The Very Best Brownies.

Rich and fudgy homemade brownies made from scratch-

Let’s rewind to Valentine’s Day. I’m single. I’m not feeling well. My mom is in town and our plan is to eat dinner and watch movies. As the sun goes down, I decide that I need a brownie—like I really need a brownie, for aforementioned reasons—and proceed to pull every baking book off of my shelves in my search for my ideal brownie recipe.

I wanted rich, dark, chewy, legit café-like brownies with crackly tops. I didn’t want gooey, fall-apart, stick-to-your-front-teeth brownies. I also didn’t want health-ified brownies or brownies swirled with cheesecake. I wanted one perfect brownie. Sometimes a girl just needs a brownie, you know?

cocoa and brown butter

I finally found a promising recipe in my copy of Alice Medrich’s Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. It was a thinner brownie than I wanted, but it looked dark and delicious and had the most magnificent shiny, crackly top. The recipe contains a fair amount of butter, as legit brownies should, and the butter is browned before the addition of sugar and cocoa powder. If you’re going to put a lot of butter in something, you might as well brown it for extra flavor.

Alice’s recipe also called for a lower-than-usual baking temperature (325 degrees) and specified that the brownies be baked in the lower third of the oven. All of the chocolate flavor came from cocoa powder, too. Interesting.

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Blood Orange, Fennel and Avocado Salad with Lemon Citronette

Blood orange, fennel and avocado salad -

Welcome to the redesigned! I’m not quite finished working on it, but I couldn’t stand to keep it in hiding for any longer. The website is finally optimized for viewing on your phone, your iPad, etc. No more pinching and zooming so you can read the recipe! Try it!

Another noteworthy feature is the menu I added underneath the header. It’s designed to help you find the kinds of recipes you’re looking for. Click on ALL RECIPES to see little pictures of every recipe on the site as usual, or narrow your selection by clicking on SALAD, DESSERT, etc. FAVORITES is a list of readers’ favorite recipes, curated by yours truly.

Over in the sidebar, you’ll find lists of special diets and ingredients. I added a gluten free and vegan option for those of you who are trying to avoid gluten and animal products. Please let me know if you’d like to see any other diet combinations and I’ll try to make it happen!

greens and blood orange slices

This redesign has been a long time coming. I did it all myself because I’m very particular (read: control freak). Lots of late nights, Breaking Bad and dark chocolate peanut butter cups were involved. I’m still working on the recipe index pages and the search functionality. If you have any suggestions or feature requests, please let me know! I’m all ears.

Now then, this salad. I’m pretty obsessed with it. Tangy goat cheese and lemon dressing tossed creamy avocado, sweet blood oranges, sliced almonds and greens is a winning combination indeed. I usually want fennel to speak up more (be bold, fennel!), but its faint licorice flavor and crisp texture is the perfect complement here. Enjoy!

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Quick Vegan Chana Masala

Quick Vegan Chana Masala -

Good news! Cookie got her bandage off yesterday. Just a few more long days with the cone around her head. I’m tired of getting herded around by a furry bulldozer! The best news is that the vet said she should be in good shape for our long walks this spring. Sometimes I wonder which of us needs those walks more.

I’ve been working non-stop on a website redesign (coming so soon) but I’m pausing to share this recipe, which is from Angela Liddon’s just-released The Oh She Glows Cookbook. I’m generally intimidated by Indian cooking because the recipes usually call for a long list of unfamiliar spices, so I was happy when I found Angela’s recipe for quick and easy chana masala in the pages of her new cookbook. The recipe comes together quickly with mostly pantry ingredients, but the end result tastes super fresh.

Spices and The Oh She Glows Cookbook

Chana masala is one of my favorite options at Indian buffets. It’s a hearty, saucy and spicy chickpea and tomato dish, just the type of meal I’m craving while there’s snow on the ground. I thoroughly enjoyed the 20 minutes I spent over the stove for this recipe. Wave after wave of deliciousness hit my nose—first, fried cumin, then onions, ginger and chile pepper, followed by warming spices and stewed tomatoes. I think I’ll start cooking Indian recipes more often.

