I reject the notion that pie is a seasonal treat.

This is one of the recipes that I should have blogged in November but got distracted and didn’t. Have you noticed that we treat pie like a season treat? We make apple pies in the late summer and fall, leading up to that pie extravaganza that is Thanksgiving. But seriously, you can make and eat pie ALWAYS. So really, I’m just making a statement about how we should be eating pie more often. You’re welcome.

Actually, as I’m sitting here finally writing this I’m wondering if I should wait until National Pi day in March….but NO. I’ve procrastinated long enough. Plus now I’ll just have to make something new for then.

Moving on.

I’ve been making pies for a while now. My aunt and I used to make all the pies for Thanksgiving starting when I was in high school to take some of the burden of the meal off my Gram and great-grandmother. So when my office decided to have a Thanksgivukah party and I got a Friendsgiving invite I decided it was time to bust out my pie magic.

squash

When I was in Peace Corps I developed an awesome pumpkin pie-esque recipe–except rather than pumpkin it uses butternut squash. And I love it.

Immersion blenders are made for times like these.

Immersion blenders are made for times like these.

Butternut Squash Pie:

1.5 c butternut squash
1 c light brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 c half and half or cream
2 Tbs flour
1 Tbs melted butter
spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, vanilla)

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Peel and cut squash into cubes. Boil or steam until soft, add butter and mash. Beat in sugar. Add eggs, cream, spices, and flour. Pour into pie crusts. Bake at 350 for 40-55 mins.

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Most people can’t tell that its not pumpkin. Its easy and tastes good so its one of my faves.

In other news…I’ve gotten to do some cool stuff lately. First D, C, and I went to the aquarium a few weekends ago. I can’t really remember the last time I had been to the New England Aquarium…college I think. It was really fun. We even edged out the little 5 year olds to get spots at the tank where you can pet the rays–they feel so strange!

The face that haunts my dreams.

The face that haunts my dreams.

 

This past weekend I went to NH with C and 2 other ladies for the annual Pond Hockey Classic. There were over 20 rinks and loads of people. It was really cool to be a part of…and thankfully the weather was perfect. The coolest part was that there was a company running 5 minute-ish helicopter rides—so obviously I had to go on one. It was sooo cool. The whole lake was frozen and being in a helicopter wasn’t nearly as anxiety causing as I imagined it would be. Totally worth it.

View from the helicopter of the Pond Hockey rinks

View from the helicopter of the Pond Hockey rinks

Emerging from our ride like champions

Emerging from our ride like champions

 

In conclusion: f*ck cakes, make more pies.

 

 

 

Birthdays on Birthdays….A Story of Two Cakes

Once again, I’ve waited forever to write a post. I’d say sorry, but its been a pretty shitty month in so mannny ways that I’m really not sorry. I had other biz to deal with. BUT…the winds are changing, so to speak, so I’ll fill you in on some the kitchen shenanigans I’ve been getting myself into these days.

There have been a few birthdays this month! and lord knows I love a good birthday celebration (example, other example, one more). This past month had not one but TWO birthdays to celebrate. So let me begin the story of two cakes.

Once upon a time…I had a terrible job (in part I’m joking but I’m mostly serious). And at that job I met some people…some of them were great. One such lady was my pal KT (check out her super gay blog and her adorable dog blog). KT had a birthday at the beginning of the month and I got to make her a celebratory cake–a Blueberry Cream Cheese Layer Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting…yup, I got classy this with this one (click for the full recipe from Veggie and the Beast).

Kt's cake

I won’t walk you through the play by play…mostly because I have no visuals, but I WILL give you some best practices. First, this cake is WORK…if you don’t have a mixer, maybe rethink making it. Personally, I do not have a mixer and I was having some challenges. Additionally, if you have never browned butter before, maybe google it first so you know what you’re looking for. Overall the cake was a big success, but maybe the birthday girl will comment her thoughts (not so subtle hint for you to comment on this post KT).

The second birthday gal and I go wayyyyyy back…like 26 years back. Because the birthday girl was my Mom! Dear old (practically ancient at this point) Ma got yet another year older. I won’t invade her privacy by putting a number on it…but in a few years when she turns 50 I tend to tell the world lol. (Love you momma).

