Farro Cakes

Farro Cakes Aerial

One of my goals for the New Year is to create more nourishing and invigorating dishes that fuel me and my family. I find lunch a particularly challenging meal to plan. A lot of times I will eat leftovers from the night before or toss together a hodgepodge of items collected from the fridge; but I usually discover the food on my plate uninspiring and unfulfilling.  Luckily, I struck gold with this new recipe for farro cakes that had me ready to break out a quill pen and write poetry by the fireside.

Of the grains I have tried, farro is definitely my favorite. It boasts a nutty, chewy, and a slightly sweet flavor that provides a great base to salads and soups. It worked very well as a substitute for quinoa is this dish and the end result was a crispy and earthy patty that reminded me of a new and improved potato pancake. It was positively scrumptious with the addition of a fried egg fresh from our girls out back.

  
 Robert suggested a drizzle of Red Hot on the side and it made our taste buds sing. The man knows how to pair hot sauces with food. There should be a title for this skill. Hot sauceror?

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Perhaps what I loved most about it is the fact that it is so quick and easy to make. I made the farro the night before while I was cleaning up the kitchen, and this made things as easy as pie for the following day. These farro cakes are everything I was looking for in a lunch and I know I will be making them again very soon. I hope you do, too.

Farro Cakes

Yield: About 8 small cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups farro, cooked
  • 3 eggs. lightly beaten
  • 1 cup loosely-packed and fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/3 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed crackers or 1/2 cup bread crumbs (whichever you have on hand or prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Olive oil, for the pan

Directions

  1. Combine the cooked farro, eggs, spinach, onion, parmesan, crackers, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Use a wooden spoon or your clean hand to combine all ingredients until well-mixed. Form into 3 inch patties The ingredients are delicate so you have to press them together firmly or you can add more bread crumbs or cracker crumbs as a binder, if needed (I didn’t have to).
  2. Add olive oil to a large, non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat until hot. Carefully place the patties onto the pan and sear for about 3 mins on each side, or until lightly browned and crispy. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Pan-fry remaining patties. Serve hot with a sunny-side up egg, if desired.
  3. These patties can be re-heated the next day by simply searing them briefly in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1-2 mins per side or until warmed).

 

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats originally from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

Smith’s Construction-Themed Second Birthday Party

 

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Our little rump roast recently turned two and we celebrated by hosting a small party with Smith’s grandparents and aunts and uncles. Since he loves all things diggers, trucks, and dirt, I chose a construction theme for this year’s shindig.

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The decorations were straightforward. Construction balloons, construction garland, and some bulldozer temporary tattoos.

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In a moment of impulse while on a Target trip with my sister, she and I thought a bull piñata would also be a great, albeit completely unrelated, addition to the party. Unfortunately, we never got around to the candy-filled bull; but it was probably a good thing considering the birthday boy is just learning how to successfully shovel food into his mouth independently. Why not give him a stick and tell him to hit a floating object repeatedly? Bert just loved this part of party prep. This picture makes me laugh.

IMG_8924The menu was pretty simple and was mostly a reflection of some of the foods our little engineer of destruction loves most. It included:

  • Grilled bratwurst and (uncured) hotdogs with various toppings
  • Baked three-cheese macaroni and cheese
  • Tippy’s tossed salad
  • Grandma’s fruit salad
  • Great Aunt Khaki’s birthday cake cookies (recipe coming soon)
  • Chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate buttercream icing
  • Ice cream

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The grill master.

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I had so much fun making Smith’s cake this year. The lad loves chocolate. I couldn’t be prouder.

Construction Birthday Cake

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After lunch, Smith opened gifts and I assumed my role as the family creeper by snapping candid pictures of everyone without their consent.

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After capturing lots of fun, I whipped out my tripod and forced all of us to take a few group shots. Childhood birthdays make me sentimental and nostalgic and documenting it with pictures of the ones I love the most is a way of keeping those emotions in check.

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Smith’s construction-themed second birthday was so much fun. Both for Smith and his family. These past two years have flown by and I am so thankful for the gift of motherhood that I have been given. I would be dishonest if I were to say parenting is all sunshine and lollipops, but it is without a doubt the most fulfilling adventure I have been on. We love you, Smith. Thank you for filling our lives with laughter, joy, and unbridled energy.

