Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam

Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam //

Can we talk about berries for a second?

What I actually mean to say is, can we talk about berries always and forever? Because it’s berry season in the Pacific Northwest, and I am finding myself surrounded by an abundance of edible treasures. I feel like a farmer’s market junkie stalking all the fresh produce and making long to-do lists of recipes to try (doesn’t everybody do this?!).

Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam //

Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam //

So the other day I came home with two flats of strawberries and too many ideas of how I should use them. You see, summertime to me usually means freaking out at all the fresh produce available, and I usually end up buying more than I can reasonably use. So I baked a pie, and then I invited some friends over to eat Eton Mess, my favorite British dessert consisting of whipped double cream with crumbled meringue and macerated berries.

Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam //

But I still had a lot of leftover strawberries, so I had to preserve these little beauties. I actually pickled some of them, and threw them on a shredded kale salad with feta and a balsamic vinaigrette. But I preserved the majority of the strawberries by making jam. I decided to add a touch of fresh, grated ginger to the jam, because I’ve been on a ginger kick lately. It adds a light bite without being overpowering. Then the other day, Hannah got the idea to eat the strawberry-ginger jam with some gluten-free almond cookies she made! We pressed the jam in between two little shortbread-like cookies, and the results were brilliant: oozing jam, crumbly almond cookies, eaten together like a sammich. This is teamwork (and eating) at its finest.

Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam //

Almond Cookies with Strawberry-Ginger Jam //

Almond Cookies

// Ingredients //

2 cups almond flour

1/3 cup butter, soft

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon, finely chopped fresh sage or rosemary

Strawberry-Ginger Jam, recipe follows


// Directions //

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix all ingredients except the jam in a medium bowl just to blend. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, portion out cookies, spacing about 1-inch apart on baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until pale golden. Transfer cookies to rack to let cool completely. Spoon jam on one cookie, and sandwich with another cookie. Sandwich cookies with remaining strawberry-ginger jam.


Strawberry-Ginger Jam

// Ingredients //

5 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

4 cups granulated sugar, or to taste

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice


// Directions //

Plate a couple small plates in the freezer for testing the jam later.

In a heavy, nonreactive pot, crush strawberries lightly with a potato masher. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sugar, ginger and lemon juice, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and continue to stir frequently, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Let cook for about 15 to 25 minutes, until a teaspoon of jam dropped on the chilled plate begins to gel. Take off heat when it reaches the desired consistency (if you like your jam thicker, then continue to boil a little longer).

Either can the jam in sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes, or cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Summer Picnic in Portland

Summer Picnic in Portland //

I’ve had some time lately to think about what me and Hannah are trying to do with this blog. Develop our skills? Yes. Creative expression? Yes, yes. A chance to create a dialogue about food? Yes, inevitably. It’s become a way for me to play with flavors, and a way for Hannah to pursue her love of food photography. I’m trying to create my personal style of cooking, while Hannah is exploring photography techniques. I think it’s important to share our journey, and I hope you try out some of these recipes. Please feel free to leave feedback! We’d love to talk.

On that note, let’s talk about picnics. One of the greatest pleasures of summer (for me anyways) is al fresco dining. Because, is there anything as deeply satisfying as biting into a juicy watermelon on a blistering summer day? Or lounging around with friends on a picnic blanket with stuffed, happy bellies? You’ll be dreaming about these days in the dead of winter. It’s not only the summer sun that’s inspiring me to eat outdoors lately, but it’s also just being in Portland. This city makes nature incredibly accessible, and it’s hard to see a patch of vibrant green grass without wanting to set up a picnic in that very spot. And since sunny days are like holidays around here, picnic-ing is a wonderful way to take advantage of a warm afternoon. With good company, a beautiful scene, no ants (fingers crossed!) and, oh yeah…good food, you have the makings of a wonderful summer picnic.

