The Kitchen Prep

Monday, November 9, 2015

Vanilla Bean-Yogurt Pound Cake | prAna + Stonyfield Organic #JustBeYou

I like my frozen yogurt on the plain side {no toppings}. I rarely do anything drastic with my hair -- just a trim and some subdued layers. When it comes to fashion and decor, I'm not one to go for sparkles and "bling" {do people even say that anymore?} I guess you might call me a little "vanilla."

When I was in high school, one of my best friends badgered me constantly about wearing more makeup. In college, my roommate incessantly tried to add more "color" to my wardrobe -- I defaulted to neutrals. Even while wedding dress shopping, I remember every single bridal consultant adding sequined, bedazzled dresses to the pile of classic, "plain" gowns I chose on my own. My own sister often jokes with me that I live in a "taupe-colored" world because I gravitate to things that are clean, simple and unembellished.

See? Vanilla.

Let's get something straight here... Vanilla is a compliment.

To me, vanilla means comfort. Coziness. Sweetness.

When Stonyfield Organic and prAna asked us to craft a post showing which Oh My Yog! variety and prAna organic clothing piece expressed our style and "flavor", I didn't have to think twice about what I'd choose: Madagascar Vanilla Bean yogurt and a cozy sweater!

Yes, that may sound boring to some, but hey, that's my life these days! Though I love a sassy sundress, jet-setting and having fancy cocktails with the girls, my current reality as a work-from-home mama doesn't exactly lend itself to stilettos and manicured nails.

When I'm not in the kitchen cooking up the recipes I share here, you can find me playing on the living room floor, running errands around town or taking the tot to story time -- all activities that require comfortable attire! Thankfully, prAna creates pieces that suit all types of lifestyles whether you're toting a baby or a yoga mat. It's always nice to know that you can run out the door without looking disheveled, then head home and continue with your daily routine without having to change into "comfy clothes" -- who has the time?!

Messy mom-hair, don't care.
Stonyfield also gets it right with Oh My Yog! -- a tri-layer yogurt with a sweet Madagascar Vanilla bottom, honey-infused whole milk yogurt middle and decadent cream top. It's the kind of thing I'd want to snack on while working on my lap top, snuggled in a comfy sweater like the Sondra from prAna's organic line -- like a little oasis of peace and calm in the middle of my baby-chasing, crazy days.

You may think of "vanilla" as one-note, and maybe not too exciting... but I see the layers and the complexities. Subtle, rarely ostentatious, a little under the radar. Approachable, familiar and endearing.

It's an honor to be called vanilla! ;)

How would you describe your personal style? prAna is giving you a chance to #JustBeYou by offering 15% off your purchase through December 15. Just enter the discount code JBYF15TKPB at checkout! One of you will also have the chance to win a fabulous piece from their organic cotton line*, and all you have to do is enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Clearly, when I was given the option, I chose this sweater in the color "Winter" -- SO Vanilla! -- but it was unavailable and I received the piece in Rhubarb, which I happened to love even more. Maybe I'm getting a little more adventurous in my maturity. Ha!

*Winner may choose a piece from prAna's organic line up to $99.

Disclosure: I have an ongoing partnership with Stonyfield. I received coupons and a sweater from prAna in exchange for this post. As always, the opinions here are all my own!
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Not only is Oh My Yog! great for snacking, but it's also perfect for baking! 

I made this simple, tender pound cake extra vanilla-y by adding a big ol' tablespoon full of vanilla bean paste and using the Madagascar Vanilla Bean flavor of Oh My Yog!, but any of their flavors can be added to suit your taste.

This type of recipe is such a nice homemade treat to share for the holidays, or to have for family gatherings and brunch buffets.

Whether you choose to keep it plain, or spice it up with flavors like Apple Cinnamon or Gingered Pear, I think you'll find this sweet, classic recipe anything but boring!

Vanilla Bean-Yogurt Pound Cake
Makes 2 mini loaves or one medium loaf

1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 {6 oz.} container of Madagascar Vanilla Bean Oh My Yog! yogurt, in your favorite flavor

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare mini loaf pans by spraying lightly with non-stick spray. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add vanilla bean paste and beat until combined.

