Thursday, December 23, 2010

Easy Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies

These brownies were a compilation of many different Christmas brownie recipes.  I was originally going to make these, but then I didn't feel like pulling together all kinds of chocolate and flour and sugar to actually make the brownies, so I used a box mix.  Dreadful, I know.  But I was making all the food for a huge group of high school kids, remember!  It would have been better from scratch, but I will put the boxed part of the recipe down below, and if you want to make them from scratch, use the recipe above or look up any number of good recipes online.  Anyways, moving on.

How can you move on from this?

Then, I went to swimming and, while I was there, Mom made the peppermint icing, from her own recipe.  I don't have it, so I'd recommend going with the original recipe, which I will put below.  Then, I wanted to make the ganache with cream, instead of butter. And I didn't really feel like measuring out my candy canes, so I didn't.  I just used two, which seemed like enough to me!

Brownie bites for a party.  I like when hosts cut their sweets small, so I can try just a little bit without feeling like a hog.

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies
Adapted liberally from Our Best Bites

1 boxed brownie mix, prepared according to package directions in a 9x13 pan
2 candy canes, crushed (I left them in the wrappers and rapped them with an ice cream scoop to crush them)

For the Peppermint Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbs. butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 Tbs. milk
Red/pink food coloring

For the Chocolate Ganache:
6 oz. (1 cup, 1/2 a package) semisweet chocolate chips
5 T cream

Let your baked brownies chill in the fridge.  When they are completely cooled, mix all the ingredients for the peppermint frosting together until light and fluffy.  Spread on top of the brownies.  Place back in the fridge until frosting is set.

Melt the chocolate chips and cream in the microwave on 15-second intervals (I used the defrost setting, and it only took 45 seconds) until melted.  Sprinkle with the crushed candy cane and chill again until set.  Cut into squares and serve!

Gingerbread cookies

So, for the party, I also made a TON of gingerbread cookies.  I doubled the batch and there were way too many, given the interest that high schoolers have for decorating cookies at a party.  Oh well.  I was cool with that.  Especially since I get to eat the leftovers!!

The cookies were spicy (not hot-spicy, just seasonally spiced), firm but not brick-like or too cakey, and very, very delicious.  I highly recommend them.  Top with frosting, currants, and red-hot candies.  Mmmmm......

She has a heart!  How cute.  But didn't she ever take physiology?  Your heart is *supposed* to be in the center of your chest, tilted with the ventricles toward the left.  Oh well.  She didn't live long enough to get much of a formal education, I guess.

Gingerbread Cookies
Recipe from Annie's Eats

4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 large egg

Whisk together dry ingredients (except for the sugar).  In a stand mixer (or in a bowl with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, ~2 min.  Mix in egg and molasses.  Slowly add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Cover bowl or wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge at least 1 hour (it's nice to make them as soon as you wake up, and then roll them out in the afternoon or evening... or even do them the night before!).

Preheat oven to 350.  Roll cookies out on a well-floured counter to about 1/4 inch.  Cut into shapes (cookie cutters!) and place on greased baking sheets.  Bake cookies for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 10 minutes on pan before transferring to a cooling rack.  Decorate with currants or raisins, red-hot candy, and frosting. Enjoy!

Wow, this platter is unusual for us.  Nary a water polo player, long-dead musician, or injured person in sight.  Weird!  

Chocolate Mousse with Gingerbread Whipped Cream

This stuff is divine.  Seriously.  Spiced white chocolate whipped cream?  Chocolate mousse?  TOGETHER???  I've made it twice so far, and I will make it again.  Now that I have my own ramekins (thanks, Julie!!), I may make it whenever I can find people to help me eat it!

Creamy and delicious chocolate mousse!

In ramekins with the best whipped cream ever on top.  I'm in heaven.  Also, thanks to Luke for sending me these pictures!

Chocolate Mousse with Gingerbread Whipped Cream
From BGSK - Makes 8 small servings, or less if you're like me :)

For the Mousse
3.5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. molasses
1 egg yolk
3 egg whites
Pinch salt
2 Tbs. sugar

For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups cream
2.5 oz. white chocolate, chopped (should contain cocoa powder; I used Ghirardelli's white chocolate chips)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring, until melted.  Combine milk and butter in a small bowl and microwave until the butter is melted.  Stir well, then pour into the chocolate.  Whisk together.  Add the yolk and molasses and whisk until smooth.

Separately, beat egg whites until they form (soft) peaks.  Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until stiff(er) peaks form.  Stir very gently into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Pour into individual ramekins or form into a round on a serving platter.  Refrigerate AT LEAST an hour, or until set.

