Sloth.

Home alone today. One of those days where I’d have the house spick and span before my husband comes home if I were more domestic. But I’m not, apparently, at least not today. I had a friend over for coffee so I suppose I can count that as an achievement for the day. Still wearing sweatpants though (it’s 3:19pm). Being pregnant, I fully believe that self-care is the most important thing that I do, but I’m still debating whether a day of total sloth counts as self-care or not. Tea and yoga and a bundled walk on the beach might be more appropriate? But then I truly miss the day of utter laziness that I feel owed by the end of a work week.

I suppose the trick is to not feel guilty about it. If the day is going to be absolutely lazy, commit to it. Hot chocolate in bed, teen mom re-runs (oh yes, really) and maybe a shower. Hedonistic, sloth-ful bliss. Tomorrow maybe I will start on my apartment therapy January cure…or maybe not.

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Progress

Progress

Some things change: a location, a job, an education, a life stage, a boyfriend. Some things stay the same: treasuring slow calm moments with beautiful ingredients, a belief in the inherent equality and dignity of all people, a desire for connection, family, and love.

So here I sit, 3000 miles and five years from the last post on this blog. And here I sit, married, pregnant, barefoot, in the kitchen most days, and still a feminist (with an extra degree and theoretical orientation to back it up). Life has felt like a constant transition, progress towards the new and different and hopefully better, for a few years now but perhaps never more than now. There is life growing inside me, the leaves will fall and be reborn before I meet this little human, and I am constantly pondering the daunting task of raising a curious, kind, and happy child in this world and time.

Putting more and more pieces together in what will be this little one’s room this morning and sipping hot chocolate in the chair where I will rock them to sleep on many many nights, I can’t help but wonder where this progress will bring us in the next year – or five?

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7-11 Chicken (ish) Tetrazzine

Sounds disgusting, right? Well in my line of work, I often cook dinner for the family in addition to taking care of their small children and yesterday the request was chicken tetrazzine. Which I made, to the letter I might add, having never made it before out of their lovely Casserole cookbook. But then I got off work at 5:30 and I was hungry for…you guessed it. So I stopped by the 7-11 at my bus stop (as I was far too lazy to make an extra trek to Trader Joes on the other end) and purchased one quart of milk, one can of condensed chicken noodle soup, and one pound of spagghetti noodles. After adding fresh zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and parmesan cheese my recipe most definitely turned out better than the one I made for my bosses…so here it is:

Veggie (but not vegetarian) tetrazzine:

1-2 c. chopped vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, squash, mushrooms)
1 small or 1/2 medium white or yellow onion
2-3 cloves garlic
4 T butter
about 1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. milk or half and half
1 can condensed chicken noodle soup (or equivilent amount, about a cup of broth)
1/2 c. + shredded parmesan cheese
8 oz spagghetti (cooked and drained)
salt, pepper to taste
**Preheat oven to 350**
1. Sauté onions, garlic and vegetables in 2T (or more if you like) butter until vegetables are tender.
2. scoop them out and reserve for later
3. melt the remaining 2T butter in the vegetable pan and sprinkle in the flour to form a roux.
4. Add the broth, milk, salt, pepper, and parmesan and whisk until smooth and thick
5. mix the noodles and vegetables into the sauce and put the whole mess into a 9×13″ casserole pan.
6. bake, covered, about 30 minutes
7. uncover, top with more parmesan and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until bubbly and golden.
8. try not to burn your mouth eating it straight out of the pan!

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Good old fashioned pecan pie.

Well well, it has been far too long.  As we all know, last Thursday was the magical and perfect holiday of Thanksgiving.  Gratitude and gobs of good food are two things I can really get behind so I make a pretty big thing of Thanksgiving each year.  I have a standing agreement with my mother that puts her in charge of the bird and stuffing and me in charge of everything else – I tend to struggle through 4 or 5 of Gourmet’s best side recipes for the year but focus the vast majority of my energy on pies…This year there were 8 of them.  Chocolate pudding, Fig Walnut Crostata, Sweet Potato, two Pumpkin, Apple, Chocolate Pecan and of course regular old Pecan.

Pecan pie has to be the very best thing on that table each year, and it’s not hard to make a good pecan pie – but a great one, one with just the right proportions of goo, nut and crust, that can take some trial and error.  So, without too much braggery, I would like to propose that this recipe gets it all juuust right.

