Is this it? Is Spring finally here?
It’s faked us out a few times already this year, so I’m still a little skeptical….but I’m hoping that there won’t be any more snow. I’m ready for asparagus and strawberries and open windows and hanging out outside again.
One of my favorite things about spring (besides warmer weather and longer days) is that we can fire up the grill again and leave the heavy, starchy, warm meals of winter for lighter, brighter flavors. Don’t get me wrong – I love big pasta dishes and pot roast, but it’s so exciting to finally throw open the windows and toss together a huge salad with herbs and berries or grill some meat and veggies and call it dinner.
And for spring, I think I have 4 favorite foods: leeks, strawberries, asparagus, and artichokes. I wasn’t a huge fan of artichokes (unless they were cooked in cheese and served with chips) until the last few years when I finally tried them in some pasta and other dishes. They have such a subtle flavor and they’re exactly what I want this time of year.
I’ve been helping update some of Dixie Crystals‘ older recipes, and this soup is one of them. It didn’t need much updating, but I did cut most of the half and half out for some evaporated milk. It’s still a creamy soup, but not as heavy, and the little bit of brown sugar in this soup balances out the artichokes and zesty lemon perfectly.
I don’t know about you…but I’m ready to fully welcome in Spring. I think this soup will do just fine.
Cream of Artichoke Soup
Makes: 6 servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 leek, sliced and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons Dixie Crystals Light Brown Sugar
- 1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 12 ounces fat-free evaporated milk
- 4 ounces half and half
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives or dill, options
- Dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, optional
- Additional lemon zest, optional
- Saute onion and leek in olive oil until soft. Stir in brown sugar and let it cook with vegetables for 1-2 minutes.
- Add drained artichoke hearts, garlic, lemon zest, chicken broth, pepper, salt, and white wine. Bring mixture to a simmer and let it cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
- Blend soup in a blender or food processor with evaporated milk and half and half. Return to pot once soup is smooth. If serving hot, keep warm over medium heat. If serving cold, let soup chill to room temperature before chilling in refrigerator. Top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and fresh chives or dill before serving.
I have an ongoing partnership with Dixie Crystals. Opinions are my own.
Well, it’s a good thing we’ve started running again. Baking season is back in full swing around here!
Now that the weather is warmer, my breads rise faster in the house or on the porch.
And with the longer days, I feel like I can get more done before pajama time (aka,
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that we love bread around here. And it wasn’t easy to decide on which Red Star Yeast recipe I would try first…but as soon as I saw the words “cheese puffs”, I knew it had to be done.
A quick rise time, plus cheese and herbs? Brushed with butter before serving? What doesn’t sound good about these?
I knew these would be great – just the recipe alone sounds incredible – but they
turned out even better than I imagined. Thanks to the bread flour, these little
rolls are super light and airy and filled with pockets of sharp cheddar and savory
And I loved the olives on top so much that I think next time, I’ll swap out the
cheddar for a parmesan or asiago and add some chopped olives right into the dough,
too. You can’t ever go wrong with more olives.
I’m super excited to announce that I’ll be working with Red Star Yeast on a couple
recipes in the next few months. Red Star Yeast is my go-to when it comes to baking;
I always have it in the pantry and the fridge, so I’m happy to sharing some of their
recipes with you here.
Batterway Cheese Puffs
Makes: 2 dozen medium puffs
Slightly adapted from Batterway Cheese Puffs
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 Tbsp Dixie Crystals sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp celery seed
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp shortening or butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 and ½ cups water
- 2 and ¼ tsp Red Star Active Dry Yeast
- 1 egg
- black pitted olives, sliced (optional)
- Heat water to about 110 degrees F and make sure your butter or shortening and egg
are at room temperature.
- Mix the first 8 ingredients (flour through cheddar cheese) in a large bowl and set
- Add the yeast to the warm water and let it stand 3-5 minutes until the mixture looks
foamy. Add the egg to the yeast mixture and mix together.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the yeast and mix with an electric mixer or by hand
for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Add the rest of the flour and stir again until all the
flour is incorporated – this dough will be sticky.
- Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until it’s doubled, about 30-45
minutes. While the dough is rising, grease 24 muffin cups and preheat your oven to
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and then spoon into the muffin
cups, filling each one halfway. Top each one with a sliced olive and tap the pans on a
table or counter to help settle the batter. Cover the muffin trays and let the puffs rise
again until they reach the tops of the cups, about 15-20 minutes.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are set and golden. Once they have cooled for 2-3
minutes, remove them from the pans and let them cool on a rack. Brush with butter
Want some more bread recipes to try? Here’s some of our favorites:
Farmhouse Bread | Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread | Cinnamon Pecan Rolls | Pepperoni and Tomato Stromboli | Feta Swirl Bread | Whole Wheat Focaccia | Homemade Hamburger Buns | Nutella Swirled Bread
This post sponsored by Red Star Yeast – all opinions are my own.
