How to open a young coconut.

Coconut water is all the rage these days.  It is has quickly risen to the top of the nutritional buzzword pyramid, directly below "gluten-free" and right above "kale."  While it is not the magical potion that the food industry claims it to be, I'm a fan of coconut water- it is a healthy alternative to the neon sports drinks that are often touted as as essential to physical activity as socks.  Although plain ol' H2O is the ideal beverage before, during, and after exercise, I like coconut water is an all-natural source of electrolytes.  And now that it's spring and everybody is active and sweaty and thus losing electrolytes, I figured I would spread the food nerdiness with this very necessary tutorial on how to open a young coconut. Behold: the young coconut.

IMG_7576 This fella is different from a normal coconut in that you don't need a power tool to open it (which I learned for myself when I was called to put a mature coconut in my mom's shopping cart, only to discover at home that it would take more than a knife to get it open…).    All you need is a cutting board and your favorite sharp knife.

1.  Unwrap the young coconut and place it on a sturdy cutting board on a non-slip surface.

IMG_7593

Turn the coconut on its side.  You want make the cut about an inch from the tip.  There is a sweet spot that, once you find it, makes opening it easy. IMG_7594

2.  Proceed to hack away at it (with caution of course).

Someone may come into the kitchen and give you a weird look, confused as to what you are doing.  Just smile and get back to work!IMG_7595

IMG_7596

The sweet spot.  Oh yeahhh.

IMG_7598

Once you find the sweet spot, rotate the knife in a circle to remove the tip.

IMG_7599Et voila!

IMG_7600

Although it is easy to find coconut in the beverage section of any local grocery store these days, buying a whole coconut and cracking it open is just downright fun.  Plus you also get to enjoy the "meat" that is left inside of the coconut once you have consumed the water.

The nectar of the gods.  You can use the coconut water any way you would like- in a smoothie, in a cocktail…

IMG_7604

Or my favorite way- with a straw.

IMG_7606

Bottoms up!

-Girl

bacon & chicken skin.

While this stubborn winter refuses to relieve me of the deep chill in my bones, I have decided to battle back with vengeance with my Dutch oven and wooden spoon in hand. Chicken & Dumplings

Start by browning 1/2 pound of bacon in your Dutch oven.  Then remove from pan and transfer to a paper towel lined plate (any dish that starts with bacon is pure gold in my book).

Image

Next, the chicken.  Combine 1/4 cup flour, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a shallow bowl.

Image

Coat the four chicken legs in the flour mixture.

Image

Using the rendered bacon fat (*swoon*), brown the chicken on all sides.

Image

Image

Image

But take care not to cook the chicken all the way through (it will cook later on in the stew).  Transfer to a plate and reserve.

Image

Enter: an army of mushrooms (a 1 & 1/2 pound army to be exact).

Image

I used a mixture of shiitake, cremini, baby shiitake, and white button mushrooms.

Image

Image

I like the baby mushrooms the best (actually, I like baby everything)

Image

In two batches, saute the army of mushrooms again in the rendered bacon fat and recently rendered chicken fat (*double swoon*)

Image

Removed from the pan and reserve the mushrooms.

Image

Dice one medium onion and crush six cloves of garlic.

Image

Cook the onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant, respectively.

Image

Return the browned chicken and bacon to the pot and add 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 2 bay leaves, and 6 sprigs of thyme.

Image

Bring everything to a boil.

Image

Image

Then reduce to a simmer and cover but leave the pot slightly open (shout out to my Le Creuset <3)

Image

Next, comes the fun part- dumpling time!

Combine 1 cup of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl.

Image

Image

Image

Whisk in 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole)

Image

Then whisk in two eggs.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Batter will be lumpy (don't fret).

Image

Then drop spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into a heavily simmering pot of salted water.

Image

Image

Image

Cook for about 5 minutes until they puff up to double their size.

Image

Return the mushrooms to the simmering chicken mixture.

Image

Add dumplings to bowl when the stew is ready.

Image

So as I patiently await the days of mouth-watering corn on the cob, and sun-kissed skin, I'll seek refuge in mouth-watering bacon and crispy chicken skin, in the form of chicken and dumplings.

-Girl

Twice-baked.

This time of year I tend to go on a flour and sugar bender that results in mountains of cookies.  As much as I love my gingerbread men and sugar cookies, in recent years I have become partial to the more sophisticated cookies.  Enter: the biscotto (pl. biscotti)

IMG_6388

Biscotti literally means "twice-baked" in Italian as evidenced by their two-step baking process.

The bright and lemony dough is laced with pistachios and dried cherries.  The green pistachios and red cherries represent the colors of the season and, as I like to think, the Italian flag.I especially love them because they are not much more difficult to make than a drop cookie and are always a crowd-pleaser.  It is a light, simple dessert to end your meal of prime rib and lasagna (my Christmas is multi-cultural).

