Foolproof + Recipe for Parmesan Thyme Crackers

02.26.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last Wednesday night, my mother and I attended a sold-out event at the Strand Capitol in York: An Evening with Ina Garten. I knew the The Barefoot Contessa was a popular Food Network chef and an accomplished cookbook author, but I really had no idea until last week that she was so beloved!

During the hour-long event, hosted by David Albright, executive chef of York’s Left Bank, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions. Every single one started with something like “Ina, you are amazing” or “Ina, you are my hero,” or “Ina, we love Jeffrey.” (Jeffrey is her husband who makes regular appearances on her television show. And, yes, Ina confirmed that he is her real husband and not her TV husband.)

The event was a bit disorganized with ushers scrambling to get microphones to people with questions, and the acoustics made it difficult for all of us — especially Ina, I am sure — to hear. But I appreciate the desire to create an intimate atmosphere. And we did get to hear Ina talk about her favorite cafes in Paris, what she means by “good olive oil,” and her most memorable dinner party guests.

Following the conversation, Ina stayed to sign books. My mom and I skipped out of the last interview question and ended up 16th in line. Good thing because we heard she was only signing 300 books — and there were over 1,000 in attendance!

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After “meeting” Ina (staff members very quickly ushered us past her table) and with signed copies of her new cookbook in hand, Mom and I headed down the street to the Left Bank for dessert. Such a fun mother-daughter night out!

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Ina’s new book, Foolproof, is all about entertaining with ease. It includes recipes “you can trust” to be simple and to impress family and friends and guests. Perfect timing considering that Nick and I hosted a small dinner party on Saturday night.

There are a few recipes in our repertoire that we love to make for company: Sweet Potato and Apple Soup; Mustard-Baked Chicken with Pretzel Crust; Roasted Butternut Squash Orzo; Carrot Cake. On this particular night, we chose our favorite Lasagna with Nick’s Focaccia Bread and Truffle Brownies for dessert. And for an easy appetizer, I looked to The Barefoot Contessa.

Ina’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers take less than 15 minutes to prep and can be stored in the refrigerator until just before your guests arrive.

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Combine butter, grated Parmesan cheese, minced fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and flour.

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Form the crumbly dough into a ball and add up to 1 teaspoon of water if it doesn’t come together. (Yes, I did have to add water.)

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Then roll it into a ~9-inch log.

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Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before your guest arrive. Then remove it and slice it into ~1/2-inch rounds.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until very lightly browned.

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Cool and serve at room temperature.

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We served ours with bruschetta, and they were a hit! In fact, Nick was convinced that I bought crackers and simply topped them with grated Parmesan and minced thyme and warmed them in the oven. (He was at class when I made them.)

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This recipe for Parmesan and Thyme crackers is from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, which I also own. In Foolproof, she has a very similar recipe for Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers. I can’t wait to try them, along with … Caramelized Bacon; Penne alla Vecchia Bettola; Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips; Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts; Raspberry Crumble Bars; Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts; and more.

What’s your favorite foolproof menu?

Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Source: Ina Garten

(Print the Recipe)

Makes 24 crackers.

Ingredients

  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper; combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water.
  2. Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a small, sharp knife, and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

To (Great) Grandma’s House We Go

02.20.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam is fortunate to have three great grandmothers and one great grandfather still with us, and we try to see them as often as possible. This week we were able to visit all three houses! Sam stayed out of trouble, for the most part, and was fascinated by their collections of ceramic ducks and roosters and teddy bears. He played with Grammy’s cats like they were dogs, and reorganized Grandma R’s kitchen cupboards. He entertained each of them with his storytelling and his dance moves and gave big hugs and kisses when it was time to leave.

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They obviously adore him and spoil him! We love you all.

Lady Loves

02.20.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I have not spent a weekend with my best girlfriends since summer 2011 — we were obviously long overdue for a getaway. And so we packed our bags and headed to the Poconos last Friday night. I believe we spent 80% of the weekend in our sweatpants, lounging by the fire, drinking red wine, catching up on big things and little things, and reminiscing. We had nowhere to go, no work to do, no kids to care for. It was quiet and relaxing and perfect.