3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

4. Slowly add half of dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just disappeared. Add in yogurt and mix until just incorporated. Mix in remaining dry ingredients until just combined. {Do not overmix.}

5. Divide batter evenly into mini loaf pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tops are golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few sticky crumbs.

Let cool completely before slicing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chai Spiced Brownies

When you blog for a while, people start wanting to send you stuff for you to write about. As great as that sounds, it gets a little overwhelming when you are an honest kind of gal who wants to give everyone a shout out, but doesn't want to turn her sacred space into one giant ad.

So a lot of times, I end up saying, "Hey, thanks for wanting to send me your cookbook/food product/kitchen gadget/recipe idea/fill-in-the-blank! It's so nice of you to think of me. I'm happy to share a picture of it on social media {if it's something I like and would actually use}, but I can't pay my bills with artisan crackers so I'm can't promise that I'll have time to write a whole post singing your product's praises."

Ok, maybe I don't say it exactly like that, but that's essentially the message that I send back. And then we might talk a little bit about working together in a business sense, which is when you'll see me mention that a post is "sponsored". {So, THAT'S what that means!}

But every once in a while {though less and less lately because, hello, baby's college fund}, I get an email and I'm like, "Heck yeah, send your chocolate/wine/cheese/awesome little-known fancy condiments right on over!" Then I try really, really hard to highlight the product in a post or use it in a recipe so that no on thinks I'm ungrateful or sneaky, trying to bum delicious things off of generous companies who are trying to promote their products. No one likes a mooch.

It's a fine line to keep this whole blog business both genuine and profitable!

Anyway, I get so much stuff in the mail that my mailman and UPS delivery guys probably think I have a major food hoarding problem. One day I'll have to invite them all in for a feast made out of all the products they've delivered to my door so they can see for themselves what's going on.

But yeah, from time to time someone sends something for you to check out and it gets lost in the shuffle. And then you're cleaning out your pantry one day and you go, "Whoa, this looks like a fancy little tin of chai tea that I probably wouldn't buy for myself, where the heck did it come from??" And then you remember and you feel bad for not doing what you said your were going to do {back in February! eek.} because you've been busy writing and cooking and raising a baby and having a life and keeping your head above water most days. Sigh.

I'm really glad I found this tin of Palais des Thes Chai Imperial because it is a perfect transitional flavor between the pumpkin spice season we're leaving and the turkey/apple/peppermint season we're entering. Really, it's a flavor you can enjoy all year long, but it's such a nice, cozy blend of aromatic ingredients that I think it's most appreciated when it's a little chilly out. {Not that it is here, but you know what I mean.}

Since we are nowhere near sweater weather in these parts, I decided to bake the flavors of chai tea into a brownie. Because I can get down with brownie-eating no matter what the temp is outside.

Chocolate and chai go together swimmingly with the warm, spicy notes of cardamom, pink peppercorn and ginger balancing the sweetness of the chocolate. If brownies and warm spices don't sound like pure comfort, then I don't know what does!

Phew! I feel way better now that this little tin of chai goodness has been unearthed from the depths of my pantry and had its day in the sun. Having a pan full of brownies is a nice perk, too! ;)

Disclosure: I received Palais des Thes Chai Imperial to try for this post. As always, all opinions here are my own. 

Chai Spiced Brownies
Makes 9 large brownies, or 12 decent sized brownies

1/2 cup milk, divided {I used almond milk}
3 tablespoons Palais des Thes Chai Imperial loose tea
1/2 cup {8 tablespoons} butter, melted
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare and 8x8 inch baking pan* by spraying with non-stick spray or lining with foil for easy removal.

2. In a small saucepan {or in a microwave safe cup}, heat milk until steaming. Add loose Chai Imperial and allow to steep for 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, coconut oil, vanilla and eggs until fully combined.

4. Using a strainer, pour milk/tea mixture into a small cup or bowl, pressing on solids to remove as much liquid as possible-- discard tea solids. Whisk 1/4 cup of tea mixture into the wet ingredients. Set remaining 1/4 cup aside for use in glaze.

5. In another bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

6. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until just combined and no dry spots are left. Fold in chocolate chips.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

*You can also make this in a 9x13 inch pan. The brownies will be thinner and may bake a bit faster, so check on them after 18-20 minutes.