Summer Picnic in Portland //
Summer Picnic in Portland //

The Menu:
-Farro salad packed in jars
-Fresh Strawberries (it’s strawberry season!)
-Bread, cheese and charcuterie
-Brown Butter Almond Madeleines

Farro Salad
This is one of those recipes where I tell you the ingredients, and you throw it together, taste it, and then season it to your liking. I start with making a batch of farro and then I add all the ingredients from there. Trader Joe’s has a great 10 minute farro that you can boil like you would pasta and then drain. Then I add crumbled feta, dried cranberries or cherries, chopped walnuts, minced red bell peppers, minced red onion, and chopped scallions. I then make a simple vinaigrette out of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add arugula and toss right before serving. This is my favorite salad ever, and it’s wonderful to pack up and take on-the-go. I’ve also made it with other grains, like quinoa and bulgar wheat.

Brown Butter Almond Madeleines
You might recognize these little French spongecakes from Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, in which the little cake transports the writer into deep nostalgia. These babies are ideal for finishing your picnic on a sweet note.

// Ingredients //
1-1/4 (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds
powdered sugar, for dusting

// Directions //
Preheat over to 375°F. Butter and flour a madeleine pan, knocking out excess flour.
Melt butter in a saucepan, and continue to let it simmer. Stir occasionally, letting it bubble and foam. Watch for it to turn a light brown, and then take it off the heat immediately before it burns. Let cool slightly.
Whisk together eggs and sugar until combined. Whisk in vanilla bean paste and salt. Alternately add both flours and the browned butter. Whisk until just combined.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of batter into the prepared madeleine pan, and sprinkle sliced almonds on top of batter. Bake until golden and puffed up, about 10 to 15 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool for a moment before gently removing from pan. Bake remaining batter, being sure to butter and flour the pan before each batch. Once cookies are cooled, dust with powdered sugar.

Summer Picnic in Portland //
Summer Picnic in Portland //

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust //
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust //

It’s been a while, huh?

We’ve been a little busy. And by a little busy I mean Hannah had to focus on moving into a more permanent home in Portland and starting a new job at Nike. Then I was finishing up a freelance project for Food Network and visiting New York City (to see friends and old co-workers) and Boston (to see my most precious and wonderful niece. Don’t try to tell me she’s not perfect). So yeah, we’ve been a little busy, but we’re so excited to get back to blogging!

Meanwhile, I have been in my Pastry and Baking class at school, and it’s been both inspiring and sugar-high inducing. To make up for eating chocolate souffles at 9am, I’ve been…you know, making cheesecakes and panna cotta in my spare time. Seems normal.

I definitely hope you try out this panna cotta. Rhubarb and pistachios are some of my all-time favorite flavors, so of course they should be paired together (and I just made a cheesecake this week with this very duo).

Panna cotta is a soft, molded and chilled custard, and it’s one of the only custards not thickened with eggs. You simply scald cream, mix with unflavored gelatin, and set in molds. The gelatin does all the work, so you don’t have to worry about over-coagulated eggs or cracked custard tops. This Italian standby pairs really well with ripe, stewed fruits, and I personally really love the added texture and crunch from the pistachios.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust //

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust

// Ingredients //
2 tablespoons cold water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

// Directions //
Have eight ramekins ready to go.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, add water and sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand to soften.

In a medium saucepan, stir together cream, buttermilk, sugar and vanilla, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat gelatin in the microwave until dissolved, about 10 seconds. Once the cream mixture comes to a simmer, remove from heat and stir in the gelatin. Let the mixture cool to room temperature in the saucepan.

Give the mixture a final gentle stir, and pour into the ramekins. Put ramekins in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours to set up.

To serve, you can either eat directly out of the ramekins, or you can dip each ramekin in warm water for a few seconds and run a knife around the edges and invert onto a plate.

// Rhubarb Compote //
4 stalks rhubarb, ½- inch dice
¼ cup sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons water

Stir all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and tender. Taste, and adjust the amount of sugar based on how sweet you’d like the compote.

// Pistachio dust //
½ cup pistachios
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Blend ingredients in a food processor until finely ground.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust //
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote & Pistachio Dust //

Kelsey Goes to Pie Class

So I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about another baked good for a little while… But here we are, and I made pie again. Silly me.

But in honor of Pi Day (that’s today!), we are going to celebrate by eating some pie (sorry, we’re not celebrating mathematics. That would be irrational. Get it?).