For the whipped cream:
Microwave the white chocolate and 1/4 cup of the cream for 20-second intervals until melted.  Add spices and vanilla, then let it come to room temperature.

When read to eat, whip or beat the remaining 1 1/4 cup cream until thickened and firm.  Carefully fold in white chocolate mixture and dollop it on top of the finished mousse (the more the better!).  Top with shaved chocolate or crumbled gingersnaps.  Enjoy!

Pizza Rolls

So, Marta and Luke had a party tonight.  Tons of high schoolers attacked the house, and it was up to the rest of us to just stay out of the way.  During the party, at least.  Beforehand, we were front and center.  I wasn't too upset about making a ton of food... what a surprise!

Yes, I'm using my mom's camera.  Mine is kind of dead :/

In the recipe, the mozzarella cheese measurement doesn't need to be exact - just remember that you can freeze mozzarella, pepperoni, and marinara, and don't stress too much about having too much of those things relative to the dough.  Use all of your dough, and store your leftover ingredients, or use them the next day on a pizza!

Oh, and by the way - these were a hit.  The poor tray never knew what hit it.

Pizza Rolls
An Eliza original!

1 batch dough of your choice (any bread, pizza, or roll dough will work)
4+ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 bag pepperoni, with each pepperoni quartered (stack them and cut)
Italian seasoning (optional)
1/4 cup melted butter
Parmesan cheese, grated or canned, to sprinkle
Garlic salt
Marinara sauce, for dipping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 and get somebody to help you assemble.

Take a slightly-smaller-than-a-golf-ball piece of dough and roll it in flour so it's workable.  Flatten into a 2-inch disc.  Sprinkle about 1-2 tsp. of cheese and 4 pieces of pepperoni on top.  If desired, sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning.  Gather the edges and crimp at the bottom.

Place on a greased pan, folded side down.  Repeat (until the pan is full).  Brush some melted butter on top of each, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garlic salt.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the bottoms of the rolls are golden.  Let cool and serve with cold marinara sauce!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Borscht has always been one of my favorite kinds of soup.  But until a few years ago, when Mom got a good food processor, we didn't have it very often because it's a bit work-intensive (as I found out last week!).  But it's amazing.  It has all kinds of fun vegetable ingredients and tastes amazing.  Plus, it's bright pink.  For once, it's a pretty food that tastes as good as an ugly food.  Weird.

Family recipe from ages past

Simmer about 90 minutes:
1 pound lean beef, cubed
6 c water
1 T salt

In another pan, simmer covered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently:
1 ½ c shredded raw beets (about 2 medium/large beets)*
¾ c shredded carrots (1 1/2 carrots)
¾ c shredded turnip (about 1 large turnip)
2 T tomato puree (I used 1/4 of a tomato, grated)
2 T vinegar
1 t sugar
2 T butter

Add and cook 10 minutes:
½ head small cabbage, shredded
Fresh ground pepper
2 bay leaves

Mix in beef and water, add vinegar as needed, and serve with sour cream.


*If you have a food processor, use the grating blade/thing.  It makes it much easier.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Do you like my new background?  I made it myself, in paint.  Lame, I know.  But there were no sites that had what I was looking for, so I made do.  I kinda like it, although the pixelating is a bit interesting...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Just to get this out there - I had never been a really big fan of brussels sprouts.  I would eat them, but the texture of boiled brussels sprouts just isn't for me.  However, this dish sounded intriguing, and so I decided to make it.

We were making a late-night Walmart run when I remembered that I wanted to get some Brussels Sprouts.  There was no price tag on the container, so I took it up to the register.  After checking out the rest of my stuff, I discovered that the brussels sprouts were $3, which I wasn't going to pay.  However, the checkout lady really had to go to the bathroom, so she marked it down to $1 so she wouldn't have to take it off the list.  Awesome!

As with everything on this site, I highly endorse this recipe.  I should have posted this right after Thanksgiving, when everyone was looking for lighter food to eat, but I didn't.  Sorry.  Still good, and a nice break from hearty winter food. It's also a great replacement for your typical green salad at a dinner pary.  You can do the prep work ahead of time and just combine things once everything else is ready.  I've made it for two large groups of people and gotten recipe requests from every single family.  So, yeah.  You should totally make this. 

Please forgive the picture.  I didn't take a lot of time to photograph, as dinner was on the table, but I just wanted to show you how the Brussels sprouts were cut (thinly, in rings)

Delicious Brussels Sprouts Salad
Adapted from shutterbean (look here for variations on the cheese and dressing)

24 brussels sprouts
4 oz. cheese (I used cheddar), grated
Parmesan cheese to taste
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts*
7 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Slice the brussels sprouts thinly.  (Use a food processor or a knife.)  In a small jar, mix together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Combine everything and toss; check for salt and paper balance and eat immediately.  Try to keep yourself from eating the entire thing by yourself.  If you don't, console yourself by remembering that brussels sprouts are healthy.  Don't think about the cheese and oil.