For Glaze: 

4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup remaining chai spiced milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1. In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in cocoa powder until dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and add chai spiced milk and vanilla extract.

3. Beat in confectioners sugar until smooth.

Quickly pour glaze over cooled brownies and allow to set, about 20 minutes. Slice and serve brownies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Double Pumpkin Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Have you fully recovered from the Halloween sugar high? Don't even look at me like some mini-Snickers didn't find their way out of your kid's basket and into your mouth...

I didn't eat one chocolate bar, peanut butter cup or sour candy this weekend. Mostly because I was too busy stuffing my face with everything else in the world at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

If you haven't ever been, let me tell you a little about it: It is a dangerous playground of tapas-style food and drink samplings from just about every country on this planet. {At least it sure feels that way.} Those Disney folks are pretty clever because they encourage you to get a special little swipe card that you load with funds and wear on your wrist for easy access at each station. And the next thing you know, you have spent your child's college fund and your retirement on escargot-stuffed croissants and Irish cream ale and all you have to show for it is indigestion and an empty bank account.
Our first stop was the Hawaiian kiosk with Kahlua Pork Sliders & pineapple wine.
Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it does get pricey because every kiosk looks better than the last. On the positive side, you're walking the entire time {when you're not waiting in line because, duh, it's Disney} so you're burning calories while you are consuming them, and while I'm fairly certain that it doesn't exactly balance out, it's a nice consolation.

Anyway, between the walking, carrying all 20-some odd pounds of Cole and calling on my self control, I didn't feel like I did too much damage in the end.

It is fun, fun, fun. I highly recommend it!

That being said, we sort of missed out on Halloween festivities because we were too busy showing Cole the ways of the World {showcase, that is}. There was a tiny bit of mom guilt, but then I realized that 1.) He's not old enough to eat candy anyway and 2.) We had already given him a chance to dress up the night before and walked him around a local festival... and the guilt melted away.

My baby chef. Love, love, love.
Guess what else melts? {Nice segue, right?} Cheese. 

Yes, I know I just told you that I spend the weekend eating and I should probably spend the next week or two eating kale and air before the the holiday season gets underway... but look at this.

There is a real possibility that you are all pumpkined out by now, but I had to give pumpkin just one last hurrah since I didn't do Halloween. And besides, this isn't as terrible as you'd think.

Remember the Pumpkin Seed Pesto I recently posted as a dipper for chicken nuggets? Well, as it turns out, it makes a fantastic spread for sandwiches, too. Since I also had pumpkin puree leftovers in the fridge, I slathered that on the sandwich as well. Lastly, a handful of arugula adds a little more green, which is always a nice touch and helps to ease the conscience.

You can use whatever type of melty cheese you enjoy, but I used Cabot's Farmhouse Reserve Aged Cheddar because I like the sharp, salty bite with the creamy pumpkin and herbacious pesto. Yum times a million.

Ok, I think all the pumpkin is out of my system now. What flavors and recipes do you want to see as we enter the holiday season?

Double Pumpkin Cheddar Grilled Cheese

1 tablespoon butter, divided
2 slices bread {I used White Mountain bread,but sourdough would be good, too}
2-3 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup fresh arugula leaves
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Seed Pesto {recipe found here}
About 2 ounces {or more!} Cabot Farmhouse Reserve Cheddar, sliced or shredded

1. Over medium heat, melt half the butter in a skillet.

2. Meanwhile, assemble sandwich. I made mine by spreading pumpkin puree on both pieces of bread, then spreading pumpkin seed pesto on one side. I placed the slices of cheese on one side and the arugula on the other so that the spread would hold onto them like glue, then closed up the sandwich. You can make your sandwich as you please! :)

3. Place sandwich in melted butter and toast until browned, about 3-5 minutes.

4. Lift sandwich and add remaining butter to skillet, then flip the sandwich and toast the other side until the bread is browned and the cheese is melty.

Goes great with a hot cup of soup!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jumbo Pecan Chip Cookies | #OXOGoodCookies

I couldn't send you off into the Halloween weekend without a proper sweet treat, now could I?

