Kitchen

Set the Table: Spring Brunch

When Matt and I host friends and family in our home, I really like to make an effort to set the table pretty for the meals we share. It doesn’t have to complicated or expensive, I believe simplicity is beautiful.

My heart behind the effort to set the table is not to show off, but to show how happy I am to meet in community over a meal. As a kid, setting the table was probably my least favorite thing to do, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there’s so much more there. Putting extra effort into setting your table with fresh flowers and other special touches shows that you care—it’s a giant sign that says, “Welcome to my home! I’m so glad you’re here!”

And that doesn’t mean that if you don’t set the table, you’re a bad hostess or your guests will have a bad time. (Flashback: sitting on the floor eating pizza out of a box with my friends in college will stick with me as a happy memory until I’m old and gray.) For me, personally, I want to try to make this a priority to welcome people into my home, and be intentional about how I communicate that.

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

There’s something so uplifting and mood-brightening about having flowers on the table! It’s one of my favorite things. How pretty are these bright ranunculus’?

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

For this brunch with the Lands, I made a batch of earl grey citrus shortbread cookies as a slightly-sweet, pre-brunch treat, accompanied by strawberries and a big kale, veggie, and bacon strata. If you’re unfamiliar with strata, it’s a giant, wonderful, egg-y, bread-y breakfast casserole. It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for brunch or breakfast (or any meal, no judgement.)

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

The Spring Table | Brunch with The Northwest Woman

Even in the seemingly-mundane moments of eating and chatting at the table with my family, these moments matter. It is so meaningful to me to set the table, and more importantly, see it fill with people.

Photos by Matt.

A Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake Recipe

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

I made my first cheesecake this last fall (pumpkin, how seasonally-appropriate) and thought I would give it another try. I had two, giant freezer bags full of blackberries from Matt’s parents’ yard that I had been meaning to cook with for a while, and dessert seemed to be a fitting way to put them to use! The result was a rustic blackberry cheesecake, created from a hodge-podge of recipes, a majority of which I deviated from, cutting down on the sugar content (don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a healthy recipe. And I am totally okay with that.)

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake is not a quick process–the cool-down time is crucial to the texture and consistency of this dessert. I like to make cheesecake the night before it’s serve-time so there’s plenty of time for it to rest and firm up in the fridge. This blackberry cheesecake bakes for about 1 hour 20 minutes, then cools for 4 or more hours total.

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

Block out an evening to bake and you’ll be rewarded the next day with a fresh, homemade dessert in your fridge. The time is completely worth it! I love this blackberry cheesecake recipe–it’s tangy and bright, and the blackberries add a rich sweetness that really makes the whole dessert pop.

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

The Northwest Woman | Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

I mean, just look at that slice. I’m ready for a piece right now.

Rustic Blackberry Cheesecake

Prep time: 40 – 50 minutes

Bake time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Cool time: 5 hours (or overnight)

Equipment: 

  • Springform cake pan
  • Large and medium mixing bowls
  • Electric hand mixer
  • Optional: Food processor or Vitamix

Ingredients:

Blackberry topping

  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Crust

  • 1 and 1/2 cup graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cheesecake

  • 3 packets cream cheese (8 oz. each) at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Pre-heat the oven to 325 F.

Start by making the blackberry topping:

  1. Add the blackberries, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest to a medium saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Stir while cooking for 15 – 20 minutes until the berries are broken down.
  3. If you don’t like blackberry seeds, strain them out at this point in a fine-mesh strainer.
  4. Let the blackberry topping come to a boil while stirring constantly. The topping will start to thicken. You can add a pinch of cornstarch if your sauce isn’t thickening, or a splash of water if it’s too gummy. You’re aiming for a slightly runny, sauce consistency.
  5. Let it boil for about 1 minute while stirring.
  6. Remove from heat and let it cool in the pan.

Then make the crust:

  1. Add the graham crackers to a food processor (I used my Vitamix) and pulse on low until they’ve broken down into small crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, you can just crush the graham crackers in their wrapper with a rolling pin.
  2. Pour your graham cracker crumbs into a mixing bowl and add the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and stir to combine. The final mix will look a little bit wet.
  4. Pour your mixture into the bottom of a springform cake pan and spread it evenly on the bottom, then press to pack the crust evenly along the sides of the pan and throughout the middle.
  5. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then take it out of the oven to let it cool.

And finally the cheesecake:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the 3 packets of room-temperature cream cheese. Using the hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth and slightly fluffy.
  2. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.
  3. Add the 4 eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat the mixture until everything is mixed together.
  4. Add 1 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest to the mixture. Combine using the hand mixer. The final mix will be runny.
  5. Pour your mixture into the springform pan, on top of the crust.
  6. Pour the blackberry topping over the top of the cheesecake evenly, then using a knife, lightly swirl the blackberry mixture until it covers the top of the cheesecake.
  7. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the springform pan and bake at 325 F for 1 hour 20 minutes.
  8. Check on the cheesecake at 1 hour 20 minutes and jiggle the pan slightly. The cheesecake is done when only the center jiggles a little–the edges of the cheesecake shouldn’t jiggle. Bake the cheesecake for increments of 2-5 minutes if it’s not quite done at 1 hour 20 minutes.
  9. When the cheesecake is done, turn the oven off and open the door of the oven. Let the cheesecake cool down gradually in the oven for an hour and a half, then move it to the fridge for at least 4 hours, or, preferably, overnight.

Enjoy!

Photos by Matthew Land.

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

For quite some time, I’ve had the misconception that granola is difficult, or too time-consuming, to make. Over the last five or so years, I’ve been buying boxes of granola from the grocery store, and have had a hard time finding a brand that tastes right. This winter, my mother-in-law, Susan, gave me her granola recipe and it’s been a game changer.

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

My first bite of this homemade granola was everything I had wanted granola to be, but had missed out on—crunchy but not sharp, flavorful but not sickly-sweet, savory but not salty or bland. I immediately asked for the recipe, which she generously shared, and prefaced that her recipe is always changing based on what’s in the kitchen at the moment. I really liked the flexibility of this granola recipe, and I’ve made a few tweaks over the last few batches to form the recipe below.

Copper Measuring Cups | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

Maybe I’ve just been buying the wrong brands of granola all these years, but I’m glad this all led me to trying something new and baking my own! When it comes to store-bought vs. a family recipe, there’s really no comparison. Thanks, Susan!

A Simple, Large Batch Granola Recipe | The Northwest Woman

Simple Granola Recipe

This is a large batch granola recipe that can be cut in half easily if you want to make less. My husband and I eat granola like it’s going out of style, so I typically make the full recipe.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can add in, or take out, any “extras” you’d like—nuts, seeds, dried fruit, you name it! This recipe has a definite cinnamon flavor and aroma to it with a touch of sweetness. If you prefer your granola to be less sweet, omit the dried cranberries and vanilla, and cut the honey and/or maple syrup in half.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 1 hour

Total cooktime: 1 hour 15 minutes

Yields about 8 cups of granola.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, unsweeted
  • 1 cup brown flax seeds
  • 1 cup pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Pre-heat the oven to 250 F.

Line two large cookie sheets with unbleached parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients—oats, almonds, cranberries, flax seeds, pepitas, and cinnamon—until well incorporated.

Stir in the wet ingredients—olive oil, water, maple syrup, honey, and vanilla.

Once the dry and wet ingredients are well mixed, slowly pour your uncooked granola onto the lined cookie sheets. Use a spatula or spoon to smooth out lumps in the granola—you want the mixture to lay relatively flat on the sheets so it bakes evenly.

Bake at 250 F for 30 minutes.

Once the granola has baked for 30 minutes, take the cookie sheets out of the oven (be sure to leave the oven on!) and, using a spatula, turn/mix the granola on the sheets. This doesn’t need to be precise, but it allows for your granola to bake evenly so it gets a nice crispness to it.

Pop the granola-covered cookie sheets back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

Once the granola has baked for an hour total, take the cookie sheets out and let it cool.

Store in a dry container.

Photos by Matt.