So last week I decided to hone my pie-making skills at a local bakery in Portland called Pacific Pie Co. I learned from expert pie makers about how to make a classic American apple pie. I started baking pies for Vala’s Pumpkin Patch last fall where I baked nearly 700 pies in our 42-day season. I thought it was worth picking up some new tips and tricks on apple pie recipes, since there are about as many ways to make apple pie as there are varieties of apples. That’s a lot. And who better to learn from than one of the best pie shops in Portland?

With rolling pins in hand, my classmates and I whipped up an apple filling fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg, and we baked it in a buttery crust until golden brown and bubbling. At the end of class, we got to bring home our prized apple pie.

Here are a few notes I took from the class:
– Macerate the apples with the sugar. Juices will form, and these can be simmered and reduced and poured back into the filling. This helps the pie keep its shape when cut into, and it will prevent a soggy crust.
– Let lattice topping chill before putting on the pie, so it doesn’t get soft.
– Use cornstarch instead of flour for clearer juices. This also allows you to use less thickener, and it doesn’t clump.
– When shaping your crust to crimp, roll the crust inward (instead of outward), so the juices of the pie don’t bubble over.

Old Fashioned Apple Pie
This pie will serve 8. Or 6 if you want more generous slivers. Or maybe even just 1 if you want to keep it for yourself. Hey, does the math really matter?!

// Ingredients //
1 pastry recipe for double-crust pie (use this one from our first post)
2 ½ lbs apples (about 6 apples), peeled, cored and sliced to ¼ inch thickness
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

// Directions //
Prepare piecrust at least 1 hour ahead of time. Then roll crust and fit into pie pan. Roll second piecrust for top layer or cut into lattice tops. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill crusts in the refrigerator while making filling.

In a large bowl, come apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Toss to coat. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and for up to 3 hours. The fruit will macerate and juices will form.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Strain juices into a small saucepan. Add butter to the saucepan along with juices and simmer over medium heat until the juices thicken, after about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the apples with the cornstarch. Then pour the thickened syrup over apples and toss.

Transfer apples to prepared chilled pie shell. Add a top crust or a lattice top, and crimp edges. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.

Brown Butter Blondies

I don’t normally advocate for non-chocolate, brownie-esque desserts, but these blondies are the exception. Let’s just say there’s lots of toasted butter and dark brown sugar involved that’s helping to change my prejudices against desserts that wish they were brownies. Let’s just say that these blondies are what brownies would taste like if made with salted caramel instead of chocolate. Annnnd let’s just say I wish you were here right now enjoying these blondies with me, because they are so good I just want to share them. In conclusion, you should stop whatever you’re doing right now and make these.

The other day I needed a dessert to bring to an office potluck at Kinfolk, and I whipped these up quickly with ingredients I already had in my kitchen. With no chocolate in my cupboards (I used up all my chocolate a couple days before to make chocolate chip cookies…I know, I have a problem), I turned to a blondie recipe. My new mantra in baking and cooking is that everything is better with brown butter. When a recipe calls for melted butter, just keep it on the stove a few minutes longer until it develops a deep golden color. The browned butter will perfume your kitchen with the smell of toasted hazelnuts. And then that deep, nutty flavor gets added to the blondies. To finish, I hit the blondies with a sprinkling of flakey sea salt and brought them all warm to the office.

Brown Butter Blondies
Adapted from

I toyed with the idea of throwing on some chopped toasted walnuts or mixing in a few white chocolate chips, and while these additions I’m sure would be wonderful, I ultimately decided they weren’t needed. Maybe next time. I used muscovado sugar that I had on hand, but this can be replaced with dark brown sugar. Either way, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these chewy, almost butterscotchy blondies.

// Ingredients //
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup packed dark muscovado sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract

// Directions //
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.

In a light-colored saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat until it turns golden. This will take about 10 minutes. The butter will foam, and then the foam will start to subside. Gently stir the butter as it cooks. Keep a close eye on the butter, as it can turn dark quickly. When it’s ready, it should smell fragrant and nutty. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, mix together the brown butter and sugars until combined. Add eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Mix well. Add the flour mixture, combine thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly before cutting into bars.