*To toast walnuts, spread on a plate and microwave on 30-second intervals until they're fragrant and taste toasty.

Baba Ghanoush (Arab eggplant dish)

Sunflower Farmer's Market was having a sale on eggplant this week - 88 cents each!  So, duh, I had to buy four.  That's just how I roll.  I didn't realize until I'd gotten the eggplant how expensive the tahini was going to be, but that's another story.

I'm not sure how authentic this recipe is, but I really like it.  Besides the tahini and eggplant, I had everything on hand.  And it's delicious.  Right now I'm freezing a small portion of it to see how well it freezes - I'll let you know how that goes.  [Update: It freezes amazingly!  Just let it thaw in the fridge for a few hours before eating.]  But next time there is a sale on eggplant at your local grocery store, you should try making baba ghanoush.  It would be especially exciting to try on a grill, but as I am at college, I just used the broiler.

I have to warn you - it's not universally appealing.  But if you like eggplant and/or tahini, you will enjoy this delicious food.  You can eat it alone, spread it on bread, pita, or crackers, or use it as a sandwich spread.

Prick the eggplants - so they don't explode!

Then roast them.  Until they're falling apart.

Look at the inside...

Scoop out all the good stuff.

And dump it in a bowl with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and parsley.

Stir it all up.  Mmm.

Spread it on your carb of choice.  I chose French bread.  If you wanted to serve this as an appetizer, it might be good to sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top.. but I'm kind of a cheese fiend, so take that as you will.  

Baba Ghanoush
Via the Pioneer Woman

3 medium eggplants (whole)
1/4 cup tahini
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/8 cup dried parsley or 1/3 cup fresh, chopped
Salt, to taste

Prick each eggplant with a fork, several times.  Broil for about 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.  By the time it's done, the skin should tear when you stick a fork in it to turn it over.  It will be blackened and very wrinkled.  Remove from oven.

Cut the very top part (stem area, about 1 inch) off of the eggplants.  Cut your shriveled eggplants down the middle and let them cool until you can handle them.  Scoop the flesh out of each eggplant and put it all in a medium bowl.  Mash it around with a fork until it's a texture you like.  If it's still stringy, use your immersion blender so you can scoop out individual portions.

Add all of the other ingredients.  Mix it up and serve.  It can be eaten cold or warm.  Enjoy!

Spicy Hot Chocolate Cookies

Sorry about the lack of posts lately.  It's getting to be finals time, and I've been going a little crazy.  However, I have been cooking, so I'll try to update over the next few days.  As I've already shared with you the three pies that I really liked, I will leave it at that.  Besides those, I also made a sweet potato buttermilk pie, from smittenkitchen, and an apple galette (basically, just a free-form apple pie).  If you would really like to learn how I made them, let me know.  Otherwise, I will just skip over them.  Both were excellent, but I don't really feel like posting about them right now....

So.  Today, a neighbor hosted a cookie exchange.  I'd seen the cookies I wanted to make on a website a few weeks ago, and was excited that I would finally get to make them!  They're a tad spicy, and my roommates don't really like them, but I love them.  If you're not really a spicy person, you can decrease the pepper by half, and that should be good.  I just really like the kick! they leave behind in your mouth.  Plus, they're chocolate.  Sister Brescia would be proud.

Spicy Hot Chocolate Cookies
From honest fare

For the topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/6 t cayenne pepper

For the cookies:
¾ cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup maple syrup
3 T milk
½ t cinnamon
¾ t cayenne pepper
2 t vanilla extract
¼ t salt
1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 t baking soda

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Mix topping ingredients together on a flat plate.  Mix together sugar through salt, and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Roll into walnut-sized balls.  Roll in sugar and flatten to disks.  Bake 10 minutes.  Let cool. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Citrus Meringue Pie

Does that meringue look awesome or what?
The idea for this pie was born from the fact that I had 5 egg whites and a zested lemon in the fridge from other cooking projects (I don't remember what those projects were, actually, which scares me a bit as I've made  all the egg white ones in the past week...), a dying orange, lime, and four tangerines in the pantry, and an undeniable craving for something tart in my pie roundup. 

As usual when my bookmarks fail me, I googled a recipe and found one that was, conveniently, fairly healthy!  Of course, I had to substitute.  That's just the way it goes around here.