These Jumbo Pecan Chip cookies serve a dual purpose -- fueling you up for trick-or-treat madness, of course, but more importantly, helping to donate $100 to Cookies for Kids Cancer thanks to my friends at OXO!

There is nothing like Halloween to remind you of the joy and innocence that should be part of childhood, what with all the little princesses and ninjas and superheros running around in their costumes. Unfortunately, children are not immune to the serious illnesses that can affect us all, and many families will find themselves faced with the heartbreaking reality of childhood cancer.

Cookies for Kids Cancer was founded in 2008 by a couple who lived this nightmare with their own son, Liam. Though they could not control the outcome of the disease, they poured themselves into creating an organization that could help support the funding needed for the research to find new, improved therapies that could save a sick child's life.

So, when my pals at OXO asked if I'd be interested in sharing some cookies as a part of their #OXOGoodCookies campaign, I couldn't wait to "chip" in... get it?! ha!

With the help of OXO's amazing kitchen gadgets, baking up something festive was a snap.

If you don't already have one of these fantastic little cookie scoops {I own two}, I highly recommend picking one up before the holiday cookie-baking begins. They make portioning cookie dough {or meatballs, or melon balls, or...} SO easy, you'll wonder how you ever lived without one! As a bonus, the purchase of select baking items featuring the sticker below will go toward the $100K that OXO will donate to CFKC this year!

These cookies though. Drool. They're low-fuss to whip up and so easy to customize that you might just find yourself baking up infinite combinations {don't say I didn't warn you}. To go with the Halloween color scheme, I added orange pumpkin spice baking chips and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to mine, along with some pecan bits for a little crunch. Using a double scoop of cookie dough will result in jumbo, ooey-gooiest cookies that are better than anything you'll find in a wrapper.

There's no "trick" and all "treat" when you bake up this recipe. Just a "frighteningly" easy way to be a good cookie for a faboolous cause!

Ok, I'm done with the puns now. Just bake the cookies, k? ;)

Jumbo Pecan Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks {12 tablespoons, 3/4 cup} butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup pumpkin spice baking chips
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecan bits {or chopped pecans}

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a baking pan by lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat, or use a non-stick pan like this one. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla extract until combined and smooth. Pour into dry mixture and mix until fully combined.

4. Add the chips and pecan bits {or whatever add-ins you choose} and mix well to distribute.

5. Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out 2 dough balls and squish the flat bottoms together to make one golf ball sized dough ball.  Place them about 3 to 3 1/2 inches apart on the baking pan. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until they are puffed and the edges just begin to turn golden.

Note: If you prefer crunchier cookies, let them go a little longer until they're more browned. For softer, chewier cookies {i.e. heaven!} bake as directed.

6. Remove from oven {this little spatula is perfect for the task!} and allow to cool for about 5-8 minutes, or until they've firmed up a bit. {Fight the urge to devour them instantly.} Carefully remove from baking pan and place on a cooling rack.

Fine Print!
- Cookies for Kids' Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids' Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.
- OXO will be donating $100 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer for each blog post dedicated to this campaign in October (up to our $100,000 commitment*.)
- *In 2015, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids' Cancer through product proceeds, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

{Gluten Free} Chicken Nuggets with Pumpkin Seed Pesto | NatureRaised Farms®

I have a few requirements for the dishes that make it to our dinner table:

1. Must taste good.

2. Must be nutritious.

3. Must try to be as natural as possible -- no funky ingredients, excessive processing, hormones & antibiotics --  and ethically produced.

4. Must not take forever to prepare.

5. But really... must taste good.

Sounds pretty basic, right?

You'd be surprised how limiting these rules can be when you're looking for quick meal solutions. Some things taste great but have an alarming amount of questionable ingredients. Or maybe they follow the rules, but the taste leaves something to be desired. If you'll notice, that rule is a non-negotiable!

The good news is there are options that can facilitate making the right choices for your family if your checklist looks anything like mine. And that means that throwing in the towel and making a beeline for the drive-thru will be a distant memory!

I'm going to be honest, I typically don't think to buy my chicken in the frozen section of the grocery store because most of the products in those freezers don't make the cut for me. But when I learned about NatureRaised Farms® working with farmers who care about how their animals are raised and treated so that they can provide a product that meet the list of "musts", I wanted to give them a hug. They get me! 

