Saturday Supper

If you haven’t heard (and even if you have), Pope Francis is visiting Philly. This means many Philadelphians were given a “Popecation,” or in other words, days off from work while the city teems with secret service, disturbingly high fences that beg to be climbed, and millions of visitors from all over the World. While some braved the crowds, others got the heck out of dodge. And then there are those, who, like myself, stayed within a 5 block radius of the house and caught up on household chores, schoolwork, and drank a few boxes of wine.

Since I am finally caught up on sleep, can use the restroom at my leisure and am able to drink my coffee in its entirely before it gets cold (teachers, you get all of this, don’t you?!) I’ve had an abundance of energy and time to bring life back to this blog and to endure my passion of being in the kitchen.

Being that it’s sort-of fall-like weather in Philly, I’ve been feeling mighty nostalgic. Growing up in rural Ohio, fall was my favorite time of year. It meant cross-country meets on the weekends, Sunday drives that would end in apple picking and the entire house smelling like a bakery. Mom was always making something that smelled delicious and those smells would entice my teenage self away from the confines of my bedroom to the kitchen, where I would linger in hopes of taste-testing whatever it is that actually got me to turn off my Metallica CD and venture out of my hole.

So in honor of the Pope and the beginning of the best time of year, I decided to fill the house with all of the smells of my childhood to the best of  my ability. I began with a hearty beef stew, which is exactly what I crave when the weather turns cool. While I don’t have a favorite beef stew recipe, I typically enjoy it more when it’s cooked in the oven versus the slow cooker. I almost always use a different recipe every time I make beef stew and this one did not disappoint. The highlight of this stew – the mash. I have come to adore leeks – they don’t have a dominant taste, but they smell so delicious when cooked. Mashed potatoes are always a hit, but this variation is certainly a keeper – just look at all the green!  This stew is definitely a winner and one I’m filing away and making again in the near future.

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Supper is not complete without dessert and while I’m not a fan of the PSL (pumpkin spice latte), I adore pretty much everything else pumpkin. I purchased a huge can of pumpkin puree and used only 6 Tbsp. to make the chewiest pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. So I guess that means I have more baking to do?!

If you’re in a hurry for something sweet, I don’t recommend this recipe as the dough must be chilled and the cookies need to cool completely before being inhaled. However, if you’re a chewy cookie fan like I am, you can table your impatience for a bit.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from: Sally’s Baking Addiction)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. light or dark packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cloves
  • dash of all-spice (I added probably 1 tsp. accidentally – I have a heavy hand, apparently)
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips (more or less, depending on how much of a choc-o-holic you are)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter and sugars together with a whisk. Add in the vanilla and the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking power, baking soda and spices. Add the wet mixture to the dry and then fold in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have patience.

Spoon the dough into balls, flatten slightly and bake for 8-10 minutes. I had to flatten mine a bit when I took them out of the oven. Let cool and then enjoy with a huge glass of milk. Or wine. Preferably wine.

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Posted in Cookies, Main Courses, Supper | 1 Comment

Lemon Meringue Pie

I have probably only had lemon meringue pie twice in my life, but while drinking this morning’s coffee, I stumbled upon a recipe for it and immediately began salivating.  Perhaps this recipe spoke to me because lemons make me think of spring and I desperately need some warm weather in my life.

I actually had all of the ingredients on hand, even cream of tartar, thanks to an impromptu purchase a few weeks ago at Philly’s Italian Market.  I purchased a pre-made pie crust because I like making my life easier.

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The recipe was very simple to follow, but I recommend measuring out all of your ingredients before you even begin, as this recipe requires much stirring, which leaves little time to stop and measure stuff.

I beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar in my KitchenAid (thanks mom!) with the wire whip attachment.  If you set it around 5-6, just let it go for a good 10 minutes or so in order for hard peaks to form.

The recipe called for Baker’s Sugar, which is the same as putting it in the food processor, although my food processor didn’t really do much grinding of the sugar, so I’m not sure if it makes that much of a difference.

 

Lemon Meringue Pie (adapted from The Glamorous Housewife)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Mix all of the above ingredients together, adding the sugar 1 Tbsp. at a time.   Once hard peaks are formed, you’re golden.

