Fall Food Fiesta Episode 3

I think this will be the last in this fall food series…sigh. Although I haven’t completely resigned myself to starting to cook winter type foods just yet. It feels more like I’m simply refusing to give up apples than anything else lol. Oh well. YOLO. (ugh…I’m THAT girl…)

Basically I’m just obsessed with apples…

In this post I’m sharing two gems with you that I’ve recently discovered…a dinner AND a desert. Boom.

The first I’m going to share with you is somewhat similar to this recipe that I made last year, which I really didn’t care for. So I tried again. Its another attempt at Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Apple, and Bacon. So many things that I love…apples, cheese, caramelized onions, bacon…This time its all arranged in a way thats more delicious.

I won’t take too much time explaining how to make this recipe because I’ve done it a few times before. So I’ll just explain how to make it different from plain caramelized onion mac and cheese.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

To make this you basically just add the bacon and apples to the recipe I linked to above. It’s not difficult. It tasted good. My one note on it was that I used Maple Bacon…which in hind sight was a little off…I think that regular bacon would work best…or maybe smoked.

I also tried my first ever crockpot desert…Crockpot Apple Crisp. Because seriously…how can you not, right? It’s actually really easy to put together. Here’s the biz you’ll need:

  • ~5 granny  apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c butter
Apples on apples...

Apples on apples…Put your peeled and sliced apples in your crockpot and coat with lemon juice.

steps 2 and 3

In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices, oatmeal). Then cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or some forks. Then top the apples with your crumb mixture.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

This recipe will make your house smell AMAZING. A substitution I made was to use about half the oatmeal and use cereal for the other half (Special K Vanilla Almond to be specific, but anything corn flake-like will do). I mixed the crumbs into the apples rather than let it just sit on top so it did make the consistency a little different (not much of a crunchy top) but it still tasted good. You can also add pecans like the original recipe calls for.

When I make this recipe again I will consider using one of those crockpot liners because this was a little bit of a pain to clean up…worth it…but still work.

FUN ACTIVITY ALERT: My lady pals and I had a fun adventure a couple weekends ago so I figured I’d share it. We went to our first ever Blacklight 5K. It was SO FUN. It’s basically the Color Run except its a night and the colors glow under blacklight. It was most definitely NOT 5K…I’d guess it was maybe like 1.5 miles and in terms of logistics it was a bit of a shit show but it was still super fun to walk (running for fun is not my jam) and there was a big dance party at the end and they were throwing tons of color into the crowd.

The Before and After shot

The Before and After shot

I think I may have gotten some color on me....

I think I may have gotten some color on me….

 

What fall foods will you miss most?

 

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!

A Birthday Surprise…The Easy Way

So you may recall from some of my earlier posts that I love birthdays. I love making birthday treats. Sometimes though, it can be a pain in the a**. For the most part I like things simple. Which is why I really don’t mind using boxed cake mix and store bought frosting as a base (with some exceptions obviously) because you can do lots of things to make your biz unique.

This time around, I was even lazier (and a little bit poorer) than usual. Two of my co-worker pals happen to have the same birthday. So clearly I was going to make them a treat. Things I did not have/ did not feel like buying: eggs and oil. Usually those two guys are pretty essential for a box mix. Not anymore.

All this cake needs is the mix from the box and 10 oz of soda! BOOM. Stupid easy right?! Eggs Schmeggs man.

It looks really cool when you mix in the soda. NOTE: I used Sprite because I was making a white/yellow cake. If you’re making a chocolate or dark cake you can use a darker soda. Or be cool kid and mix like orange soda with a light cake. It also is a big cut to the calories of the cake.

It bakes up nice and fluffy…and you cook it per box instructions…so like 30 mins on 350.

Now my friend T is real into Nutella. She loves it. So since it is part her birthday I decided to make a Nutella frosting. I didn’t really have the time or funds to buys the ingredients for a butter cream from scratch so I checked the interwebs and found a cheat option. Mix a store bought white frosting with an equal part nutella. Its a little thick so I also added some milk to make it smoother. Eye ball that because it will vary based on amount of frosting and the consistency you’re looking for.

Then all that’s left is to frost your biz. The frosting is a little different consistency wise because of the Nutella so its a little thicker, but more durable than regular frosting. When I say durable I mean that should you say.. accidentally slide the finished cake into your electric kettle it really doesn’t even make a dent.

So I wanted to write on the cake. In the end I remembered that I had icing for this exact purpose. However, before my brain started working I attempted to whip up some colored icing to write on the cake…and totally failed and made a big mess lol. I attached a photo so we can all laugh and judge me together lol.

Long story short: Happy Birthday Louis and Tessa (who unfortunately ended up calling in sick and won’t get to eat cake with us 😦  )

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.

Suck it Betty Crocker…I Make My Cake from Scratch

okay…so the title of this blog is only partly true. I frequently make cakes from a box out of laziness and poverty. But when I DO make a cake from scratch BOOM. It’s all “Betty Who?”

I had to buy some carrots a bit ago to make some Beef Stew (I’ll be posting about it soon!). I’m not huge into carrots…I only like them cooked. I needed to use them or lose them, so I decided that there was no time like the present to whip up a sweet treat.

