Friday, October 29, 2010

NoBloPoMo?

Thanks right everyone, November is NaBloPoMo.  Or to those of you confused out there, National Blog Post Month!  That one special month of the year that bloggers attempt to post, every single day.  Now I think being a food blogger puts you at a bit of a disadvantage for this challenge.  Posting everyday means a whole lot of cooking, baking and general dirtying up of the kitchen. 

So get ready for an onslaught of delicious recipes and perhaps the odd disappointment.  With posting everyday I don't think I'll have to luxury of not posting my failures!  Since we are heading into fall in the northern hemisphere, and approaching thanksgiving in the US, I will be posting lots of fall-inspired foods that hopefully help you out in planning your thanksgiving feast.

But until then, here is a picture of my dog...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Okay, it’s offical. I am addicted to squash. It started with a question on facebook, “What should I make this week?” Being the beginning of fall, everyone seemed to be in the mood for squash. Acorn squash and pumpkin and butternut squash. So many suggestions, all involving those weird looking vegetables! Or are they fruits? Anyways… I have to break it to you, before last week I had never eaten a squash. I was so concerned about cooking with these wacky ingredients.


I mean come on, acorn squash looks totally strange! It was the first bit of produce that I took on, making acorn squash ravioli. I’m looking over a dozen recipes for squash ravioli and thinking “Nutmeg? Who puts nutmeg in pasta?” Apparently I do, because this ravioli was amazing. Although perhaps it was the browned butter.


Next up was pumpkin. I have never been a pumpkin pie fan. Maybe this is because I’ve never had a good pumpkin pie? Since I have a problem with pancakes, in that I eat way too many of them, I decided to start there. Do you know if there is such a thing as Pancakeaholics anonymous? I think that I need to join that group. Thankfully the pancakes turned out heavenly, and so did the cookies, and so did the cupcakes (stay tuned!).


My final hurdle was this odd looking butternut squash. I kept putting it off, which was okay, because squash is hearty. It sat on my counter, staring at me, mocking me. Can squashes laugh? Because I think this one was laughing at me too. No more laughing at me squash! I’m going to take a vegetable peeler to you! Ha! Who’s laughing now squash? You’re naked! Okay, time to make soup.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Daring Bakers: Let’s go nuts for Donuts!

Can you believe that I have never deep fried anything? Deep-frying, along with lighting the gas grill, seemed like dangerous cooking feats. Why would I want to heat up a gallon of oil to 365 °F? That seems like a bad idea for home cook, right? There is just one problem, I love fried food! Give me a pile of chicken wings, some French fries and fry me up a Snickers bar and I’m a happy camper. Although on the other hand, it might be good that I don’t fry at home, I’d be 400 lbs…


Luckily I joined the Daring Bakers. My first challenge was more of an aesthetic challenge than a baking one. Decorating sugar cookies was super fun and now I’m ready for the holidays! This month’s challenge is what I have been hoping for, something to really push my boundaries, test my baking skills and make me a little uncomfortable. This month we would be making donuts (doughnuts?)


I love donuts, so this Daring Bakers challenge is a win-win. I get to play with hot oil and I get to eat lots of donuts! NOM! Neither of these things is an unusual happening. I use hot oil on an almost daily basis in the lab. I’m also lucky enough to walk by not one, but three Dunkin’ Donuts on my way to work. Making my own donuts would save me so much money! But don’t worry, I didn’t fry them in silicon oil, that would be disgusting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies

Halloween is definitely one of my favorite holidays. I loved to carve pumpkins, decorate the house and throw Halloween parties. I went trick-or-treating until I was a freshman in high school. I love the haunted houses, spooky corn mazes and Halloween hay rides. But most of all, I love those tiny candies. I suppose that these days I love the day after Halloween.



This is the day when all the ‘fun size’ candies go on sale! I head to the super market and stock up. It will be several months before ‘fun-size’ chocolate bars are available again (I can’t wait until Easter for more!). Bags and bags of candy will make their way to my freezer, where I will enjoy them for months to come.


Now, those of you in the know are probably asking “Well, did you riot in the Madison State Street Halloween party?” The answer is no. In my five years in Madison, I never actually went to Freakfest. This might mean that I’ve grown boring over the years. I like to think that it means that I’ve gotten smarter. I decided that I would be better off at my house, than avoiding the riots and teargas that always accompanied Freakfest.