  
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It’s not a party until someone brings out the (unfilled) tea kettle.

New Year. New Name.

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Happy New Year! With the start of another trip around the sun, I’ve decided to shake things up around here. Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats is now Hickory Creek Lane. Over the past few years, I have enjoyed making food, taking lots of pictures, and writing stories to go along with what’s going on in my kitchen. I don’t publish blog posts as much as I’d like, but I still find this little hobby of mine fun and I felt it was time to transition with the changes that have occurred in our neck of the woods.

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Most notably, we welcomed our little rump roast into the world two  years ago and we followed that with a move from the suburbs of Columbus to the rolling hills of Walnut Creek. My focus on food has shifted from making more complicated recipes and trying new restaurants downtown to creating nourishing and simpler family meals that invigorate our lives. I have also come to love the beautiful backdrop that now surrounds us in Ohio’s Amish Country and I want to find ways to incorporate more about this unique community we call home. IMG_9935

As for the name change… the land on which we live is peppered with shagbark hickory trees and there is a gentle creek that runs adjacent to our driveway. Hence, Hickory Creek Lane. I’m excited for the new year and new home cooking adventures in Amish Country. I hope you will stop back again soon. :)

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Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

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I love the celebratory feeling in the air. The Christmas music jingling through radio speakers, the colorful lights peppering the night sky, and the excited anticipation of having a few days of vacation to spend with the ones we love. Just this week I was picking up a couple of last minute items at the grocery store and I was so pleasantly surprised by how many cordial exchanges I had with people I encountered. The store was packed, but nearly everyone seemed to be maintaining an attitude of Christmas cheer. Even when my own mood was slightly dampened after the cashier scanning the things I was buying didn’t ask to see my ID when she rang up the wine I had in my cart (first time this has happened), I couldn’t stay mildly offended too long because she was just so bubbly.  I did think about telling her my newly found interest in neck cream, but I refrained. Excellent decision on my part. I am very thankful I am on the eve of celebrating my 31st Christmas, silver strands of hair and all.

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That celebration wouldn’t be complete without Christmas cookies. I tend to struggle when it comes to making up my mind when I am trying to narrow down what treats I want to make for the holidays. I decided to revamp a traditional Amish cookie recipe that I love and came up with these vanilla bean buttermilk cookies with bourbon caramel frosting. The cookie from the previous recipe I used was good, but it was a little dense and tough. I reduced the amount of leavening agents, added an extra egg yolk, and used real vanilla seeds to make a cakier and more flavorful base. As for the frosting, I also added real vanilla bean seeds, kosher salt, and some good bourbon to enhance the depth of one of my favorite frostings of all time. I finished everything off with a sprinkling of toasted chopped pecans and the end result was a new and improved version that my family loved. I had so much fun experimenting with changes to this cookie that I am hoping to do more remixes of classic recipes. It’s an excellent creative outlet and a fantastic way to brush up on my seriously rusty knowledge of chemistry.

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There are only a few hours before old Saint Nick makes his rounds. I hope your shopping and preparations are drawing to an end and you are ready to enjoy this most wonderful time of year. May the joy of Christmas fill your homes and hearts; and may this next year be the best one yet. Peace on Earth and good will to men.

   

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

For the Cookies:

  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted REAL® Butter, at room temperatures
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted REAL® Butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons high quality bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark 46)
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Directions

For the cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and ensure racks are positioned in the middle. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, one yolk at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the seeds/pulp from the vanilla bean. Mix until well-incorporated.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, stir together the baking soda and buttermilk. Turn the mixer on low, and alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure dough is evenly mixed.
  3. Use a 2 inch cookie scoop to drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges/bottom of the cookies have lightly browned. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

For the frosting:

  1. Place ½ cup unsalted butter into a medium-sized sauce pot. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and gently whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a low boil before gradually adding in heavy cream while continuing to whisk constantly. Bring the caramel back to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes while continuing to whisk constantly. Turn the stove off and remove from heat. Add in the salt and vanilla bean seeds and mix to combine. Allow to cool to a luke-warm temperature.
  2. Add the powdered sugar to the cooled caramel, ½ cup at a time, and mix well with the whisk attachment of a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you prefer) after each addition. Add in the bourbon and mix until smooth. Frost the cooled cookies and sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired. Enjoy!