 

To be perfectly honest I’ve never been a big fan of carrot cake. This post is making me seem super picky lol (I’m really not). For some reason I just never like carrot cake that much. But back in my Peace Corps days I had a garden and I grew some stellar carrots. Back then EVERYTHING I made was from scratch, so the idea of making a cake from scratch with carrots I grew all by myself was too good to resist. So I ended up finding an awesome recipe.

Blast from the past Peace Corps photo of the day I picked my carrots!

So the other night I decided to bring forth the magic….also I may have needed something productive to do while I drank my wine…

I used my carrot cake recipe and a great cream cheese frosting recipe from the one and only Martha Stewart.

Here’s the recipe:

1 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp vanilla (that’s pretty conservative)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (again this is conservative)
2 c grated carrots

Combine sugar and oil in a bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix. Add it all together and mix in the carrots.
Put batter into a greased pan (spring forms work great) and bake for about 35 mins at 350.

Ok so in reality you can be a little more relaxed with this recipe. I legit dump everything in one bowl in whatever order I happen to read the ingredients. I’m not dirtying any more dishes than it is absolutely essential that I do.  Also when they give measurements for things like vanilla and cinnamon I take that as more of a suggestion. Who am I? the spice police? you use however much flavor you like!

Check out the link for the frosting recipe. Its super simple with only a few ingredients (powdered sugar, cream cheese and butter).

Sometimes I’m a Spaz in the Kitchen…

So those of you who’ve met me know that I am not the model of balance and grace…quite the opposite in fact. And this has been especially true lately. An alternate title for this post was actually going to be “That time i became Frienemies with Pancakes” but then that didn’t fully encompass the span of my clumsiness.

So I had avocados and corn on the cob left over and I needed to use them. I found a great recipe for Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad (here) that would be perfect. Incident One of being a spaz. EVERYONE knows that when you de-pit an avocado you ‘chop’ the pit,not STAB. Even as I was doing I was thinking…this is dumb Kristine….and then OWWWWW. Yup…I stabbed myself in the hand. Nice going, champ. Kitchen Fail ONE.

Not even a week later the spaz in me struck again. I was just giving voice to my love of pancakes by whipping up some chocolate chip pancakes NBD right? WRONG. The pancake was essentially finished cooking when I gracefully flipped one right outta the pan. Without thinking I grabbed it to toss it back in…another genius plan. My middle finger, with laser sharp accuracy mind you, landed firmly on the molten core of a chocolate chip. OH.MY.GOD. That biz hurts….A LOT. I got a big ugly fiery hot blister on my that stayed on my finger for 2.5 weeks. I’ll spare you the photos…which exist because obviously I need to send things like this to people like my mom lol. I have a bit of a mixed history with pancakes. About a week before I returned to America from Peace Corps, I was fixing myself a batch of pancakes when I flipped a pancake onto the stove. MESSY. In my attempt to clean it up I rubbed my hand all up on the still-on-the-active-burner frying pan. I still have the scar on my hand as a momento. So this latest debacle places us firmly the frienemies category.

And I’ve been dropping just about everything I touch (and weirdly things I don’t touch at all) in the kitchen ever since.

Here’s a little something I whipped up the other day for my cousin’s baby shower. I made some chocolate cupcakes with Diet Pepsi frosting (Diet Pepsi being one of her fave things).

For the cake I just used a box and prepared it as instructed. HOWEVER, if you can sub out all the ingredients the box says to add with a can of soda for an extra light, lower fat, cake.

You can find the recipe HERE. Its a chocolate glaze that actually tastes like Diet Pepsi. I let the glaze dry and then dusted them with powdered sugar.

Let’s Talk About Cookout Food!

Its summertime folks. The ideal time for cookouts. So I thought I’d take a moment to talk about some yummy cookout type foods I’ve been fixing up lately.

I recently purchased a Slice-o-Matic…I know you’re all jealous. I’ve wanted one for a while. Check out this wondrous kitchen tool here. Anyways, I also had some cucumbers, so I decided it was PICKLE TIME. Yup, that’s right…I made pickles.

Check out the Slice-O-Matic in action! woohoo!

 

It sliced’em up just right.

 

2 cucumbers worth of pickle slices.

 

In a saucepan: add a vinegar and water (I used a 1 to 2 part ratio of vinegar to water). I also added lots of garlic and some spices. I added about 1 Tbsp of sugar as well. You basically make them to your own preferences. Once its boiling pour it over the cucumber slices in the jars. Close the jars and then stick’em in the fridge. After about a day they’re perfect for eating!

I brought some of my lady pals home for a beach day last weekend and had the perfect opportunity to test out my pickles.

Another classic cookout treat is Macaroni Salad. Now I’ll tell you straight off that this is not my recipe. Its the killer recipe from my Auntie Merri. Its a total crowd pleaser and super easy to make. Below are the ingredients:

 

Cook up the pasta. Add the jar of mayo and the jar of relish (seriously get this exact one…its so good!). And add whatever spices you like…I added salt and pepper, garlic flakes, and a bit of cayenne pepper for a kick.

 

Mix it all up and you’re done. BOOM.

 

It makes the perfect side for all your cookout treats!