Thursday, November 25

Tradition - {Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies}

Tradition would dictate that I'd be spending the evening before Thanksgiving baking a pumpkin pie. That I'd be standing in my kitchen, wrapped in an apron with pie crust making its way underneath my fingernails and drying over my knuckles.

But not this year. At my Grandma's request, a red velvet cake will take the pie's place on the Thanksgiving table, and it will fit in just fine, I'm sure. Tall and lacquered with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting, a thin slice would surely be difficult to resist with a steaming cup of coffee.

A few hours after dinner, of course, and just moments before the tryptophan sets in.

Initially I was distraught over the thought of not having pumpkin pie for dessert. I was so sure that the meal would seem incomplete without it, but that's simply not the case. The only reason that I even associate pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving is the fact that it's been shoved in my face each year.

Not that I'm complaining, or anything. I mean, seriously, if someone shoved a pumpkin pie in my face, I'd probably just help myself to a slice.

Unless they really shoved it in my face.

Then I'd probably be pretty angry.

There'd probably be a food fight.

You wouldn't really expect me to restrain myself in a situation like that, would you?

Anyway, I've accepted the fact that we don't need the pie to complete Thanksgiving. Sure, tradition is nice, but so is switching things up. Besides, it's not the food that makes the holiday, it's the people, right? It's corny, but you can't argue that it isn't true. So, because of this, I'll be happy even without the pumpkin pie. Because really, who cares? I'm just happy to be able to spend this holiday with the lovely people that I do.

... And also to eat lots and lots of stuffing. Because it's kind of wonderful.

To my American readers, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

And to everyone else, HAPPY THURSDAY!

Be safe and eat responsibly!

What's your favorite traditional holiday (Thanksgiving or otherwise) dish?

Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies
You're probably wondering why I'm not sharing a recipe for red velvet cake with you. Well, that's because we'll be eating it today, and I didn't want to cut into it before the meal. So instead I'm sharing my Grandma's recipe for chocolate chip cookies. They're not soft and chewy, but I prefer my chocolate chip cookies to be crunchy. The coconut adds a lot to the texture, so don't leave it out!
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 c (215g) flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c (78ml) shortening
1/3 c (78g) butter, room temp
1/2 c (100g) sugar
1/2 c (71g) brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c (118ml) nuts, chopped
1/2 c (118ml) coconut
1 c (236ml) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F (176C) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until light. Add the egg and vanilla, then beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients in halves, then fold in the nuts, coconut and chocolate chips. Scoop onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2" apart, and bake 12-15 minutes.

Let cool on pan for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Saturday, November 20

Favorite - {Chocolate Banana and Pecan Bread}

After a few rounds of Call of Duty, he lifted himself from the worn couch and slowly stepped away. His profile appeared over his massive left shoulder, and he politely asked, "are you hungry?"

"No. Thank you," I quickly responded, having previously cataloged the contents of his refrigerator and kitchen cabinetry. Findings the results of my quick and thorough exploration both slim and unfavorable, I was left with no option but to decline.

At my answer, a sly smile crossed his lips and a small dimple welcomed itself on his cheek. His short fingers connected with the refrigerator handle as he turned his head over his thick neck. "You know, for someone who bakes a lot, you really don't eat much, do you?" He laughed, collecting sandwich fillings from the top shelf of refrigerator, and placed them on the counter. "Are you sure?"

"Yes - definitely. I'm not hungry, thank you," I lied, watching the mammoth twist the dispenser on a bottle of French's mustard. The iconic yellow container was lost between his fingers as he painted a layer of the the condiment over a slice of white bread. After topping it with three perfectly round slices of olive loaf, he sealed the top with an additional slice of bread and lifted the plate from his kitchen counter. It took him three steps to make it back to the couch, where he fell heavily onto the cushions.

"My favorite sandwich," he proudly proclaimed, balancing the plate on his lap and searching for the remote with his free hand. "It's what my mom always made for me," he explained whilst simultaneously flipping sandwiches and taking a huge bite out of his most favorite meal, "when I was younger, you know?" The last words came out peppered with bits of Wonderbread and olive loaf, and I shared with him the most genuine smile that I could muster. He'd turned on the game and fallen into a bit of a football frenzy, blindly and quickly masticating his sandwich as he made noises of encouragement, excitement and frustration in the TV's direction.

I didn't have any idea who was playing, or much of an understanding of the game's rules for that matter, so I occupied my hands with the hem of my jeans and my mind with my thoughts. I began to brutally dissect the guy's meal in my head, unable to think of olive loaf as anything but repulsive and inedible. But as I was destroying his sandwich like a cafeteria bully, I began to think about the "repulsive" things that I like to eat and had a sudden change of heart. The sauerkraut and Brussels sprouts that my family made for me while I was growing up are disgusting to many, many people, but I consider them a comfort food. So, seeing a similarity, I mentally rebuilt the poor guy's sandwich and cast an understanding smile in his direction.