Citrus Meringue Pie
Adapted from fitness magazine

1 pre-baked pie crust

Citrus curd:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (or substitute part lime juice, maybe a bit of tangerine or grapefruit, or store-bought lemon juice)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (NOT the canned pre-sweetened kind; you can use tangerine, or grapefruit if you add a little bit more sugar)
3 whole eggs
3 egg whites
Zest of 1/2 each: lemon, lime, orange (or use about 2 tsp. total of any citrus zest)
Pinch of salt

4 egg whites (MAKE SURE no water gets into these, or they won't whip up like they're supposed to!)
Pinch of cream of tartar
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the curd:
First, configure your pots and bowls.  You will need a heat-safe bowl (usually metal) that fits on top of a pot with boiling water in it.  The bowl should not touch the boiling water.  See this picture.  Start with the bowl separate and begin boiling your water.

Whisk juices, sugar, eggs, and egg whites in your heat-safe bowl until the sugar is dissolved.  Place over the boiling pot and whisk constantly until very thick, approx. 10 minutes.  (Use your own judgment on this one)  Don't let it bubble up, or the eggs will curdle.  Yuck.  Strain mixture if it has lumps, and stir in zests and vanilla.  Pour into crust.

For meringue:
Heat oven to 400.  Whip egg whites and cream of tartar, using a clean and dry hand whisk or whisk attachment on a stand mixer.  Beat until soft peaks form; add sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff peaks form. 

Spoon onto the citrus curd, and spread to edges so it doesn't shrink while baking.  Put the pie in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until the meringue is beautifully light brown.  Remove and let cool on counter for at least 10 minutes.  Place pie in fridge* until serving (at least an hour is best, or it will be runny.)  Enjoy!

*You can use foil, but do not cover the pie with plastic wrap if you want your meringue to be pretty.

Served too soon after baking.  Still delicious.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Pie

Which one is it?

Another pie!  I don't know about the rest of you, but I think that traditional pumpkin pie is a little bit overrated.  Yes, it's good, but it gets a little bit.... monotonous.  Don't shoot me, please.  I still appreciate it, and I've made and eaten it many, many times.  But this year, when I saw several variations of a pumpkin cream pie floating around the web, I bit.

The pumpkin cream pie is an entirely different beast from the old pumpkin pie.  To put it quite simply, it's a pudding pie, with a graham cracker crust and some pumpkin thrown in.  Don't worry, though; it's quite heavenly.  It's also very quick and easy.  The recipe was just like the butternut squash pudding I posted the other day.  You could probably even make the pie healthier by using regular milk in place of some or all of the heavy cream and half-and-half in the first part of the recipe (Not the additional cream.  That would be bad).  If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

It was the first one of my five pies gone.  And there's a reason.  Graham cracker deliciousness, a creamy texture, light spices, and a pumpkin base?  I'm so there.  It's almost like a cheesecake flavor, with a different texture.  It's perfectly balanced, and I really like it.  You should make it.  I know, I say that about everything.  But really.

Pumpkin Cream Pie
Adapted from Pioneer woman

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers (14-15 of the individual cookies)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Smash graham crackers, using either a food processor or a rolling pin with crackers in a plastic bag.  Stir/process in the sugar and butter until well-combined.

Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a pie pan.  You won't need all of the crumbs, so start off with about 2/3 of them, press down, and then add more as needed.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until the crust is fairly cohesive.  Remove and cool.

1 box (3 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves (a bit less than 1/8 teaspoon of each)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup additional heavy cream
2 Tbs. brown sugar

Combine pudding mix, half-and-half, cream, spices, and pumpkin puree in a bowl.  Whisk according to the box's directions.

Whip the other 1/2 cup of cream and the brown sugar in a bowl until it forms soft peaks.  Gently fold into the pudding mixture until combined.  Pour into cooled graham cracker crust.  Cool for several hours or overnight.  Before serving, top with leftover graham cracker crumbs from the crust.

I know, the lighting is awful.  Sorry.  It's still delicious :)

Pear and Cranberry Pie with Caramel Sauce

 A few years ago, at around this time of year, I was reading from our family's Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  A recipe caught my eye - and held it.  I ran to mom, begging her to let me make this fabulous-looking pie.  We went to the store, got the cranberries and caramel sauce, and bought red pears, because they were the ones showed in the recipe in the magazine, and were definitely the prettiest option.

I went home, made the pie, and then we took it to the family get-together.  Because we're a fairly pie-centric family, there were tons of pies.  Probably at least eight or nine varieties, and multiples of all the classics.  My poor little pie, beautiful though it was, got overlooked in favor of apple, pumpkin, and chocolate.

