Fall with favorites!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.

Fiery foliage and jumping into leaf piles… crisp mornings and warm spices… comfort food and oversized sweaters. I’m technically December-baby but fall in New England is my jam.  There’s nothing else quite like it.

Oh and apple picking. Can’t forget apple picking.

One apple-picking-perk? Apple crisp. There’s nothing quite like sweet and spicy warm apples topped with an super crispy, crumbly crust, right? Last weekend, I got together with a couple of my favorite people (…and can’t forget my fave pup, Pebbles!) to tackle crisp-making.

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We worked with a super simple recipe from A Family Feast that Amanda found on Pinterest – and doubled up the recipe to up all of the (20+) apples that we had.

Pebbles was super helpful with peeling…

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We had fun peeling, chopping, mixing and crumbling — and followed the recipe almost to the tee. We added more oats than it called for – and I’m glad we did. It was definitely a sweet recipe, but not TOO sweet…but it could have gone there reallllly fast. I think if I use this recipe again, I’d use less brown sugar and add more oats.

I mean…c’mon you can’t really go wrong with a buttery, sweet crust? Really buttery…like Paula-Deen-would-approve buttery.

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After 40 minutes of hanging out in the oven, it came out golden brown, bubbly and crunchy….

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Not too shabby for a Sunday night??

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….and breakfast the next morning. Whoops.

Slow cooking and getting settled

You know what? It’s been a while since I did a standard “here’s what’s going on in my life and what I’m stuffing in my face” kind of post.

Things have been crazy lately. I moved 3 weeks ago – which…in Boston…should be declared a holiday because everyone and their mom (…and dad…and siblings, friends, acquaintances…and occasionally complete strangers… willing to schlep a couch up narrow, rickety stairwells for a case or two of beer) moves on September 1…and if you’re one of the few with off-cycle lease agreements, I envy you soo, soo much. Teach me your ways.

Anyway, the day is filled with joyous things like parking bans, families getting on each other’s nerves, thousands of inexperienced UHaul drivers, at least one box truck getting stuck under a bridge on Storrow Drive…oh, and “Allston Christmas” (as it’s been dubbed). Can’t forget “Allston Christmas.”  Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 8.31.00 AM

I’m still getting settled – working full time makes it a little difficult to just get settled immediately. I’m still working on getting a dresser. My clothing situation is a little…disorganized….but you can be certain that after having a bed to sleep in…priorty numero uno was my (lil) kitchen. And yes, it’s the same little kitchen I baked and blogged out of more than 2 years ago!

At least the fridge is full!

At least the fridge is full!

After a couple months of relative chaos, it’s nice to start to feel more grounded and settled. Slowly getting back into the swing of things, and one of my to-do’s is get back in my kitchen more. I’ve eaten way too many microwavable or take-out meals since August…and I can feel it.

Last week, I saw a Moroccan-style slow-cooker recipe from Jenna @ Eat, Live, Run – and I knew it would be my project during the weekend. I was supposed to go to this yoga thing in the North End…but that got derailed when I pulled something in my shoulder and basically spent Saturday crying on the floor. Dramatics aside, it actually was pretty bad. Moving and breathing were not exactly easy. So when staying in and cooking became my only option…I slowly got myself (read: hobbled) to the grocery store for some missing ingredients and got to slow-cooking.

This is a really simply stew – chock full of veggies, lentils, chickpeas and great warm spices — a perfect fall dish. Plus, I’m a fan of anything I can slow-cook.

I’ll be honest; Jenna has this go on low for like 9 hours. While, I basically followed that timeline (I mean it is slow cooking after all), if you’re not headed to work or bed and or would just rather eat sooner rather than later – I don’t see the harm in cranking it to high and shortening the cook time. It is veggies after all so you won’t be annihilating any protein and ending up with hockey pucks floating in stock.

I mean, just look at all that veggie goodness — butternuts squash, zucchini, yellow and red peppers, onions, tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas…it’s just a powerhouse dish. Plus, since I live solo – I love making anything that I can make a ton of and re-heat easily, aaaand stews have the added bonus of just getting better as they sit!

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I’ve been digging into this for a better part of a week now. I’ll definitely make again…maybe incorporated different, seasonal ingredients as fall pushes on.

What’s your go-to dish once the temps dip a little bit?

 

Mama, May I?

My goodness – it’s been quite a while. …I know, I know – I start every.single.post. in pretty much the same manner, as of late.

While I might not be blogging as often – the blogosphere is not far from my mind…and food is – most definitely – not far from my mouth.

I had been resisting the urge to get into the *holiday* spirit…I always feel bad for Thanksgiving…it’s that middle child – and between Halloween and Christmas, the kings of the “gimme, gimme” holidays, it often gets overlooked.