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Here’s hoping that we don’t let almost two years pass before doing this again!

New Müller Yogurt Review and Giveaway

02.15.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Something cold arrived on our doorstep earlier this week. And it was something other than the snow that has been falling every day for the past two weeks.

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Say hello to the new Müller yogurt from Quaker. It recently hit supermarket shelves here in Pittsburgh, as well as other areas of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Great Lakes, and Southeast regions, after generations of success throughout Europe.

The fine folks at Quaker were kind enough to send a few samples for us to taste and review … and giveaway!

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First up: FrütUp. Unlike many brands that market a yogurt cup with fruit on the bottom, Müller puts its fruit on top as a light layer of mousse. Varieties include: Peach Passion Fruit, Luscious Lemon, Blueberry Bliss, Radiant Raspberry, Splendid Strawberry, and Very Cherry. Our Splendid Strawberry was just the right amount of sweet and creamy.

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Next up: the Corner cups. These containers include lowfat yogurt paired with a side of fruit topping or crunchy cereal mix. We got Blueberry and Choco Balls, and boy am I glad we did. The vanilla yogurt was tasty on its own, but I especially loved the subtle addition of chocolate. It satisfied my sweet tooth and was much healthier than my typical afternoon cookie. Other Corner varieties include: Strawberry, Blueberry, Crunchy Granola, Choco Flakes, and Crispy Crunch.

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Finally: Greek Corner cups. Similar to Müller Corner cups, these containers include mild Greek yogurt plus a side topping. We eat a lot of Greek yogurt, and Müller tastes very similar to others, but it’s the unique toppings that set it apart from other brands: Caramelized Almonds, Blackberry and Raspberry, Strawberry, and Honeyed Apricot. The Caramelized Almonds cup was fantastic! I don’t typically add nuts to my yogurt snacks, but I may have to start.

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Overall, I was impressed with Quaker’s new product. And the price is competitive with other brands: $.99 for FrütUp and $1.29 for Corner and Greek Corner. But guess what? You have a chance to try it for free! Quaker is giving away five free product coupons to three lucky winners. Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

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Sam is a fan, too.

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Disclaimer: I was given these products free of charge, but the opinions expressed are my own. I was not paid to write this post.

Valentine’s Day Desserts

02.13.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last week I shared some simple recipes for sweets for your littlest Valentines: Fluffy Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Hearts, M&M Pretzels, and Puppy Chow. And today I’m going to share four of my favorite desserts to devour with your honey after the kiddos go to bed.

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1. Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding: These individual desserts can be prepared ahead of time and baked just before serving. Finish with a big dollop of sweet whipped topping to balance the bitter dark chocolate.

2. Sweet and Salty Cake: This one requires a bit more time to prepare. Salted caramel and ganache are sandwiched between layers of rich chocolate cake for a sophisticated dessert that is well worth the effort.

3. Brownies: I like boxed brownies as much as the next gal, but sometimes a special occasion calls for a special brownie. Two types of dark chocolate and a teaspoon of espresso yield a deep flavor, and five eggs create a chewy bite and just the right amount of crackle on top.

4. Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cake: Another simple dessert modified to yield just two servings. Chocolate cake flavored with hazelnut liqueur has a sweet and melty surprise inside. Spoon required.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

Photo Catch-Up

02.11.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Our boy. Behaving like a typical toddler: feeding his puppy from the table, hiding in the corner during storytime, loving the view from the top of the refrigerator, and watching Daddy shovel the snow.

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Our girl. Teething pup who loves the snow and watching TV with momma.

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And our food. Lots of sweets. Surprise, surprise.

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Hope your Monday is off to a good start!

Busy Toddlers: K-Cups Carousel

02.07.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sometimes I wonder if I work the little dude too hard. He mops the floors, he dusts, he wipes the walls, he helps to cook. He sorts the laundry, he picks up trash, and now he organizes our coffee.

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We got a big box of K-cups delivered to our front door today (thank goodness for Amazon Prime), and as usual, Sam insisted that we bring the box inside and open it immediately.

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He was very interested in the little plastic cups that fit so perfectly in his hands. And so I set our carousel on the floor and showed him how to place the cups in the metal rings. He filled it, and I dumped it, and then he filled it again. It kept him occupied for a full 10 minutes, which is practically an eternity in toddler time.

