipe calls for a 9×13 pan but I prefer to use a 9×9 square pan for a thicker crust. Whichever size pan you use, you can’t go wrong.

Blueberry Crumb Bars

·         1 cup granulated sugar

·         1 teaspoon baking powder

·         3 cups all-purpose flour

·         ¼ teaspoon salt

·         Zest of one lemon

·         1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

·         1 large egg

·         4 cups blueberries

·         Juice of 1 lemon

·         4 teaspoons cornstarch

·         ½ cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper.

In a bowl, stir together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly, kind of like a shortcake or biscuit dough where the butter pieces are the size of a pea. Pat a little over half the mixture into the bottom of the pan, forming an even layer.

In another bowl, mix the blueberries, cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice gently together. Layer the blueberry mixture over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the blueberry layer.

Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes until the top is lightly brown and the juices are bubbling. The smaller pan will require closer to 60 minutes, the larger 9×13 pan will take closer to 45 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Store extras in the refrigerator.

 

Strawberry Shortcake

When it comes to dessert I will always always choose something with berries or citrus. Apple pie? Berry Crumble? Lemon bars? Sorbet? Yes, please. I can guarantee, left to my own devices, dessert will always be of the fruit variety.

Unfortunately, I stand alone in my preferences when it comes to my family. I live with four other people who will always always choose something decadently chocolate. Preferably with peanut butter, if possible.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I thought it only fitting to offer a treat for all the mothers out there who regularly give up their preferred treats in the name of love. If you, like me, love all things fruit, then this dessert is for you. Lightly sweetened shortcakes with a hint of lemon are a cross between a biscuit and a sugar cookie. Light and fluffy with a crisp top, you could make these decadent shortcakes and call dessert finished. But topped with juicy berries and a dollop of whipped cream and the dessert goes from great to amazing.

When I was a kid, growing up in Spokane, we would regularly trek to Greenbluff, an agricultural community north of town full of u-pick farms and fruit stands to pick strawberries and raspberries. We ate strawberry shortcake for dinner during those glorious few early summer weeks when strawberries were in harvest and our kitchen counter overflowed with berries. My mom would mix up Bisquick biscuits and make homemade whipped cream and we would sit on our deck with big bowls in front of us. Maybe that’s why I love fruit desserts so much.

As an ode to all the mothers out there and because summer is just around the corner, stop in at the Farmer’s Market starting up this Sunday downtown and pick up a few pints of strawberries if you can find any. (It might be a little early). Make this strawberry shortcake for the mom in your life and if you can, serve it up in a big bowl and eat it outside, enjoying every moment of this glorious weather our Valley gets. Happy Mother’s Day!

Strawberry Shortcake

For the Shortcake:

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)

• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

• 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

• 1 ½ cups heavy cream

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fruit:

• 1 pound strawberries and blueberries (or any combination of berries)

• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Whipped Cream:

• 2 cups heavy cream

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and cut up the fruit. In a large bowl toss the fruit in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside. To make the whipping cream, combine the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the shortcakes, combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix well. Add the butter to the bowl and using a pastry knife, two forks or clean hands, gently mix the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea-size chunks. You want to be able to see the butter still. Create a small well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream and vanilla. Gently stir to combine and form a dough. When the dough has just barely come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and shape into a square about ¾ inch thick. Cut into 9 generous squares.

Transfer the shortcakes to a lined baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. While the shortcakes chill, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the shortcakes until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

To assemble, slice the shortcakes in half. Place the bottom of each shortcake on a plate. Top with a generous scoop of fruit and a dollop of whipped cream and put the top half the shortcake back on. Serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

My kids (and their sweet grandma) made that plate you can see in the background for me for Christmas. It’s actually more of a platter and I’ve taken to leaving it out on my counter. I stack cookies on it, or let a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, cool on it. I love seeing their handprints and they love seeing the gift they made proudly displayed on the kitchen island.