Raspberry-Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles

Raspberry-Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles //

One time my sister and I accidentally had a romantic date together on Valentine’s Day. We decided to take a chocolate truffle class at the Institute of Culinary Education, and since it was Valentine’s Day everyone in the class thought we were a couple. Which I suppose would be a romantic thing to do on Valentine’s Day with your date, but we were really just interested in making and eating lots and lots of chocolate truffles. We passionately whipped up the best truffles in the class, and our jealous peers asked if we secretly worked for Hershey’s. Ever since this class, my truffle ego has been boosted, and I’ve since made many truffles, my favorite being these delicate raspberry-filled confections.

So, I know strawberries and chocolate have been bedmates for quite some time, but chocolate’s new perfect match is raspberry. Simple chocolate-dipped strawberries are great and all, but when silky smooth chocolate ganache is wrapped around a plump raspberry…well, it really just takes the sensual-chocolate-covered-fruit-thing to the next level. They are not too rich, but are almost refreshing to eat, and I could pop them in my mouth and eat them like a bag of potato chips. Simple, sexy and sophisticated, these truffles are the complete package, and they’re easy to make. These dainty chocolate morsels are perfumed with an Earl Grey tea that steeps in hot cream before being stirred into the chocolate. Oh my. And did I mention chocolate is an aphrodisiac? You’re welcome.

Raspberry-Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles //

Raspberry-Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from

These babies are little bite-sized gifts for your Valentine…or for yourself. This is what I’ve decided to make for my Valentine anyways. Gosh he’s one lucky fella. You should just make them whether or not you intend to give them to a Special Someone. Because Valentine’s Day without truffles is like Forrest Gump without a box of chocolates.

// Ingredients //
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
8 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
12 oz fresh raspberries
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

// Directions //

Line a tray with wax paper.

Bring cream and butter to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, and stir in tea and vanilla. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.

While tea is steeping, roughly chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream back to simmer and remove from heat. Remove tea bags, pressing out the cream from them.

Pour the hot infused cream over chocolate and allow to sit 1-3 minutes. Stir gently with a heatproof rubber spatula until ganache is smooth.

Pat raspberries dry. Add 6 to 8 raspberries to ganache and gently fold in to coat using rubber spatula. Remove each chocolate-covered raspberry with your pointer finger and thumb, letting excess ganache drip off, then transfer to the tray. Try to keep one hand completely clean while working with the other hand to dip raspberries in chocolate. Coat remaining raspberries in same manner, working in batches. Heat over double boiler if chocolate gets hard (this simply means to bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and place your bowl over the water so the steam melts the chocolate).

Chill truffles on tray until firm, at least 1 hour, then loosen from wax paper.
Put cocoa in a sealable bag and add all of truffles. Seal bag, leaving some air in, and shake to coat. Shaking off excess cocoa from truffles. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Truffles can be chilled, covered after 1 hour, up to 2 days.

Ostakaka, a Swedish Cheesecake

Ostakaka, a Swedish Cheesecake //

It’s a wonderful comfort on a cold winter day to pull a glistening, pudding-like cheesecake from the oven and top it with ruby lingonberries and fresh whipped cream. A long time ago my grandma Lois taught me and my sisters how to make Ostakaka, a Swedish cheesecake that has a custard-like consistency with delicate nuggets of cottage cheese throughout. It’s texture is unlike anything I’ve ever had. My grandma would make it every year for Christmas Eve and New Years, and now that tradition has been passed on to me and my sisters.

Ostakaka, a Swedish Cheesecake //
Ostakaka, a Swedish Cheesecake //

When I was 10 years old my grandma Lois was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which I didn’t fully grasp what that meant at the time. The disease crept up on her like a slow-acting cancer. When cooking she would forgot to add key ingredients in a recipe, mix too many eggs into the lemon meringue pie, or she would leave the oven on for hours. It was clear that she couldn’t continue cooking the way she used to, so carrying on and mastering what she taught me and my sisters meant more to me than ever. So here’s her recipe for Ostakaka.

Ostakaka, a Swedish Cheesecake //

A recipe that’s been passed down is like a precious family heirloom. It’s a reminder of the generations before who have made and mastered the recipe, and of the generations yet to come who will make it for their loved ones. No one in my family can eat a bowl Ostakaka topped with lingonberries and whipped cream without wading through memories of Grandma Lois who loved to cook for her family more than anything.

