Hail, Caesar!

This simple Caesar salad recipe packs serious garlic-lemon-umami flavor along with great crunch from homemade croutons.

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons | Flour Arrangements

Public service announcement: if you’re not slicing up stale bread to freeze for later use, you’re missing out on some serious food opportunities! Thanksgiving’s almost here, and bags of cubed, frozen bread are great to have on hand for making amazing stuffing.  If you haven’t started stockpiling, it’s time to get on it!

But wait, there’s more! You can turn cubed bread into HOMEMADE CROUTONS any day of the year, and you should because it’s so easy.

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons | Flour Arrangements
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Cookie Monster

 A thick layer of chocolate chip cookie dough — made with cream instead of eggs — is sandwiched between a delicious chocolate shortbread crust and dark chocolate ganache in this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Tart

chocaChocolate Chip Cookie Dough Tart | Flour Arrangementsolate chip cookie dough tart-1

Whenever anyone decides to bake chocolate chip cookies at my house, I transform into a cookie dough ninja.  I swoop in and grab dough off the cookie sheet when the baker’s back is turned.  At one point, my husband thought he was losing his mind rather than his cookie dough. This is a testament to how fast and quiet I can be when it comes to stealing dough.

While I’m a sucker for a good chocolate chip cookie, I have to admit it:  a hunk of chocolate chip cookie dough beats a chocolate chip cookie hands down.  Am I alone, here?  I don’t think so, but I can never tell.  Some people freak out about the raw egg thing, but I never let that bother me.

I’m the kind of person who makes chocolate chip cookies for the sole purpose of eating as much dough as I can before it hits the oven.  Its sweet vanilla flavor, its buttery richness, its satisfying sugar-crunch between my teeth, and all those bursts of deep, dark chocolate turn me into a compulsive eater:  a ball of dough for the baking sheet, a ball of dough for my mouth and so on and so forth.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Tart | Flour Arrangements

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Ghoulish Grub

Spooktacular Halloween Meatloaf Cupcakes and a giveaway to boot — enter to win a $200 Zappos giftcard!

Halloween Meatloaf Cupcakes | Flour Arrangements

I‘m constantly reminding my daughters not to play with their food. They’re forever up to mischief — waving around olive-topped fingertips or turning asparagus spears into light sabers. I knew I was asking for it when I made these spooky Halloween meatloaf cupcakes since they’re an invitation for dinnertime antics, but I just couldn’t help myself — it’s almost Halloween!

In addition to creating an easy, holiday-themed dinner, this goofy, spooky meal provides the perfect solution for my long-standing meatloaf conundrum.  I love meatloaf — its comforting heartiness, its simple preparation and easy clean-up, and its versatility of ingredients — but I almost never make it because it feels like it takes forever to bake.

Halloween Meatloaf Cupcakes | Flour Arrangements

Meatloaf cupcakes, though? They bake in about 25 minutes.  This means you can have dinner on the table from start-to-finish in less than an hour.  Since these little cupcakes are so easy to make, conjuring up some mashed potato ghosts is a simple step that adds, quite literally, the icing on the cake!

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Sweet & Simple

Each crisp, yet tender bite of these pecan-cocoa nib shortbread cookies has an almost caramelized flavor that harmonizes with the cookies’ seductive ingredients. 

Pecan-Cocoa Nib Shortbread Cookies | Flour Arrangements

The other day my husband walked through the door with 10 pounds of Guittard chocolate in one arm and five pounds of cocoa nibs in the other.  It wasn’t Valentine’s day.  It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas either.

He knows that I spontaneously bake with whatever ingredients we happen to have around the house.  He clearly wants more chocolate in his life, which is saying something since we’ve been using both of these ingredients in generous quantities lately in tarts and waffles and fancy s’mores desserts.

Pecan-Cocoa Nib Shortbread Cookies | Flour Arrangements

Just as he’d hoped, I did more spontaneous experimenting with chocolate and cocoa nibs when I had some time last weekend.  Fortunately for all of us, I totally hit the jackpot with these little pecan-cocoa nib shortbread cookies.

Pecan-Cocoa Nib Shortbread Cookies | Flour Arrangements

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Fall Flavor

Welcome fall with sweet potato muffins!  These deeply spiced bites — full of candied ginger and molasses  — have a gingerbread-like flavor.  They’re simple to make, and they keep well, too!

Sweet Potato Muffins | Flour Arrangements

Whenever I roast sweet potatoes for dinner, I try to throw in a few extra to use for baking projects.  I’ve been craving these starchy, sweet tubers lately — I guess all those tell-tale signs of fall have triggered this response.  Even in the mostly warm and sunny Bay Area, it’s dark when we wake up now, and the air feels cooler in the morning.  Thankfully, we get to ease into to seasonal changes:  I can still enjoy the last of summer’s golden harvest and eat my sweet potatoes, too.

