Carrot-Ginger Popsicles

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There is something exceptionally soul-satisfying when a recipe you make up turns out as good as you think it will. This, friends, is one of those recipes.

Full disclosure: it’s not technically my recipe – the ingredients & directions come courtesy of this April’s Bon Appetit – but the idea? THAT’S all mine. That, and as usual, I “doctored” the recipe as made necessary by what was in my fridge and my own screw-up ingenuity.

I realize these may sound a little crunchy-granola-meets-overly-enthused-food-snob BUT I promise you that they are delicious, worth it, and really, really easy. Like, make-them-with-your-kids easy.

The base of this recipe is actually from this restaurant, and it’s served as a drink straight up. I learned to love carrot juice when I lived in Florence (where else?), where I became mildly obsessed with mixing a carrot-orange-lemon juice with sparkling water. I’ve yet to see that mixture in the States (at least bottled commercially), but this recipe comes pretty darn close and has the brilliant addition of ginger – the spiciness combined with the sweet carrots & tart citrus is definitely thirst-quenching.

The minute I saw this, I thought one thing and one thing only: epic. popsicles. And they are.

IMG_4704You can use popsicle molds – I bought those for 4 bucks at Bed Bath & Beyond – or you can pour them into ice cube trays or muffin tins/cups to use in cocktails and/or smoothies.

 

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You’ll need:

  • small saucepan
  • fine sieve (if you have it – I didn’t)
  • small-medium pitcher – something you can mix in & easily pour out of
  • popsicle molds/ice cube tray/muffin tin or liners
  • 1/3 c. raw sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. carrot juice (I bought bottled, but if you want to go the extra mile and make fresh, more power to you!)
  • 1/4 c. fresh lime juice*

*The original recipe calls for half a cup. I only had half a lime and half a lemon in my fridge which combined got me to 1/4 cup, but I found the results plenty citrusy. Your call.

In the saucepan, bring the sugar + ginger + 1/3. c water to a boil. Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes to steep.

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(I accidentally used 1/2 c. water so I think mine ended up a little less concentrated than desirable. Oh well.)

While you’re waiting, you can juice your limes. As I mentioned, I also used lemon because I didn’t have enough lime juice, and I really liked the outcome! Mix in your 1 c. (8 oz) of carrot juice.

If you have a sieve, you can use it to strain the ginger syrup into the carrot + citrus mixture. I did not, so I went old school and just poured it straight from the pot, using my spoon to keep out the ginger.

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Give it a stir and fill your popsicle molds.

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I had some left over, so I used my silicon muffin liners to make ice cubes to throw into smoothies or mocktails.

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Freeze & eat, preferably on a warm summer evening on a porch somewhere.

Now, about that ginger…

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I promise it’s not mango!

You can, if you wish, throw it in the trash compost. BUT, I’m not really a fan of tossing out perfectly usable/edible food. You can eat them plain – they’re a little sweet from the sugar, a little tough, and a lot spicy, but it’s a fabulous post-meal-chew (ginger is a great digestion aid). Or you could do what I did – throw them into some banana-oat muffins or other baked good for an extra kick. I used this recipe and just added them in like you would chocolate chips, dried fruit, etc. I imagine it would also work in oatmeal/hot cereal, especially overnight (it will still be relatively tough/fibrous, so if you’re extra sensitive to textures, that might be a good option to let it soften). Or come up with a brilliant idea of your own – and then tell me about it. Of course.\

CHEERS!

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A Few of My Favorite Things II

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I think that above quote sums up most of it quite nicely. There has been a lot of questioning, and a fair amount of crying.

When these moods happen upon me, which they do more often than I’d like, I tend to turn my focus to the things that make me happiest. Things like…

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Ice cream cones.

There’s just something about the cone experience, I tell ya – cups just don’t do the trick.

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Summer in a glass.

I bought a mini blender for 15 bucks and use it almost every day. This creation was particularly excellent.

Blend: one small fresh nectarine, about half a frozen banana (~60 g), a handful of chopped frozen mango (70g), and 5 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Sip in the sun with a magazine.

