Merry Christmas!

From both of us here at Common Sense Kitchen, we wish you all things merry and bright this Christmas!

We’re taking this week off from recipes to spend time with our handsome husbands and our families. We’ll be curled up with steamy mugs of hot drinks and eating all the good foods that come out of our mom’s kitchens (so expect an over-flow of cooking creativity on the other side of this break).

Thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm as we’ve launched this little blog. It’s been a dream of both of us for a while and it’s been so much fun to make a reality. Can’t wait to see what 2018 holds for Common Sense Kitchen! Stick around for the ride, why don’t ‘cha?

Boldog karácsonyt! Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Hannah & Essie

Linzer Augen

While I was growing up, my family didn’t do much Christmas decorating during December. We saved that for Christmas Eve. However, we did bake up a storm in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Gingerbread, sugar cookies, “Linzer Augen” and a half dozen other traditional Austrian baked goods. Linzer Cookies come from the city of Linz, Austria which happens to be where I was born. So they’re a little bit of my heritage in sugar form.

I’ve adjusted my mom’s original German recipe to be in American measurements instead of grams. They’re easy and yummy. The trickiest part of these cookies is making sure they don’t burn. The bake time is 7-10 minutes, and ideally they should just have a hint of brown around the edges. Keep an eye on these stinkers, they’ll get dark quicker than you’d expect. Other than that, I can’t think of a way you could mess these up.

Turn on some tunes and cozy on up for a fun time filled with baking and delicious smells.


cookies-6

  •  Ingredients:
    • 2 1/3 c. flour
    • 1 1/4 c. almond flour or finely ground almonds
    • 1/2 c. sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 pinch salt
    • jam, currant jam is traditional, but raspberry is common in the States
    • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
  • Directions:
    1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl if needed.
    2. Add the egg and beat.
    3. Meanwhile, combine together the flour, almonds, and salt.
    4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix.
    5. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour.
    6. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    7. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out until it’s about 1/8″-thick
    8. Use a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter (or drinking glass), cut out cookies.
    9. Cut out a small circle or other shape out of the center of half the cookie rounds
    10. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    11. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat.
    12. Bake all of the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Keep a careful eye on them after 7 minutes as they can go from lightly browned to dark in less than a minute.
    13. Let them cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack
    14. Spread  1/2 tsp of jam on solid cookies.
    15. Top each with one of the cutout cookies to make a tiny cookie-jam-cookie sandwich.
    16. Sprinkle all the cookies with powdered sugar to finish.

Prost! Mahlzeit!

Essie

Pear-Cranberry Galette & Maple Ginger Glaze

What are your “Christmas flavors”? Is there anything your family used to make or buy that just tastes like Christmas? For me, it’s spiced pears.

Every Christmas dinner my grandmother used to make a cold, spiced pear soup as our appetizer. I used to hate it when I was little because of the pear strings that always lurk beneath the calm, nutmeg-sprinkled surface. But now I just love it and it marks the Christmas flavors for me.

When I was trying to come up with a great Christmas dessert, I knew I had to make a galette. I’ve loved making these recently because it’s all the satisfaction of a pie without as much of the crust stress.

In order to cut out that crust stress even more, just grab the frozen, pre-made pie crusts from Trader Joe’s. It’s on our list of Christmas TJ faves over here. I’m really picky about pie crust, but Y’ALL. These are delicious. I suggest rolling these out a little more until they’re quite a bit thinner, as they’re VERY thick the way they come and that takes away from the filling.

Filling:

  • 6 small Bartlett pears, peeled & chopped
  • 1/2 C fresh cranberries, halved
  • 2 Tbls honey, slightly heated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

I TJ pie crust, rolled out until it’s 1/8″ thick (ish).

Maple-ginger glaze:

  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

All right, you found me out. It’s not a glaze, but it’s delicious. I just didn’t know what else to call it.

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together all the filling ingredients. Since the ripe pears are very delicate and you don’t want the filling to be total mush, heat up the honey a little until it’s quite liquid. Mix gently with a spoon until all fruit is covered in the honey + spices.

Put the maple syrup and ginger in a small bowl and microwave it for 20 seconds.

Seriously. Microwave it.

Place the rolled-out dough either in a pie dish or on a lipped baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. The fruit will cook down and probably spill out of the dough, so make sure you’ve got something with a lip on it. The parchment paper will make sure that even though the galette is surrounded by sticky fruit liquid, you’ll still be able to get it off the baking dish.

Place your fruit filling into the center of the pie crust until you have 1″ to 1 ½” of dough all around. You may have some filling leftover! Pull the edges of the dough up around the filling and pleat it like you’re recovering a chair.

Bake it on 350 until the filling is bubbling and the crust is starting to brown. Brush it with butter and leave it for another 3-5 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Take it out of the oven and let it sit until it’s slightly cooled. Then you can take it out of the baking dish and plate it.