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. corn starch
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind

Melt the sugar and corn starch over medium heat and slowly add in the water, stirring constantly.  Your arm will get a nice workout making this pie!  Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then take off the heat.  Gradually add the sugar mixture to the egg yolks (I added 1/4 c. at a time because I was so afraid my eggs would become scrambled!) Once the sugar mixture and egg yolks are blended, place back on the burner and bring to a boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and add the butter, lemon juice and grated lemon rind.  Once combined, pour into your pre-cooked pie shell.  Top with the meringue, making sure it reaches the edges of the pie.  Baker for around 8 minutes at 375 degrees or until the peaks are golden brown.  Cool completely before slicing up to serve!

Clearly, I need a pie server.

Clearly, I need a pie server.

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Christmas with the Crinkles

Disclaimer: I never made crinkle cookies prior to this year.  And I can’t stop!

After a successful batch of Peppermint Crinkles, I had some candy canes leftover and thought, why not make Candy Cane crinkles?! I also saw a super delish recipe on Pinterest that added fuel to my cookie fire.

Since this was another peppermint cookie, I think Felix was feeling left out.  Why doesn’t every one love peppermint?! I don’t get it.  Anyway, my sweet suggested I also make Lemon Crinkles, so I divided the batter in half so we could both be happy.  The result was spectacular.  Both crinkle cookies came out wonderfully (although I do prefer the candy cane version!)

Candy Cane Crinkles

Adapted from: Lauren’s Latest

1/2 c. butter, softened photo (5)

1 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (or go for peppermint if you really want a minty cookie)

1 large egg

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. crushed candy canes 

powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Crush candy canes and set aside (I put them in a ziploc bag and crushed them with a whiskey bottle.  Whatever works!) Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and egg and mix.  Stir together all dry ingredients (excluding the powdered sugar) and then slowly add to the wet ingredients.  Add in the crushed candy canes.  Roll dough into a small ball and slide it around in the powdered sugar.  Place evenly on baking sheet and bake about 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are glistening.

*For Lemon Crinkles, omit the vanilla and add about 1 Tbsp (or half a lemon) of lemon juice and about 1 tsp. lemon zest.  Oh, and leave out the candy canes for this version too!

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Christmas Countdown with Cookies

Growing up, Christmastime was my favorite time of year.  Like every child, I loved opening presents, but Christmas in rural Ohio was much more than that.  There was the annual tree-tagging extravaganza, the decorating of said tree (once it was finally sitting slightly lopsided in the tree stand), and of course, the baking (and eating) of endless Christmas cookies.  My mother baked every kind of cookie known to man around Christmas and my sister and I hovered over the counter like stray dogs looking for scraps.  We decorated cut-outs with way too many sprinkles and red-hots and slathered on the frosting because no one wants to really taste the cookie, right?!

My mom would put the delicacies in air-tight containers (old holiday tins) and place them in the deep freezer, thinking they would be safe until Christmas.  Unfortunately, she was mistaken, as every member of the Baker household would occasionally sneak cookies.  I was sure to arrange them after sneaking a few.  I think I was hoping mom wouldn’t notice.  But of course, she did and every year we’d listen to her yell at us for taking the cookies when really, Dad was the biggest culprit (we found this out years later).

Nowadays, mom doesn’t make as many cookies (but Dad is still stealing them from the freezer).  In keeping with cookie-making tradition, I decided to make a few this year.  Okay, so I made more than a few. Actually, I’m rather obsessed with baking Christmas cookies.  I blame my mom for creating the Cookie Monsterette in me, but seriously, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a boat-load of various types of Christmas cookies!

I began my baking extravaganza with Peppermint Chocolate Crinkles.  I LOVE peppermint, especially around the holidays.  I took a regular chocolate crinkle cookie recipe and added some peppermint and candy canes.  In hindsight, I would have mixed the crushed candy canes in with the batter instead of putting them on top, but they were still soft, chewy and delicious!  photo (3)

Peppermint Chocolate Crinkles

Adapted from: Budget Bytes

3 c. powdered sugar

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 tsp. peppermint extract

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

1 c. chocolate chips

crushed candy cane pieces (mix in the batter or put on top after cookies finish baking)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the first four ingredients together until evenly combined.  Add the egg whites, whole egg and peppermint extract to the powdered sugar mixture.  Mix until a thick-ish batter forms (my batter was not super thick, so depending on the actual size of your eggs, this may vary). Add chocolate chips and crushed candy canes (if using).

*At this point, if your batter is not very thick, throw it in the fridge for a bit.

Place cookies on cookie sheet or parchment paper and bake for about 12-14 minutes.  Top with crushed candy canes (if you desire).