I had a few days off work (Jewish Holidays woot woot) so I decided to head to the homestead to celebrate in person. As my sis is currently living the high life in the Dhabs I was reppin’ for the both of us. And I feel like I nailed it.

When asked for her preference of cake my mother was fairly vague…something chocolate. So some quality time spent with google resulted in finding the perfect recipe. It’s super moist…to the point you think you made it wrong. But it totally turns out great.

Look how great they look

Look how great they look

So my gram has an electric mixer. It makes baking cakes and making frosting SO MUCH better. I did a quick google search for frosting because the cake recipe author “didn’t record any measurements”…ok….But it’s super easy. I’m pretty sure I used this guy.

Why don't I have a mixer?!

Why don’t I have a mixer?!

A perfectly respectable looking cake

A perfectly respectable looking cake

So I frosted the cake and was pretty happy…I mean, look at how symmetrical it is! But I just felt like it was too “every day” to be my mom’s birthday cake….so I decided to spice it up…and maybe it got a little out of hand.

So maybe I went a little extreme...

So maybe I went a little extreme…

This was the final product. I assume it was satisfactory as there was none left the next day.

But here are some celebration pics! (in case you want to pretend you were there)

Look who made it on the blog! welcome to the internet mamma

Look who made it on the blog! welcome to the internet mamma

ugh happy couples...if I didn't like them so much I'd punch them lol

ugh happy couples…if I didn’t like these two so much I’d punch them lol

Also, I would be remiss to NOT introduce you to the best addition to my life: Frizz…aka Ms Frizzle. She is KT’s puppy and I love her. Like so much…and those of you who know me in real life know how rare that is.

Frizz loves to give kisses...just LOOK AT HER!! Gah I love it

Frizz loves to give kisses…just LOOK AT HER!! Gah I love it

ALSO I have an update for you! in my last post I told you all about how I was a beast and put up my curtains. Well I totally jazzed them up and now they’re AWESOME!

lights

Sunday Funday: Cocktail Edition

Summer is almost over…sigh.

And with the warm weather coming to a close I thought I’d share a fun summer cocktail with you. (Sidenote: this can be made with or without booze)…but when given the option you know I’m bustin’ open the liquor cabinet.

I went to the grocery store this afternoon and strawberries with buy 1 get 1 free…so obviously I got them. I’ve been craving some lemonade recently and decided I could whip something up. I also have a bunch of basil growing in my window garden so I figured I would try my hand at strawberry basil lemonade. I googled it first and found that most recipes required you to make a simple syrup first…pass. Too much work for this kid. Instead I used my roomie’s infuser pitcher and my drink the lazy kid way.

I used a few single serving lemonade packets (3.5 to be accurate) and probably a cup of strawberries and a handful of basil. I let it all marinate for a few hours and then served it over ice with a nice serving of vodka.

Mmmm….tastes like summer.

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Update: I wrote this post last night on my phone (again with the laziness) so I couldn’t add any links.

I made some super tasty lemonade last year as well, check it out here!

If at first you don’t succeed, keep tryin’ until you make that biz your b****

So I have some mild-to-severe perfectionist tendencies. Nothing like crippling or anything….but enough that I find things massively frustrating if they don’t come out right. It can be SUPER annoying because for the most part other people’s reactions tend to be things like “it still tastes good” “shake it off” “don’t worry about it.” My brain does not work that way.

I have gotten better at hiding my crazy in most aspects of my life though. But I’ve found it harder to master that crucial brain control in the kitchen and in craft-type settings because, unlike most areas of life, they are soooo controllable. So when small setbacks happen I have to fight my instincts…you know…the urge to throw a 4-year level tantrum or just chuck the whole lot into the trash can because the cake is uneven (or it tipped over) or the onions burned. (CONFESSION: I did chuck out an entire meal in front of my BF not too long ago because I thought it was a disaster…but that hardly ever happens anymore lol).

I’m telling you this as sort of a background into my motives for this post. I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my signature dishes is homemade mac and cheese. I’ve been making it since I was like 10 and its one of those recipes that is burned into your brain so you never even have to look it at. For some mystery reason, lately I kept screwing it up (like this time). It was making me CRAZY…just ask my mom who received all my “AHHHHHHH WHAT THE HECK?!?!?” phone calls.

Normal people can shake this stuff off. But it’s been nagging at me for WEEKS. So finally I decided to just beast this thing out. And prove to myself that I’m not a total idiot who has forgotten how to cook (see how my brain makes me treat me?)