Drizzle the maple-ginger glaze over it and serve!

Serves: 4 (or like just you, but like I’m not gonna tell you how to live)

Egészségedre!

Hannah

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Gathering


In this day and age of social media, it becomes so easy to assume we need special dishes, a theme and countless other things to make a dinner party look pretty. The truth is, once you have the people, everything else is unimportant. We truly mean that. Please don’t worry about the food, the place settings, or making your home perfect. Just invite those people over, plop some sort of food down in front of them, and get going with the good times.
For example, last year, Essie and her husband had moved into their new home and had no furniture and extensive renovations going on in most rooms. It would have been so easy to not let anyone see the mess. But instead they had some of the most fun gatherings, sitting on blankets on the floor with friends and family.
Please don’t be intimidated by other people’s beautiful pictures or the illusion of perfection. If you’re second-guessing your party-throwing abilities, chances are SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. We’ve put together a simple menu below + guide for hosting a gathering of your own this holiday season and hope it may give you a little push to start hosting and partying like the crazy kids you are.
A couple Common Sense tips to Gathering
  • Don’t worry about the table setting. The pictures we took for this post were created with Airbnb dishes, a scrap piece of fabric, and a potted plant we got at Trader Joe’s (have we mentioned that we love TJ’s? Too often, you say?). Use paper plates, your every day dishes, or pull out that wedding china you registered for and never use. It doesn’t matter. We just ask that you try not to buy anything extra for a gathering. A jar of roadside wildflowers or random greenery from in front of your house, a half burned candle, a plant you already have, a pretty scarf, a handful of pine cones, or just about anything can be spread out on your table, floor or counter to create a lovely atmosphere.
  • Keep the food simple. We love cooking, run a food blog, and dream about our kitchen at night (yes, really. We’re a couple nuts.), but neither of us would have an issue serving a salad kit and ordering pizza for a quick and easy gathering. There is nothing wrong with easy and simple. You’ll be happier and more relaxed for your friends, and everyone wins when that happens. Let go of the “supposed to”s and “should”s.
  • If you want to have new friends over for the first time, but you’re worried about it being awkward (something Hannah thinks about on the reg #halp), make dinner interactive! Let your guests help you by mixing the salad, chopping up fruit for a pie, or even have a make-your-own-pizza night!

If you’re feeling up to a bit more cooking, may we recommend this menu:
—- salad
—- good wine
—- something sweet
The brilliant thing about serving two roasted things is that you can cook them at the same time, at the same temperature. We love easy easy recipes. You can find our roasted chicken recipe here and our roasted veggie recipe there. Pop the chicken in at 450 and pop the veg in an hour later, then just leave ’em (don’t just forget about them – baste your chicken and turn your veggies, but you know what we mean). For a salad, we recommend the Veggies + Greens salad kit from TJ, mentioned here.
Good wine doesn’t need to break the bank; most people know what they like and what they don’t like. We love a good, robust red wine, so we recommend the Rodney Strong cabernet. Hannah found it at her local TJ for $14, which is a great price for an even better bottle. Other favorites include Trader Joe’s Coastal syrah, Josh cabernet, or an oaky, buttery chardonnay (try one from Wente!).
To finish the party, haul out some ice cream, a bag of Dove chocolates, or, if you’re like Hannah and Very Into Pie, try your hand at making a galette! We’re coming out with a recipe for a pear + cranberry galette next Monday. #getpumped
PARTY LIKE IT’S 2009. (We’re not sure what we mean by that).
Hannah + Essie

Roasted Root Veggies

This a classic common sense recipe. By that I mean, there really isn’t a recipe and you should probably learn this and add it to your portfolio of skills. It’s easy, delicious and can be adjusted to match many meals.

It’s perfect for daily dinners or if you splurge on some multi-colored carrots it can be fancy enough for gatherings and holiday dinners. I love drizzling this with some balsamic glaze or throwing a handful of leftover veggies on a salad the next day for lunch.

I’ve included rough ingredient estimates because I don’t think I’ve ever measured them.


  • Ingredients:
    • 4ish cups root veggies: carrots, sweet potatoes, red, yellow, purple potatoes, etc.
    • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Chop your veggies into 1-2 inch cubes/chunks.
      • Note: The smaller you cut, the faster they cook. If I’m in a big hurry, I chop them tiny to cut the cooking time down as much as possible.
    3. Toss the veggies with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and any additional spices you want.
    4. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake 25-35 minutes,
      • Note: You’re looking for the insides to be soft when poked with a fork and outsides that are slightly shriveled/crisped.
  • Alternate variations:
    • mix it up with some different combos.
      • garlic powder and smoked paprika
      • rosemary and basil
      • apples and onion
      • lemon pepper and chives
      • cayenne and chili powder
      • add some sausage straight to the pan and make it a full pan dinner
      • the variations are endless, go crazy with them!