Source: Lolly’s Sweet Treats Original

Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

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During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it very easy to get into a dinner recipe rut. With all of the Christmas cookies, festive parties, and overall chaos this time of year brings, cooking a meal is pretty low on my list.  That’s where the incredible folks at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) come in. I can’t stop my feelings of passionate adoration for these people. I have several of their cookbooks and I recently discovered their podcast. Between visits to patients’ homes, I have been binge-listening (is that a thing?) to their amazing weekly programs and I stumbled upon a recipe for their Mexican pulled pork, often known as carnitas. Perhaps it was just my deeply-rooted love of rolling the “r” when saying Spanish words (thanks to my lovely high school profesora, Señora  Antequera); but caRRRRRRRRRRRnitas sounded like a perfect change up to our mundane weeknight rotation.

The prep for this dish is pretty simple and the seasonings are readily available. However, the inactive cooking time involves some planning ahead just because it requires 2 hours of baking in a low oven. I had a lot of stuff to get done on the day I made this and it was so nice to throw everything in my Dutch oven, pop it in the oven, and go about my business. If you don’t have the ability to be at home early enough to make this, I suspect it could be made a day in advance or even in a slow cooker. Perhaps I will have to try one of those methods the next time I make it because I absolutely will be making it again. The flavors are refreshing and not too overpowering and Robert loved it so much he used the leftovers to make some super crazy nachos.

If you are looking for something to jazz up your meal planning, look no further. I love you, ATK. So much that I may get your name tattooed on my arm.

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Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 1/2-4lb) boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, halved

For serving:

  • Flour tortillas
  • Minced bell peppers
  • Minced onions
  • Freshly shredded cheese
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges

Directions

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about ⅓ cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Place lid on pot and move to the oven. Cook until meat is soft and falls apart when poked with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking.

2. Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion, and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes. There should be about 1 cup of reduced liquid at the end of the process.

3. Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not burnt) and edges are slightly crisp, around 6-8 minutes.  Carefully flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, another 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately with toppings and warm tortillas. Enjoy!

Source: Directly from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook (Page 281-282)

 

Butternut Squash, Bacon, Onion, and Spinach Quiche

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I have a horrible habit of buying butternut or acorn squash and then letting it decompose on our kitchen countertop without ever using it. Grandiose ideas always dance in my head when I happily add it to my shopping cart at the grocery store. “I will carve this butternut squash into a festive turkey, roast it, and drizzle it with a balsamic reduction,” I tell myself. “It will serve as the centerpiece for our thanksgiving meal and it will become so beloved, that it will evolve into a tradition that I pass down to my children’s children and we will call it the Gobbler Gourd.” The voice narrating the regal scene I am imagining suddenly develops a hybrid accent of British/Australian/West Virginian because I have never been good with linguistics, even in my dreams. And then I make it through the checkout line, struggle to find my car keys, load a crying and hungry Smith into his car seat, pull in the garage, and drop half of the groceries on the floor before I see the butternut squash again and wonder if our sheep or chickens will eat the rotting blob it will surely become. “Surely the grocery store used some sort of trickery to force me to buy it,” I surmise. In the moment, I second guess whether or not we actually enjoy the taste of squash.

The particular butternut squash I used in this recipe was destined for a similar fate of those before it, but I decided it was time to stop being so wasteful and find some new ways to incorporate this ingredient into our weeknight meals. The idea for a quiche quickly came to my mind as we had a surplus of eggs from our hens and I needed to make a few batches of pie dough for the upcoming Turkey Day celebration. I turned to my new favorite book, America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School, and followed the guidelines for making quiche and then added some extra jazziness to it. By the way- if you don’t have this book and would like to learn some classic cooking techniques, I highly recommend it. I adore everything ATK produces and this publication did not disappoint.

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In addition to the butternut squash, I used ingredients that I had on hand that I thought would go well together. Because I was going to be serving this for dinner, I added bacon to it to appeal to some of the other members of my household. I like to think the new reports on the health risks of cured meat are mitigated if one consumes good quality bacon and makes sure to incorporate plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables in one’s diet. But maybe that’s just me.

Soapbox aside, the quiche was a surprising hit for our family. Though Robert is always very kind and gracious when I make new recipes, I could see the flash of what I like to call “meat insecurity” shoot across his eyes when he saw what was for dinner. It only took a single bite to reassure him. Poor guy.  I only wish I would have thought of this sooner, but I was so glad I was able to at least save this butternut squash from a sad ending.