Pecan Pie:

For a 9″ pie

1 cup Corn Syrup

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans, chopped roughly

1  unbaked pie crust*

– Preheat oven to 350°F.

– Mix all ingredients but pecans together in a large bowl.

– Stir in pecans

– Pour into crust and bake for about 60 minutes or until done.  (When pie is done you can lightly tap the center and it will ‘bounce’ back)

*crust:  Use your favorite crust.  My current recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison and is as follows: 12T unsalted butter, 2 cups flour, 2T sugar, 1t salt, 1/3-1/2 c ice water.

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Roll Disaster.

So I have to admit, I have been stuck recently.  I had several of the saddest baking experiences of my life within mere days of each other and have been feeling too disheartened to blog about them – I get attached to my baked goods! In short: first I killed the sourdough starter that my friend gave me, then I tried to make rolls (which has historically not been a difficult task) and FAILED, miserably. Then to redeem myself, I made more rolls , only to fail a second time. With Thanksgiving right around the corner (a month is right around the corner to a food and hospitality obsessed person such as myself) this kind of thing just will not do. So…anyone have a knock-out roll recipe? I’m looking for soft, buttery, pull-apart rolls. I’ve made them before but have never recreated them and have now lost the recipe…

My most recent cooking experience, while good, was of course not documented.   After the string of dissspointments I decided to just cook my heart out one night and I did…Roast chicken with spicy kale, gravy and rolls with orange scented strawberry shortcake and honey cream for dessert. Oh, divine. Anyhow, I promise I will be back soon with something delicious and documented for your enjoyment, until then, enjoy the fall!

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Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese and Caramel Frosting

Pumpkin Cake

This cake, adapted from Bon Apetit magazine, is perfection – except for one thing, the frosting is incurably runny – it is barely sweet and moist pumpkin heaven inside and sweet, creamy caramel cream cheese bliss on the outside.  Speaking of – how have I never combined cream cheese and caramel? Genius. Two great flavors: even better together…

Pumpkin Cake:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 cups pumpkin puree (1 15oz can)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

– Preheat oven to 350°F.

– Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices together in a bowl.  Beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil in another large bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to incorporate between additions.  Add flour mixture; beat just to blend. Divide batter between prepared pans.

– Bake cakes about 33 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Invert onto rack, then turn top side up and cool completely.

Pumpkin Cake BatterFresh baked pumpkin cake

Cream Cheese Caramel Frosting:

1 1-pound box powdered sugar, divided

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

– Sprinkle 1/2 cup powdered sugar over bottom of small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir). Continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup cream, vanilla, and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon cream. Strain into small bowl. Cool caramel to room temperature.

– Sift remaining powdered sugar into medium bowl. Preferably using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in cooled caramel. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours (it may take longer, mine never really set up how I would have liked it to…but it may have also been a problem with my caramel consistency…).

– Trim rounded tops from cakes. Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, cut side up. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Place second cake layer, cut side down, on top of frosting. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, creating smooth surface. Cover with cake dome or large bowl and chill. Let stand at room temperature before serving.

Frosting

Frosting the first layer

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Brownies for a cause

Brownies

This weekend I helped out The CAIR Project in my very favorite way: baking! The event I made these brownies for raised almost $5000 so I would say it was well worth my investment of flour, eggs and butter!

The brownie recipe itself is great on it’s own and is certainly my favorite – as an extra bonus it can be made in just one bowl.  For this event I decided to jazz it up a bit with different flavored glazes and by making it in mini-cupcake pans so that the final result would be cocktail party appropriate and easy to pass around.

Brownies:

adapted from the Baker’s One Bowl recipe

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour

– preheat oven to 350ºf

– Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler or microwave in a large microwave bowl on high for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

– Stir sugar into chocolate. Mix in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour and nuts. Spread in greased 13 x 9 inch pan, or cupcake or in my case, mini-cupcake tins.

– Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. for a large pan, about 20 minutes for cupcake tins or about 13-15 minutes for mini-cupcake tins.   Cool in pan.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze:

Approximately 1/3 peanut butter, 2/3 chocolate of choice

-Melt chocolate

-Stir in Peanut butter

-Spread over brownies while still warm, you may need to freeze brownies to harden glaze.

Mint Glaze:

Mint Chocolate

-Melt chocolate and spread over chocolate.

Brownies pre-bake

Peanut Butter and Mint Brownies

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