Friday, October 18, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

Well hello, there. I've been absent a while, huh? Life has been... well, life. My husband was deployed, so I more or less stopped cooking. Because really? Cooking for one sucks. I baked a lot of things into Mason jars to send to him, but they were all recipes I've posted before (FYI the Guinness chocolate cake, apple crisp, and bourbon pumpkin pie all work quite well in Mason jars). [Side note: baking in Mason jars is essentially like baking cupcakes. Grease the inside before hand, fill about halfway, bake for the same time your recipe says. The big difference: as soon as your jars come out of the oven, screw on the lids to finger-tight and allow them to cool. The lids will "pop" as they cool, creating a nice seal.]

So now my husband is home (hooray!) and I'm finishing writing my Ph.D. dissertation and getting ready to move out of state. We've been keeping busy; mostly re-furbishing some old furniture. First, we had some chairs that my husband rescued from his great grandparents' long ago. Those were sanded down, spray painted (Rustoleum nutmeg), and given a coat of Martha Stewart metallic glaze in coffee. We liked the effect so much that we continued on, repeating the process on the legs of our coffee table and on my nightstand. We found the coffee table in the parking garage a few years ago, waited until it had been there about 8 hours, and called it ours. Last year we spent quite a bit of time collecting wine labels to decoupage onto the tabletop. It turned out great! But it was still missing something: enter the coffee glaze! The nightstand was a Craigslist find that my husband did a fantastic job building in a shelf and adding a drawer, then painting sky blue. It was pretty but... it no longer matches the bedroom furniture, and the paint and sealant combination we used was still sticky, almost 5 years later. So spray paint and glaze to the rescue! I'm thrilled with how all of our furniture turned out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins

Also known as Apple Cinnamon Pumpkin Raisin Muffins. But that's a bit of a mouthful.

It's fall, which means it's pumpkin-everything season. And I looooove pumpkin. And cinnamon. I could probably live on pumpkin pie, if it would actually sustain me. I also have my first marathon coming up next weekend (Marine Corps Marathon! I'm so excited!) and have been trying to figure out some healthy ways to carbo load and also get some protein in leading up to this race. Enter: healthy pumpkin muffins.

These muffins, to me, capture everything that is fall. Apples. Apple cider. Pumpkin. Pumpkin spice. Warm, hearty food. These muffins are also, quite possibly, the moistest muffins I've ever had. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

I'm back! I've been cooking up a storm, lately. Although most of what I've been making has been nothing new, or nothing blog-worthy (hi, hard boiled eggs!). There's been quite a bit of stress in my life lately and, apparently, my go-to stress relief is to cook.

I'm not usually a chicken-eater after some bad experiences with chicken as a kid. But, my husband generally prefers chicken over red meat, and it's cheaper than other meats, so I've been trying to learn to like it and find some new chicken recipes. Because I can't just eat fried chicken all the time (although my husband DOES make a mean fried chicken). So, for some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to make chicken noodle soup. And because I had never made it before... I wanted to write my own recipe. Of course.

The chicken noodle soup I'm used to has hunks of chicken, celery and carrots. But it's sweet potato season, so I used sweet potatoes instead of carrots. You can do either one, although I think the sweet potatoes worked just fine. If you choose to do carrots instead, toss them in when you brown the onions, shallots, and celery. Also, I used chicken tenderloins because they were available in my freezer. Chicken breast may work better--the de-fatted tenderloins I had ended up a bit tough in my soup.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Venison Chili

I think I've mentioned this before on this blog, but I didn't really grow up eating beef. The main source of red meat in our house was venison, from my dad's frequent hunting trips with his best friend "Give me some nose" Greg. Every fall, shortly after the school year started, our front yard would suddenly sprout a foam target and evenings would often see my dad standing in the driveway target practicing with his bow and arrows. He's a pretty good shot. What this meant for our family, though, was that we rarely were without good, fresh hormone-free, free-range venison; the original organic red meat. Maybe this is partly why I connect so well with Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

German spiced wine

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten! A few years ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend three weeks of December in Munich to learn German and visit some friends. I'd previously been to Germany in June, which is gorgeous, but Germany at Christmastime is just magical. Everywhere you look, there are fairy lights, Christmas trees, and most importantly: Weihnachtsmaerkte (Christmas markets).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Double-Layer Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

Life has so gotten in the way lately. Graduate school, plus getting married a month ago, has really put me off cooking. We haven't done much lately. But now that it's the holidays, I'm back in the cooking mood.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our apartment this year. So, the turkey took 2 hours longer to cook than I originally thought it would. We had sangria, we had friends, and we had appetizers. And the turkey turned out really damn good (for the record, we stuffed it with quartered onion, green apples and buttered croissants, then rubbed a mixture of butter, rosemary seasoning mix and garlic under the skin, and placed a whole bunch of lemon quarters around the turkey in the pan and covered it with foil sprayed with cooking spray and DIDN'T baste. The stuffing and foil/cooking spray were my mom's instructions, we added the rest. Next time, I think we'll squeeze the lemons out over the turkey first.)

But the real show-stopper was my pie. Or at least, I thought it was the pie. I'm obsessed with pumpkin. My family knows that if anything is labeled "pumpkin flavored" or "pumpkin pie spice" I'm on it like frosting on a cupcake. So I'm pretty good at making a standard pumpkin pie. That's not what this is. I will admit that I can't take credit for the idea. Nor can I take credit for the individual recipes. I CAN take credit for combining these particular recipes into one phenomenal pie. I had something similar at a fundraiser in college and it's been sitting in the back of my mind for the four years since, and I finally decided to do something about it. So here's what ensued:

Double-layer Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

I usually don't like cheesecake, but when combined with the yummy spicy goodness of pumpkin pie and pumpkin spices, I'll eat just about anything. You'll need just one 16-oz can for the whole pie, and I recommend using a deep-dish 9-inch pie crust (sorry, I can't recommend a good recipe because I'm terrible at pie crust. We just use the Pilsbury pre-made crusts).

For the cheesecake
1/2 cup (1/2 can) pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 2/3 T brown sugar
2 t heavy cream
1/3 t vanilla
1/2 T bourbon (optional; you could also probably add up to 1 T)
2 2/3 T white sugar
1 t cornstarch
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/8 t salt
8 oz cream cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and bourbon, set aside. In a large bowl, stir together white sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Add the cream cheese and beat on high until creamy and smooth (about 3 minutes). Reduce the speed to medium and add the pumpkin mixture, until thoroughly mixed. Fill a pie crust about halfway with the cheesecake filling (you will probably have some cheesecake left over). Place the half-filled pie in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the cheesecake to firm up before pouring the pumpkin pie filling on top. While the cheesecake is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 F then make the pumpkin pie filling:

For the pumpkin pie filling:
6 T white sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup (1/2 can) pumpkin puree
6 fl. oz. Evaporated milk
1 T bourbon (optional)

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg then stir in the pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture, followed by the evaporated milk. Gently pour this mixture over your cooled/firmed cheesecake filling until the pie crust is full. Again, you may have some filling left over. Bake the pie at 350 F for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean (some of the cheesecake will stick to the knife, but the knife should not be coated in pie).

The cheesecake recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake and the pumpkin pie filling is adapted from the recipe on the back of the Libby's pumpkin puree can. In place of the individual spices in each filling, you could substitute 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, but it will change the flavor a little bit because it's a different ratio. I prefer to use spices individually to make it easier to tweak, but if you have pumpkin pie spice and that's what you like, then go for it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I swear I haven't forgotten about my readers. I promise. I have a recipe in the works, but want to test it again before I post it.