I realize that over the past few years the Madison police department has taken control of the festivities, but when I was in grad school, Freakfest meant riots. I’m talking window-smashing, alcohol-fueled, tear-gas dispersed, riots. Not my cup of tea. What I like to do these days is stay home, and make some tasty treats, while grazing on my miniature chocolate bars. Boring? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Acorn Squash Ravioli with Cranberry Walnut Sauce

We all have those mountains in life that seem too high, too challenging of a climb. You think to yourself “Look at that mountain! Who would be crazy enough to climb that? Why bother when I have this delicious sandwich right here? I think I’ll just sit here and eat my delicious sandwich. I’ll bet that there aren’t delicious sandwiches on top of that mountain!” Hmm, I seem to have hit a tangent. Let’s get back on track…



Culinary mountains. Those food items that seem just too overwhelming to take on. And usually we have good reason not to attempt these culinary mountains. Why make your own puff pastry when you can buy it in the freezer section? Why make your own donuts when you live across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts? (Or maybe I’m just lucky enough to live in the center of a triangle of D. Do’s) And finally, why bother to mix, roll out and cut up your own pasta? Especially when pasta is seriously, a dollar. Really, sometimes it’s on sale two for a dollar.


We make pasta because we want to fill it with deliciousness. In my attempt to embrace fall, I took on the mountain of making homemade ravioli. And let me say, it was much easier than I thought it would be. The only change I would make, is to buy and use a pasta maker. Pasta dough is a tough item to roll out. It wants to spring back on you, shrinking back into a smaller shape. Work those muscles people, and you will be rewarded with one tasty dinner.


The flavor of the acorn squash is perfectly offset with the spices in the filling. The browned butter plays so well with the sweet cranberries and nutty walnuts. This dish packs major flavor. Set aside several hours to prepare the pasta. You can make them in the morning and cook them later in the night. Just be sure to let the ravioli dry at room temperature, then cover them and put them in the fridge until you are ready to eat. Don’t let the pasta mountain defeat you, you can do this. There might not be tasty sandwiches at the top of this mountain, but there is this…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Carrot-Celery Slaw

If you grew up in my house, then you grew up grilling, all year round. The weather turning cold is no reason for my parents to pack away the grill. Pouring down rain isn’t even a reason to use the stove. We would grill out on the deck in the chilly fall winds, during the darkest days of winter and through the wet days of spring. Remember one more thing, I grew up in Buffalo, NY. That’s right, snow country. It is not uncommon to visit my parents house in December, to discover a little shoveled path, leading to the grill.


Personally, I think my parents are a little kooky. I think it harkens back to one moment in my childhood. Being asked to start the grill, by myself. I believe I let the gas run for a little long, and there was a grand BAM! when I struck the lighter. No fireball, no singed eyebrows, no trip to the emergency room. Just one traumatized eleven-year old. I will still, to this day, not light the grill, but I love coming home in December and grilling hot dogs at home.


I know, it’s a little crazy on my part. I’m a chemist. I use Bunsen burners all the time. I work with chemicals that will spontaneously light on fire. Yet I am still afraid of the gas grill. This is why I own a grill pan (I also don’t have any outdoor space and I think my apartment building wouldn’t be too happy with me running a grill in my bedroom). However, if you are brave enough to light your grill, then you should go get out some burgers.


The best part of these burgers is the slaw. Crunchy, cool and tangy, it complements the spicy burgers perfectly. If you happen to have a food processor with slicing and shredding discs, then your prep for this slaw is minimal. The burgers can be store-bought, because they get their flavor from the hot sauce. And really, how can I pass up a recipe that puts wing sauce on a burger?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

In the past I have been kind of indifferent to gourd-based food items. I’m talking about pumpkins, squash, etc. At thanksgiving I usually went for my grandmothers cherry pie, total pass on the pumpkin pie. I prefer my risotto to be filled with basil and cheese, rather than butternut squash. However, I have recently undergone gourd conversion. I have embraced pumpkins with open arms and taken a liking to peeling chopping and roasting squash.



This week I celebrate fall with you, mostly because today was a beautiful, sunny fall day. Rather than a gross, cold, dreary fall day. Today we celebrate with pumpkins! I have always been a fan of carving pumpkins, just ask my roommates. Every year I would insist on having a pumpkin carving party. If you have never had a pumpkin carving party, then call your friends. Tell them to bring a pancake and you’ll furnish the drop cloths.


You can also run out and get a few of those pumpkin carving kits. You know what I’m talking about. They come with books of crazy patterns and tiny knives. Just be sure to get the real knives, not the childproof ones. The childproof ones are also pumpkin proof, and they will do nothing but bruise up your pumpkin. And be sure to invite one brave soul to wield the giant knife. Someone needs to open up the top of your pumpkin! Another plus to having a pumpkin carving party? Hundreds and hundreds of pumpkin seeds! Salt them up and toss them in the oven, mmmm.


