A Taste of London and Scotland

FĂ ilte! This Gaelic word for welcome is what we were greeted with as we landed in Scotland for a trip during our spring break last week. This past week, we were able to take some time away from the books and our busy schedules to visit our cousins in London, and also took a trip to the beautiful Isle of Skye in Scotland. Not only did we enjoy breathtaking scenery, visit historical sites and explore both big and small cities, but we were able to better understand the culture of the United Kingdom by immersing ourselves in the local British and Scottish cuisines. 

Excited to eat like locals, we were ready to expand our palates and see what British fare had in store for us. From fish and chips made with the freshest and most tender haddock served with minted pea puree, to a Sunday roast of chicken with crispy jacket potatoes and Yorkshire Pudding, we enjoyed several classic British dishes, which did not compare to their Americanized versions! 

Fish and Chips from The Black Lion, Kilburn
Not only did we enjoy our taste of England, we also had a taste of the world while dining at local ethnic restaurants. While dining at our cousins' favorite Indian restaurant, our mouths burned at the spicy taste of chili naan, yet the refreshing cucumber raita (a sauce made with yogurt and mint) and butter chicken (made with an onion, tomato and butter sauce) with basmati rice cooled down these bold flavors. We also had the creamiest and most flavorful hummus we have ever tasted, alongside fluffy pita bread and grilled halloumi cheese at local Lebanese restaurant. 

One of our most memorable experiences in London was stopping at the famous Borough Market, the city’s oldest food market with over 100 stalls featuring dishes and ingredients from across the globe. Table after table was piled high with freshly baked croissants and focaccia bread, exotic fruits and vegetables, cheeses of every shape and texture, locally caught seafood, cured meats, as well as hot lunch dishes to eat while browsing around. Though deciding what to try was a difficult decision, we shared a Turkish bourek (a flaky spinach and feta pie), served with hummus and steaming chickpeas, which did not disappoint. 

Borough Market Entry 
Fresh Produce at Borough Market
Beautiful Focaccia from The Flour Station at Borough Market
Spinach and Feta Bourek with Homemade Hummus from Borough Market
Our culinary adventures in the United Kingdom didn’t end there; we spent half of our trip sampling the local cuisine of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, known for its salmon and other seafood. For breakfast each morning we enjoyed porridge made with Scottish pinhead oats, which had a very hearty texture, yet were delicious seeped in creamy milk. We munched on smoked salmon sandwiches with dill cream cheese for lunch and delicious Scottish shortbread for dessert. On our last night in the town of Portree, we ate an incredible salmon steak from the west coast of Skye. Few seasonings were needed; the freshness of the fish and flaky texture spoke for itself. We also spent one of our days trekking through farmland and along the coast with an incredible guide, where we were able to enjoy freshly cooked mussels over a fire. 

Isle of Skye, Scotland
Though we are back in Boston, we have brought taste and appreciation for British and other global cuisines with us, and are excited to continue on our culinary journeys in our future travels!

Enjoy!

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

While we both love tackling involved recipes, such as macarons and fancy layer cakes, we also love mastering our favorite classic desserts. Today, our experiment was to perfect one of our favorite treats, chocolate chip cookies. Over the years, we have tried countless recipes, from the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe made with cake and bread flour, to experimenting with various types of chocolate chips, to sprinkling sea salt on top for a sweet and salty combination. Though we have loved aspects of each of the recipes we have tried, with their complex flavors and ingredients, we have learned that sometimes it is the classic recipes with the best-quality ingredients that are truly the most delicious. 

Semisweet Chocolate Chunks and Milk Chocolate Chips
After sampling these cookies at a friend’s party, we were given Martha Stewart’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, and have been using it ever since. A relatively thin cookie with crisp edges, a chewy center and two different types of chocolate, these cookies are simple yet incredibly tasty. Our favorite part about this recipe is the fact that it uses both semisweet chocolate chunks and milk chocolate chips, playing with two different textures and flavors. We like to use Ghirardelli and Guittard chocolate, as well as our favorite Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract, for the strongest flavor. Though you may have to spend a bit more, these high-quality ingredients truly pay off for an outstanding cookie. 