Because I set high standards in my own home, I appreciate it all the more when companies do the same. Give me something with recognizable ingredients, responsible practices, that taste good, and I'll be your BFFL. {Doesn't take much.}

Since NatureRaised Farms® covered a lot of the bases on my checklist as far as quality, safety and convenience, I was happy to spend my time focusing on my favorite part: Flavor!

Did you know that you don't have to limit your nugget-dipping to barbecue sauce and honey mustard?! I know: mind. blown. You can actually add flavor AND a little extra nutritious boost to your meal by making a dipper like this fabulous Pumpkin Seed Pesto! Served alongside some of my cinnamon-spiced sweet potato mash, this makes a meal that would pass inspection around here.

In my house, you would be more likely to find grilled chicken breast like this as the protein in this dish -- we're not in the "chicken nugget" phase of life just yet with our kiddo. But since I know a lot of you out there are, I just wanted to show that you can still add a little color and freshness to quick family favorites, which is good news for all!{Plus, I couldn't find the grilled chicken breasts in my local Target. Rats!}

I used NatureRaised Farms® Gluten Free Breast Nuggets, which I was able to toss into my cart on a Target run {woot!}. They're fully cooked chicken breast nuggets that bake in under 15 minutes and are breaded in a crunchy gluten free rice flour crust. The best part about this meal is that you can get the Pumpkin Seed Pesto and sweet potato mash made in the time it takes for the nuggets to bake, which means less time from kitchen to table. {See rule #4!}

So, go ahead and have your rules... and eat them, too!

Check out more easy weeknight recipes using NatureRaised Farms® products over on their Pinterest page!

Bonus: You can save 15% on any NatureRaised Farms Purchase from October 25 to November 7 with this Cartwheel app offer! As if you needed any other excuses to visit Target...

Chicken Nuggets with Pumpkin Seed Pesto
and Cinnamon-Spiced Sweet Potato Mash

4 NatureRaised Farms® Gluten Free Breast Nuggets, prepared as directed
1/2 cup roasted, lightly salted hulled pumpkin seeds
Handful of fresh basil -- about 1 cup loose leaves
1 small garlic clove, grated or minced
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

For Chicken: Bake as directed.

For Pesto:

1. Place pumpkin seeds, basil, garlic, pumpkin puree in a food processor or blender jar. Pulse a few times to combine, then stream in olive oil while pulsing to reach desired consistency. {If the mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time to thin it out.}

2. Taste and season with salt if necessary -- just be careful not to over-season if you used salted pumpkin seeds.

Serve alongside nuggets.

Social post & recipe is sponsored by NatureRaised Farms® Chicken but all comments and opinions are organically my own.

For Sweet Potato Mash:

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add in chopped sweet potato and boil until fork-tender, about 12-15 minutes. {While these boil, make your pesto!}

2. Drain and return to pat. Mash {or use a hand mixer} to achieve desired consistency.

3. Add butter and cinnamon, and mix to distribute evenly.

Serve hot.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lilly Pulitzer-Style Baked Chicken + A Visit to Lilly Headquarters!

Earlier this year, Steve and I took a trip to Philadelphia to attend a wedding. While scouring the map for areas to visit and sites to see, I made the startling discovery that we would be SO.CLOSE to King of Prussia -- the location of Lilly Pulitzer headquarters!

Now, you know what a Lilly nut I am {though definitely not the kind that would sucker punch a fellow shopper for a Lilly-print hammock, I'm proud to say}, so I immediately began wondering if there could possibly be a way to take a peek behind the doors of The Pink Palace without having to scale a palm tree-pattered wall or hang from a scalloped awning... because I could see how that would be frowned down upon.

I may or may not have gone to pose with the Lilly sign before my invitation was confirmed.
Thankfully, I remembered that I had a contact on the inside -- the lovely Eleni with whom I had worked during my guest blogging stint a few years back. Though I'm normally painfully shy about these types of things {you wouldn't guess it, right?}, I mustered the gumption to send her a little message to let her know that I'd be in the area and hoped to hear back.

As luck would have it, my citrus-colored stars aligned and she agreed to let me pop by for a visit to the mother ship headquarters. To say that squeals ensued is an understatement. {Poor Steve.}

So, off we went to The Pink Palace to check out what happens in print paradise!