Happy Saturday, all!

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Butternut Squash, Bacon, Onion, and Spinach Quiche

Yield: 1 9″ quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 6 strips bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise in thin strips
  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 single layer pie crust
  • Olive oil, butter

Directions

  1. Press pie dough into 9 inch pie pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes.  While the dough chills, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large, nonstick sauté pan over medium heat.  Once heated, add the squash and onions and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Add in the garlic and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, for about 1 more minute. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk, eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the shredded cheese and sautéed vegetables to the custard mix. Set aside.
  2. After the dough has been chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place aluminum foil over pie crust and secure down with pie weights. Blind bake crust just until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the aluminum foil and pie weights and transfer pie pan to a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet back in the oven and carefully pour the custard mix into the pie crust, making sure to leave 1/2 room between top of the custard and edges of the pie crust. Moving the baking sheet to the oven before adding the custard prevents the custard from spilling all over the place if you add it before you move the baking sheet to the oven.
  3. Bake the quiche until puffed and lightly golden brown, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack and allow to set for 1-3 hours before serving.

Note: You may have extra custard depending on the depth of your pie pan. I used the extra I had to bake egg cups in standard muffin tins (I baked these for about 18 minutes) and they were great for breakfasts on the go.

Source: Method for preparing quiche from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School

Spooky Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treat Pops

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Of all the holidays, Halloween is my favorite for making festive treats. There are so many cute ideas floating around the interwebs and I find many of them so irresistibly charming. These spooky Frankenstein Rice Krispie treat pops were no different. I was particularly drawn to them because of the ease and I had romantic ideas of my little rump roast helping me make them. As usual, the reality of situation was far different from my expectation and Smith was more interested in putting his toy tractors in my salad spinner. But I had lots of fun doing it myself and my little laddy enjoyed eating them. It was a win-win situation.

I used melted chocolate chips to dip the pops in and it worked pretty well. However, I recently learned, from my binge-listening of America’s Test Kitchen podcast, that the chocolate chips aren’t the best option for melting and dipping/coating confections because of the addition of emulsifiers in the chips themselves. You see, chips are designed not to fully melt as they are most commonly used in baked goods. In the future I will use a chocolate bar, but I had to use what I had on hand this time around. Just a little fun fact for you.

If you are looking for a last minute Halloween treat, I would highly recommend some spooky Frankenstein pops. If nothing else, you will enjoy the classic flavors of one of the most beloved treats.

Here are some more downright petrifying ideas to get you in the Halloween spirit:

Spider Web Cupcakes

Spooky Marshmallow Ghosts

Chocolate Skeleton Cookies

Harry Potter Butterbeer Cupcakes

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Frankenstien Rice Krispie Treat Pops

Yield: 9  3″x4″ pops

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for utensils, pan, and your hands
  • 10 oz bag of marshmallows, regular or mini
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2- 2 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Green food coloring (I prefer AmeriColor)
  • Sugar eyes (available at most craft stores or on Amazon)
  • Popsicle sticks (available at most craft stores)

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large pot (I used a Dutch Oven) over medium-low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir and fold gently with a buttered scraper (so the scraper wont stick to the marshmallows). Continue this process until the marshmallows are fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Stir to combine. Add in 2-3 drops of green food coloring and stir well until color is evenly distributed. Add in the cereal and gently fold until well-coated. Transfer the mixture to the greased pan. Use  your buttered scraper or your hands (careful it could be hot!) to gently press the Rice Krispies into the pan. Allow to cool for at least one hour.
  2. After the treats have cooled, use a buttered knife to cut into roughly 3″x4″ rectangles. Transfer to parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Carefully insert a popsicle stick into the base of the rectangles.
  3. Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave, stirring after 30 second increments until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pick the pops up by the popsicle stick. Turn upside down and slowly dunk top about 1/2 inch into chocolate. Pull straight out and slowly twirl pop as to remove excess chocolate. Place on parchment or baking mat and repeat with remaining treats. Transfer remaining melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip or a plastic sandwich Ziploc bag with the tip cut off. Pipe a mouth onto the treats. Pipe two dots where you want to place sugar eyes and then place eyes onto the dots so that they will stay. Allow chocolate to harden and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Rice Krispies