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Highly entertaining Stop signs.

delicious dinners

Really delicious, seasonal-vegetable-focused dinners.

Apparently my cooking skills improve ten-fold when I’m having a tougher go of it. My dinners this week were BOMB.

Recipes for dishes from left to right:

1. Sautee 1/4-1/2 chopped onion in oil. Add in greens (I used kale + spinach) and a teaspoon of tamari. Top with half of a mashed avocado and protein of your choice. Eat with chopsticks!

2. Brown some garlic in a small amount of cooking oil in a pan. Add in sliced summer squash and fresh tomato and stir fry until the squash is slightly translucent. Add baby shrimp and some chopped fresh basil; stir til heated through. Serve with more fresh basil, mashed avocado, and a healthy squeeze of lemon. A fresh baguette with good olive oil is highly encouraged.

3. Heat garlic and cooking oil in a pan; add veggies and some black beans and cook til the beans soften and make the mix a little creamy. Add a dash of soy sauce and a little lemon juice. Top with fresh herbs (basil!) and parmesan cheese, and drizzle with some good olive oil. This one was my favorite, I think!

And…

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The creation of a new recipe, all (well, mostly) by myself. Stay tuned for this one – it’s definitely cookbook-worthy!

What things get you through a bad day?

Creep In the New Year

No one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.

– William Hazlitt

No offense to Mr. Hazlitt, but I recently approached perfection – with a great deal of stealth – and was perfectly aware of it. It was, of course, in the form of a cookie.

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As you may recall, I attended my very first cookie swap on a very cold and blustery evening in December and was introduced to Ninjabread. That’s right – carbs and frosting, in stealth-mode. How could anyone resist such a combination?

Well, my [very smart] brother knew that if I owned this killer cookie cutter set, there would be plenty o’ cookies for him to devour. I am always looking for an excuse to bake something. These cookie cutters are probably the best excuse. Ever.

[Photo source]

So when my best friend decided to visit me before leaving for South Africa with the Peace Corps (I have really cool friends), I knew exactly what would be on the agenda. Museums and historical tours are nice and all but…come on, people. Ninjabread. How is that not a win.

For the actual cookies, I eschewed the recipe on the box – comical though its instruction is (“Add molasses and stir into the night,” etc.), the girl who made them for the cookie swap used the recipe and I felt like it could use a little improving upon, so I turned to someone who I’m convinced has some of the best cookie & brownie recipes on the web: Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. Her Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cookie recipe has been on my to-try list for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity to do just that. I halved it and had to alter it a bit here and there, but I think I have a go-to gingerbread cookie recipe from now on. Even without frosting, these cookies were drop-kick delicious. But you should add frosting because…well, because most things are improved with a little buttercream. You know it’s true.

Ninjabread Men

…you really can’t catch them.

Makes about 2 dozen

You’ll need:

1/3 c. molasses

1/3 c. dark brown sugar

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 [heaping] tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

a couple grinds of pepper

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

1 egg, beaten slightly

1 stick butter

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. For super-easy cleaning, I recommend covering a pan with foil and then with parchment paper. I’m kind of on a parchment-paper kick at the moment. It is so incredibly useful.

In a large cast-iron skillet, combine the molasses, brown sugar, vanilla and spices. Bring to boil and let boil for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring every so often. It will smell amazing.

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While you wait for it to boil, combine the flour and salt in a small-medium bowl.

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When the molasses mixture is ready, take it off the heat. Add the baking soda and stir well.

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It looks gross in pictures, but it’s actually really cool and mousse-like!

Add the butter a chunk at a time, stirring each until it’s melted.

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It will be very drippy & look like melted chocolate.

Add the egg and stir well.

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Really looks like brownie batter!

Add in the flour/salt mix. I had to add quite a bit extra to get the dough to stiffen enough to be cookie-cutter ready, so keep your flour on hand. (I have accounted for that in the ingredients list, but I’m not 100% sure exactly how much I used; just add it by the tablespoon until it looks like it will hold its shape in the cookie cutter.)