Buon Natale Biscotti

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 2 large eggs 3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped 2/3 cup dried cherries

Directions

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time along with the lemon zest, add flour-baking-powder-salt mix and mix until just combined, then fold in the pistachios and dried cherries.

IMG_6304

IMG_6309

Drop the dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet

IMG_6312

And using damp hands, shape into a log.

IMG_6314

A 13 x 3 inch log to be exact.

IMG_6319

Bake the log for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until light golden.

IMG_6320

Like so:

IMG_6324

Allow to cool for 30 minutes

IMG_6328

Transfer to a cutting board and slice the baked log on a bias into 1/2-inch slices.

IMG_6336

IMG_6334

IMG_6329

IMG_6331

Next, place the sliced cookies back on their respective baking sheets, face up.

IMG_6341

IMG_6345

IMG_6348

Return to the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.

IMG_6350

IMG_6353

Allow to cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

IMG_6374

Biscotti were originally popular among the Romans because they had a long shelf life and allowed for long days of travel.  These days, the dryness of the cookie lends well to dipping.  Preferably in a cup of coffee and ideally in un cappuccino!

IMG_6378

IMG_6390

Buon natale/Merry Christmas!

P.S. Buon appetito!

-Girl

A Sunday Kind Of [Cornbread].

PSA: To enhance your Girl vs. Food experience, I suggest listening to this lovely song whilst reading this post. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ttjh_kK62lY

~~~

As life gets busier, the more I appreciate the opportunities to slow down and live in the moment.  Cooking something warm on a (very chilly) Sunday morning does just that.

IMG_6143

This Sunday, I defied to laws of convenience and quality over quantity:

A Sunday Kind of Cornbread (a.k.a. Cornbread with Caramelized Apples and Onions)

(recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2013)

IMG_6114

Sundays are for thinly slicing your ingredients, and for taking the time to let them slowly caramelize over a low heat (although you may be tempted to crank it, try to refrain).

IMG_6117

IMG_6118

Sundays are for baking from scratch.

IMG_6119

IMG_6122

IMG_6128

IMG_6133

IMG_6136

IMG_6140

Sundays are for appreciating this lighting:

IMG_6142

Sundays are for gradually folding the dry into the wet.

IMG_6144

IMG_6145

Sundays are for eggs.  (Always eggs).

IMG_6148

IMG_6149

IMG_6154

IMG_6155

Sundays are for trying new recipes.

IMG_6157

IMG_6158

Sundays are for a batter drippin' slow.

IMG_6161

IMG_6164

IMG_6165

Sundays are for realizing that recipes are just guidelines...

IMG_6167

IMG_6168

...and unintentional "changes" that result in something even more delicious than the original.

IMG_6175

IMG_6176

Sundays are for five o'clock shadows...

IMG_6181

(but don't let the Cornbread Coyote scare you)

IMG_6183

Sundays are for learning that two mitts are better than one.

IMG_6188

Buon appetito!

-Girl

Pumpkin.

My childhood nickname was Pumpkin.

IMG_3545

In fact, it still is.  Despite the fact that I am now in my early twenties, this familiar name never ceases to fill me with warmth.

I'm not really sure what the origin of my nickname is.  Perhaps because I was born in the Fall? Or maybe because I rocked a pumpkin costume three years in a row for Halloween (see above example)?

Irregardless, the name is particularly fitting as I have grown to love the orange squash formerly known as the pumpkin.  My love for pumpkin ranges from pumpkin coffee to pumpkin beer to pumpkin socks.  But my favorite pumpkin item of all is...pumpkin bread!

I adore pumpkin bread for many reasons: it makes your house smell like you are floating on a cinnamon cloud, it is autumn in loaf form, and pretty much everyone has at least one can of pumpkin lurking in their pantry.  Unlike banana bread, in which bananas must achieve a particular degree of ripeness in order to be deemed worthy of  banana bread destiny, a loaf of freshly baked pumpkin bread can be yours at virtually any time.

The end of the summer is always bittersweet.  But for me, autumnal foods such as pumpkin bread (Pumpkin Spice Lattes ayoooo) certainly help to ease the pain.  So when you feel that summertime sadness coming on, just drown your sorrows in a toasty piece of this simple yet scrumptious pumpkin bread.

While the transition from summer to fall and winter is never an easy one, especially in the Northeast, pumpkin is honestly the thing I look forward to most.

While I am almost always a proponent for organic over conventional foods, when it comes to canned pumpkin, the organic version is rather sad compared to conventional.

IMG_5947
IMG_5962
IMG_5965
IMG_5966
IMG_5967
IMG_5955
IMG_5961
IMG_5972
IMG_5959