I persuaded some of the adults to try my pie, and they would.  They liked it, but then they would have a piece of lemon meringue and move on.  For a while, this was disheartening to me.  But at the end of the evening, as we were packing everything away, including more than 2/3 of my pie, something happened that cheered me up.  My dad mentioned pie for breakfast.

Pie for breakfast (and lunch and dinner and dessert) following Thanksgiving is another tradition of my family's.  And since I'd loved my pie, I would get to eat it all by myself, as long as I could keep others from finding out about its awesomeness.  I stashed it in the back of the fridge.

For the next week, I ate pear-cranberry pie for breakfast and snacks, bringing it out only when I was alone in the kitchen and hiding it in the back of a jam-packed refrigerator the rest of the time.  It was fabulous.

The next year, I couldn't find the recipe.  The next, I was at college and didn't even consider pear-cranberry pie-making within the abilities of a college student (I also thought that college students had to eat ramen, so I bought about ten packages of that.  They're still in my pantry, untouched.)  This year, however, I was determined to make pie.  Our roommate Thanksgiving gave me the perfect opportunity, and this was the pie I was most excited about.

I picked up the pears almost a week in advance; they were still a little unripe when I cut them, but it worked.  The cranberries were more bitter than I had been expecting - no big.  I didn't cook the caramel sauce all the way; oh well.  It came together beautifully, and I was excited to share.

The pie was a smashing success.  We invited some guys from our ward over to help us eat the five pies I'd made, and this was one of the favorites.  That was a bit disappointing for me, but I was glad that other people were finally acknowledging how delicious this pie recipe really is.  You should too!  I highly encourage you to go make this pie, and eat it, right now.  YUM.

Pear and Cranberry Pie
From Better Homes and Gardens

1 recipe unbaked pie crust
8 cups sliced red or green pears (6-8 pears, 3-3.5 lbs total)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs water
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs. caramel topping or ice cream syrup (recipe below), plus additional for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare pie crust in a deep-dish pie dish.

Arrange half of the pears (4 cups) in pie dish.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cranberries.  Arrange remaining pears on top.

Stir together 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, water, and nutmeg in a small bowl/measuring cup.  Drizzle over pears and cover pie with foil.

Bake 40 minutes.  Remove foil and sprinkle with 1 Tbs. sugar.  Bake, uncovered, an additional 30-35 minutes, or until pears are tender.  Remove from oven.

In a (very) small saucepan, combine remaining 1/2 cup of cranberries and 2 T caramel sauce.  Bring to boil and cook 1-2 minutes.  Spoon over pie.

Drizzle with additional caramel, and enjoy!

Easy Caramel Sauce
Also from Better Homes and Gardens
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup half-and-half or light cream
2 Tbs. corn syrup
1 Tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stir everything but the butter and vanilla together in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Cook and stir until boiling.  Cook 2 minutes more.*  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

*The recipe is unclear here.  I would just cook it until it's the texture you want for your caramel sauce.

Grandma's Pie Crust

The pie selection from roommate Thanksgiving.  Perhaps not as impressive as the spread at home, but I'd say that's pretty good for one person in one day.

For as long as I can remember, my family has made pies for Thanksgiving.  LOTS of pies.  We're talking 2-3 per person.  And, for as long as I can remember, we've used the same pie crust recipe, passed down from Grandma Kemper.

My dad usually made the pie crust, while my mom focused on the fillings and other parts of the Thanksgiving dinner.  We kids helped (or hindered, depending on the day), rolling out the pie crust, shaping it, cutting it, and eating it.  That was my favorite part.

"The" pie crust always got compliments.  I just took this for granted.  When I became a food-blog addict, I realized that there was a lot of controversy on the issue of pie crusts.  One day, I may experiment with other kinds.  But for right now, I'm perfectly content with my all-shortening, easy-to-handle, simple and delicious pie crust.

And just for the record, we don't judge people who measure flour by filling the measuring cup, shaking it around to settle, and then dumping it in.  It's cool.

Grandma's Pie Crust
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoons salt
3-4 Tablespoons ice water

In a mixing bowl stir together flour and salt.  Cut in shortening or lard (using a pastry cutter or fork) til pieces are the size of small peas.  Sprinkle 1 T of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork.  Push to side of bowl.  Repeat til all is moistened.

Form  dough into a ball.  On a lightly floured surface flatten dough with hands.  Roll dough from center to edge, forming a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Wrap pastry around rolling pin.  Unroll onto a 9-inch pie plate.  Ease pastry into pie plate, being careful not to stretch pastry.  

Trim to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate; fold under extra pastry.  Make a fluted, rope-shaped, or scalloped edge.  Do not prick pastry.  Bake as directed in individual recipe.