Use an ice cream scoop when forming the cookies to create consistent sizes
Some tricks we have picked up on after creating several batches of these cookies include using an ice-cream scoop to form perfectly even and rounded balls of dough, as well as refrigerating the dough for at least an hour before baking to control spreading and enhance the flavor. If you aren’t sure that refrigerating the dough makes a difference, this article from King Arthur Flour’s Flourish blog will definitely change your mind! Another trick we frequently use to prevent cookies from drying out after baking is to store them in an airtight container with a slice of sandwich bread on top. Though this may sound strange, the bread helps to give moisture to the cookies which are denser and drier, leaving the bread stale and firm like a piece of toast! Try it for yourself, just make sure to change the bread every two or three days (if the cookies last that long!) to ensure freshness. 

Look at those chocolate chunks!
We know there are hundreds of delicious chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, and while you may have a family recipe that you always use, we can certainly say that following this recipe will yield amazing cookies! 

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed, light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks, or chopped from block
Cooking Directions
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture just until incorporated; fold in chocolate chips and chunks.
  3. Using a 1/4-cup ice-cream scoop or a large spoon, drop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (you should have 24) and refrigerate 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange cookies, 3 inches apart, on each of two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges are light golden brown, 17 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Bake remaining dough using new parchment.
Enjoy!

Christmas Cookie Decorating

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! With the busyness of the Christmas season we've been away from the blog for too long and are excited to start 2016 with some new recipes and restaurant reviews.

Each Christmas, we look forward to baking our holiday favorites. While we enjoy making the traditional array of Christmas cookies and beautifully piped cupcakes, we are always most excited for our decorated sugar cookies. Over the years we have accumulated quite the collection of festive cutters from reindeer to snowflakes to this year's latest trendy addition ugly sweaters. On top of our large cookie cutter collection, we really enjoy picking out holiday sprinkles to use as an artistic garnish. 

Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream

While we feel confident in our cupcake decorating techniques, (and love to use liners and toppers from our favorite company, Meri Meri) sugar cookies always present new challengesespecially as we become more advanced. Here are some cookie decorating tips that we continue to use year after year. We hope they are helpful!

Our original ugly sweater cookies!

Cookie Decorating Tips:

1. Vibrant Colors
For vibrant frosting colors, it is best to use gel food coloring rather than liquid drops. Gel coloring also comes in a wider variety of colors saving you from the guesswork of how many drops of yellow and blue make the perfect green.
2. Opaque Icing
To create a perfectly opaque icing that is great for layering, use a royal icing recipe with meringue powder.
3. Icing Consistency
The single most frustrating factor in decorating sugar cookies is creating the perfect icing consistency. While icing made with meringue powder may seem thick, it is better to start with thicker icing and slowly add water in small amounts to thin the icing. For best results, add in the color to the icing and fully incorporate before adding water if necessary.
4. Flooding
To ice the base of the cookie, place the icing in either a piping bag or clear condiment squeeze bottle. Check out our post on the flooding technique which saves time and creates the perfect frosted surface.
5. Finer Details
For finer details piped on top of the base layer, the tip of a clear condiment bottle may be too large. We recommend a Wilton #2 tip for these finer details.
6. Layering Frosting
If you are planning on layering frosting like we did for these sweater cookies, wait until the base layer is fairly dry before piping on additional details. As excited as you may be to decorate, adding another layer too early may cause the icing layers to bleed into each other.
7. Marbling
Don't be intimidated by the marbled cookie on the top right. To create this design, first pipe evenly spaced lines on top of your iced cookie. Next, run a toothpick through the lines (in the opposite direction) to create the marbled effect. For this cookie, I started with diagonal lines pointing to the right. I then ran the toothpick through these lines diagonally in the opposite direction.

We are excited for what 2016 may bring for the blog, and send our best wishes for the New Year! 


Whole Wheat Toasted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


Hi there! We're excited to be back on the blog! It's been a busy past few weeks filled with tests, papers, a surprise trip home for Halloween, and of course some fun outings around the Boston area. Mary and I are so surprised at how quickly this semester has been flying by, and are trying to soak in every last moment of New England fall before we head home for Thanksgiving. 

While we love taking advantage of seasonal fall flavors, lately we have both been wanting to take a break from the "pumpkin craze" and save our appetites for our famous homemade pumpkin pie we make each Thanksgiving. Enter these Whole Wheat Toasted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, a new twist on one of our favorite classic sweets. 