I recently discovered how AMAZING caramelized onions are. Shortly after that I discovered that I am not great at making them WOMP WOMP. I kept burning them. I’m telling you this because I had had the genius idea to add caramelized onion to my mac and cheese….so the fact that I messed BOTH of them up at the same time was driving me insane.

But I figured it out (for the most part) and BOOM I made that biz my b****.

FINALLY got it right!

FINALLY got it right!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your very own Swiss/NY Sharp Cheddar Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese:

-box of noodles (elbow, penne, or the spirals work best)
-1 block swiss cheese
-1 block NY Sharp Cheddar (or Vermont, or regular Sharp Cheddar)
-2 cups milk (1% at the LOWEST, cream tastes best but is fattier)
-2 Tbsp butter (or butter like spread)
-2 Tbsp flour
-spices (salt and pepper etc)
-breadcrumbs (optional but nice…especially Italian spiced)

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Ok so if you’ve never made a cream-type sauce before I’m going to explain it. Read this BEFORE you start so you’ll know what to do because you have to move a little fast in the beginning. On MEDIUM HEAT Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour. Start whisking it immediately with a fork or whisk…slowly add some milk (room temp if possible) and KEEP STIRRING. It’ll be sort of paste like with some clumps…you want to get’em all. Add the rest of the milk and stir. DON’T LET THE MILK BOIL. It will ruin your sauce by causing the cheese to separate. When the clumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken a little add the cheese and spices. Once the cheese is melted you should have a nice thickish cheese sauce.  Add caramelized onions (which I’ll tell you how to make in a minute).

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese....

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese….

Cook the pasta regular. Add cheese sauce. Top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 until top is browned.  EAT UP.

Caramelized Onions:
-1 large onion
-2 Tbsp-ish better
-1 Tbsp oil
-dash of salt

Cut onions. Melt butter in a skillet…add the oil. Add the onions and coat in the butter/oil and turn burner down to low heat. Stir occasionally, if you stir too much they won’t brown. Add salt after like 5 mins. Honestly I got that from a website…I’m not 100% certain what it does but I guess it helps. The onions will reduce down and eventually turn a lovely golden/brown color.  Mine cooked for like EVER…like over and hour… but again, I’m new to this and haven’t gotten it perfect yet. I’m certain it doesn’t have to actually take that long.

Cut even slices of the onion

Cut even slices of the onion

 

Coat onions in the butter/oil

Coat onions in the butter/oil

 

Nice golden color... cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

Nice golden color… cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

In the end I had a lovely meal to last the week. Also it made me feel soooo much better to have figured out what I was doing wrong with my mac and cheese so that I will never screw it up again!

Sometimes I make my own English Muffins

what can I say?…I’m a boss.

Here’s the thing; I almost never have bread products in my house. I’m not super into sandwiches so I don’t have a real need for bread…and english muffins are a rarity. BUT…this past Sunday I really wanted an omelette. And, this may sound weird, but I don’t really like eating eggs without some form of toast. It just doesn’t feel right to me. So I decided to just whip some up myself.

Now I’m not super new to this. While I was in Peace Corps I used to make them a lot. So I figured now was the time to give it another go. They’re not technically English Muffins…they actually a tradition bread from Lesotho. But they’re basically the same thing.

Here’s how the magic happens:

English Muffins

-~4 cups flour
-1 package instant yeast
-dash of salt
-1 Tbsp sugar
-1 cup warm water

In a bowl put the flour, sugar, and salt and mix it up. Then add the packet of yeast. NOW this is different from normal yeast use…I don’t dissolve it in water first I just put it in. Add warm water (don’t make it too hot or it will wreck the yeast). Mix it up…you’re gonna have to get all up in it with your hands.

Now, set it aside to rise a bit. HINT: I put my bowl into a bigger bowl of hot water (not boiling, but hot from the tap) and cover with a wet towel or cloth. It doesn’t take all the at long.

then separate the dough into balls the side you want your muffins to be.

To cook them you set them in a DRY skillet on high. It helps to cover the pan (helps cook the inside). When brown, flip and cook other side.

set them in the pan and cover

set them in the pan and cover

Over all it’s pretty fast.

