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Hello, hello! I took a little blogging break, did you notice? It wasn’t really a planned blogging break, but it seems that life turned into a perfect storm of events, getting sick, being incredibly busy at work, and feeling a little creatively burnt out, mandating a break from structure and the constant push to churn out great recipes and content week after week.

One of the questions I get most frequently is where I find the time to maintain a blog while also having a full-time job as a food editor and a thousand other things on my plate. Most of the time it feels effortless because I’m bursting with ideas I want to share beyond the scope of the recipes I develop at work. But sometimes it’s quite the opposite.

Sometimes all the great ideas I have floating around in my head end up getting poured into what I’m working on at work and I’m left out of ideas and inspiration for a time. Perhaps it also has something to do with March gloom, when winter seems like it will never end and we’ll be stuck eating root veggies forever. Are you with me, friends?

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I always find that taking a little trip and trying some new foods refreshes my creativity. My work trip to Chicago couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m spending a long weekend with my co-workers in Chicago at the yearly International Association of Culinary Professionals meeting (IACP) and we’ve being eating our way through the city. We are half way through our trip so I thought I would do a little recap of where we’ve been and eaten thus far.

1. Chicago French Market 
The minute after we landed and dropped our bags off at the hotel we headed to Chicago French Market for lunch. It’s a great indoor market that has a bunch of food stalls where you can order a quick bite to eat. There’s also a small seating area to eat after you get your food. It was a fun place to go with a group because we were each able to order what sounded good to us and try a bunch of different foods.

2. Phoenix Restaurant, Chinatown 
My co-worker, Mary, lived in Chicago for five years so she led the charge on where we should eat on our trip. I’m certain I would never have ventured to Phoenix in Chinatown without Mary’s guidance. There’s certainly nothing impressive about the building or atmosphere, but the food was great! My favorite was the Moo-Shoo Vegetable, my standard order at any Chinese restaurant.

3. Eataly Chicago 
I’ve been to Eataly in NYC a number of times but the Eataly in Chicago is certainly worth a visit, too. It’s a huge, two-story building filled with everything Italian you could hope for. It also left me with a strong desire to return to Italy. Did I mention they have a Nutella bar?

4. Hot Chocolate
We didn’t actually go to Hot Chocolate, which I’ve heard is wonderful, but we did have the pleasure of taking an afternoon class about savory sweets with the chef of Hot Chocolate, Mindy Segal. She made us an apple pie with a smoked bacon fat crust and a chocolate cake that dreams are made of. If this is any indication of how good her restaurant is, I would highly recommend going. An added bonus: Mindy sent us home with a recipe for the chocolate cake. You better believe I’ll be re-creating it soon!

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5. Lyfe Kitchen 
Lyfe Kitchen has five locations around the country but this is their only location in the Midwest. I loved the health-forward, casual approach to their menu, and it totally catered to all types of eaters including vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free eaters as well as meat-eaters. Plus, the entire menu lists calorie counts so you know what you’re putting into your body, and everything is under 600 calories max!

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YogurtCoffeeCake_1The weekend is almost upon us! For some reason, Friday’s arrival just sort of ambushed me and I am having a hard time believing that it’s Friday. I guess that’s a good problem to have, much better than the week dragging by. We don’t have a whole lot on the calendar this weekend, which I’m totally excited about. A few dinners with friends and family, a couple of lazy mornings, and enjoying the warmer weather with the pups. Sounds pretty perfect to me!

At work I’ve been creating some really fun yogurt cake recipes. And while I can’t share the amazing recipes just yet, I did play around in my own kitchen with a completely different yogurt cake that’s delicious in its own right. My dedicated taste tester, Joe, was a big fan of this cake. Serve it as a coffee cake in the morning or as a dessert with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. It’s not overly sweet, which both Joe and I loved. But I think the best part is how easy it is to make.

I hope that wherever you are the weather is getting warmer (and yes, 30 degrees totally counts as warm!) and you take some time to relax with loved ones. See you Monday!

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Yogurt Streusel Coffee Cake
 
I love how easy this recipe is! You use the actual yogurt container to measure out all the sugar, oil and flour, meaning you don’t need to dirty measuring cups and you can throw the yogurt container away when you’re done. This coffee cake is easily my new go-to for easy, effortless entertaining. Perfect for breakfast, brunch of dessert.
Recipe type: Brunch/Dessert
Serves: 16 slices (2 cakes)

Ingredients
  • 2 containers (5.3 to 6 oz) Greek yogurt (I used a flavored raspberry Greek yogurt)
  • 2 containers sugar
  • 1 container oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 containers all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Streusel
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Icing
  • 1 container powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, sugar and oil. Stir until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. In medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to wet mixture, beating with a whisk or electric mixer until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour batter into cake pans.
  5. In small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats and flour. Work the butter in with your fingers until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle streusel mixture on top of cakes.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost completely clean (a couple crumbs may remain because it’s a slightly moister cake.)
  7. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cake. Turn cake out of pans and cool on wire cooling racks.
  8. Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle over warm cakes. Serve cakes warm or cool.

 

Whole Wheat Biscuits | Espresso and Cream
In our house, weekends are for taking a little extra time to make breakfast. I love waking up early (yes, we wake up early even on the weekend) and starting a pot of coffee on the stove top, getting out ingredients for homemade biscuits and spending an extra few minutes in the kitchen preparing breakfast.

Growing up, my mom made biscuits served with beef stew and it was always one of my favorite meals. Today, I usually make biscuits for breakfast on the weekends, paired with scrambled eggs and, if Joe is lucky, I’ll make some bacon, too.