Over the years, our family has tried countless oatmeal cookie recipes, and has never seemed to come up with a recipe we use time and time again. Whether the cookies are too flat, too crispy, too dry, or just one-note, we have never been able to find a family favorite. When we came across this quick and easy recipe, we jumped on the opportunity to continue the quest for a family favorite. We liked the substitution of whole wheat flour in place of white, and were intrigued by the direction to toast the oats for about 7-10 minutes before mixing them into the dough. 

After making a few small changes to the recipe, including a reduction in the amount of chocolate chips, (I like my oatmeal cookies with chips but Mary doesn't) these cookies certainly didn't turn out one-note. The nutty flavor created from the toasted oats and whole wheat flour takes the classic cookie to the next level, and we were most surprised by the fact they didn't turn out flat or overly crispy. We might just have a winner for the new family favorite, and we're already looking forward to making these for our family to see if they agree!


Whole Wheat Toasted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe adapted from Two Peas and their Pod
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (we used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (our favorite is Nielsen-Massey)
  • 1/2-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (we used Ghirardelli)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Spread the oats evenly on an ungreased baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 7-10 minutes, stirring once. When ready, the oats will turn light brown and have a nutty aroma. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in the toasted oats and chocolate chips.
  5. Roll cookie dough into tablespoon size balls and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
We hope you enjoy this recipe! Stay tuned for some fun Two Spoonfuls holiday posts, we're excited! 

Fall Harvest Soup

The leaves are an autumn rainbow of reds, oranges, yellows and greens. Farmers markets are abounding with squash, pumpkins, apples, and colorful mums. A carton of fresh Massachusetts apple cider sits in the fridge and I just finished the last of the pumpkin muffins we baked this week. It’s official- the prime of New England fall has arrived. 

Mary and I have made this Fall Harvest soup two times so far this season, and are excited to share this recipe that showcases the best of fall’s flavors. Packed with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, and tomatoes, it is loaded with flavor and very nutrient dense. The addition of quinoa and chickpeas is a great way to add in some protein, making this soup a great choice for vegetarians or vegans!



Fall Harvest Soup with Quinoa

Recipe adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 4 cans (14 1/2oz. each) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 cups chopped kale, ribs and stems removed
  • 3 bay leaves
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sweet potato, bay leaves and butternut squash. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2.  Add the vegetable broth, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Stir in the quinoa and season with fresh rosemary and thyme. Cook for about 15 minutes or until quinoa is soft. Stir in the kale and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm. (Additional note: this soup freezes well. To freeze, cool completely and pour into a freezer container. When ready to eat, defrost and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.)
Enjoy!

Fall Harvest Feast

Happy Fall! It’s been too long since our last blog post, after our trip to the apple orchard. Between celebrating our 20th birthday with a family friend in town to spending this long weekend with two of our aunts, we have had many food outings to share in the past two weeks. The most unforgettable experience, however, happened last night in a small suburb of Boston. 

After driving through narrow, winding roads dotted with quaint farmhouses and lined with crimson and golden yellow leaves, our aunts and the two of us were greeted by a pen of sheep as we pulled into the parking lot of our destination. We walked down a wooded path to approach the Visitor’s Center at Drumlin Farm, where we checked in for our “sold out” Fall Harvest Feast. 

Picturesque Drumlin Farm 
The evening began with a spread of appetizers featuring fresh produce from the farm. We sampled a delicious beet hummus with carrots and freshly pickled wax beans and romanesco (an edible flower from the cauliflower family), as well as homemade elderberry soda and mulled apple cider. Then, we were off on a tour of Drumlin, a working farm and wildlife sanctuary with over 200 acres of land. We were able to see where the farm’s CSA vegetables are washed and distributed, sample cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine, and walk around the fields filled with kale, sweet potatoes, fresh herbs and a variety of other crops. 

Farm fresh carrots and beet hummus hit the spot!

After enjoying our tour, we headed back to the Visitor’s Center where we were seated for a family-style dinner. The meal began with a kale apple salad and warm bowls of butternut squash soup, which had an incredibly creamy texture and savory flavor. As we finished our appetizers, several pizzas were brought out of the oven. Our favorite was the fall veggie pizzakabocha squash (similar to butternut squash but a bit sweeter), cranberries, caramelized red onions, sage and ricotta cheese! All of our favorite fall flavors combined into a delicious slice! It was so cool to be eating a meal featuring completely farm-fresh ingredients that were harvested just the day before.