At my house, leftover sweet potatoes usually turn into sweet potato rolls, but these days, they’re finding new life in sweet potato muffins.  Spiced with cinnamon and cardamom — along with a healthy dose of chopped candied ginger to give them a bit of a kick — these muffins are moist, flavorful, and delicious.  I like muffins with a bit of texture, so, in addition to the candied ginger, rolled oats give them substance and make them feel hearty and healthy, despite the sweetness imparted by molasses and brown sugar.

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Salad Days

Give stale bread new life in a simple, flavorful Tuscan bread and tomato salad. Garden-fresh tomatoes really shine in this easy-to-prepare recipe.

Tuscan Bread & Tomato Salad | Flour Arrangements

Most of the time, my family can’t keep up with the steady stream of food experiments taking shape in my kitchen.  Fortunately, disposing of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies – even imperfect ones —  is easy to do;  I can usually count on neighbors or friends to take excess sweets off our hands.

But when it comes to bread, it’s a totally different story.  Even if I have it in abundance, I’m often not willing to share.  With cupcakes, I don’t actually want to eat two dozen by myself; somehow, though, when left alone with them, I accidentally do. Unlike dessert, bread usually plays a supporting role, and this makes it super versatile.  I WANT to eat all of it!

Even when bread starts to stale (which it tends to do if you’re a hoarder ), I see it as an opportunity:  cubed and frozen, it’s great to have on hand for making stuffing, fresh croutons, or bread pudding.  I love to stockpile it, and I’m pretty good about slicing it up before it’s too late.

tuscan bread and tomato salad-6

Just the other day — knife in one hand and the remains of a rock-hard rustic loaf in the other —  I eyed the sheer mass of garden tomatoes lining my kitchen counter.  This time, I decided to skip freezing — this loaf was destined for immediate consumption in the form of Tuscan bread and tomato salad.

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What the Spuck?

This s’mores tart’s decadent graham cracker-inspired crust holds a thick layer of chocolate ganache topped by homemade marshmallow fluff.S'mores Tart | Flour Arrangements

My friend Peg always brings her train case camping.  This small boxy suitcase contains essentials like toothpaste and deodorant, but more importantly, it contains the necessaries for fireside facials.

When the time finally comes to tuck our overtired kids into their sleeping bags, Peg always sets large pot of water to warm over the campfire.  After bedtime stories, goodnight kisses, and urgent, last-minute bathroom runs, regrouping around the fire feels downright luxurious with warm washcloths to wipe away the day’s gritty layer of sweat, dust, and s’mores.

Peg, thank God, doesn’t stop at fuzzy washcloths.  She comes equipped with gentle cleansers, detoxifying masks, and emollient-rich creams.  I’m pretty sure I take better care of my skin on our camping trips than I do at any other time of the year.

One night, before the masks’ tightening effects stifled conversation, someone proposed starting a spa truck business to help the less fortunate campers of the world.  As the evening progressed, inspired by toned skin, cold drinks, and a warm fire, we outlined a kick-ass business plan for the Spuck. This simple, short combination of the words “spa” and “truck” says it all.  It also lends itself to the perfect tagline: “What the Spuck.”

Unfortunately, this brilliant plan has not yet come to fruition.  Maybe someday, in a different time or place, my friends and I will finally become professional Spuckers.  Until then, I’m offering up this very Spuck-worthy dessert: the s’mores tart.

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Perfectly Ironed

With their subtle hint of cinnamon and the bitter, chocolaty crunch from the cocoa nibs, these nibby super cinnamon waffles taste amazing with maple syrup. 

Nibby Super Cinnamon Waffles | Flour Arrangements

My daughter Eliza may be a picky eater, but this frustratingly finicky trait has a definite upside.  She feels passionate about the foods does like, and she can prepare and cook a few of these herself.  Since she loves to experiment, this sometimes leads to culinary genius, like pizza omelets or cinnamon chocolate brownies.

Eliza’s especially fond of waffles, and she’s perfected her super cinnamon waffles over the last several months.

Nibby Super Cinnamon Waffles | Flour Arrangements

Last weekend, she deviated slightly from her standard recipe, and the resulting waffles were truly inspired.  As she mixed up the dry ingredients, she noticed the bag of cocoa nibs I’d picked up for making peppermint patty tart. Her eyes lit up and she asked, somewhat cautiously, if she could mix some into the batter.

Why, yes.  Yes you can.

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