When Joe and I were first married, I made homemade biscuits for him one morning for breakfast. About half way through the first biscuit, he looked at me and said, “These biscuits are SO good. Where did you buy them?” When I told him I made them from scratch a look of disbelief came over his face. We still laugh about it today. My husband, who knew he was married to a food editor, in shock that I could make biscuits that delicious. Clearly, I had some work to do.

Whole Wheat Biscuits 3 | Espresso and Cream
Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little guilty and want to make a breakfast that feels slightly more virtuous I’ll make these biscuits 100% whole wheat. They’re heartier and more dense than a traditional biscuit, but I love the rich, nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour. If you’re looking for a biscuit that’s more traditional, lighter and fluffier, I would suggest using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour.

Whole Wheat Biscuits 2 | Espresso and Cream

Whole Wheat Biscuits with Jam
 
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Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour (if you like a lighter biscuit, swap half the whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk (use 2% or whole milk)

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 450°F.
  2. In medium mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, baking powder, sugar and salt until well combined.
  3. Cut butter into small pieces. Use a fork or pastry blender to blend butter into flour until mixture resembles a coarse meal with some larger pieces of butter remaining.
  4. Add milk to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Use your hands to bring dough together gently, lightly kneading dough just 2 to 3 times. Turn dough out onto floured surface and pat into a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Fold dough in half crosswise to make a double thickness of dough.
  5. Use a 2½ to 3 inch biscuit cutter to cut two biscuits from dough. Re-shape dough and cut two more biscuits for a total of four biscuits.
  6. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until biscuits are flaky and golden brown. Serve with jam or butter.

 

Black Bean and Beef Enchiladas | E&C
I mentioned earlier this week that I made enchiladas for dinner. It’s a regular occurrence in our house, since a big pan of enchiladas makes a great dinner and plenty of yummy leftovers for weekday lunches. We take our lunches to work almost every single day. It is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to save money. 

Lately, making homemade flour tortillas is one of my favorite new kitchen skills. I had no idea it was SO easy to make homemade tortillas, did you? Maybe I’m late to the game, but when I saw a recipe for homemade tortillas on Pinterest, I just had to give them a try. If you’re looking for a great recipe, I highly suggest Table for Two Blog’s recipe.

You could, of course, be an overachiever and make homemade enchilada sauce, too, but for weeknight dinners I usually just stick to enchilada sauce from a can. I kept things super simple in the filling, using ground beef, spices, diced green chiles, black beans and cheese. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss in whatever veggies you have on hand, like green peppers or diced cooked sweet potatoes. Get as crazy as you want!

Black Bean and Beef Enchiladas 2 | E&C

Quick Black Bean and Beef Enchiladas
 
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I love making a pan of enchiladas one night, then having lots of leftovers on hand for lunches throughout the week. When making enchiladas for a family like ours where there is one vegetarian and one meat eater, I like to separate out a small portion of black beans, green chiles and enchilada sauce to use as filling for a couple vegetarian enchiladas, then stuff the remaining with the beef, bean and green chile mixture.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients
  • 6 large flour tortillas (I strongly recommend you try making them at home. I’ll never buy them again!)
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 can (14- to 15-ounces) enchilada sauce
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In medium skillet, brown ground beef. Drain. Add in the cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne, along with the green chiles, black beans and ¾ of the enchilada sauce and stir until well combined.
  3. Spoon heaping ⅓ cupfuls of the meat mixture into the center of each tortilla. Roll tortillas up and place in the prepared pan. Drizzle remaining enchilada sauce on top of rolled enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and filling is hot. Serve immediately.

Coconut_Butter_2
I go in waves with all things homemade. Deep down inside, I love making everything by scratch. If I had the time, I would make my bread and my peanut butter and my pasta by scratch every week. Tonight I had a little extra time in the kitchen, so I made enchiladas with homemade flour tortillas and homemade enchilada sauce and I felt so accomplished knowing that I could name every ingredient in the food we were eating.

But if I’m being honest with myself, I just don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch all the time, no matter how much I might like to do so. My time is worth a lot, and I try to strike a healthy balance. Sometimes I go weeks on end making hummus by scratch or making my own peanut butter. Other times I simply find it worth it to purchase those items from the store.

The only time I regularly make things my scratch is when it’s vastly cheaper. I just can’t resist saving a little money and learning a new kitchen skill. I’m a big fan of coconut butter (not to be confused with coconut oil or coconut milk) which has a creamy, melty texture and great coconut flavor. But buying coconut butter can be pricey, so I set out to make it myself. I’m not sure what took me so long! I just had to share how easy it is to make coconut butter at home.

Because I prefer a little sweetness, I added some sugar to the recipe below, though you certainly don’t need it for the recipe to work. Since I’m not a huge jam or preserves person, I find that this coconut butter is a great substitute. It’s slightly sweet, creamy and tastes great on toast or drizzled on a morning bowl of oatmeal. The coconut butter will get hard at room temperature (especially in the winter when it’s colder in the house) but you can bring it back to spreading consistency by putting it in the microwave for a few seconds before you use it!

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Homemade Vanilla Coconut Butter
 
This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe by Ashley from Edible Perspective, which I found on Food52. You can find her recipe here. It’s incredibly versatile and I can see myself making lots of variations of this basic recipe. The sugar isn’t necessary in this recipe, but I like the sweetness it adds and the way it brings out the coconut and vanilla flavors.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon sugar

Directions
  1. Place all the ingredients together in the bowl of a large food processor. Blend 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Coconut butter will get hard in cooler temperatures. To soften, microwave 20 to 30 seconds or until desired consistency for spreading on toast.

 

 

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