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Roll it out onto a floured surface and cut away! The thinner you roll it out, the closer to the pictures on the box the cookies will be. In other words, they do expand quite a bit while they bake. I actually preferred the larger ones, even if they weren’t as perfect-looking, for their softer texture. The thinner ones were a little more crisp.

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Bake them for about 12 minutes. Let them cool well before frosting.

Oh, and don’t try checking in the oven to see if they’re fighting each other – they’re way too fast to be caught.

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They are very easy to separate if you cut them away from each other right when you take them out. Just fyi.

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That flat cookie over there became a boulder. Because, you know, near all ninjas is a boulder. At least, all the ones in PHOTO SHOOTS.

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Oh SNAP, that one lost his arm to the boulder!

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*ACTION SHOT* That one can flip!

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Hi-YAH!

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Hiiiiii-YAAAAH!!!

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These ninjas really kick ass. Even the, um, special ones…

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Harry Potter ninja? [My attempt at a mask. Fail.]

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Those eye-lashes are not particularly stealthy….just sayin’.

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Aaaand…a couple astronauts? That frosting dried really quickly and we decided to just leave them blue.

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You do have to watch them though, because they will sneak off to various places in your house…

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Eat them quick – while you still know where they are.

Tis The Season

Cookies are made of butter and love.

– Norwegian proverb

Have you ever been to a cookie swap?

I hadn’t before this weekend. But the idea of an entire event, the sole purpose of which is giving and receiving an array of different kinds of cookies just sounds like a good idea.

A really good idea.

So when I was invited to the 1st Annual Vintage Cookie Swap by my internship director and fellow food blogger of The Vintage Eats Project (you should really check it out!), it was kind of a no-brainer.

And lucky for me, I just recently came into ownership of a small stack of very vintage cookbooks. Fyi, should you ever need Mrs. Eugene G., Jr.’s recipe for Prune Cake from the Junior League of Maine’s cookbook – call me. I’ll hook you up.

After some great deliberation, I finally settled on Mrs. William H. Guernsey’s Molasses Cookies from the Three Rivers Cookbook (I).

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They seemed simple enough, I had all the ingredients on hand, and that “Very good” – well, that just sealed the deal.

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And so on a very, very cold Saturday at the chocolate tarte in Somerville, a cookie feast – and many a sugar coma – ensued. There were lemon drops with homemade lemon curd, chocolate Reeses cookies, and Austrian rumballs. Mine were the 2nd tin of molasses-rich goodies to appear, but they were very different. Gingerbread is, of course, a given and I am most certainly getting my hands on that recipe (made by Madame Vintage Eats herself) – but I’d be lying if I told you my favorite weren’t the Ninjabread Men.

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I’m sorry, but sometimes it is concept over all else. And what’s more, apparently even the recipe directs one to “sneak out of the night to preheat to 350” and “stealthily roll out the dough.” This is a brainstorm done very, very well. I need these.

I was, however, also a big fan of the Apricot Jumbles – butter, coconut, apricots, eggs, and whatever nut you choose. This particular baker chose walnuts and I would find it difficult to go in another direction because these were delicious. And very unique!

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As for my couple dozen? A definite keeper. I would highly recommend this recipe. In fact, I will probably be making more this weekend. Tis the season, after all.

Molasses Cookies

slightly adapted from the Three Rivers Cookbook I

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

You’ll need:

  • cookie sheet, nonstick spray
  • 3/4 stick Imperial margarine, softened
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 c. + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (sifted, if you’re able)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 (heaping) tsp. cinnamon
  • raw sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.

2. Cream the margarine – I did this by hand quite easily, but it did make them a bit more rustic than I’m sure Mrs. Guernsey preferred.

Note: The recipe originally called for shortening but did give the option for margarine. I use Imperial margarine because it’s what my grandmother uses, and what my mother taught me to use. I know it’s not technically “real food” – but a little hydrogenization here and there really won’t kill you. I’ve eaten enough cookie dough to know from experience.