It really is pink!
Though you'd think that Lilly's headquarters would be located on a tropical island {or, you know, Palm Beach}, it is actually situated in a quiet, unassuming little area of Pennsylvania as the company's owners since the 90's resided here.

But cross beyond those glass doors and you'll forget that you're not in sunny South Florida. Designed to give employees the "feel" of Lilly's signature island chic vibe, the details of the space successfully transport you to a place where you want to kick off your McKim sandals and relax with an umbrella drink. {Though I can assure you, there was actual work going on throughout the facility!}

A glass atrium complete with pink and green chairs, awnings, ceiling fans {that run even through the cold winter months to keep everyone in the Florida frame of mind} and palm trees serves as a space for large scale meetings and company shindigs. Little details like faux store windows, Lilly-upholstered furniture and even door signs boasting legit Palm Beach street names make you forget that the ocean isn't within walking distance!

Eleni walked me {Well, us. I kind of forgot Steve was there.} through the offices, where I got to meet some of the amazing ladies who help keep the operation running smoothly. Meetings and spreadsheets and marketing plans... there's a lot that goes into keeping a huge company afloat. But in true Lilly fashion, there's always room for a little fun, seen here in the form of the ping pong table meeting room!

Ping pong/meeting room.
It was such a thrill to get a peek at inspiration boards, up and coming prints and collections that hadn't yet hit stores and feel like a true Lilly insider! I was so giddy that I didn't take too many pics, but I assure you that I captured it all in my mind and will forever remember every last darling detail.

Like Pinterest... on a real wall. With champagne. I die.
But alas... my tour had to come to an end. I took one last look around and took a little {mental} curtsy as I wished farewell to Lilly's colorful kingdom!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A few months after my trip, my friends at the Junior League of the Palm Beaches asked if I'd be interested in sharing a special recipe found in the reprint of their 1976 original cookbook, Palm Beach Entertains. The recipe, known as "Lilly Pulitzer's Baked Chicken", was said to be served often by the maven of entertaining herself. Being all hopped up on Lilly everything, I jumped at the chance!

The cookbook is filled with not only recipes to suit the tastes of the most discerning guests, but also a wealth of history about the island's culinary history, as well as stories and accounts that paint a picture of the dinner parties and soirees held by some of Palm Beach's most notable hostesses.

I loved leafing through the pages and taking in the black and white photos of Palm Beach past. A photo of Lilly's well-appointed {for the 1970s!} but casual kitchen was the perfect visual for getting "prepped" {ha!} to recreate her famous chicken dish with a modern, Dianna twist.

Despite her position in high society, Lilly was known for her casual, laid back approach to entertaining and this dish reflects her credo. In Lilly's version, simple, citrus marinated chicken {I mean... would you expect any other ingredient??} is dipped in butter and coated in potato chips... which, yum. To modernize the recipe, I kept the concept of her method, but updated the ingredients to something a little less guilt-ridden --  subbing out the butter for coconut oil and the potato chips for roasted plantain chips. Not only do these ingredients add extra tropical flair of the dish, but they also go well with the Cuban accompaniments that she'd often serve alongside the meal as a nod to her husband's heritage.

It was so much fun cooking up something that Lilly herself would have served to guests in her own home, and also to get to scope out the other recipes in The Junior League's classic cookbook. If you're Palm Beach history buff or have a love for recipe-collecting and entertaining, be sure to purchase a copy of Palm Beach Entertains! All the proceeds of cookbook sales go to charitable organizations; funds raised this year will go toward remodeling a home for children in foster care.

A great big thank you to The Junior League of the Palm Beaches and, of course, to my friends at Lilly Pulitzer for giving my Lilly-loving self the chance of a lifetime!

Lilly Pulitzer-Style Baked Chicken
Adapted from Palm Beach Entertains

1 cup fresh squeezed citrus juice {from lemons, limes & sour oranges}
3 tablespoons light rum
4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
3 cups crushed roasted plantain chips

1. In a gallon-sized zip-top bag, combine citrus juices, rum, garlic, salt and cilantro. Place chicken breasts in the bag and, pressing as much air out as possible, zip securely. Shake and squish the bag to coat chicken breasts in marinade. Place bag in a bowl or dish and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking dish that will accommodate all four pieces by spraying lightly with non-stick cooking spray or rubbing with some oil. Place the crushed plantain chips in a small pan or dish to prepare for dredging.