Speaking of the kids, they’ve been doing hot laps on their scooters around and around our patio, zigzagging the furniture, making jumps off the step. This morning Luke got a bunch of cardboard out of the recycling bin and started building some sort of contraption for more scooter tricks. Last night it was literally pitch black and pouring rain and they were still out there, shrieking and laughing, racing around and around. They bang on the slider door begging me to watch. I stop whatever I’m doing to laugh and cheer on their tricks and stunts.

I meant to get this cookie recipe posted a full week ago, but you know how life gets in the way sometimes. In all honesty, I’ve opened this page a handful of times, stumped by the empty screen. I swing wildly between wanting to document more day to day life (a little mommy blogging like the good ol’ days) and then immediately feeling vulnerable about it. The online world feels so tricky to navigate these days.

I have friends who regularly take breaks from social media, it just seems to hit a nerve where all the pretty (posed, planned and curated) pictures make them feel bad about their less than but (completely normal happy) perfect life. I have other friends who completely own and acknowledge their reliance on it. I feel like I’m somewhere in the world. It’s definitely an absent minded habit. I struggle with falling down the rabbit hole of scrolling. But I also find a ton of inspiration and connection on social media. I peek into friends and families lives that I otherwise wouldn’t have the pleasure of keeping up with. Not to mention that this little corner of the internet provides a needed creative outlet that no matter how many times I think I’m going to quit it, I just can’t seem to.

Anyway, lets talk cookies. I don’t really eat dairy anymore. It’s been almost a year. I occasionally eat it when I can’t get around it or something is just too yummy and amazing to pass up. I pay for it with terrible stomach aches but every once in a while its worth it. It was easier than I thought it would be to give up, but man, I miss a good cookies sometimes. A real cookie. I’m not going to lie to you, these are not the same as a real, fresh-from-the-oven, chocolate chip cookie. But they are really really good. And they hit the spot when it comes to a craving for a sweet treat. Even better, I don’t feel that bad eating them and letting my kids snack on them.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk (from the can)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large sauce pan mix together the coconut oil, sugar, coconut milk and cocoa powder over low heat until no lumps remain and the sugar is dissolved. Allow to come to a boil and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and rolled oats. Stir in vanilla.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Using a spoon, drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto wax paper. Let cool until completely set. Store covered in the refrigerator.

(Makes about 3 dozen smallish cookies)

Enjoy!

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.

Orange Almond and Dark Chocolate Shortbread

Woah…didn’t quite mean to take an almost month long break. Life you know? I’ve got a couple recipes to get caught up on and then next week I’ll get back on schedule (in theory).

Happy Saturday friends. No snow here but we’re headed out to find some in a bit.

We have an annual tradition the weekend after Thanksgiving to drive up towards White Pass in search of a Christmas Tree. We buy the $5 tag from the Ace Hardware in Naches, fill a thermos with hot chocolate and bundle the kids up from head to toe. We’ve been doing this every year for close to 10 years, driving deep into the forest past Clear Lake, to our special spot, bumping along a rutted-out forest service road.

When we finally get to our spot, the kids and dogs spill out of the car, usually fussing over a missing glove or cold feet but the fresh air and wide-open space takes over and within seconds they are whooping and hollering, running in and out of trees insisting each one they see is the ‘perfect’ tree.

Once negotiations have been made and a tree is agreed upon, we cut it down and load everyone back up to head home. It’s a tradition we all look forward to and I love to look back at photos from over the years, seeing my children as babies, bundled up in snowsuits, toddling tentatively through the snow. These days they lead the charge, darting up and over logs, throwing snowballs, making passionate pleas as to which tree should be chosen.

As much as going out in search of our Christmas tree is a tradition, so is laughing over the inevitable ‘Charlie Brown’ status of our wild tree. This year’s tree is no exception, full of big holes between the branches and one side a bit lackluster in branches. Somehow every year, the tree looks pristine in the mountains and always surprises us once it’s in the house. It’s all part of the charm and fun (I hope). I laugh thinking about what stories my kids will tell someday.