3. Add the sugar, then the egg, and then the molasses. No special order – just leave the dry last.

4. Add your flour and spices. I would have sifted if all 3 of my sifters weren’t currently out of commission, but alas, it wasn’t to be. So whether you are sifterless or just lazy…they will still turn out fine. Rustic.

5. Drop the batter into teaspoon-sized balls onto the nonstickified cookie sheet and try to leave as much space in between them as possible. See pictures below. (I used an actual teaspoon to do this.)

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6. Bake cookies for 6 minutes – they won’t be done yet, but take them out and sprinkle a bit of raw sugar on top for a nice little crunch. Return them to the oven for 3 more minutes – these babies bake fast.

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7. Let them cool for a good while before placing them into an adorable little cookie tin and going merrily on your cookie-swapping way!

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I have halved this recipe because baking 5 dozen cookies seemed slightly excessive – but if you double it, don’t add an extra egg. The full recipe calls for one egg but it doesn’t really work to use “half an egg” when one halves a recipe; the different is very slight.

These may not be the prettiest cookies, but in my world, this is not the season to focus on a cookie’s outward appearance so much as their sweet, soft and spicy souls.

And tomorrow I begin my 12 Days of Christmas Blogging – curious? Stay tuned.

Lady Cheeks & Pumpkin Tiramisu

As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration.

– Laura Nyro

A few Turkey Days ago, my family and I celebrated at a friend’s house. The meal was wonderful, of course, but mostly I remember the dessert table. There were pies and cakes, chocolate and pumpkin and everything in between. My sweet tooth was in absolute bliss. But the one thing that I knew I had to adopt for my own immediately was a pumpkin gingerbread trifle. Layers of fluffy pumpkin mousse and thick, rich hunks of gingerbread under a mountain of whipped cream won my baker’s heart faster than I could lick the spoon. And it has been a personal holiday tradition ever since.

So this year, I of course planned to make it for Thanksgiving because no holiday season will ever be complete without it again. But for a variety of reasons, too much of my year has been spent feeling like I’m going nowhere. In a rut I couldn’t see how to dig myself out of. I needed some kind of shift. I needed to feel free to explore, to do something new, and to not care what others thought about it.

Then I found this recipe for pumpkin tiramisu. Inspiration, indeed.

In the case that you do not:

  • lack any kind of social life
  • have a plethora of time on your hands
  • have an insane desire to make absolutely everything from scratch
  • or all of the above,

I will give you the pumpkin tiramisu recipe in its entirety before explaining the lady fingers cheeks extravaganza. I’m still very happy I made them from scratch; I’m just thinking that realistically, normal human beings who don’t plan out entire weekends around baked goods may prefer to use the store-bought lady fingers. Even if they are considerably lacking in the charm and, more importantly, leftovers that my little lovelies had.

Pumpkin Tiramisu

gently adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe

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You will need:

  • springform pie pan
  • wax paper
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 c) whipping cream
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
    • for all you New Englanders, may I recommend Vermont Creamery’s? Local is love!
  • 15 oz pure pumpkin (canned is fine!)
  • 1/2 tsp each of ginger & cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each of cloves & nutmeg
  • 6 oz ladyfingers (recipe to follow)
  • 4 – 6 Tbs rum
  • 2 oz crumbled amaretti cookies

And no, I did not make the amaretti from scratch. I’m crazy, not suicidal. [Amaretti are delicious little Italian almond cookies; see my very first encounter with them here in my cooking class in Florence!]

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1. Line the bottom of your pie pan with the wax paper. I did it by opening up the pan, placing the paper over the bottom sheet, then re-springing(?) the pan back together. Use a sharp knife to cut the wax paper around the edges.

2. Crowd the bottom of the pan with ladyfingers and sprinkle generously with rum. The original called for 4 Tbs for both layers…I’m pretty sure I went well over that. And I would do it all over again.

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3. Beat the whipping cream with the sugar until it is…um, whipped cream.