Flip them over and cook other side....You can tell done-ness by the browning

Flip them over and cook other side….You can tell done-ness by the browning

Final Product

Final Product

 

Then eat up. BOOM…done and done.

Birthday Cake the Classy Way

So it was recently my college roommates birthday (Happy Birthday Girl!!). My friend C and I decided to make dinner for her, so I offered to make a cake…because as you know, I love birthdays. (Evidence here, here, and here).

I decided to make something from scratch so I searched the interwebs for a recipe I thought was worthy. It didn’t take long to find a good one.

Dry Ingredients

 

Melt the butter, cocoa, and water

Melt the butter, cocoa, and water

How you make buttercream

How you make buttercream

Batter

So the batter is a little more liquid than boxed cake, but I think its because its a fudge cake.

I only have one cake pan….and I thought the batter would all fit. Turns out there’s more than I thought….so rather than double the bake time by using the same pan (no thanks) I had an epiphany. I noticed that a bunt pan is the same circumference! I decided to use my one cake pan and the bunt pan…which would make for a fun layer cake.

Funfetti Frosting Layer...Layer of Champions

Funfetti Frosting Layer…Layer of Champions

Frosted with Vanilla Frosting

Frosted with Vanilla Frosting

30 Minute Chocolate Fudge Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup water
3 Tbs cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk***
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Mix flour and sugar in a bowl. In a sauce pan mix cocoa, butter, and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Mix into the dry ingredients. Mix well, once cooled slightly add eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla. Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 for about 20 mins.

***I made buttermilk by taking just under 1/2 cup milk and adding 1/2 Tbs of lemon juice. Let sit for a couple minutes…and BOOM buttermilk.

Photo by Jenn Sheehan :)

Photo by Jenn Sheehan 🙂

See….it’s a cool effect. If there had been a little more time I would have filled the whole with something…a cupcake, fruit…something. But for this time I left it open.

I did make a fun decorative banner to top the cake though. Here’s how you do it.

What You’ll Need:

fun paper (I used scrapbook paper
skewers
dental floss

Cut out some triangles

Cut out some triangles

I started by folding the edge of the paper over, and cut small triangles.

Then I cut a length of dental floss and tried it to the skewers.

To attach the triangles, I put a dab of glue and placed them over the floss (the glue makes it so they stay). Let it dry and BOOM classy cake decor.

Apple Butter Pork Chops

So last week I bought a big ole’ pack of pork chops. I was weirdly craving them…weirdly because for no real reason I hardly ever eat pork. I don’t know that many ways to cook pork chops because, like I said, I hardly ever eat them. Since I had taken them out the freezer I locked myself into making them…I just didn’t know what HOW I would make them yet. So I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer to something…I googled the crap out of it.

And good old Google didn’t let me down. I saw a bunch of recipes involving apple sauce (because naturally pork chops and applesauce go to together…just ask those fun-loving Brady kids). Then LIGHTBULB! I remembered that I have my homemade apple butter in the fridge still! So I refined my search a little to look specifically for apple butter pork chop recipes. I was not disappointed. I found a tasty easy recipe pretty quickly.

 

The great thing about this recipe is that it has like 3 ingredients: pork chops, apple butter, and garlic. BOOM. That’s my jam. The recipe on blog I found is for 4 pork chops…but I only defrosted 2 so I just fudged it. I minced about 2 Tbs of garlic (I like strong garlic) and mixed it with about 1/2 cup of my apple butter.

 

I dunked the chops into the sauce so it covered the bottom. Then I spooned more onto the tops so the chops were covered 360 in the apple butter garlic goodness.

You cook them for 30-45 mins on 350 and you get these guys! The blog I found the recipe on says 25-35 mins but mine were NOT cooked at the 30 min mark so just check on them and go off how done they are.

 

This was my dinner. Here’s the thing. I love potatoes. I really do. For some strange reason they frequently elude my brain though. Its crazy. I can NEVER remember how to properly cook baked potatoes or how long it will take. I was at trivia at the bar across from my house last night and they randomly played Mambo #5…a song I have not heard in at LEAST 8 years…and I remembered every single word. Yet my idiot brain REFUSES to remember how to bake a stupid potato. I seriously call my mom and ask her how long it takes every single time lol. I guess that’s what mom’s are for…

In case you were wondering about how the above mentioned trivia went–we nailed it! First place! BOOM.