Grandma Lois’ Recipe

Unsure of how to pronounce the name? Repeat after me. OOS-tah-kah-kah. That’s right. It sounds strange to say out loud, and I kind of giggle every time I have to tell people the name of this recipe, but there you go. Just explain that “ost” means “cheese” and “kaka” means “cake” in Swedish. They’ll be impressed. The name literally translates to cheesecake, though it’s texture is different from what we would think of as an American cheesecake. Eat this while it’s still slightly warm from the oven or at room temperature, because the creamy consistency will be just right.

While traditionally you would make your own curds for Ostakaka, making it with cottage cheese is so simple and delicious. I got a hankering for Ostakaka when I found Nancy’s cottage cheese in Portland, and I fell in love with it. It’s thick, creamy, and tangier than most cottage cheese brands I’ve had, so I instantly knew I wanted to make Ostakaka with it. And because I couldn’t find lingonberries, I used a tayberry jam (a cross between a raspberry and blackberry) that I got at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. Feel free to try other jams, but when you can, definitely use lingonberries and fresh, lighly-sweetened whipped cream.

// Ingredients //
Beat: 1 egg and 4 egg whites slightly
Add: 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 pint small curd whole milk cottage cheese
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

// Directions //
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour mixture into a non-greased square (8×8 inch) glass baking dish. Set this dish inside a larger roasting pan or baking dish and place in the oven. Then, fill the larger pan with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the square pan. Bake until set, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream and lingonberries.

Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon

Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon //

Some foods are just simply comforting. Take, for example, these blueberry bars bursting with lust, textured blueberries, and topped with a Meyer lemon crumble and vanilla glaze. The blueberries bake into a deep violet pie filling that turns to a soft magenta at the edges where it touches the crust and crumb topping. It’s enough to evoke longings for rainy days with tea, the sweet scent of Grandma’s kitchen, or spending a few hours on a quiet Sunday morning just sipping coffee.

Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon //

These are the kind of bars that won’t last long. They are the kind of bars you’ll have every intention of bringing to a friend’s house or to a potluck, but as soon as you pull them golden and glowing from the oven, you can’t help but take a fork to a corner. Just the corner at first. But then you taste the cakey crust, the luscious filling, the subtle hint of lemon and the melty glaze, and that missing corner piece grows until one whole side of the pan is missing.

Yeah. That happened.

But wait. The best part is that these are some of the easiest bars to make. If fact, maybe they’re a little too simple to prepare, because now I’m going to be tempted to make them every Saturday morning. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon //
Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon //

Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I know, I know. It’s not summer yet. So why am I baking with blueberries? Before you yell at me for making berry bars in the dead of winter, let me explain: I couldn’t help myself. I just saw the blueberries at the store, and they looked beautiful and all the longings for a warm summer hit me. And maybe I didn’t feel so guilty about buying out-of-season blueberries because I’m in Portland, where it constantly feels like a balmy spring day to this Midwesterner.

However, the Meyer lemons are in season right now, and they are particularly hard to find in their off season. They are smaller and sweeter than regular lemons, with a beautifully bright flavor. In short, I love them.

// Ingredients //
1 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Meyer lemons, zest and juice (or one regular lemon)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
24 ounces fresh blueberries, or a combination of blueberries and blackberries

// Directions //
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder,  salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or your hands to blend in the butter, the egg and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Dough will be crumbly. If it feels too crumbly to be pressed together, then add another squeeze of lemon juice. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and remaining lemon juice. Mix in the blueberries, coating them well. Pour the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the blueberries.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

// For the Glaze //
Mix together 1 cup powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), and 2 tablespoons milk. Drizzle over the bars while they’re still warm. Let the bars cool completely before cutting them (this will be the hardest part of the whole recipe).

Glazed Blueberry Crumb Bars with Meyer Lemon //

Texas-Style Chili with Pinto Beans & Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

Texas-Style Chili with Pinto Beans & Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream //

The other day I walked into my culinary class and realized I had forgotten to bring my knives to school. I felt like a kid forgetting to bring a pencil to school while learning to write. It was embarrassing, and I had no excuse except that it had slipped my mind to grab my knife set before heading out the door at 5:45 a.m. on a Monday. It was one of those days.