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4. Add the pumpkin, marscapone, and spices; I highly recommend freshly grated nutmeg. No need to measure, just whip out your microplane and grate a little into the mix.

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5. Mix well.

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6. Spread half of the pumpkin mixture over the fingers; repeat the layering once more (ladyfingers>rum>pumpkin.)

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7. Grate a little extra fresh nutmeg over the top for a lovely scent & speckled look.

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8. Let set for several hours – overnight is best.

9. Just before serving, crush the amaretti and sprinkle them over the top.

10. Eat your pumpkin-lovin’ heart out.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It is, especially the eating part. I highly recommend this recipe, as I would most that involve mascarpone cheese.

As for the ladyfingers, I found this recipe from The Cupcake Project about a year ago and have been enamored of the idea of making scratch tiramisu ever since. No better time than Turkey Day, right?

Just nod.

Ladyfingers Cheeks

Makes enough to keep you from making them again for a solid few months

So, as you may or may not now, traditional ladyfingers are made by piping the batter into a long finger-like shape and then baked – I know, control your shock.

I am always looking for ways to decrease dish pile-up and general mess while baking. This recipe, which is actually for tiramisu cupcakes, makes the cookies in the bottom of muffin tins because they are the base of the cupcake. I liked this idea, because it seemed a lot easier than modeling a pastry bag out of a Ziploc (I’ve done it before, and I’m not a fan). I decided to use mini muffin tins, and thus, ladycheeks were born.

So let’s do this.

You will need:

  • 3 bowls (two large, one small)
  • nonstick spray
  • mini muffin tins
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 c. + 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder**

**Note: I was in the process of reading a lot of recipes before making these and used more than double the amount of baking powder by accident. It really didn’t change the flavor, though I can’t speak to what the exact texture should be. Let me know if you make them!

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Separate your egg yolks and whites.

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Make sure there is NO YOLK in your whites, or they won’t beat up right. (That yellowy spot you see in the whites isn’t yolk, just an extra dense glob.)

Also, I recommend separating at least your whites, if not your yolks, in a separate prep bowl before you put them in the large mixing bowl to make sure no shards of shell get in. There’s nothing ladylike about uncalled-for crunching.

3. Beat egg whites with an electric beater (unless, of course, you have Hulk-like capabilities) until they form “soft” peaks.

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I love this part.

4. Add 2 Tbs sugar, then continue to beat until you have “stiff” peaks and the mix is glossy.

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5. In your other bowl, beat the yolks, 2/3 c. sugar, and vanilla together until thick and pale.

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6. In the smaller bowl, whisk the flour, spices and baking powder together.

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7. Fold half the egg white mix into the yolk mix (don’t beat).

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8. Fold in the flour.

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9. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.

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10. Spray the muffin tins with your nonstick cooking spray and fill each cup with about a tablespoon of batter – you’re NOT making muffins, so you only want them to fill half or less than the cup.

11. Bake for 4 minutes and check on them – it might have been the excessive baking powder in mine, but these babies are done FAST. Check on the every minute or so. Repeat until your batter is done; I made 2 dozen at a time and probably had about 5 batches (which is around 120 cheeks). There were quite a few left over, but these are really a very delicious little teatime snack. You could probably get away with cutting the recipe in half, but it really depends on your layering technique.

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12. As you can see in the picture above, I cut mine in half to layer them because they puffed up more than I expected. On my second layer, I gave in to laziness and threw them on whole. Because their main job is just to soak up all the rum and pumpkin-y flavors…and the rum, it really doesn’t matter which way you go.

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And there you have it…ladycheeks a la WBIB. High-maintenance, quick to burn, and sweet all at once – a truly ladylike treat.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.

– Linus, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

I know.

If you see one more damn recipe involving pumpkin, you won’t be able to stomach it in all its golden-crusted glory in a mere 4 days. But don’t you have a can or two of the orange stuff left? And might you want to use it in a less butter-and-sugar-packed manner?

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I feel ya.