Not by me. I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving! Dare I say it is my favorite one?

  • One. Any holiday based on consuming copious amounts of comfort food is A-okay in my book.
  • Two. I love spending time with my family – catching up, watching football and just been bums.
  • …and Three. It’s just great to be with family – solely for the reason that you want to be together…no gift giving/receiving…it’s based on being selfless..not selfish.

My tree and decorations won’t be up until December – but I don’t think that Thanksgiving would mind if I love on some holiday flavors…like eggnog…and gingerbread.

Speaking of gingerbread…. I’ve had my eye on Mama Pea’s Pumpkin Molasses Cookie Dough Balls …. Basically, all of her little cookie concoctions have been on my “to make ASAP” list…and the gingerbread-y flavors of the pumpkin molasses cookies finally got me baking.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookie Dough Balls

adapted from Mama Pea

Makes 24  30 dough balls — I used a Tablespoon to scoop & got 30 cookies out of this batch

  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 c. unbleached organic flour  — I used regular all-purpose
  • 1 T. ginger
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/3 c. vegan margarine (i.e. Earth Balance) — I used margarine…but it wasn’t vegan
  • 2/3 c. canned pumpkin
  • 2/3 c. organic sugar + additional 1/4 c. for rolling — I used what I had left of natural sugar and then the rest – just plain ole granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. molasses

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  • Using an electric or stand mixer, cream together margarine, pumpkin, 2/3 c. sugar and molasses.
  • Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, mixing until a dough comes together.
  • Chill dough for 30 minutes or more. When dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees and pour remaining sugar into a shallow bowl.
  • Scoop dough into balls and roll until smooth.
  • Roll each ball sugar until completely covered.
  • Transfer dough to a cookie sheet and continue until sheet is filled.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should be set, but still a bit doughy. (I needed the full 10)
  • Allow cookies to cool on the pan for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Loved these. 

My favorite part of these lil’ beauties is definitely the texture…doughy but still light and fluffy.

I might play with the amount of molasses in these the next time I make them…they’re great as is – but I’m a huge fan of that molasses/gingerbread flavor and wouldn’t mind punching it up maybe a notch or two.

However – if you’re craving gingerbread…

go.

make these.

now. 

High Turnover

Ahh – turnovers.

They are one dessert that really brings back memories of my grandmother and summers at the beach.

She would always show up to every family gathering with a huuge box, filled with delicious raspberry turnovers.

I remember peeking at them before dinner just to see how many she’d brought…to see how quickly I’d have to act to secure one for myself. …seriously, you had to have a gameplan..those things would be gone in seconds!

The other day I was suddenly hit with the desire to make some of those beauties…perhaps as a way to cling on to the last days of summer…or maybe to celebrate the fact that I can heat my oven to 400 degrees without fear of turning my house into a sauna.

Either way, I decided to make some apple-raspberry turnovers – a perfect combo of berries (in jam form) and tart apples. Mmm, mmm good.

All you need? A granny smith apple – diced, 2 Tbsp of raspberry jam, a little bit of lemon zest (my addition, optional)…and voila you have a pretty stellar turnover filling. I forgot to add the cornstarch…the filling was fine without it. Tuck the filling into 6 squares of rolled out puff pastry and you’ll be in heaven.

Seriously…so good.

400 degrees and twenty minutes later…

Perfection.

They’re light, fluffy, buttery, crispy, sweet and tart simultaneously.

Breakfast tomorrow?

Probably.

Spicyyy

Hello, hello, loves! It’s been a rainy Tuesday – but I’m not complaining. The rain has washed away a lot of the crud that has been in the air. Yesterday, my head was just overwhelmed by whatever was airborn and I spent most of the day on in the couch with a cold press over my eyes.

Allergies. Lame.

Luckily, today I woke up feeling fully refreshed and got my butt moving with week 2 of my running schedule. I had a great run – and it feels fantastic to be constantly challenging myself physically.

The few little raindrops that fell during my run were more than welcome.

Now, though the weather was dreary, my mind was on a particularly spunky little treat:

Jalapeno Poppers. 

Specifically, cream cheese poppers. Yum.

The only draw back of these little spicy nuggets is that they are usually fried LOADED with fat, calories… you know the drill.

I stumbled upon a Weight Watchers recipe for a more figure friendly version, and it didn’t take long for me to peruse my fridge and assemble my own popper recipe.

My recipe?