We all have those days where we are forgetful, or we’re still thinking about the extra-long weekend we just had. We need to deal with it, learn from it and accept ourselves for it. It happens, and it’s okay. One time, I actually ran into a bright orange wall at work after having been on a long, relaxing vacation. I’m really bad at transitioning back to real life apparently. (Why am I even telling you this??).

So this chili was made on one of those days where everything was going wrong. But coming home to cook up a pot of chili was the saving grace to an otherwise frantic and haphazard Monday. The softly simmering stew and the fragrant spices that filled the kitchen were all I needed to bring some peace and relaxation to the evening. And let me tell you, I honestly think this was the best chili I’ve ever made, so I’ll be playing the part of Good Football Host when I make it again for the Super Bowl this year.

Texas-Style Chili with Pinto Beans & Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream //
Texas-Style Chili with Pinto Beans & Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream //

This chili is brought to you by my Texan kolache mentor who knows a thing or two about Texas-style chili, a.k.a. Bowl o’ Red. He has enriched my life with email lessons on Texas chili, which should be served with pinto beans on the side. I repeat! On the side. If you add beans to the chili, then it’s not Texas chili. It just isn’t. In fact, you’d be disqualified at a chili cook-off in Texas if you added beans. I was sworn (actually, threatened with a shotgun) to secrecy about how exactly to make these beans, but I will tell you that they were bacony and delicious, so definitely include some pinto beans as a side like I did. When I make this for the Game Day, I will probably make cheesy biscuits as a side as well. Happy Monday, ya’ll!

Texas-Style Chili with Pinto Beans & Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream //

Texas-Style Chili (Bowl o’ Red) with Pinto Beans & Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

Some notes about Texas-style chili:  Use whole, cut up chunks of meat instead of ground beef, and be sure to trim the fat. As the chili simmers, the meat will become tender and incredibly flavorful. Also, add beer to this chili. Just because…because.

While traditionally Texas chili involves rehydrating whole dried chiles and then pureeing them, I decided to make my own chili powder instead, since I don’t have a blender. You don’t have to make your own chili powder, but it’s quite fun, and it definitely enhances the finished Bowl o’ Red. I used Alton Brown’s Chili Powder recipe, but feel free to switch up the types of dried chiles depending on what flavors you like or what’s available. I used New Mexico, Arbol and Ancho chiles. Other great chiles include Guajillo and Pasilla.

Masa Harina, a corn flour, is a traditional ingredient in Texas chili used as a thickening agent towards the end of the cooking process. If you can’t find it, it’s okay to make your chili without it, but it may not turn out quite as thick. And finally, as I was told by my Texan mentor, “Chili should be spicy enough to make your nose run, but not so spicy it’s hard to eat.” Perfect.

Recipe adapted from here and here, plus some tips straight from Texas

// Ingredients //
7 Tablespoons canola oil
3 pounds bottom round beef or boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chili powder (homemade from New Mexico, Arbol and Ancho chiles, optional)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons paprika
One 12-ounce bottle dark beer
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
4 cups beef stock
One 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup masa harina
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
Red pepper flakes, to taste

// Directions //
Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper and add one-third of the meat to the pan and brown on all sides. Repeat with the oil and meat, draining any excess liquid from the pan between the batches.

Return all the meat to the pan, and sprinkle with the chili powder, cumin and paprika, and stir well for a minute until the spices are fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the beer and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the beer is almost completely gone. Remove the meat and juices from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil, and then add the onions and cook on medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the jalapeno, bell pepper and chipotle pepper puree and cook for about 2 minutes more. Add the beef back to the pan along with the beef stock and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Cover and continue simmering until the chili is thick and the beef is tender, about 1 to 2 hours. About ⅔ of the way through the cooking process, mix the masa harina with a little water until smooth, and add to the pot of chili. If the chili has too much liquid, continue to cook uncovered to thicken, about 15 minutes.

Season the chili: Add the oregano, vinegar and the red pepper flakes to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Try to make this chili the day before, as chili tastes best the next day. You will probably have to re-season the chili when you reheat it. Just add a dash of chili powder, salt and pepper.