Now, before you scroll down and click away because what follows is a smoothie recipe and you think, “pssh, this chick talks about eating seasonally and wants me to make a smoothie in November?? Riiiiight.”, just try it. Really. It’s delicious and will totally get you in the thankful mood.

Plus, if you’ve up here in Mass. and living through the random 60+ degree days we’ve been having, you’re probably in the smoothie mood already.

I’ve been making this smoothie when I’m not quite ready for a huge bowl of oats for breakfast, but still want something spice-y and festive. And because I keep every time I go to a grocery store, I walk out with at least one can of pumpkin and have to think of new and interesting uses for it.

Like pumpkin tiramisu with homemade spiced ladyfingers. And rum. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be a terrible addition to this smoothie if you were so inclined.

But let’s keep it PG for now.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

adapted from Oh She Glows

Makes 2 small servings or 1 large

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You’ll need:

  • blender
  • 1 c. milk of choice (I like unsweetened almond)**
  • 1 banana, chopped & frozen
  • 1 c. pumpkin
  • 1 T blackstrap molasses
  • 1 t vanilla extract (a few drops of almond extract would also be delicious)
  • heaping 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • heaping 1/2 tsp ginger (ground)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg if desired (feel free to experiment with cloves & cardamom as well!)

Add the milk to the blender first – for whatever reason, it seems to help the blades make it smoother.

Then add the rest. Because the sticky molasses is a huge pain to measure out with spoons, I developed a handy little trick that I use with my digital scale:

Before you throw the pumpkin in the blender, make a little well in the center of it after it’s measured out. A pumpkin crater, if you will. Put the cup on the scale & zero it out. Measure out by weight the molasses as you pour it into the pumpkin well. Then plop it in the blender together! This just minimizes the amount that gets stuck to the sides & don’t actually get blended, which drives me nuts.

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Or, if you do not have slightly absurd OCD tendencies, just pour it in and hit blend.

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**Because pumpkin is a wonderful thickener, this smoothie is very thick with more of a pudding-like consistency. I like it because I can eat it with a spoon, but feel free to add milk/decrease pumpkin as you see fit.

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Cheers!

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Yes, actually, I can.

You’re going to have to do indulge me bit – I have some ranting to do. But I do hope it is mostly relatable ranting!

 

So I’m 21. Almost 22 actually, but that’s splitting hairs. I have gotten the sense that the years from 20 to 22 are somewhat awkward. You’re not a teenager, but you’re still not old enough to be considered a “twentysomething.” Sure, you can drink legally, but the initial excitement over that dies down pretty quickly. (And studying abroad the year before where drinking starts from the age of 12 makes it even less of a big deal.)

You don’t have much. In my case, you’re pretty much stuck with a few hesitant glances at the register when you try to buy wine, and a fancy college degree that comes with just enough knowledge to need more than a part-time job flipping burgers but not quite enough experience to qualify you for any kind of “real job.” And the cherry on top? Even while you go about doing what you know you can do, there is a constant presence of someone “older and wiser” (read: condescending moron who think age = intelligence) peeking over your shoulder telling you how to do it.

Pardon my French, but – it’s a huge pain in the ass.

I was one of those kids who always seemed a little older than she was, probably because I’m generally pretty quiet and have always been more interested in sitting at the “adults’ table” and listening to their conversations than playing with crayons and eating chicken fingers. I told you I’m a nerd. But apparently, I stopped growing at around 17 and to most people, I look like I’m still there. I can’t even tell you how many people have asked, “Oh, you graduated this year? Do you know where you’re going to college?” I have tried to laugh it off, but really, it just pisses me off. I’ll recognize that a big part of it may be that in the summer I don’t wear makeup all too often and I’m often dressed to workout (usually because I’m either going to or already have and you are seeing me between showers), but to a certain extent I just find it ridiculous.

 

This has been a real struggle for me, and one of the worst things about it is that I’m not altogether sure why it gets to me so much. Any fellow grads having this issue? Let me hear from you. I feel pretty unique in this, and not in a good way.