My pumpkin conversion came this week from not a pie, but from pancakes. Really, you shouldn’t be surprised. I have written about pancakes twice already in three months. I love pancakes, and I really love these pancakes. The combination of spices will have you thinking you are eating a slice of pumpkin pie, except with a lot less calories! Pour on a little real maple syrup and you’ve got the perfect breakfast.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thin Mint Ice Cream

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for one very special time of year. And depending on where you live will determine when you get to revel in this delicious recipe. Now I’m not talking about the first local apples, picked ripe off the tree. I’m not talking about thanksgiving, with all of the tasty foods and family moments. I’m not even talking about when the first bulbs begin to pop up from under the snow covered ground, signifying the beginning of spring. I am talking about Girl Scout Cookie time.



When I first see those sash-clad girls in the mall, or in front of the grocery store, or haunting the entrance of Wal-mart, I get so excited! Once upon a time, I was a girl scout. I was one of those over-achieving, OCD girl scouts. I had a sash full of badges. At camp I had a hat full of pins. During cookie season, I sold cookies like a Keebler Elf.

These days, I don’t sell Girl Scout cookies. I consider having lots of little girls, just so I can have easy access to cookies. If you live near me, and your little girl sells cookies, give me a call.  I’m a cookie gold mine. Last year I wound up with eleven boxes of cookies. Eleven. And remember this, I lived by myself. I like to stock up, because who knows when this time of year will roll around again! I need my cookies!!!


Now I know that depending on where you live, makes a difference with the names of the cookies. Growing up, I sold Samoas. In Wisconsin, I bought Caramel DeLites. My favorite as a kid? Tagalongs. You might know them as Peanut Butter Patties. Apparently there are two factories that produce Girl Scout cookies, thus the differing names. I believe my childhood factory had way more awesome names for the cookies.

Luckily for us all, a Thin Mint is a Thin Mint, and a Thin Mint is delicious. With the year whittling down, I am down to one last box of Thin Mint cookies. To celebrate this last box of cookies I decided to make some ice cream. Hopefully there will be little girls in sashes popping up soon, because I need me some cookies.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper, Leek and Potato Soup

I forgot how dark and rainy fall in the northeast can be. It makes me want to hide under the covers and watch Sell This House all day long. Something about watching other people work makes me warm and happy. Maybe this is why I like teaching Bodystep classes so much? Nonetheless, fall can be so different, depending on where you live.


Fall in my hometown is cold, gray and wet. Ahh, the pleasures of living near Lake Erie. Fall in the Midwest is crisp and sunny, perfect for getting up early and drinking hot apple cider. Fall in the Rockies is fantastic with warm, sunny days and cool, dry nights. Great for hiking during the days and sleeping under heavy blankets at night.


Fall in the Northeast is a little more temperamental. We have swayed from cool, cloudy days to warm, sunny ones. I like to think of this season as a manic depressive one for the region. Maybe fall just needs some lithium. I have some in the lab, I should offer it up to the season. Here fall, would you like some lithium wire? I’ll clean the mineral oil off of it for you! Be careful though, it’s kinda flammable…


Perhaps offering the season some lithium metal is a bad idea. Maybe it just wants some soup. Soup should make it all better. This soup should make it great. Sunny days and cool nights are in my future! Not only is this soup delicious, but it is fun to make. I might just be saying that because it meant I got to use my immersion blender for the first time. You can make this soup with a simple pot and blender, altough I was more than happy to pull out my new toy. This soup has a fabulous texture, great flavor and most importantly, it’s so pretty!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chocolate Crisps

Sometimes it’s ten o’clock at night and you have the urge to make cookies. What? You don’t? Well, I do. I’m a little crazy like that. (Which explains the dark quality of these photos) Then you head to your pantry to see what delicious cookies you can make. Hmm, no chocolate chips. Okay, how about peanut butter cookies? Nope, two tablespoons of peanut butter won’t make very satisfying cookies. Whoa, I have two whole containers of cocoa powder. We have a winner.


These cookies are super easy to throw together in the middle of the night. It only takes minutes to make the dough. Then you have to stay awake long enough, while the dough chills, to bake off the cookies. Personally, as soon as I sit on my bed at night I fall asleep.


It’s really pathetic. It could be eight o’clock and I’ll pass out while watching America’s Next Top Model. So we’re talking seriously engaging TV and I can’t make it. It will usually go something like this…

Commercial break… “I’ll just close my eyes for a minute, I’m still listening.”

Ten minutes later… “What? Wait, I’m awake! What is Tyra talking about? Who’s fierce?”

Second Commercial break… “Just for a second, it’s just a commercial.”

Twenty minutes later… “Zzzzzz….”

Two o’clock in the morning… “Why is the TV still on? Oh no! The cookies!”

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