Getting out of our routine is fun, but it also means I let some things go….like blog posts and cooking and setting an alarm in the morning to wake me up. Thank goodness my dream woke me up this morning because Nick was already gone and Maggie sure doesn’t help in the waking-up department; she’s really only good for the snuggling down.
Nick and I came up to his parents house to visit while he gets some stuff done for work, so I’ve been working from their house and spending time with our nephews.
And when you spend a few hours a day with an almost 3 year old, you learn some new things, like….
that everything can be negotiated. And I mean everything. I’m pretty sure Elias will be a politician or a lawyer when he grows up because he has an answer to everything.
that you should just ask for what you want, no matter what it is.
that running is always better than walking.
that climbing on top of the playhouse would be even more fun if we would let him sit on a chair on top of the playhouse (didn’t happen, but he sure did try it).
that a bouncy ball and big stick can stand in for a baseball bat and real baseball.
that ants will probably get hurt if you try to pick them up by pinching them.
that sidewalk chalk is something everyone should have.
that going to the toy store really is the best thing ever and that we need at least 2 trips around it to make sure we see everything.
that aunt Brandi and uncle Nick are suckers and will almost always buy him whatever he asks for – as long as he says please.
I know – that has nothing to do with nachos – but spending time with them means that’s all I’m thinking about.
I’m sure Elias would try these nachos if we made them for him – he’ll eat pretty much everything – and Nick and I loved them. When I made those carnitas a few weeks ago, we used some of the leftover meat to make nachos the next night and these were almost as good as the barbeque nachos I had in Memphis with my sister, mostly because she gave us some of the Central BBQ seasoning to use at home. If you’re ever in Memphis, make sure to stop in to Central BBQ and get their nachos on the house chips – you won’t regret it.
Pulled Pork Nachos
Makes: 2 servings
- 3 large handfuls of tortilla chips
- 1 cup leftover carnitas or pulled pork
- 1 Tbsp barbeque seasoning
- 1 – 1 and 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup scallions, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread the tortilla chips out on a baking sheet and top them with the pulled pork. Sprinkle the pork and chips with the barbeque seasoning.
- Toss the cheese over the chips and pork and bake everything at 350 for 10-15 minutes until the nachos are hot and the cheese is melted.
- Top the nachos with the chopped cilantro, scallions, and more barbeque seasoning before serving.
Three weeks in the new office and I’m seriously in need of some plants and more lamps. I just can’t handle the fluorescent bulbs as the only light source. The one nice thing about our new place is that it’s closer to downtown and there’s a lot more places within walking distance, which means I actually have a reason to leave my desk and take a break – bonus, for sure.
But figuring out our schedules is a little difficult – we’re still working on finding the best time to leave in the morning to get me and Nick to work on time and deal with the traffic on this side of town.
I totally missed out on the weekend wrap-up last week, but I’ve got some good stuff today!
1. Please tell me you’ve seen this new Kmart commercial. I cannot stop watching it. So smart! And hilarious. And it gets funnier the more you watch it.
2. Hanson was on Leno a few weeks ago, playing their new song, and the 13-year old me was fa-reaking out. I was obsessed with Hanson – had the concert video, a binder full of Bop magazine posters, and knew the word to every single song. Their Christmas album is still my favorite Christmas album, ever. Julie and Ali know this – I had it with me at Mixed! Nick always jokes with me that we had a crush on the same Hanson brother, Taylor, because he thought it was a girl with that long, flowing blonde hair.
3. We got a new kitchen island!
It’s an old drafting table, but as soon as Nick’s dad saw it in the antique store, we all knew it would make a perfect island. I’ve been looking for something to get some more counter space, and this was exactly what we wanted. It’s the perfect size, and – because it’s not a real kitchen island – it’s not blocky. I love that we can raise and lower it if we want or even tilt the table, if we need to. I really don’t know how I lived without an island for so long – it feels like it’s always been there. I mean, where did I put the cookie jar before this? I have no idea.
4. Embarrassing Things You’ll Do When You Live Alone. Um, yup to 5, 7, and 9. What does it mean if I do those things and do NOT live alone?
5. Lemon Parmesan Angel Hair with a Fried Egg. It’s like Meredith can read my mind.
6. So….I’m still watching Pitch Perfect pretty much non-stop. And quoting it non-stop, especially when I’m with Susan. It might be a little bit of a problem….but it’s so funny that I don’t care.
How was your weekend? Anything I missed? Things I should watch, read, make?