I suppose I’m a little burnt out. College to me felt a little bit like a race to the end, and after I won the race and got my trophy, life went back to normal. I feel like I’m still standing in the middle of the race street in my running clothes, clutching my trophy for dear life, while a bunch of important-looking people push around me to get back to work. No matter how many times I try to stop someone and show them my very shiny trophy, they just brush right past like I’m invisible.

Sorry. I’m an English major – I’m prone to very imaginative metaphors. Go with it.

 

There are some days when I just feel like taking a megaphone, heading to the top of the Pru and shouting “I AM SMART AND I HAVE DONE LOTS OF THINGS AND AM GENERALLY A VERY QUALIFIED HUMAN BEING.” Or something like that. It just seems to me that people forget what college was after a few years, and no longer remember the constant-idea-making-machine they were after holding that diploma.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t know things. And I’m not saying I don’t have a lot to learn. And I’m not saying I don’t look like my 18-yr-old brother’s girlfriend when I am on the elliptical in my high school gym shorts.

But you know what? There’s lots I do know too. I probably even know more than your mom about certain things [ohsnap]. I clearly know enough about writing and food to have 1) written a blog about it for almost 2 years and 2) to get my own column about it. I certainly did not spend 3 months of my life reading American cookbooks from the 19th century and throwing around words like subversion and domestic ideology to come out not being somewhat of a know-it-all on the subject. And let me tell you, if you can successfully master the Italian transportation system in three months, you should be able to put it on your resume. I can’t say I haven’t considered it.

 

To the world – please stop underestimating the recently graduated. We’re really very capable and have quite a bit of knowledge still fresh in our brains. And to my fellow racers – may you find a very pretty place to put your trophy, and may you find a way to happily become one of those people around us walking to work. Emphasis on happily.

 

“I can do it just fine, thankyouverymuch” Spaghetti Limone Aglio Olio

Serve with a loaf of good crusty bread and a triumphant twinkle in your eye.

 

  • 1 lb fresh spaghetti (linguine or tagliatelle will work as well)
  • salt (for water)
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 6 – 8 cloves of garlic
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 – 4 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • scant 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot about 2/3rds full with water. Add a sizeable palmful of salt. Bring to a boil.

While you’re waiting, peel and either chop or smash (smashing is more fun) the garlic cloves. Then, because water takes forever to boil and you’re old enough to have heard the whole watched-pot proverb about a million times, zest your lemon. Chop it in half so that it’s ready to be squeezed. Go ahead and chop up that parsley, too.

Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente (a little undercooked is best).

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a medium-large skillet. Throw in your garlic and keep smashing it around with your spoon. Let it cook until golden. Inhale. A lot.

Go drain your pasta – fresh pasta cooks in minutes, so it won’t need to be in there long.

Remove the pan with the now-golden-brown garlic from heat and add the parsley ( and red pepper flakes, if you wish). Add the pasta to the pan and toss it with the lemon zest, lemon juice (start with half the lemon and add to taste), and some fresh pepper. Top with parsley and cheese.

Serve to much impressed oohing and aahing and tell them you learned this recipe in school, where you also learned how to time-manage and generally be a self-efficient adult. Or just let the flavors speak for themselves. Either way, they’ll get the message.

 

Hey You!

You look like you need a good recipe.

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And lucky for you, I happen to have one!

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Well, it’s not here – it’s here.

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But I promise it will be worth it! Who could resist delicious, nutritious farmers-market-veggie-stuffed lasagna, oozing with ricotta and general delectableness?

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Not I.

It’s the weekend. You deserve it.

Simplifying.

I have 9 bug bites.

I got 3 hours of sleep last night before my body woke me up.

I am all of a sudden gut-wrenchingly hungry constantly.

My left ear has been plugged up for 2 days.

But none of that matters because I made muffin tops without a fancy pan or even much motivation.

I love my silicon baking liners. I really do.

Super portable (important when you’re 21 and move every 3 months), cheap, and pretty.

But man do I hate cleaning them.

It’s not like it’s that hard. Just a little dish soap, water and elbow grease. But who wants to worry about cleaning when you have warm, delicious baked goods to consume?