For a prebaked pie shell:
Prepare Pastry for Single-Crust Pie as above, except prick bottom and sides with the tines of a fork.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or till golden.  Cool on a wire rack.

P.S. This crust also freezes very well, whether baked or unbaked.  Just put some plastic wrap around it, maybe some foil or a gallon-sized bag if you have those (I don't, at college, but it still works), and freeze it up.  Give it maybe a few minutes to thaw before you fill it, so it's not soggy when it bakes, and then it's perfect!  

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pomegranate-Cranberry Sauce

Yesterday we had roommate Thanksgiving.  It was glorious.  There were only four of us there, one who was an old friend of Kristin and Megan's (and Stacey was sick, so she wasn't there, sad!), but we still had a blast and a half.

Kristin made rolls, peas, delicious mashed potatoes, and turkey meatballs.  She also brought Martinelli's.  It's really not a celebration unless there's Martinelli's.

I made five pies (covered in later posts, I promise!) and cranberry sauce.

The dinner spread was quite tasty.  It was a nice change from the regular Thanksgiving carb- and fat-fest (not that I don't like that, too!), with turkey meatballs and warm cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes sans gravy, rolls brushed with butter beforehand, and peas for the vegetable.  I kind of missed the stuffing and other side dishes, but as I often make side dishes for my meals, I figure I can make up for it later, not to mention on the actual day of Thanksgiving.  And the absence of those side dishes helped the meal to feel more like an actual meal, rather than a stuff-your-face-type event. 

One of the pies I made involved cranberries (later, later), and after I'd made that, I had 2/3 a bag of cranberries left over.  Since the turkey meatballs by themselves would have been rather plain, I decided to make a sauce, also using the 1/3 of a pomegranate I had in the fridge.

There were 40 minutes left until we had guests coming over to help us eat pie, and we were still hustling trying to make the dinner portion of the show.  I googled recipes for pomegranate-cranberry sauce, but they were all extremely elaborate, taking hours to cool or simmer, or calling for long lists of unlikely ingredients.  They did, however, have two things in common: they called for cloves and cinnamon, and they recommended adding the pomegranate arils (seeds) toward the end of cooking.

Armed with this information, I went googling again.  This time I was searching for fast and easy cranberry sauce recipes.  The first link I clicked was perfect.  It called for cooking, over medium heat, 2 parts cranberry + 1 part brown sugar + 1 part water until all the cranberries were popped open and the sauce was the consistency you wanted.  I adapted it, and it was wonderful.

It had a perfect balance of spice and sweet, and it was tangy with a great consistency.  Also, it was delicious over turkey meatballs. 

It even looks like there are little jewels!

Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce
2 cups cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup packed brown sugar
approx. 1/3 pomegranate's worth of seeds*
Dash of lemon juice
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves

Add cranberries, water, and brown sugar to a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring regularly to avoid inconsistent caramelization of the brown sugar.

When most of the cranberries are popped open, approximately 10-15 minutes, add your pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, and spices.  Continue to cook, approximately 5-10 minutes, until the pomegranate seeds are as soft as you want them (mine still looked like pomegranate, but they had some give to them).  Adjust seasonings, lemon juice, and water to taste.

For a thicker consistency, continue cooking until more of the water has boiled off.  For thinner, add more water.

Take off the heat and enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Instant Butternut Squash Pudding

I had about 1 cup of butternut squash left and I needed to use it up.  So I went to my handy bookmarks tab and searched....

This recipe caught my eye: butternut squash pudding.  But it was a Saturday, I'd just woken up (at noon ;), and I didn't really feel like going all-out on a pudding.  HOWEVER, I did have some packaged (I know; how can I admit that?!) vanilla instant pudding to use up.  Thus, the idea for easy butternut squash pudding was born.

I made it in about two minutes flat.  The pudding tasted, obviously, like butternut squash.  It also tasted like butterscotch.  Don't ask me why; I have no idea.  I don't even know how to describe what butterscotch tastes like.  But it was good.  I got through about half of it in one sitting.

Also, it's bright orange.  A positive thing, in my book.

Instant Butternut Squash Pudding
1 package vanilla instant pudding
1 cup milk (or substitute, as I did, 1/6 cup powdered milk and a bit less than 1 cup water)
1 cup butternut squash puree

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine!

You could also try this with vanilla cook-and-serve pudding.  Let me know if you try it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Butternut squash mac and cheese

This is what I did with the bulk of my butternut squash.  The recipe said it made four servings... I got two.  Oh well - it was healthy, right?... Right?

I couldn't believe that there were only 1.5 cups of cheese on the pasta- it tasted so cheesy, creamy, and delicious.  This recipe is easily substitutable as well - add bacon, veggies, spices, ground beef, or anything else you can think of!

Original recipe here

Butternut Squash Mac'n'cheese
2+ cups small pasta (I used whole wheat shell pasta)
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 Tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butternut squash puree*
1 1/2 cups cheese (I used sharp cheddar, but you can use anything you have on hand)
2+ Tablespoons cream, cottage, or ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of paprika

Cook your pasta according to package directions.  Make sure it's fairly al dente, so it can hold up to the cheese sauce.  Drain and set aside.

Melt butter over low heat; add flour and whisk for two minutes.  Gradually add milk, still whisking.  Pour in everything else and continue to whisk until it's all combined.  (P.S. isn't whisk a funny word?  I kind of like it :)

Add sauce to pasta and stir!

*Peel, cut up, and cook your squash however you like.  I just microwaved it until it was soft.  The recipe I linked to has more specific oven instructions, if you prefer the oven.


P.S. If I ever find my camera I will post pictures.  Until then, you'll just have to make it to see the deliciousness that is butternut squash mac and cheese.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Butternut squash puree

Hello ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere.  If you're wondering why I haven't been posting as of late, there are two answers:
1) I can't find my camera, so any food I've taken a picture of is un-uploadable, and there's a lot of food with no pictures!
2) This week has been crazy with a capital Z.  I'm not quite sure why Z, but there's a z in my name, so it seemed appropriate, somehow.

So anyways, to begin...  Last week I cut up, cubed, and cooked a butternut squash.  This was fairly simple and fast.  I will upload pictures if I ever find my camera again.  Basically, you peel the squash, cut it in half, scoop out the insides, cube (1/2 inch), and then microwave it until it's fork-tender.  You could steam, roast, or bake it, but I'm not really into spending a lot of time cooking something that you will then puree to make something else.  Weird, I know.

Anyways, I did three things with my butternut squash.  First, I used a little bit of it and scaled down pioneerwoman's butternut squash puree.  It has butter, maple syrup, and salt.  Really, how does it get any better?

If you want to make a butternut squash side dish or afternoon snack, I highly recommend following that recipe.  It's pretty yummy.  I think I undercooked the butternut squash a little bit (I probably should have roasted it for this one, like the recipe called for, but it wasn't until I had pure butternut squash puree that I finally decided what exactly I was going to make.)

More butternut squash uses coming up tomorrow!  Until then, go forth and prosper!

Pumpkin Scones

It was a Sunday night, and I wanted to bake.  I had some leftover pumpkin in the fridge, and so I opened up the "pumpkin" tab on my bookmarks and started looking.  Of the 74 pages marked pumpkin, this one caught my eye.  It looked semi-healthy, pumpkin-y, comfort food-y, and adventurous.  Once I saw the spice-filled glaze, I was hooked.  Those pumpkin brownies, pancakes, cakes, and cookies would have to wait.  

I'd never made scones before, but I don't generally let little things like inexperience get in my way.  I find that my method usually works out fairly well, and if it doesn't?  Do I need another reason to experiment with recipes?

The scones themselves were fairly bland, but with the spicy glaze on top and butterscotch chips inside, they were fabulous.  They're soft and fluffy, which was a little bit surprising to me, as I've had so many crumbly and hard scones.  They only use 1/2 a cup of pumpkin, so they're the perfect use for leftover pumpkin from making pie, rolls, truffles, bread, or cupcakes (for example...).  They also freeze very well and are quite delicious straight from the freezer.  Not that I would know.

Pumpkin Scones
Originally from here

For the scones:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or just use more all-purpose)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 cube cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (or use regular butter and omit the salt)
1/2 cup butterscotch chips; you can also use white chocolate, if you're not a butterscotch fan (you crazy)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 t vanilla

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg (I used about 1/8 t)
Dash of ginger
Dash of ground cloves
2 T milk

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a medium bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Add the cold butter chunks and cut together with a fork or pastry cutter until the largest chunks are the size of small peas.  Add butterscotch chips.  

In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.  Don't overmix or it will become tough.

Transfer the dough to a large baking sheet (greased, or use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper), and pat into an 8- to 9-inch round.  Bake about 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  

Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl.  Add milk gradually while whisking.  You can add a little bit more milk if it's not quite glazing consistency.  

Once the scones are done, allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges.  Transfer to a plate and drizzle with glaze.  (I put mine into a plastic bag with the tip cut off and then just made pretty glaze designs.)  Enjoy!  If you live with people who don't like butterscotch, rejoice!  And then freeze a few for next week.  Yum.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Roasted Avocado and Couscous Salad

Original recipe from here.