Most days, I’m more of a red wine fan. Maybe I just haven’t tried enough white wines or I just haven’t found the perfect one (yet), but I’m working on it.
I was recently contacted by my friends at The Wine Bar (remember the decorating challenge this past winter?) to test a few of their varieties, make a recipe with one, and then tell you guys what I thought.
I couldn’t say yes fast enough – I need help in the wine department. Plus, I’m really bad at remembering the names of wines I like when I try in restaurants or bars, so I figured trying more at home would be better – I’d have the bottle right in front of me and be able to start keeping a list of which ones I love.
So a week or two later, 3 bottles of wine showed up at my door, and we got to cookin’!
Even though I usually gravitate towards reds, I wanted to try the Sauvignon Blanc in some kind of recipe because this time of year is when I’ll choose whites over reds. I love a chilled glass of white wine at the end of the day out on the porch or with a late summer evening meal. It’s also the best time to start making spritzers again, and this may just turn out to be my new summer drink.
This isn’t just your normal spritzer, though. I doubled up on the white wine in here with a blueberry-sauvignon blanc simple syrup that’s cooled and then mixed with more wine and sparkling water.
Double the wine flavor with fresh blueberry flavor and bubbles – there isn’t anything bad about that. If you’re looking for a new drink for a spring brunch or weekend treat or just something a little different for your cocktail hour, make a batch of this syrup and keep it for a week or two to use whenever you want!
Blueberry White Wine Spritzer
For the blueberry wine simple syrup:
- 1/2 cup Uppercut Sauvignon Blanc
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 and 1/4 cups Dixie Crystals sugar
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
Pour the sauvignon blanc, water, sugar, and blueberries into a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. Stir everything together and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Lower the heat a little and let the mixture simmer for 5-7 minutes until the blueberries have burst into the syrup. Strain the syrup into a bowl or container and discard the blueberry pieces. Let the syrup cool before using.
For 1 Blueberry White Wine Spritzer:
- 2-4 Tbsp blueberry wine simple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your drinks)
- 3 oz. sauvignon blanc, chilled
- 3 oz. sparkling water
To make the drink, pour the simple syrup into the bottom of a glass. Add in the wine and sparkling water. For garnish, you can toss in some extra frozen blueberries. Serve immediately.
Here’s the wine we were sent to try:
Uppercut Sauvignon Blanc
Stark Raving Red
Stark Raving Cab
I’ve already used some of the Stark Raving Red to make some pasta sauce – delish, as my Nany would say. I haven’t opened the Cab yet, but I have some fun plans for it.
Oh! And I did sample some more of the Stark Raving Red with some of my favorite pairings: a really good parmesan, rich dark chocolate, and the one mainstay of our house – homemade cookies.
Be sure to check out everything The Wine Bar has to offer…they have some great wines and really good pricing
Disclaimer: As I mentioned above, I partnered with The Wine Bar on this sponsored review. Recipe and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I have an ongoing partnership with Dixie Crystals. Recipes and opinions are my own.
One thing that I’ve been trying to be better at in this house is actually having place mats and napkins and things for the dining room table. At our old house, we never sat at our dining table – not even when we had family over – because we didn’t have enough room to have the chairs all the way around it…and because it also served as our catch-all in the house.
But when we moved into this house and finally had our own, separate, dining room, I knew I wanted to have options for when we had people over. Now I just have to remember to actually look at linens and napkins when I’m shopping – it’s not something I ever thought to look at before, but I love it.
A few weeks ago, I got a box full of napkins and place mats from Pine Cone Hill to try out and use, and I’m completely obsessed with them. You’ve already seen a few of the patterns they sent, like in these posts:
Mint Chocolate Frozen Yogurt
Mint Chocolate Breakfast Cake
Coconut Raisin Breakfast Cookies
I’m so in love with some of these patterns. I want them in everything: curtains, pillows, whatever I can get.
Do you see what my favorite thing is?! Chambray napkins. It’s like they can read my mind.
And, lucky for you, Pine Cone Hill wants to share the linen love!
I’ve got one $100 gift card to Pine Cone Hill to giveaway so you can buy your own fabulous napkins or bedding or whatever you’ve been looking for lately.
Tell me your favorite pattern from the Pine Cone Hill website – they’ve got so many cute ones! I can’t wait to read all your favorites.
For additional entries:
Tweet about the giveaway, tagging me (@branappetit) and @PineConeHill
Follow @PineConeHill on twitter and let me know you did
Like Pine Cone Hill on Facebook and tell them I sent you over
Good luck! I’ll be picking the winner at the end of the week.
Contest open to US residents only. Linens sent to me by Pine Cone Hill to use and the gift card is being provided by them for the winner.