3. After the chicken is marinated, remove each piece from the bag and pat dry. Brush with melted coconut oil {or if you'd like, melt the coconut oil in a bowl and dunk in each chicken piece to coat.}

4. Dredge oil-coated chicken chicken in crushed plantain chips. Place in prepared baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until the outside is lightly browned and the chicken is completely cooked through.

Serve with rice, black beans and refreshing cocktails!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Graham Cracker Latte

Well, I've gone too far. I put cookies in my coffee. Sort of.

You know those seasonal lattes from Starbucks, the ones that people go crazy over? I'm not into them. They usually taste funny to me and are too sweet {which, whoa, that's crazy for me of all people to say.} And when it comes down to it, I'd rather spend my splurge calories on the treats they have in the glass cases and keep my coffee pretty boring.

I know, party pooper.

But, even though I don't personally care for those "handcrafted beverages", it doesn't mean that I don't get the hype. They make them sound really good. So good, in fact, that I forget all about my aversion at least once a year and I get suckered into spending five bucks of my holiday cash on a drink that I swear off again until the next year.

This year's pick was the "Toasted Graham Latte", which wasn't horrible, but didn't make me swoon by any means. It did pique my interests enough to make me want to come up with my own recipe at home.

In my first round of recipe testing, I created a cinnamon-brown sugar simple syrup to flavor and sweeten the coffee, which yielded a lightly spiced version that was pleasant, sure, but wasn't "grahamy" enough for me. It was missing that toasty cracker taste that can't really be reproduced with just sugar and spices.

But how do you extract that essence into a liquid? INFUSE THE MILK WITH GRAHAM CRACKERS.

Stay with me. It's a little "out there", I know, but think about it. When you want to make tea or flavored simple syrup or even flavored liquor, what do you do? You let the ingredient you want the liquid to taste like take a little soak. 

In this case, I felt that the cinnamon-brown sugar simple syrup I created was infused with flavors that were too strong to let the "grahaminess" of the graham crackers shine through, so I did the next best thing: I made cookie milk.

Don't look at me like that. There are people making a fortune off of cereal milk treats, and that's basically the same idea. It's like, a thing.

So, instead of making my latte with plain milk, I infused my milk {well, almond milk actually, but you can use whatever type of milk you use} with the graham crackers.

The result? The "grahaminess" I was seeking and a roasty, toasty beverage that you can enjoy at home without having to wait for the 10 minute coffee order monologue of the person in front of you to end.

You're welcome!

Graham Cracker Latte
Inspired by Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

1-2 teaspoons Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Simple Syrup (see below for recipe)
Strong brewed espresso
Equal amount of Graham Cracker Milk (see below for recipe), warmed

1. Add syrup to the bottom of your coffee mug/cup/bowl/vessel.
2. Pour freshly brewed espresso over it.
3. Pour in equal amount of milk.

Top with "froth" and graham cracker crumbs for an authentic coffeehouse experience.

For Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together brown sugar and water. Toss in cinnamon stick.

2. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for a minute until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow cinnamon stick to steep in the syrup about 10 - 15 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract.

3. Pour into a mason jar or container with an airtight lid and store in refrigerator.

For Graham Cracker Milk:

3 cups milk of your choice {I used almond milk}, divided
4 graham cracker sheets {8 individual crackers}, crumbled

1. Warm 1 1/2 cups milk slightly in the microwave or a saucepan. Toss in graham crackers and stir until you have a soggy mess. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

2. Pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer, and press down on the graham cracker solids with a spatula or spoon to strain the liquid part of the mixture into a bowl {or better yet, something with a spout like a liquid measuring cup}. You should get about 1 cup of milk -- discard the solids.

Repeat if necessary {i.e. if the milk looks like it has too many little pieces floating around in it.} The milk will be slightly thickened.

3. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk into the graham cracker milk and stir to combine.

Store the graham cracker milk in a mason jar or a container with an airtight lid. Keep refrigerated.