Braised Beef Sandwich

In hot summer months, normal people tend to prepare foods that don’t require too much time standing near a stove top – colorful salads, easy pastas, perhaps seafood. I, on the other hand, had a hankering for braised beef this week. As I stood sweating in the kitchen, I became fully aware this was more of a winter preparation, but then I figured if I put the finished product into a sandwich, it would make it more weather-balanced.

In the end, I was happy with my braise and loved the flavors of the resulting sauce, which I had made by combining homemade chicken broth, a bottle of red wine, diced red onion, loads of garlic, and a bit of tomato paste and brown sugar, along with various herbs and spices. I used London Broil, which is usually cooked quickly (hence the name) to prevent drying out, but after about three hours in a simmering pot, it was tender and full of the surrounding flavors.

To make the sandwich I used a mini baguette I had found at Costco a while back. The instructions on the bag mentioned that the baguettes could be individually frozen for several months, and then reheated in the oven as needed. The process is perfect, it’s like having freshly made bread every single time.

The addition of avocado was a no-brainer because if I have it on hand, I put it in everything, especially sandwiches.

I also knew I wanted something tangy so I sliced up some red onions, blanched them quickly, and then left them to soak in a hot mixture of rice wine vinegar, sugar, minced jalapenos, and a pinch of cinnamon.

I loved this braised beef sandwich. The crusty bread stood up to the moist and savory meat, and the pickled red onions and creamy avocado added even more texture and flavor. I think I’ll be making this meal every season from now on!


White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve had an unopened bag of white chocolate chips in my refrigerator for some time now and I finally got around to using it in these cookies, as well as some dried cranberries and pecans I had on hand. I used a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe for the dough because I love the buttery, brown sugar flavor. I really liked the combination of the sweet white chocolate, the tart cranberries, and the crunchy pecans. Next time I make this cookie I plan to overload it with the mix-ins so it’s chunkier.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I’ve always loved carrot cake, especially if it’s topped with a thick, tangy cream cheese frosting. Since I’m a fan of cakes that come in cup form, I made my first batch of carrot cake cupcakes. For the cake I used this highly-rated recipe, but substituted the 1 1/2 cups of white sugar with 1 cup of light brown sugar. They came out sweet, but not too sweet, and very moist. Next time I make these I might increase the amounts of pineapple and coconut flakes in the batter. For the frosting I creamed together cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a pinch of salt.

Homemade frosting really is easy and better than any store-bought version. As great as the cream cheese frosting was, these cupcakes also made a great breakfast treat without anything on top.

Browned Butter Cupcakes

There’s a bakery in my neighborhood that makes vanilla cupcakes with a browned butter frosting. I tried them several years ago and loved the rich flavor. Then when I discovered the salty caramel cupcake from Sprinkles, I wanted to make something similar at home. I decided to use this recipe as a guide for the cake, but I browned the butter before making the batter, and skipped the caramel filling. For the frosting, I made up a recipe using browned butter and cream cheese and it came out so good I wanted to eat it straight out of the mixing bowl. The cake was moist and fluffy, with a deep browned butter flavor, and the frosting was luscious, salty, and sweet. What a great combination!

Browned Butter Frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Brown the butter over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is a light brown color with a nutty aroma. Remove from heat immediately so it does not continue cooking or burn, and transfer to a small bowl. Let the butter cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the brown sugar and salt, then the confectioners’ sugar in batches until fully incorporated. Mix until creamy and smooth.

Baked Pineapple Oatmeal

Last week I bought a whole fresh pineapple and cut it up into rings and chunks to keep around as a snack. After two days I had gotten bored of it but there was still so much left. I decided to use some of it in a baked oatmeal dish for breakfast and it came out great!

I left two servings of steel-cut oatmeal soaking overnight in water as suggested on the packaging. The next morning, I put pineapple chunks into a baking dish and sprinkled them with cinnamon, nutmeg, light brown sugar, sea salt, and a few drops of pure vanilla extract. I covered the fruit with the soaked oatmeal, and topped it with more pineapple and seasonings. Then I poured milk over it, just enough to cover all the oatmeal, and baked it in the oven for about forty minutes.

The pineapple chunks retained their shape and tartness even after baking and didn’t get mushy, but that may be because they were on the large side of bite-sized. I also liked the texture of the oatmeal more than when I’ve prepared it on a stove top. This method could easily be used for any variety of mix-ins, like other fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, or even chocolate!