Ingredients that you might not have on hand:
1. Avocado
2. Couscous (whole wheat or otherwise)
3. Red onion

Other main players:
4. Lemon juice
5. Butter lettuce (or any other kind of greens; this is just what I had on hand)

I've had two ripening avocados in the pantry for the last week or so. I realized yesterday that I really needed to use them, stat. But it's been a cold day, so my usual avocado fallbacks didn't sound quite as appealing as usual.

That's where google came in. Although I didn't know it before, apparently roast avocados are a BIG THING on the web. And after trying them, I know why. When cooked, the avocado becomes richer and almost earthier. It still tastes fresh and avocado-y, but it has another level. I don't really know how to describe it... maybe I'll go try it again. (nom nom nom)

In case you can't see it, that's 1,090,000 results!

Picture story of cooking:

Chopped red onion.
Whole wheat couscous, garlic salt, and olive oil.
Roasted avocado.  It may not look like much, but it's gooood.
Microwaved couscous with red onions, setting up.
Butter lettuce.  And some couscous.
Pile it on.
Add some ugly deliciousness.
Drizzle on some lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.
Chop the avocado up with your fork and mix!

I didn't know that couscous could be good - all the other recipes I've tried have been dry and cakey, with a yucky texture that I just couldn't stomach. I guess I should've known that all it needed was some fat. Healthy fats, though, so I feel a little bit better. Olive oil and avocado. Yum.

The recipe was beautiful - tangy and comforting and delicious. It also took next to no time to make! Definitely a winner - I'm having this one for dinner tomorrow, too. Maybe I'll take and post some pictures then! (Update: yes, I had this two nights in a row.  Yes, I will be having it again as soon as avocados are on sale.)

Recipe, Roasted Avocado and Couscous Salad (1 serving)
1 avocado
1/4 cup couscous + about 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Red onion (about 1/8-1/4 of the onion), finely chopped
1/3 cup water
Some greens - I used about 1 cup of butter lettuce
Lemon juice (1/2 Tablespoon)
Olive oil (1/2 Tablespoon)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oven to 400. Cut your avocado in half, scoop it out, remove the core, and cut into quarters. Place center-up in a lightly-greased pan. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. I recommend using at least some garlic salt. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until the avocado starts to look a little bit golden-brown around the edges.
2. Bring the 1/3 cup of water to boil on the stove or in the microwave with a little bit of salt. Add couscous, olive oil, and red onion; cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
3. Prepare your greens on your plate or bowl. Mix lemon juice and olive oil in equal quantities in one of the measuring cups you used earlier.
4. Dump the couscous and red onion mixture on top of the greens. Add roasted avocado and drizzle with lemon-olive oil dressing. Mix it all up, preferably cutting the deliciously soft avocado into bite-size pieces with your fork, and enjoy!

First post: an introduction

As this blog's title suggests, I am a college student who procrastinates doing homework and other productive miscellany by cooking and baking.  Up until now, I've been posting recipes on my personal blog, but I decided to give the fam a break and separate food from the rest of my life.  I love to cook, and so I figured I'd have enough material for a food blog!  The only thing I'm missing is a nice camera...  So, sorry if the pictures here are a bit fuzzy.  Maybe I'll save up from the ads and, if there is enough traffic by my humble little blog, I'll earn a camera?  Here's dreaming!

The people reading this blog right now are probably the people who already know my cooking habits and likes and dislikes.  However, I will make this post an introduction of those exciting facts.

I like to cook with:
-Veggies of all types
-Healthy ingredients
-EVERYTHING!  I'm even learning to like seafood, although you probably won't see a lot of seafood on this blog, as I am on a college budget...

My favorite kitchen equipment includes:
-My immersion blender
-My silicone spatulas
-Mom's food processor (when I'm at home)
-A large selection of medium-sized knives that I use for just about everything

Silly things I do in the kitchen:
-As I cook, I nest my measuring cups inside of each other next to the sink.  I reuse them as much as I can without contaminating ingredients.
-Snitch and sample like crazy.  It has made my mom wild for years.
-Leave cupboard doors open and smack my head
-Put my laptop (with the recipe) on top of the dish rack so I can read it while I cook

Favorite cooking websites (this list grows all the time):
20somethingcupcakesAnnie's EatsBig girls, small kitchenCheeky KitchenConfections of a Foodie BrideWhat's cookin, Chicago?Joy the BakerShutterbeanSMITTEN KITCHENSugarplumPioneer WomanThe Wednesday Chef

I hope that gives a satisfactory introduction to my kitchen life.  I suspect that I'll reveal a lot more along the way...