Toppings could/should include the following: cilantro-lime sour cream (sour cream mixed with fresh lime juice and finely chopped cilantro), sliced jalapeno, feather-thin shredded Cheddar cheese, lime wedges and, of course, the bacony Pinto beans.

A Portion of Maple – Bourbon Pecan Pie

Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie /// Portion

I’m Kelsey. A pie baker, food journalist and culinary student with a serious love for bringing people together with food, and coauthor of Portion. I’m the kind of person you might regret bringing up subjects like “bread” or “barbecue,” because I will go on and on about that particular topic before realizing no one is listening. I co-created this blog, Portion, with Hannah, a wonderful designer and food photographer. Gosh, she’s good at what she does, and I’m so thankful to be working with her. We both just moved to Portland, OR and met through an internship at Kinfolk magazine. After meeting, we soon realized that we have a shared passion for food and design and that our respective skills complimented each other well. I like to write, develop recipes, cook (and eat), while Hannah is skilled at graphic design, styling, and photography.

I’m Hannah. A graphic designer and photographer whose favorite subject to shoot happens to be food. Don’t count on eating your meal right away around me, because I’m bound to want to photograph it even if just a quick snapshot for Instagram. Yes, I’m one of those Instagramers. After keeping my own personal food blog for the past three years the occurrence of my content began to wane, because I’m no chef or baker. I just love styling and photographing food! I was delighted to meet Kelsey upon our new venture with Kinfolk. I’d hoped to work with a foodie someday, and I was thrilled Kelsey was on board to start Portion. I’m no food critic, but these recipes are not to be missed!

Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie /// Portion
Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie /// Portion

So this brings us to our first post.

Let me, Kelsey, talk about my favorite subject: pie. It’s the shareable pastry that gets passed around the holiday table. It’s the wonderful dessert that’s appropriate to eat with even more dessert, like a dollop of fresh whipped cream or scoop of melty vanilla ice cream. It’s the circular confection that gets sliced into perfect portions. Whether it’s custard-filled or crumble-topped, I could eat a slice of pie like it’s a slice of pizza for dinner.

And so, with rolling pin in hand, I’m here in a new kitchen in a new city with all my pie-making essentials to share with you my recipe for Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie. Thanksgiving’s over, you say! Blah blah blah I get it. We think of pie as an autumnal pleasure, but this recipe is too good to restrict to just one season. It deserves some year-round attention. Does there really have to be a season for rich, all-butter crusts? For silky fillings textured with toasted pecans? And for, um, bourbon?

No, I say there shouldn’t be just the one season that’s designated as pie season. Because the opulent aroma of caramelizing sugars that will fill your home as it bakes should be enjoyed anytime of the year. After all, this is the kind of pie that will bring the people you love together to share.

Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie /// Portion

Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie

This pie has all the flavor of a traditional pecan pie, but with a few exciting additions. Swap maple syrup for the typical corn syrup for a more vibrant and aromatic flavor. Dark muscovado sugar is a moist molasses sugar that will give the pie some deeper caramel notes. And toasting the pecans before baking them into the pie helps develop a richer, roasted profile. And then add some bourbon, because no pecan pie is complete without this Southern libation. Serve a warm wedge of this pie with fresh whipped cream. (Just a suggestion. You’re welcome).

// Crust //
2 sticks butter
1 cup ice water
2 ½ cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg with a splash of water for an egg wash

// Filling //
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup (packed) dark muscovado sugar (can substitute dark brown sugar)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons browned butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons bourbon
2 cups toasted pecan halves

// For the crust //
Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer, and get cup of ice water ready. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Sprinkle the butter into the flour mixture, and using your hands or a pastry blender, begin working the butter into the flour. Once the butter is a little bigger than pea-sized pebbles, start drizzling in the water and mixing the dough until it comes together in a shaggy ball. Gently knead and divide the dough in half. Place each half on a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a ball and then press into a disk. Wrap it with the plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Roll and crimp the crust in a 9-inch pie pan, and brush with the egg wash. Let it rest in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

// For the filling //
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk all the ingredients together, except for the pecans. Spread the pecans in the prepared crust, and pour the filling over. Bake until the filling is puffed and set, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let pie cool completely (if you can).