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Toddler win! (And Mommy win, too.)

Linkup and share your favorite activities below!


Letter to Samuel: 16 Months

02.05.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Sam,

Here we are again, buddy. Winter in western Pennsylvania. It’s been cold, really cold. Last January, when you were four months old, you got your first runny nose. And now, at sixteen months old, you got your first fever. I suppose such things are inevitable when the temperatures are in the teens, and every kid we encounter was either just sick or is getting sick. We are careful about which activities we choose to leave the house for, but you and I catch a quick case of cabin fever if we’re trapped inside for more than 24 hours!

So I could blame it on the weather, or that nasty cold you contracted, but the bottom line is that I am nearly two weeks late with this month’s letter. Sorry, pal!

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We did a lot of lounging around this month. While it broke my Mommy heart to see you so sick, I have to admit that I did love the couch snuggles and quiet hours of Sesame Street and how you fell asleep on my chest in the middle of the night. I hope you always know that I will do everything in my power to make it all better.

Just days before you got sick, Mommy and Daddy spent our first weekend away from you. Nana and Poppy came to stay with you and Lucy, and their goal was to keep you so busy that you didn’t realize we were gone. I think they succeeded! Nana texted a picture to me every two hours of you and your new Little Tikes car, you rolling balls of play-doh, you eating pizza, you watching movies. We missed you so very much, but you had lots of fun while we were gone. Oh, the benefits of being the only grandchild!

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Sam, you are our little engineer. You are observant and inquisitive and meticulous. You notice new art on the wall, new words on the chalkboard, and new marks on the kitchen floor. You let us know if things are out of place — like our shoes in the hallway or the blender on the kitchen counter. You are a hard worker and love to help Mommy clean. You mop and dust and “vacuum” with your ball popper.

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Besides “cleaning,” your current favorite activities are: building towers of blocks; making carrot and strawberry “soup;” cruising in your car around the house; and crawling through the tunnel and into your tent to lay on the pile of pillows and “read.” You still love your drill and hammer and the scrap pieces of wood on your tool bench. And you can now sit still for longer than five minutes to watch TV, usually Play With Me Sesame. You move along with Ernie Says and laugh when Elmo hangs upside down. But perhaps your favorite “movies” are the ones starring “Baby Sam.” You love, love, love to watch yourself on the iPhone. You point and giggle, and sometimes I wonder if you remember the moments we’ve recorded these past sixteen months.

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You also know how to operate the remotes, including the one that turns on the Xbox, which to you means “dance!” Mommy moves the ottoman, and the two of us have a little dance party in the living room. You bop and sway and swing your arms, and sometimes you stomp your feet. Yes, I do believe you inherited my love for music.

You can walk backwards and spin in circles, and you try to jump and hop. Basically, you attempt to do whatever we do. You are quite coordinated and have become a very confident climber. You now push the kitchen table chair to the counter and climb up onto it. Which means we can no longer hide things there and expect them to be “out of your reach.” It also means I can no longer chop or mix or cook without you sneaking up behind me. You want to “walk” up and down the stairs by yourself, and you have figured out how to scale the gates that pen Lucy in the kitchen. Boy, I count my blessings every day that you are not covered in bumps and bruises.

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Another new favorite this month: hide-and-seek. And you are good! Too good sometimes. I’ve legitimately lost you at least three times. Usually you find a tiny space like between the guest bed and nightstand, or in our closet behind a box of books, and you sit very, very quietly while I wonder around saying “Where’s Sam?” I think you know when panic sets in, though, because it’s right about that time when you pop out with a huge grin on your face.

You got your second haircut this month, and it was a lot less traumatic than the first time. Popcorn and Elmo on the iPhone helped tremendously. You also moved up a full shoe size to 5 1/2. Your new boots are so awesome. You weigh about 24 pounds and are 31 inches tall. You still wear size 4 diapers and mostly size 18-24 month clothing.

You still adore Lucy, and I love that the two of you are growing up together. You like to feed her treats — both hers and yours — and you chase each other around the kitchen. Fortunately, she doesn’t mind when you pull her tail or her ears. I guess you make up for it with hugs and kisses.

