Friday, November 27, 2009

all over again

Because one Thanksgiving obviously isn't enough, and because my mom had to work yesterday, we did Thanksgiving with my extended family tonight. We've never been big on the turkey thing growing up - the holiday was just an excuse to get together and eat our traditional foods. In the last couple of years, my parents have taken to ordering the turkey and sides from a local grocery store and have it supplemented by a couple Vietnamese appetizers. Matty and I ended up focusing on that tonight, but I contributed a couple desserts courtesy of Dorie Greenspan.


Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake
I don't like apple pie. However, it was the one suggestion my mom came up with when I asked what I should bring, so I compromised and went for apple cheesecake. I actually had a lot of things going against me, but it turned out pretty tasty. I did have a slight problem with the consistency - it tasted more flan-like than cheesecake-like to me, but that could have been any of a number of things:

- I forgot to get a large enough roasting pan for the water bath, so I decided to bake it without.

- I also had to transport it as soon as it came out of the oven, so there was no 6-hour/overnight refrigeration as Dorie recommends. It spent about an hour in a Tupperware carrier in the car, then spent an hour in Grandma's freezer to cool.

Oh well. Still delicious enough to try again with all the correct conditions. It takes almost 2 hours to bake, but it's otherwise pretty hands-off.


Cranberry Shortbread Cake
Oh boy. Like a delicious cookie sandwich with a citrus-y cranberry jam filling. I thought it was absolutely perfect. The jam is a snap to make, and the dough is so agreeable. The "crusts" are just the right amount of richness to complement the tart filling, but aren't terribly sweet or heavy. For ease of transport and serving in the future, I'll be doubling this recipe and baking it in a 13x9-inch pan and cutting them into little squares.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

i want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life

This is the first time in four years that we haven't hosted Thanksgiving. You'll notice that my recent blogs had nothing to do with Thanksgiving test recipes. I didn't spend all of last week creating spreadsheets and lists with grocery items and cooking schedules. And I had no idea what to do with myself.

However, it was much more practical to have Thanksgiving at Jeff and Marcela's gorgeous new house. It's really the perfect spot for entertaining. Plus, I will gladly disappoint my neurotic Thanksgiving obsessive compulsion in exchange for Jeff and Marcela's cooking.


I'm going to start you off with the only marginally healthy thing we ate today. I say marginally because eventually, there was a dip of whipped cream cheese, horseradish and julienned radishes nestled in the radicchio leaves. :)


We got to their house around 9:30a and promptly got to work preparing the turkey for the smoker. Once it was on, and before we could get started on anything else, Jeff had prepared some amazing Cajun-style shirred eggs, a variation on this Emeril Lagasse recipe. That and a glass of Veuve really powered us for the rest of the day.


Bar prep is crucial with this crowd. :)


Brooke and Chris showed up with Brooke's amazing stuffed jalapenos. I will need to grab this recipe - it involved smoked gouda and chorizo. Heavens. People were going through my camera later in the evening and got pretty upset when seeing this photo - they had come too late to grab any before they disappeared.


Now on to the business at hand - the smoked turkey. I mean, sometimes I find amazing recipes for traditional oven-roasted turkeys, but the smoker turns out such amazing meat that it's hard to justify straying from that method. Here, Matty and Brandon baste the turkey one last time before...


...completely shrouding it in bacon. Yes. And yes. Since we also had a non-poultry eater in our midst, the boys threw a brisket in the smoker after the turkey had been going for a while.


And since this was our first year with a new and vastly more efficient smoker, the turkey was done in about 5 hours. Our largest turkey ever (16.5 lbs) in our fastest time ever. The turkey was none the worse for wear - it just sat warming in their electric grill. Matty felt the brisket was a little too dry, but while it certainly wasn't rare, everyone else still thought it was extremely flavorful.


My yearly staple, Andouille Cornbread Stuffing, was a special request from our hosts, so I had to oblige. Twist my arm, why don't you. It was awesome as always. :)


To accommodate at least one vegetarian we know of, I also made a Mushroom Hazelnut Stuffing. Instead of the called-for brioche, I found some cranberry rolls at Trader Joe's and cubed those in instead. I don't think it really affected much in terms of the flavor - I had thought the cranberries would provide an interesting pop, but they kind of disappeared into the stuffing.

***EDIT: The cranberry rolls make excellent sandwiches - cut in half, stuff with slices of Brie and whole basil leaves. Oh my.***

I used a combination of dried wild mushrooms and fresh portobellos to come up with the one pound required, and really thought the amount was just perfect. I'm not going to explain this very well (I think I'm still food-drunk), but a lot of the time, I feel that there are never enough mushrooms in things that are called "Mushroom-Somethings." There should be a reason "mushroom" is the first word in the title of the dish.

I really liked the stuffing - because it included eggs and cream, it turned out much more like a bread pudding than just a broth-soaked stuffing. I think this will become a dinner staple for non-holiday special occasions, perhaps baked in individual ramekins.


I couldn't get a very good photo of the spread because it was so massive, so I can take you on a quick tour of my plate. Clockwise from 12 o'clock: Marcela's roasted corn salad on top of a slice of brisket and smoked bacon, Tara's garlic Brussels sprouts, Kat's from-scratch green bean casserole (no cream of mushroom soup in sight), Jeff's bacon creamed spinach, my stuffings, