Category Archives: Baking

Friday Food Round-Up!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Right now we are having our traditional Christmas morning brunch with my parents which involves bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast, (sometimes) cinnamon rolls, and orange juice with orange sherbet.  It is maybe the most glorious meal of the year.

It sort of makes me not even want to share what else we ate this week, only because how could it compete with Most Glorious Meal Of The Year?

Sunday –  Cauliflower and White Bean Salad

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Not to be a total food repeater, but I made another batch of this salad for lunches this week.  Veggies and protein to balance out the cookies, right?  If you’re wondering where the basis of this recipe comes from, it’s this one from bon appetit.

Wednesday – Chicken Tamale Casserole and Guacamole

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Sarah wrote about loving this casserole and she shared that she found this recipe through Kate.  I read both of their blogs (and loved them!) and I figured if they were both making this dish, I probably should as well.

Miscellaneous – Egg Nog Logs

Egg Nog Logs

I know I already mentioned making these earlier in the week, but they happened and so it counts, right?  Amongst egg nog lovers, they are a big hit and I’ve already shared the recipe for these with a few others to spread the joy.

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‘Tis The Season

I have been a terrible blogger lately.  Where have I been?  I don’t know, really.  But I suppose it is time for a life update, as Christmas (and two long weekends in a row!) is coming.

My house is clean right now.

The living room has been vacuumed.  The floors have been swept.  The kitchen and the bathroom have been wiped down.  Generally, having a clean house isn’t a massive concern of mine because we clean our house on a weekly basis.  But right now it is clean and I am feeling centered.

Last weekend, I offered my house up for the annual holiday party one of my sorority sisters throws because she felt her place was too small.

Last night we hosted our annual Chrismakkuh party.  It was a hoot.  I think when all was said and done, we probably had about 40 people through and most of them were in our tiny townhouse at the same time.  We love throwing this party every year, but this year it was more special because we will not see a lot of these friends again until after Critter is here.

This week, Marcus and I will host both of our families for our first ever holiday at the townhouse – Christmas Eve.  I know that right now you are all thinking that this is of course the most traditional first holiday for a young Jewish family to host.  But my parents sold my childhood home this year, they still haven’t bought a new house, and our space is larger than theirs for entertaining.  So we will have it here.

As we enjoy this tiny break in the action, I am just happy to be at home with my feet up on the couch.  After Christmas Day is done, I want to say that I have all of five plans on the calendar between December 26th and Critter’s due date.  This is simultaneously Appropriate and Really Bizarre because I don’t know that I’ve ever not had plans like that before.  But who knows when Critter could arrive!

Despite the slew of pies I have been actioning lately, today I decided to bake some cookies because I have done zero cookie baking and I feel like holidays call for…cookies?  My first batch of cookies (thumbprint) were a total failure.  As in, the centers of the cookies fell out and I had to toss them in the trash.  This would be a tragedy, except the cookie base was from a Betty Crocker bag (I should have known better) and thus not a great deal of effort was exerted.  It was mostly horrifying as I transferred the cookies to my cooling racks and watched as the centers slid through the racks and right onto the towel below.

Not to worry, my second batch of cookies, Egg Nog Logs, were big winners.  Look.

Egg Nog Logs

I even got to wheel out my really tiny sieve for the first time so that I could delicately sift some nutmeg on top of the frosting.  I scarfed down two of them as soon as they were frosted, without hesitation.  It is safe to say that I will be making these every year for the rest of my life, such is their deliciousness (and non-excessive level of difficulty).  There’s still time for you to whip up a batch before Christmas, too.

Workshopping.

I realized I haven’t posted since last…Friday?  I thought I’d pop in to say “hi.”  So, then.  Hello.

On Saturday, I baked these Billionaire Cookies.  No, seriously.  I used the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the Best Bake Sale Cookbook (it really is phenomenally good) and substituted Warren Buffet-stamped M&Ms from the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.

Billionaire Cookies

Fancy.  I brought half of them to my parents’ house and kept half of them here.

After a relaxing weekend of baking and dinner and visiting with friends, I thought I was 100% ready to tackle this week and cruise through it.  Instead, I sort of feel like I got tossed into a tornado.  Anyone else?

My dinner for the past two nights has centered around french fries with truffle aioli and red wine, so it’s pretty clear that I have not been cooking.  At all.  I look forward to breaking that streak tonight.

Winter finally took its revenge on us yesterday.  After watching everyone on the East Coast (and in Chicago!) just get pummeled with snow, we got nailed with a full day of freezing rain and snow.  I (hand to God) had to scrape my car three times throughout the course of the day and I am pretty sure that I sacrificed my nude pair of Flax Pumps as a snowy offering.  I know that the more sensible decision would have been to change in and out of boots, but clearly that did not happen.  Not to be that person, but those shoes were on their last leg (or heel!) anyway.

Happy Wednesday everyone and happy Mercury retrograde is ending.  I’ll be back to share more when I can.

Weekend projects.

I just feel like writing tonight.  That is all.

This weekend, we went to a surprise birthday party for a sorority sister.  We attended a wedding for another sorority sister – I think it was  our 10th this year.  Some of my favorite friends on earth were home and we got to spend time together and that was heart filling.  Marcus’ family does an annual fish fry, so of course we went to that dinner as well.

I didn’t end up actioning any plans for Sunday during the day, and I am so glad that I made that choice because it was just the loveliest day.  The weather was gorgeous and it gave me some time to open the windows and Take Care Of Things like batch cooking and whatnot.  Considering that we didn’t eat a proper meal together at home this weekend, I spent a remarkable amount of time in the kitchen.

At work, we take turns bringing birthday treats for one another.  The person I am bringing treats for likes chocolate covered pretzels so I tried my hand at making them and fancy-ing them up a bit.

Pretzels

There were basic chocolate-covered pretzels (everyone loves a classic) and then I also rolled them in sprinkles, M&Ms and Oreos.  In case you’re wondering what the rest of the recipe is, I used two bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips, a bulk container of pretzel rods and the toppings.  Once I had dipped and rolled the pretzels, I placed them on tin foil-lined cookie sheets and stuck them in the freezer to set.  Voila.

I also did some low-grade declutter.  I always have a “giveaway bag” in my closet but this weekend it was time to escalate the situation.

Declutter

Amongst the unnecessary things I discovered, a suit two sizes too big that I bought probably five years ago when I was just starting my post-college job search.  It was brown.  I know, I don’t know what I was thinking either.  Yes, I am concerned that I had absolutely no clue I owned this ensemble.  I also said sayonara to the eight polo shirts I bought in college.  Does anyone else remember wearing them two at a time and how uncomfortable it was to try and stuff yourself into two fitted polo shirts at once?  Because I do.  I was very proud of my collection, but again, they haven’t been worn in at least five years.

Mostly, I just find myself wondering how I managed to overlook all of these things for so long.  I’m sure that my next round of decluttering will bring similar surprises.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Did I mention that my closet really feels like it can “breathe” now?  Because there’s also that little side benefit.  I relocated what feels like a closet worth of hangers to the laundry room and suddenly, it’s like I have an entirely new space.

Pie Week: Grandma’s Chocolate Pie

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It’s Pie Week.

Most of the time I am so jealous of other food bloggers, because they always have just the loveliest stories to tell about the dough beneath their hands and the stained recipe cards that have been passed down through the generations.

And that is for good reason.  The kitchen is the place that keeps our secrets and helps us to tell our stories.

What I’m sharing today isn’t those things.  It isn’t pretty.  Or part of the life that you want.  But for better or for worse, it is bound up in this pie.

Last week, before I headed up to  the cabin that my sorority sisters and I had taken over, I mapped out our meal plan for the week.  What we would eat when.  Where Pie Week fit into all of it.  On Saturday afternoon, I texted Marcus and asked him to transfer the pie crust I had already made from the freezer to the fridge.

On Sunday morning, I left that cabin, and I drove straight to the hospital.  You see, last week one of my best friends from high school had a seizure and when they ran the MRI, they discovered a mass in his brain.

There was nothing else to do but run towards.  And so over the course of five hours we talked and laughed and read and followed the severe storms trailing over Illinois.  Some of it was so painfully ordinary that it hurt.

There was a point during the morning, where we were allowed to escape the room.  He in the wheelchair, me pushing.  It’s hard to be trapped in a room for days on end.  The same white walls.  The same hallway shuffling.  The same cable TV.  It is mind-numbing.

But before we left on our hall pass, the nurse on duty instructed us to dial **9 on any hospital phone if he started to have another seizure.

I gave her a look of abject horror because (1) It truly had not crossed my mind that there could be another seizure, (2) I have no idea as to where she got the impression that this sort of shit show would happen near a phone and (3) I am still 100% certain that my first response would be to shriek at the top of my lungs.

So with that piece of encouragement, we set out on our merry way, weaving through the lobbies, walking through hallways we probably were not supposed to be in, and admiring the fish in the aquariums.

All of it was surreal and horrifically wrong because This Is Not Supposed To Happen To People Our Age.  Or to Humans I Have Known Since I Was A Pup.

When I got home, on that late Sunday afternoon,  in a fit of mania I ran four miles, washed and folded my laundry, cleaned the bathroom, actioned an entire meal for Marcus and my parents and baked Grandma’s Chocolate Pie from my one and only favorite, The Homesick Texan.

I have no experience making custard-based pies or meringue-anything outside of those pseudo-chocolate chip cookies that are so lovely and Kosher for Passover.  None of that particularly mattered.

I mixed the sugar and the cocoa and the eggs.  Watched the pot and stirred occasionally until the custard reached the appropriate thickness.  Whipped the egg whites into fluffy meringues and baked it until the snowy white top of my pie had been replaced with a caramel-colored one.

Just me, following instructions and trusting in the process.

Pie

This slice of pie, is my tribute to escapism.  To 25 minutes of distraction.  To a moment where I could hit the pause button.

As with all theme weeks, the more the merrier.  Maybe this pie isn’t your perfect slice.  Or you just want to drool over your keyboard at work.  Want more?  Check out what my fellow beauties have been baking!

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Saturday

Pumpkin Dessert

My mother travels a lot for work.  Often, when she returns from her trips, she either brings back local foodstuffs (I still have to figure out what to do with the boiled peanuts) or a recipe.  What better way to experience the diverse and eclectic tastes of our country than first hand?

A year or two ago, she brought this particular recipe home from Rural Indiana.  I kept the name because, really, it says it all: Pumpkin Dessert.

Is it a coffee cake-based dish?  Or is it more of a pumpkin pie-centric delight?  What I do know (and what I think you’ll find) is that whatever Pumpkin Dessert is, it’s going to be a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving table.

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 (29 oz) can pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 (13 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 box yellow or lemon cake mix
  • 1 c melted butter
  • 1 c chopped nuts

Out of the Oven

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine pumpkin, eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl, stirring until smooth
  • Pour into an ungreased 9″ x 13″ baking dish
  • Sprinkle with cake mix
  • Drizzle with butter
  • Top with nuts
  • Bake for one hour or until cake tests done
  • Garnish with whipped cream
  • May make ahead and freeze

Finished Product

Pumpkin Week: Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

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Happy Pumpkin Week!

It’s finally October, which means that it’s properly fall.  And what’s more, six cans of pumpkin have been skulking about in my pantry since last fall when I went on a buying jag that was more than just a little bit enthusiastic.

What all of this really means: The timing could not be better.

Since we all know that I’m absolute trash when it comes to recipe development, I had to hit the books for this one, since Pumpkin Pie has already had its day in the sun.

I was flipping through my copy of The Smitten Kitchen (which has had a permanent place on the kitchen counter since its purchase) and I found this recipe for a pumpkin tart.  It’s a great book and Marcus and I have really enjoyed the other dishes we’ve created.  The extensive trove of recipes that Deb has cultivated online doesn’t hurt either.

I really liked the idea of combining pumpkin and cream cheese in a way that did not resemble pumpkin pie (which I love) or cheesecake (also love).

And somehow, it seemed less divisive to split the difference because whereas pumpkin pie and cheesecake have dedicated followers all their own, when the two come together, all bets are off.

Since I am painfully practical and could not envision a situation where I would need half a box of Gingersnaps, I ended up actioning an all-graham cracker crust.  Plus, when I took a moment to think about what the Gingersnaps would actually accomplish, I felt like the overall effect would be…distracting.

Crust

In terms of how it all came together, the dish was not terrifically challenging or time-consuming to make.  I pulsed the graham crackers into crumbs using my immersion blender.  Rolling Pin + Ziploc Bag = crumbs all over my counter every time.   Also, plan on using every bowl in your kitchen.  For reference, please see Exhibit A.

Bowls

But, this is why dishwashers were invented, no?

Real talk: my tart did not at all resemble the tart presented in the book.  I think you would have to literally melt your cream cheese (v. softening) in order to achieve that “marbled” appearance.

Tart

Melting versus softening?  Not intuitive.

Was it delicious?  YES.  It was a happy combination of pumpkin pie and cheesecake.  But truly I was so mortified (SO MORTIFIED) by the tart’s appearance that I abandoned the leftovers in the lunch room at work sans-signage because I simply could not bear the shame of having to answer for it.

Sliced

As I was gently informed shortly after The Abandonment, You do not eat a picture.   These were sage and necessary and true words.

If I haven’t completely put you off this concept yet, then the recipe is right here.

But if marbling and pulsing graham crackers in your food processor just aren’t calling your name, do not fret.  For I am not the only Pumpkin Week reveler.  The rest of these lovely ladies have got you (and your furry friends!) covered.

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