The only significant change I made to this recipe was using a tikka masala spice blend instead of garam masala. Generally speaking, garam masala has more warming spices, like cloves and cinnamon, while tikka masala has brighter notes of chili powder and paprika. Garam masala is the typical choice for chana masala, but I just grabbed the jar I had in my spice drawer. No two masalas (a broad term for Indian spice blends) are exactly alike, anyway. I think you’ll be happy with any quality blend.

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Double Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Double lemon poppy seed muffins (made with whole wheat flour and yogurt)

I’m mad at these muffins. Mad because they took me three tries to get just right yesterday. Mad because the third variation turned out so well that I filled my belly with muffins before I went to bed last night. Fortunately, they’re composed of yogurt (instead of sour cream) and white whole wheat flour (instead of all-purpose flour), so they are more redeeming than your average muffins.

I realize that being mad at an inanimate, edible object is totally ridiculous. It’s like being mad at a puppy who’s been caught nibbling on your favorite pair of shoes. Impossible! They’re just muffins and puppies being their irresistible little selves.

lemon poppy seed muffin batter

Actually, after my leavening issues with the other batches yesterday, I’m downright proud of these muffins. After my lackluster first batch, I doubled the initial amounts of lemon zest and poppy seeds found in typical lemon poppy seed muffins, so these guys are bursting with flavor. No sissy muffins here. I also decided to use white whole wheat flour, which retains all of the nutrients of whole wheat flour but has a lighter flavor and color. That way the lemon could really shine.

Before baking, I opted to sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar, which produces a sweet, crackling top that complements the texture of the poppy seeds. The finished muffins dome up nicely—not as high as they would if they had less poppy seeds and were made of all-purpose flour—but the resulting texture is rich, almost like pound cake.

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Creamy (vegan!) Butternut Squash Linguine with Fried Sage

Creamy (vegan!) butternut squash linguine with fried sage -

Cookie and I have been visiting the vet three times a week lately. We don’t mind the excursion. The girls behind the desk are fun to be around and Cookie loves the attention. She has quickly become a staff favorite (of course!). It’s also a prime spot for people watching. I always feel like I’m experiencing that 101 Dalmations scene where all of the dogs match their owners, remember that one?

The manly men bring in their 80-pound manly-man breeds who shake their heads like lions. Eccentrically dressed older ladies wait with their dachshunds and shaggy little dogs. A beautiful, elegant blond woman picks up her equally elegant and blond mystery breed. The lady with a high-pitched voice and nervous laugh tells me about her rat terrier. I suppose Cookie and I match, too. I will shamelessly admit that we both have great hair and it doesn’t hurt that I’m always dressed in black or gray.

butternut and sage

During the more dull moments, I’ve spent a fair amount of time flipping through Instagram photos and glancing at the heart worm brochures on the side table. I grabbed the February issue of Bon Appetit before I left for our last appointment so I would have something to read while I waited. I’m glad I did, because I was reminded of the butternut squash carbonara that I had dog-eared earlier.

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Toasted Oatmeal with Strawberry Chia Jam and Coconut Whipped Cream

Toasted oatmeal with strawberry chia jam and coconut whipped cream -

Other potential titles for this post included, “Three of my favorite things” or “Recipes I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You About”. I’ve been feeling under the weather for the past week, but now that I can finally smell and taste properly again, I’m back to make up for my absence with three recipes in one. (A better blogger would have recipes on reserve for occasions like these, but then again, I have to be sufficiently excited about a recipe to post it and I could hardly stand to sit on a good one.)

Each component is delightful on its own, but they just so happen to combine marvelously well in one breakfast bowl. Nutty, fruity, creamy—yes, more, please.

stawberry chia jam

I’ll give you a rundown of each. The oatmeal cooking technique, which I discovered in Megan Gordan’s Whole-Grain Mornings cookbook, yields nutty and fluffy (not at all mushy) oatmeal.

The strawberry chia jam utilizes summer’s finest [frozen] strawberries, a dollop of natural sweetener and thickens with the help of “superfood” chia seeds. It cooks down in under thirty minutes and tastes much fresher and brighter than store-bought jams.

Lastly, coconut whipped cream has already taken the internet by storm, for good reason. I like it just as much, if not more than, freshly whipped cream. It’s better for you, too.

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