It was that day that I promised myself that I would dial back my food snobbery.

And also that I would never, ever, ever eat an olive loaf and mustard sandwich.

Because that's important, too.

What do you consider a comfort food? Do you eat anything that your friends think you're crazy for liking? I wanna know!

Chocolate Banana and Pecan Bread
This bread is very, very soft and moist. Seriously delicious and definitely a new favorite for me!
Printable Recipe

1 c (142g) flour
1/4 c + 1 Tbls (27g) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 c (80g) packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 c (118ml) vegetable oil
1 c (236ml) mashed very ripe banana
1/3 c + 1 Tbls (90ml) sour cream
3/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 c (177ml) pecans

Preheat your oven to 350F (176C). Grease one 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan or three 5 3/4" x 3" loaf pans and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, egg and vegetable oil. Add in the banana, sour cream and vanilla. Sift 1/2 of the dry ingredients over the wet, and fold to combine. Add the pecans and repeat with the remaining half. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the bread is firm to the touch and slightly cracked, about 60 minutes. Cool on a rack completely before glazing.

Quick Glaze

A splash of milk
Powdered sugar

Pour the milk into a bowl and sift powdered sugar over the top. Whisk to combine and add enough powdered sugar to form a thick glaze. Pour over the cooled bread and top with additional pecans, if desired.

Thursday, November 11

Dwindle - {Roasted Everything Soup}

Recently we've been fortunate enough to experience decent temperatures and little rain, but I've noticed that the gradual transition from morning to night has disappeared. As a result, shadows creep further than ever over winding campus pathways, and the gentle flow of disappearing daylight through my apartment windows has lost it's once-loved warmth. In its place and beyond the empty frames I can see the intricate twist of the sun and barren limbs extend over the Earthen dance floor, crawling and tumbling together as the sun's peak lowers itself in the sky. Slowed, perhaps, at the burdened thought of fresh white sheets over its kingdom, the arc dwindles to a fraction of its original height; dropping long days and consistently favorable weather below the horizon.

The time to retire sunglasses and sundresses comes too soon.

It's disorienting to see the sun hanging just over my shoulder as I walk to my last class of the day. At 1:30 in the afternoon, it's difficult to accept the fact that the orb's progressed so far in its decline, signaling that the daylight's almost gone. Being lost in the shadows of buildings as I complete the walk home around 3 is nauseating, and so too are the blinding headlights at 5. Even at 6, which I consider early evening, the streetlights have come on and the scantily-clad sorostitutes out.

The sun's residual glow officially kicks the bucket around 6:30 nowadays, and by then I'm confused about whether or not I should really still be awake. Unrelenting homework ensues for a number of hours until I am positive that I simply cannot stay up a moment longer, and I typically fall asleep around 10:30.

At least that allows me to wake up earlier and enjoy more hours of sun, if not the sunrise itself.

I can certainly deal with that.

Roasted Everything Soup

One thing that I really like about soup is that you can toss just about anything into it. This is more of a guideline than a recipe; just roast whichever vegetables/roots/squashes/herbs/proteins that you have with salt, pepper and olive oil; toss them into a soup pot, puree, and enjoy. Here's what I used:
Printable Recipe

1 head of garlic, roasted
1 butternut squash, roasted
1 acorn squash, roasted
2 onions, roasted
3 small potatoes, roasted
Chicken Stock
Cayenne Pepper
A few tablespoons of butter, just for that homey taste
(P suggests adding roasted chicken and crumbled bacon)

Combine all roasted vegetables/roots/squashes/herbs in a large pot with enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to ensure that everything is thoroughly cooked, then carefully puree. Pour back into the pan and loosen with milk or additional stock, the add seasonings and spices to taste. Serve warm.

Friday, November 5

Settle - {Caramel Apple Mousse Cake with Caramel Corn}

Illuminated by streetlights and passing cars, the cracks dividing the white surface of my bedroom wall are easily visible. The peaks and valleys cut paths through the drywall, differentiated by shades of grey and marked deeply down to uneven floorboards. Stubborn and crooked in their tracks, the large windows at my bedside breathe cool night air over my rustled covers and rattle their panes at the will of heavy winds.

Searching the backs of my eyelids for sleep, I erase the room from my sight and fill my mind with the sounds of the night. Occasionally a drummer sits on the corner across the street from my building, but tonight I am free from his cyclic beats and dozing off to the intermingled baselines of top hits from the bars below. Shouts and yells punctuate the beats, peppered with the rattling and cracking of the radiator at the foot of my bed. Recently, as the nights have turned colder, our nights have been afforded five minute stretches of banging pipes. Sounding its disapproval, our ancient building rattles with frustration as it protests the war of hot and cold taking place within its thin walls.

