a simpler sound.

Holiday Eating Tip: Don't forget to eat your greens!

Over-eating becomes entirely too easy at this time of year.  There's an embarrassment of decadence at ever meal.  [My fridge currently has THREE different baked desserts in it, and that's just not okay.]

One way to lighten the heavy handed eating this time of year is through making healthy choices, particularly with all things green. I'm not a big vegetable eater, and I blame that on my early years dealing with "severe-picky-eater syndrome."

Over the years, I've learned to love the green stuff through learning how to cook them properly and with bold flavors.  This recipe is one I've perfected, and I can confidently use the word "perfect" because I literally can eat an entire bowl of these green beans [or string beans as they're referred to in New York], and there's something to be said about that feat.

This recipe paired well with my Thanksgiving meal, but it's quick enough to throw together for any weeknight meal.

My best time-saving tip is to have your shallots sliced [or minced] ahead of time and stored in the fridge [you can do this a few days in advance].  Shallots make me cry more than anything else [yes, even more than The Notebook] so I like to prep three or four at a time, and get all my sobbing out at once.

I also like to have a jar of nuts [this recipe uses slivered almonds, but walnuts work well too] toasted ahead of time, since that just saves you a step and again this ingredient can be used in a number of recipes.

I added some crisped, diced bacon at the last minute, because I had forgotten to use it in a soup I had made earlier in the week, and just had it sitting in the fridge. Typically, I don't use bacon, but just a bit makes all the difference.

Sauteed Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds

1/2lb. green beans, trimmed [I used local greens from NC]
1 shallot, thinly sliced [I was using diced shallots in two other dishes this Thanksgiving, so I just prepped them all in a fine dice]
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted [I like using A LOT of almonds, since they turn these beans into a much more filling dish, and help me stave off the third serving of mashed potatoes...]
1TBsp. olive oil [I like to use a good quality one here, since you really taste it]
1TBsp. unsalted butter [you can also omit the butter and double up on olive oil]
3TBsp. diced bacon, crisped [optional]
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the green beans for five minutes.  Submerge in an ice water bath for a couple minutes.  While you wait for the beans to cool, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat in a frying pan. Add shallots and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.  Drain the beans and dry thoroughly.  Raise the heat to medium-high and add the beans, sauteeing for 3-5 minutes.  Add the toasted almonds and cooked bacon and toss to combine.  Garnish or toss with fresh parsley and serve immediately.  

Dough Therapy: the art of making pie.

Flour. Butter. Water.

Just a handful of ingredients can create the most incredible, flaky pie crust. There's something so therapeutic about the process of making a dough.  It's all in the cool temperature and the gentle process of rolling, rotating, adding flour, and rolling again.

The only reason I don't make pies on a daily basis is because I know how much butter goes into that crust, and I might not make it past 60 if I ate as much as I'd like. Using butter with wild abandon is not my typical modus operandi, but every once in a while, everyone needs pie. 

Here, you can see an up close look at 'dough therapy' from this Thanksgiving [special thanks to my Mom for being the on-hand photographer while I cooked] and the completed [and utterly decadent] apple pie with marzipan [recipe to come later in the week].

Recipe Reviewing + Tweaking: Apple Crisp from Tartine.

Cat-sitting for my neighbors garners all kinds of yummy treats.  This time I was presented with half a peck of apples [yes, that's how apples are measured] and some yummy blueberry hand pies. These gargantuan apples [most were the size of a softball!] came from Ellijay, Georgia, the home of the Georgia Apple Festival.  I believe they're of the Fuji variety and they were naturally very sweet. 

Since I hate when fruit goes to waste, I knew I wanted to bake these off immediately.  It was the perfect rainy day in Atlanta for something warm and decadent. I had been meaning to try out another recipe from Tartine.  Most of the recipes in this cookbook are rather advanced, but the Apple Crisp I stumbled upon seemed fool-proof.  I'm extremely picky about my baked goods [brownies must be gooey, pies need that perfect crust, etc.] so when I follow a recipe from a cookbook, I like to follow it verbatim the first go around, and then make note of things I would change.  

I'll start by saying this recipe did turn out delicious.  I even found myself sneaking bites of the almost caramelized topping late last night - Nigella style [if you've ever watched Nigella Lawson's cooking shows, she always sneaks to the fridge 'late at night' and grabs a bite of whatever she created that day.  I absolutely love her and her unabashed obsession with food].

I knew the crisp would be tasty- I mean we're talking about Tartine here, one of the best bakeries in the US. But I find a lot of what I've made from this cookbook almost TOO decadent.  I try to cook healthier, always being conscious of what I put into my meals, and I'm the same way with baking.  When I saw the recipe called for ONE cup of butter, I knew I was in trouble...

Apple Crisp
[areas in parentheses + orange are my recommended changes]

3 pounds assorted apples [the apples I used were perfectly firm, but quite sweet, so next time I'd recommend using a more tart variety]
1/4 cup sugar [if using a Fuji like I did, I would decrease the amount of sugar to just 3TBsp, whereas a tart apple might be able to take the larger quantity of sugar]
3 tablespoons lemon juice [MUST be fresh- but this worked wonders on the apples. Yum!]
grated lemon zest from one lemon [ditto to above]
1/8 teaspoon salt [as a cook, salt and acids make a dish- and I think the same goes for baking- use a fine grain salt here]

1 cup unsalted butter, cold [this was entirely too much butter, though I do know that's what gives it that crisp texture.  I actually was short on butter, so I only used around 3/4cup, and found it still too rich.  I recommend trying this with 1/2 cup [1 stick] or even 1/3 if you're trying to be extra healthy.  I like to add a bit of milk to the batter if it needs some extra smoothing out]
1 cup sugar [I found it too sweet personally, though that might be a combination of the apples and the topping.  I would half the sugar at the very least]
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon [this was certainly a lot of cinnamon, which I love.  But it could probably be decreased to two teaspoons, and would still carry that bold spice]
1/8 teaspoon salt [I would increase this to 1/4 teaspoon, because I love the combination of sweet and salty!]

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Peel (some or all, as you prefer) [I prefer peeling all- I'm not a fan of the firm skin of the apple when baked], core and slice [thinly- they almost melt in your mouth this way!] the apples and place them in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and salt. Add to the apples and mix well with your hands. [I actually prefer to mix these ingredients in a large bowl first, then add the sliced apples to that, mixing occasionally. The immediate contact with the lemon juice prevents the apples from browning while you work and you save on cleaning one extra bowl!] Transfer the apples to the baking dish. 
To make the topping, place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed, or a wooden spoon, beat together until smooth. Add the flour, cinnamon and salt and mix just until it comes together in a smooth dough.
To top the crisp, scoop up palm-sized balls of the dough, flatten each scoop as if you are making a 1/4-inch thick tortilla, and lay it on top of the apples. Cover the entire surface of the apples with the dough rounds. Gaps in the topping are okay; they will allow steam to escape during baking.
Bake the crisp until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours [because I sliced the apples thin, this really only needed 45 minutes to 1 hour]. If the top is getting too dark before the crisp is done, cover it with aluminum foil. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. The crisp will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 1 week [this is a lie- the crisp will disappear within a day or two at most...]

I absolutely recommend trying the recipe exactly how it's written in the cookbook, but the way to becoming a good cook or baker is taking recipes and putting your own spin on them.  Whether you decide to omit certain ingredients, tweak the quantities, or alter the technique, you're evolving as a cook [and recipe writer!].