Once the tree is up, holiday prep goes into full swing around my house. And number one priority (ok not really, but it’s one of my favorites) is making lots and lots of cookies. This week’s shortbread cookie is adapted from Martha Stewart. I took the liberty of adapting the recipe a little bit, but that’s the beauty of shortbread, it’s a blank slate for whatever kind of flavors you want to add. Candied ginger and lemon zest would be lovely, as would classic vanilla. Dried cranberries and white chocolate is another house favorite. Play around and see what you come up with, you can’t go wrong.

Orange, Almond and Dark Chocolate Shortbread

  • 2 sticks unsalted room temperature butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 1 orange)
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons half and half

Make the dough: In a mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour and orange zest; mix just until a dough forms. With a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or your hands, gently mix in almonds.

Freeze the dough: in between two pieces of waxed paper, form dough into a flat rectangle about 12 inches in diameter or until the dough is about ¼ inch thick. Put the cookie dough in the freezer for 30 minutes (or the refrigerator for at least an hour) before baking.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove dough from freezer. You have two options to create cookies. Use a sharp knife and cut dough into small even squares OR use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of the dough. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. Bake until edges just begin to turn golden, about 15-20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet; transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and half and half in 30 second intervals. After each 30 seconds, stir the chocolate vigorously until the chocolate is just melted. Dip the cookies halfway in the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before storing.

Apple Breakfast Cake

A happiest Thanksgiving to you and yours. It’s a great honor and pleasure to share a few words and a recipe with you here each week. As I sit down to write this article, I am near the fireplace watching the flames bounce and pop. One of my children is drawing at the kitchen table, occasionally calling to me to spell out words. I’m sure we’ll be treated to a story at dinner later. The other two are playing with our rambunctious kitten, intermittently squabbling yet remaining together, passing the kitten back and forth lost in their imaginary game. My husband is tending the fire, hopping up to putter around the house, never one to sit for long. Dinner is cooking in the oven, a roast cooked with onions and carrots, lots of garlic and a big glug of red wine. If the meat tastes half as good as the house smells, we’ll be in good shape.

Let me be honest though, my home and life are rarely this idyllic. We have hardships and stress. We worry; sometimes we argue. I think we can all relate that way a little bit. Life can be really hard sometimes. But tonight is a good night, and it seems right on this Thanksgiving holiday to pause a moment in gratitude.

I think even in the chaos and challenging times, when we look around at our surroundings, we can be delighted by the many good things we find. I’m grateful for a warm house and dinner in the oven. For happy children and a family to call my own. For a few moments to jot down a few words, to share the food and connections that bring us to the table over and over again.

And the weekend is just getting started. We have a houseful of guests with a trek up to the mountains planned, football to watch, leftovers to eat and maybe a hike or two to try and balance out all those leftovers.

This week’s recipe is an apple breakfast cake. It’s a quick one-bowl cake that you can swap for any fruit you like. I used Autumn Glory apples, a new varietal growing here in the Yakima Valley. With a firm crunchy texture and a subtle cinnamon flavor, they were the perfect apple to use for this recipe. If you can’t find Autumn Glory apples; honeycrisp, golden delicious or Braeburn all work well too. Perfect for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt or a drizzle of Copper Pot Carmel sauce never hurt and takes it from breakfast to dessert.

Apple Breakfast Cake

• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

• ½ teaspoon cinnamon

• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

• 1/2 cup granulated sugar

• 2 large eggs

• 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

• 1 cup chopped and peeled apple

• 18-20 thinly sliced pieces of apple to top the cake

• Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter and flour a 10-inch cast iron skillet, if you don’t have one, you can use a cake pan.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and butter.  Whisk in the vanilla and almond extract.

Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined and no lumps remain. Fold the chopped apples into the batter. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Arrange the apple slices on top the cake is a single layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.