Filling (just mix ’em all thoroughly):

  • 1/4 cup neufchatel cheese, room temp
  • 2.5 tablespoons grated Parmesan/Romano blend
  • Cracked pepper to taste
Halve and take the seeds and veins out of 3 (that’s just the number I had) jalapenos. Fill the cavity of each pepper half with the cheese filling. Coat each stuffed pepper in egg white and then shake in a bag of crushed plain/non-sweet cereal (corn flakes, Total, Fiber One, etc).
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.
Dive in.
Dare I say that I like these better than the deep fried version? Truth.

Pretty Delicious

Ahh – so the baking bug has set in again . I really like cooking, but truly my passion lies with baked goods. haha Sugar and carbs? Yes.  Surprised? You shouldn’t be. 🙂

Months ago, I purchased Pretty Delicious, a cookbook by former Top Chef contestant Candice Kumai, and I’ll be honest I wanted it when I looked at the cover. I’m a sucker for a great foodie photo.

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As per my previous confession, my cookbook addiction just wouldn’t let me walk away from it, but I had yet to make anything from it.

Today, I set out to change that, and Candice’s recipe for Baby Blue Babycakes was calling to me. The recipe, which is a decently healthy (aka not terrible for you: approx 135 cals for a mini-muffin!) twist on your average blueberry muffin, just seemed like a great summery treat. The twist is the addition of both lime zest and juice – plus a little coconut! YUM.

Babycakes Recipe (yields 24 mini cakes):

Cake 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp grated lime zest (about 4 limes) …there may have been a zesting-related injury in this step… damn box grater.. Oh, and I’m sure using lemons would be equally as delicious
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (this came out to be 1 lime’s worth for me)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (I used Maine bloobs – smaller and sweeter, delish)
Combine all dry ingredients (flour, zest, salt, baking powder), whisk them and set aside. Combine buttermilk, Greek yogurt, lime juice and vanilla in a separate bowl.  Separately (largest bowl – I used my KitchenAid here), cream together butter and sugar and then add eggs – mix to combine.  Then alternate dry and wet ingredients while mixer is set to low speed (took me 3 additions). Scrape bowl and then fold in blueberries with spatula. Spoon into cupcake cups – bake at 375 for approximately 15 minutes.
Lacking a mini-muffin tin, I simply made them normal sized -which yielded 12 cakes. They took approximately 20 minutes. 

Icing

  • 1 cup of confectioners sugar (I ended up using a little less)
  • 1 Tbsp grated lime zest
  • 1.5 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk or buttermilk (I used buttermilk)
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Once cakes are cool, combine sugar, zest, lime juice, and milk to a good consistency (I chose to make mine thin…more soaking into the cake rather than just sitting on top, and added some coconut to the actual glaze). Dip into coconut.

LOVED the combo of lime and blueberries. Never would have thought to do it, but, man, it’s so good. It adds this summery punch of freshness to both the cake and icing, making a seemingly average blueberry muffin, anything but. Plus, coconut?

You had me at hello.

Pretty delicious? Definitely.

Maiden Voyage

Ahh so I’ve been enjoying some time at my mom’s house – and in her larger kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little kitchen and have cranked out some good stuff in there…but sometimes, it’s nice to have a bit more elbow room. 🙂

It’s been nice to relax, too – I’ve been speeding through books like nobodies business. I kind of want to join a book club (nerdy much?)…but seriously, an excuse to read good stuff, drink and socialize?? Perfection.

Regardless of how much I think that I’m relax ing- we have a TRUE relaxation pro in this house…

…and her name is Shadow.

Weeee – look, Jil, no handssss!

While Shadow was hard at work absorbing Vitamin D – I set out to give my stand mixer its maiden voyage. We’ve decided that since I’m moving in only a couple of months, that it’s not worth the haul to bring it down to the city – so for now, it resides with mi madre.

So – I thought…and thought…about what the first mixer munchies should be… the answer involved egg whites and sugar…

This is a lie – powdered sugar was replaced with granulated in the end. 🙂

One of my favorite food memories growing up was my grandmother’s meringues – specifically meringues smothered in her hot fudge and some vanilla bean ice cream.

Meringues it was.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (we didn’t have any and after research, I replaced it with the equal amount of lemon juice)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

And she’s off! – in poor lighting…-

Soon, I was witnessing glossy, glorious meringue.

Batter was divided – awkwardly as there was no parchment in the house so I settled on at least attempting the silicone muffin molds….in retrospect, I should have flipped it and heaped meringue on top of each inverted cup. Regardless…

250 degrees for one hour and then turn off the oven and just let them sit for 3-4 hours. I made these pretty late last night – so I just put them in for the hour and then turned off the oven and went to bed.

Worked out pretty well!

Made lil’ nests, too – though I wish I could’ve piped them. Next time. Next time.

All in all the flavor’s there, the texture’s there – now it’s just about the finesse.

Practice makes perfect. 🙂