 

Prost! Mahlzeit!
Esther

Roasted Chicken

Everyone should know how to roast a chicken.

This is a staple of good home cooking and the base of so many good meals. I use my leftover roasted chicken for curry and use the carcass for homemade chicken bone broth. You can get at least 3 meals out of one whole chicken, which is incredible.

We thought we’d create a super-simple recipe for you all, just so you get the basics down. Once you’ve tried one flavor combination, you can try many more and just find one that fits your kitchen and your tastes. We like garlic and garlic and vampire kryptonite here so obvs that’s in our recipe. If that’s not your jam, sorry ’bout it and find another food blerg to read. (actually plz don’t – stay and be our friend).

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to roast the chicken, about 2 hours, and enough time to let it rest before serving it. I baked mine in my blue Le Creuset, which is just so pretty that you can even use it as a serving dish as well. If you have leftovers, just pop the lid on and put the whole thing in the fridge. Remember to cool it down, ya dingbat!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3lbs chicken
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved or quartered
  • 1 head of garlic (not a clove, folks, this is serious business)
  • twine or unflavored dental floss (to tie the chicken legs together)

Preheat your oven to 450. Make sure you dry the chicken well with a paper towel. Dry chicken skin = crispy chicken skin, and who doesn’t want that?

Next, place the chicken in your baking dish, whether that be a Le Creuset or a roasting dish. Make sure you place it breast-side-up. Rub the butter underneath the skin of the chicken. We have pictures of this, but it looks like I’m man-handling the chicken and that’s just not a good look for us. (NB: If raw chicken grosses you out, please, please talk to someone about it. You can’t live that way forever.) This recipe calls for kind of a lot of butter, but I don’t think butter has ever made anything worse, so use it all. Once you get all the butter you can under the skin, use what you have left inside the cavity of the chicken and on the legs and the back.

Fill the cavity of the chicken with rosemary sprigs, lemon slices, and garlic. With the garlic, I just slice the whole thing in half width-wise. You can also crush all of the garlic cloves for a bolder garlic flavor.

Place the chicken in the oven with the cover or tin foil on it for the next hour. Make sure you check on it every 15 minutes and spoon the melted butter and rendering chicken fat over the top of the chicken. Remove the lid or tin foil for the second hour and keep checking on it. Your chicken will be done when the skin is brown and crispy and the juice runs clear when you slice into it. The chicken in the feature picture isn’t actually cooked all the way – we were running out of daylight and oh wow you already stopped caring, didn’t you.

Serve with roasted veggies, salad, and a good, oaky chardonnay for a hearty dinner.

Egészségedre!

Hannah

Friday Faves: Trader Joes (Christmas edition)

Over here at CSK, we really love Trader Joe’s. From the prices to the variety of items, it just doesn’t get any better. During the holidays it can be hard to find the time to figure out decorations, make cookies, etc. so we thought we’d share some of our favorite Trader Joe’s shortcuts.

  1. Pie crust
    • Making your own pie crust is (though worthwhile) very time-consuming and most pre-made pic crusts taste like all the preservatives they have in them. But let us sing the song of the Trader Joe’s premade pie crust. They’re flaky; they’re subtly sweet; they’re crumbly. It’s the perfect “buttery flaky crust.” (Anyone? Anyone?).
    • Tip: make sure you roll it out yourself to make it a little thinner. These pie crusts can be pretty overwhelming to a galette or a two-crust pie if you don’t thin them.
  2. Macarons
    • As we said, who has time to make fancy desserts for all the Christmas parties? Not us. But thankfully ol’ faithful TJ’s has so many great premade desserts. These are one of Essie’s all-time favorites.
  3. Veggies & Greens Salad Mix
    1. We love all of their salad mixes, tbh, but this one takes the cake. The crunchy veggies with the sweetness of the dried pear and the saltiness of the pistachios is a combination worth fighting for. And don’t get us started on the honey-ginger dressing. We also like to add a little sharp cheddar crumbled on top for an extra boost of protein.
  4. 3-Cream Brie
    • Good cheese can be SO expensive. We used to groan when we saw photos of beautiful charcuterie boards, because we knew it’d be around $50 to make even the smallest one. Not so, thanks to TJ! You can get this creamy, sexy brie for so cheap. Grab a baguette and some dry Italian salami and it’s the prettiest little appetizer you’ve ever seen.
  5. Eucalyptus
    • Balsam is great. We love evergreens, really we do, but sometimes you just want something a little different for your Christmas wreath or centerpiece. TJ’s has beautiful eucalyptus for cheap and when combined with a sprig of red berries it looks delicately festive.
  6. Chocolate Mousse Cake
    • Really this should read: CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE. CHOCOLATE. MOUSSE. Want us to say it one more time? No? Ah, ok. We can chill. But really, we don’t think this one needs any explanation.

There you have it: our top six favorite shortcuts for this month. What are your favorites?

Happy cooking!

-Essie + Hannah