 

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Mom’s Rice Krispy Treats

Who doesn’t love rice krispy treats? While the gooey marshmallow version is definitely a crowd pleaser, my mom never made her rice krispy treats this way.  She made them better.  With chocolate.  And peanut-butter.  Basically, she ruined the original rice krispy treat forever because whenever someone would bring up “rice krispy treat,” I would get super excited in a little kid way.  But that would immediately diminish once I realized those treats were not how Mom made them.

After hounding my mom for the recipe, which I can see on one of her laminated recipe cards from the 1980’s, I finally called her and pleaded for her to share her secret, which turned out to actually be an old neighbor’s recipe, but whatever.

When I finally got around to making these delicacies, I was surprised at how easy they were.  I tweaked the original recipe a bit, but they turned out just like Mom’s used to.  And I’m sure they’ll last about as long as Mom’s would too (1 day, tops).

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Mom’s Rice Krispy Treats

1 c. butterscotch chips

1/2 c. peanut-butter

1 c. chocolate chips

4 cups rice krispy cereal

1/2 c. confectioners sugar

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. peanut-butter

1 Tbsp. water

Directions: Melt butterscotch chips and 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth.  Mix thoroughly into rice krispy cereal.  Layer half of the mixture into an 8×12 pan and refrigerate.  Next, melt chocolate chips, butter, water, confectioners sugar and 2 Tbsp. peanut-butter.  Once smooth, spread on top of the mixture you just put in the fridge.  Top with remaining rice krispy mixture and chill.

*I made a double layer of the rice krispy/butterscotch mixture because I used a 9×13 pan and also because I like a lot of rice krispy action!  I had to add about 3 Tbsp. of water so my chocolate mixture wouldn’t scorch, but I also don’t have a double broiler, so that may be my problem.

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Pumpkin Everything

Fall is my favorite season, despite the fact that it means the start of another school year.  To minimize my stress, I bake and when it’s fall, I bake with pumpkin.  To get me in the mood, I bought some amazingly expensive candles and hand soap at Bath and Bodyworks and then splurged for the brand-name canned pumpkin at Target.

Despite the five pounds of papers nestled in my school bag, I decided to pour myself a few glasses of Cabernet and whip up some cookies because someone has to celebrate the fact that we can sleep with the windows open and (finally) be able to make out just exactly what our neighbors are yelling about down the block.

I decided to half this recipe because 60 cookies is a lot.  However, I forgot that I was halving it when I added the baking powder and soda, so I tried to scrape it out of the bowl, but I’m sure I failed at that.  However, the cookies still look edible.

Here’s the recipe for the cookies and the frosting, adapted from this website.  I may have licked the bowl and the beaters to the frosting, which will give me enough of a sugar high to finish grading for the night.

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Frosting

Makes about 30 cookies, depending on the size

1 c. butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 can of pumpkin

2 c. flour

Mix butter until fluffy then add the next 6 ingredients.  Add egg and vanilla and mix.  Add pumpkin. Slowly add flour.  Use a spoon to place on cookie sheets or parchment paper.  Baker for about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden on top.

Frosting: (I made the full recipe because I love me some frosting; half this if you aren’t a frosting-lover)

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. dark brown sugar

1/4 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

3 c. powdered sugar

Melt butter and brown sugar until smooth.  Stir in milk and vanilla.  Slowly add powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency.  My frosting was rather thick, so if you like a thinner frosting, use 2 cups of powdered sugar.

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¡Tres Leches!

Normally, I am not overly excited about milk, let alone three milks.  Growing up, I drank a glass of 2% milk with every meal and chocolate milk with my cafeteria lunch.  Nowadays, I rarely pour myself a cup of milk and if I do, it’s whole milk or rice milk (which is not really milk, but a really tasty alternative!)

So rewind to a few weeks ago when we found ourselves at a Latin restaurant outside of Miami.  It was located in a strip mall and it was delicious.  For dessert, cuatro leches was on the menu.  I know, right – four milks?!  Considering I had never even had tres leches, I was intrigued.  So I had a bite of the spongy, caramel goodness.  And I found myself wanting more.  But I was stuffed from my pollo jalisco.  Or was it asado?  Whatever – it was tasty and fulfilling.

Weeks later, I found the house void of dessert and decided I would try my hand at tres leches.  I googled a recipe that looked moderately challenging (separating egg whites from yolks is still a mystery to me and leaves me quite messy) and made do with what I already had in my cupboards.  I followed this recipe from the Pioneer Woman, because really, who can you trust if you can’t trust a Pioneer?!

Probably my favorite part about this was making the sauce to put over the cake.  I could eat that all day.

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The finished product did not stay on my plate for too long.  And I may have had more than one piece…

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