I've always enjoyed the nights when the more "mature" bar plays classic rock and 90's music, just because it's nice to have a little variety.

Also because I know that some nights, as I shield myself with blankets, I will be breathing these songs for some time before I drift off into sleep.

However, other nights I find myself slipping into bed and falling asleep in seconds; gently rocked, perhaps, by the melody of Like a G6.


In all seriousness, as bad as my apartment sounds (and looks, to some - hi mom!), I'm used to the noise and distraction.

Just as the cracks show that it's settled into the city, I have settled into it.

P.S. Happy (late) birthday, P!

Caramel Corn converted from Bravetart
More detailed instructions can be found at Bravetart!
Printable Recipe

3 3/4 oz (106 g) corn kernels, popped
7/8 c (205 ml) water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 c + 1 Tbls (435 g) sugar
2/3 c (160 ml) maple syrup, honey, or corn syrup
5 Tbls (70 g) unsalted butter (or neutral-flavored oil)
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt

Prepare a baking sheet by oiling with butter or lining with parchment.

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the vanilla bean and simmer for one minute. Remove the vanilla bean (squeezing out any vanilla-y water from the inside) and add the vanilla seeds, sugar, corn syrup, and butter or oil to the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and stir until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Cook until the sugar is a dark amber color, being careful not to burn.

Remove from heat and quickly stir in the salt and baking soda. Be careful because these additions will cause the caramel to bubble. Quickly add in the popped popcorn and stir quickly and carefully until the kernels are evenly coated.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

If you like your caramel corn clumpy, let it cool, as is.

For individual pieces, separate kernels with your spatula.

After the mixture is cool to the touch, (be patient or you'll burn yourself - I know!), you can use your hands to keep breaking up the clumps.

Store in an air-tight container.

Caramel Apple Mousse Cake with Caramel Corn adapted from Tartelette
Initially I was hoping to incorporate the caramel corn into the dish more, but it didn't work the way I planned. It was so awesome though that I couldn't stand not to include it! Serves 10-12
Nutmeg and Cinnamon Genoise
Printable Recipe

4 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c sugar (200 g)
2/3 c (92 g) flour
1/4 c + 2 Tbls (40 g) cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400F and set a rack in the middle. Lightly grease and line an 8x8 pan. Set aside. Weigh the bowl you plan to make the genoise in and write down the number.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar together in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture is warm to the touch.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment (or hand held beaters) and whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled and tripled in volume. The mixture will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl when the whisk is lifted.

Over a medium bowl or a piece of parchment paper, sift together the flour and cornstarch.

Add one-third of the flour mixture to the beaten egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold and making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat with another third and then add the final portion.

Weigh the bowl and batter, then subtract the weight of the bowl from the number. Divide by 4, and pour that amount of batter (1/4th) into your prepared pan. Smooth the top with an offset spatula and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes then invert onto a sheet of parchment paper and set aside. Repeat 3 more times so you have 4 layers.

Simple Syrup
1/2 c (125 ml)water
1/4 c (50 g) sugar

In a small saucepan, cook all ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temp.

Caramel Sauce
Make this is you do not have store-caramel sauce on hand

1/2 c (100g) sugar
1/4 c (60 ml) water
2 Tbls (28 g) butter
1/8 c (30 ml) heavy cream

Cook the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed pan with the lid on until dissolved. Remove the lid and, without stirring, cook until dark amber. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring constantly, then carefully pour in the cream (caramel will bubble violently!). Pour into a heat proof container to cool before using for mousse.

Caramel Bavarian Cream
1 Tbls powdered gelatin
3 Tbls water
4 egg yolks
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1 c (250 ml) milk
1/2 c (125 ml) caramel from above recipe, or store-bought
1 c (250 ml) heavy cream, cold

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand to bloom while you prepare the cream.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and lightened.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks to temper, whisking constantly to prevent them from curdling. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Add the gelatin and stir until completely melted. Let cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream to soft peaks on medium speed and fold it, along with the caramel, into the cooled cream base. Use within one hour.

Apple Bavarian Cream
1 Tbls powdered gelatin
3 Tbls water
4 egg yolks
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1 c (250 ml) milk
1/2 c (125 ml) apple butter, store-bought or homemade.
1 c (250 ml) heavy cream, cold

Use the same method as above, folding in the apple butter in place of the caramel.

To assemble:
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving a lengthy border on the sides to facilitate removal.

Place one layer of genoise at the bottom of the pan and brush with some the simple syrup. Pour half of the apple bavarian cream over the top and smooth with an offset spatula. Top with another layer of genoise, brush with more syrup and pour half the caramel mousse on top. Smooth and repeat the process with the second half of cakes and creams. Refrigerate until set.