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You are such a love bug! But you also challenge me every day. I try to reason with you when you misbehave, but it’s not always easy. I usually have to repeat my request about five times before you listen. And, well, you don’t always listen. Heard at our house on a daily basis: we do not throw toys, that’s not for Lucy, slow down, take it out of your mouth, hands out of the trash, sit down, off the kitchen table, it’s too cold to play outside. Whew. And I wonder why I’m so exhausted at then end of the day!

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We are still working very hard to encourage your language development. You have gotten better at saying words (or beginning sounds) when prompted, like “ba” for banana and “cack” for cracker and “mmm” for milk. You say “down” with great enthusiasm, usually directed at Lucy when she’s jumping up to your plate. You open your mouth wide and make the “h” sound for Momma’s hot coffee  and “hi”, and you do a very similar expression when you make the “i” sound for ice. We are so anxious for you to verbalize your thoughts. Because we know once you figure it out, you will have so much to say. Until then, we will enjoy your constant incomprehensible babble.

Our routine has become pretty predictable. You wake up at 8am, though you don’t always want to get out of bed right away. I think it’s because you know you need a diaper change. (Though it is worth noting that you now grab your diaper and make the stink face when you have a dirty diaper during the day.) But you prolong that first change of the morning. You line up your binkies, you hug Mr. Ribbit, you stand in the corner of your crib — just out of my reach. I finally grab you and change you and you often try to put on your own shirt and pants. Then it’s downstairs to say good morning to Lucy.

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Breakfast always includes a banana and berries (you have been known to eat 3/4 pint in one sitting!) and either pancakes or muffins or scrambled eggs. You’ve also figured out how to eat cereal with a spoon, which is fun. Then we play, play, play, and I do my best to keep you entertained. Sometimes we go to a playdate or to music class or to the bookstore for storytime. You eat a snack around 10:30 — more fruit or cucumbers with Ranch dip or applesauce pouches and string cheese if we’re out and about.

Lunch is at noon, and I love that you can now handle peanut butter sandwiches and turkey wraps. Though macaroni and cheese is still your (our) favorite. Then it’s time for a nap, which can last up to three hours. (I resisted the move to one nap a day, but I must say that I now love it!) You are ready to eat again as soon as you wake up — surprise, surprise. New favorite afternoon snacks are raisins and popcorn. And ice. You stand at the refrigerator and point and make the “i” sound. So I fill a cup with ice and give you a spoon and you are content for at least 10 minutes — probably because you cut all four molars this month!

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After your snack, we play, play, and play some more. We recently converted the basement to a playroom for you, and it’s nice to have that space for a change of scenery during the day. Boy, I can’t wait until the weather warms up and we can get back outside!

Daddy gets home around 5pm, and I don’t know who is more excited. You and Lucy literally run to the door when you hear the garage door go up. And, I admit, sometimes I count down the minutes until reinforcement arrives. We eat dinner together at 6pm, and you usually end up with one cup of water and one cup of milk — big boy cups, not sippy cups. And you often eat half your meal in your booster seat and the other half in a big chair. Stop trying to grow up so fast, son!

Then Daddy squeezes in as much time with you as possible before we start your bedtime routine around 7:15pm. You still love the bath, and every night we sing the song “five little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away.” You line up your rubber duckies on the tub and knock them over until “no little ducks went out one day.” You sing along, too, and it’s the cutest thing ever. You typically fight to put on your diaper and jammies, and so we sometimes let you run around naked for a few minutes before reeling you in. But as soon as the binky hits your mouth, you are immediately quiet and calm and sleepy. (I think Mommy and Daddy are as attached to it as you are!) Favorite bedtime books are still First 100 Words and Chugga Chugga Choo Choo. Then you give big hugs and kisses and are sound asleep by 8pm.

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Sometimes the days feel long, but at the end of each one, I wish I had stolen one more hug, seen one more toothy smile with a scrunched up nose, heard one more “momma.” Because you won’t be this little forever. And as much as I look forward to each new stage, I know I will miss all of these todays.

Love you to the moon and back, kid.

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