As if our dinner was not enough, the meal was followed by some spectacular desserts showcasing even more of fall’s great flavors. We both loved the rich chocolaty flavor of the homemade chocolate beet ice cream, and devoured our cups of homemade maple ice cream and cinnamon apple cake. By the end of dessert, we were very full, but were not miserably stuffed. There is just something different and more satisfying about eating fresh food! 

Beautiful Dessert Spread! 
Chalkboard displays were a perfect touch! 
Homemade Maple Ice Cream with Homemade "Mandel Bread" (a biscotti-like cookie) 
Last night was an incredible experience and such a great memory. Everything about the evening was picture perfect, from the gorgeous weather to the delicious fall flavors to the cozy, communal setting. The meal was about as “farm to table” as it gets, and gave us such an appreciation for all the work and love that goes into producing all of our favorite fall crops. We hope this is the first of many “Fall Harvest Feasts” that we will attend, and hope sometime you all get to experience an evening just as magical. 

Apple Pecan Galette

Growing up, Mary and I have many fond memories of apple picking in the fall with our dad. There's nothing like spending a fall weekend at an apple orchard, walking amongst the endless rows of trees abounding with colorful apples of many varieties. And if you're like our dad, you also can't resist the infamous warm apple cider donuts! Apple picking is a quintessential fall activity here in New England, and we were all too excited when late September came around the peak time for picking. 

With a free Saturday and a desire to get outside of the "campus bubble," Mary and I decided to go on an apple picking adventure. Picking an orchard was a harder task than we thought, as the New England area does not have any shortage of "pick your own" apple orchards. While we had heard of a few big name orchards that draw large crowds during peak season, we wanted to find a place with less of a commercial feel. We decided to visit Brooksby Farms, an orchard about 25 miles from campus in Peabody, Massachusetts. 


We picked a perfect fall day for picking and the trees were filled with big, beautiful apples at peak ripeness. Because the orchard was on the larger side, not all of the rows were labeled, but we know most of the apples we picked were Cortland and Macintosh. We "picked a peck" of apples, which is about 10lbs. Just enough apples for eating, and of course some for baking as well!


Naturally, coming home with fresh picked apples in the beginning of fall calls for the making of a festive apple dessert. We decided to make an Apple Pecan Galette, adapting a recipe we found from one of our favorite food bloggers, Cookie and Kate. While we both love getting creative with fruit pies, we don't always enjoy having so much crust, so a galette provides a happy medium! This recipe also has some healthier twists using wheat flour in place of white, and using only one tablespoon of sugar. 

Even with the healthier twists, this recipe produced a fantastic galette, perfectly showcasing the flavor of the fresh apples. The pecans also added a nice texture and depth to the sweet apple flavor. One of the things we love about galettes is the beauty in their "rustic," messy look even the slightly burnt pieces and imperfections add to their character (as seen below!). 


Apple Pecan Galette

Recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate
Ingredients
  •     1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  •     1/2 teaspoon salt
  •     4-6 tablespoons ice water 
  •     8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed (for crust) 
  •     4 to 5 apples, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
  •     1 teaspoon cinnamon
  •     1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  •     1 teaspoon vanilla 
  •     2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (for filling) 
  •     1/4 cup crushed pecan pieces 
  •     1 tablespoon maple syrup
  •     1 tablespoon raw sugar 
Cooking Directions-          
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt.         
  2. Using a pastry cutter or butter knife, cut in cold butter cubes until the mixture has coarse crumbs.               
  3. Add four tablespoons ice water and mix with a spoon until mixture begins to form a workable dough. If mixture looks dry, add a tablespoon of ice water at a time until you reach the right consistency.             
  4. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.          
  5. Mix together apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, butter and pecan pieces and sugar in a large bowl. 
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with butter or cooking spray.     
  7. Place dough disk on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough to approximately a 12 inch round, then place on prepared baking sheet.   
  8. Add your filling. Arrange apple slices in a circular pattern in layers, leaving at least two inches of crust around the edges. Top off with pecans left at the bottom of the bowl.         
  9. Start at one end and fold the dough edges over the filling, pleating it as you go around.      
  10. Use a pastry brush or sprinkle cold water over the crust. Drizzle a bit of maple syrup over the filling and sprinkle a light dusting of raw sugar over the crust.      
  11. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is slightly golden. Serve warm on its own or topped with ice cream.         
  12.         
    We hope you enjoy this recipe and take advantage of the delicious in-season flavors and ingredients of fall!