Not me.

So here’s what you do:

Pick a muffin recipe. I love this one because it’s quick, easy and super healthy & yummy. Win-win-win.

Make it.

Then, instead of oiling each muffin liner/tin carefully so as to make sure all the edges are covered and the muffins won’t stick to the sides, grab a cookie sheet. Spritz some cooking spray on a piece of foil and cover the sheet. Or use a Silpat or just the sheet without the foil, but come on, we’re being lazy here. Might as well go whole hog.

Oh god, I’ve been in the South too long.

Ahem. Muffin tops. Dump the dough onto the sheet in large but [mostly] even-sized circular-ish shapes. Bake.

Magic. No muffin tin/liner cleanup required. Just toss that foil.

A lazy recipe for a lazy long weekend. Sounds just about right.

Over-the-Humpday Challenge: A Little Rebellion Can Be Healthy

I love whole grains. I really do. 9 times out of 10, I will pick the whole grain over the simple carb without blinking an eye. The texture is more complex, the flavor heartier, and they are much more satisfying.

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But about that 10th time, I get an inner urge to rebel.

Corn muffins were a fixture of my childhood. I have no idea why I remember them so well, but the euphoric feeling when the Jiffy box came out and the first buttery, sweet crumb hit my tongue is still very much with me. Like the Force. Or not.

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So when that very particular craving hit last week, I knew what had to be done. No vegan spin, no whole grain flour substitution – just run-of-the-mill Jiffy-box-clone corn muffins.

Well, alright, I may be lying just a tad. I can’t do anything simple; something in my chemical make-up does not allow it.

Especially since I happen to have some buttermilk left over from last week’s challenge…and even better, a bag of frozen [organic] blueberries happens to be sitting in the freezer just crying out to be used in a recipe. And it’s just best to keep your frozen fruit happy.

So after quite a bit of recipe research – my favorite kind! – I found a simple recipe for strawberry-spiked corn muffins. Corn meal, flour, sugar, oil, egg, milk. Mix, bake, eat. Now that’s a good recipe.

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The original calls for the use of the aforementioned strawberries, which I subbed with the aforementioned blueberries, and regular milk which I replaced with buttermilk. The whole process took about 40 minutes, give or take.

Buttermilk Blueberry-Corn Muffins

(adapted from this recipe by Eating Out Loud)

makes 12 perfectly golden muffins

Ingredients:

1 c. corn meal

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. sugar (I used vegan cane sugar; granulated is fine)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. [sea] salt

1 egg

1/4 c. oil (I used sunflower)

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. frozen (or fresh!) blueberries

Preheat to 400 F. Grease/oil/butter/non-stickify 12 muffin cups.

Combine the corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

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In a separate bowl, beat the egg. I don’t know why; the recipe said so.

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Then add in the oil and buttermilk – if you’re feelin’ frisky, a little vanilla extract never hurts!

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Wet –> dry. Don’t over mix.

Fold in the blueberries, or whatever fruit you’re using. Caution: purple-tinted batter may ensue.

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Divide the batter into the muffin cups and throw ‘em in for about 20 minutes – check them then with the toothpick test. I had to keep mine in for an extra 7 or so minutes.

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Now, Spring Break is in 2 days, and here I was with a dozen fresh muffins. I’m sure they freeze well, but this is the time of thing best enjoyed fresh. One of my roommates ate 2, another ate 1 and brought 3 to her class to share with the other student in it and the professor…and BAM! down to 6. Why I am ever concerned about having too much food while living at college, I have no idea.

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The verdict? I like them. Don’t love them – yet. Probably nothing a little butter can’t fix. They were also a tad on the sweet side, and next time I think I will decrease the sugar to 1/3 cup.

There will be a next time, because this recipe is so easy to play around with! Spices, extracts, fruits, flours, milks…oh, the possibilities.

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And didn’t I promise you a good buttermilk recipe? I always deliver on my promises. The food-related ones, anyway.

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Mmmm. I love a good rebellion.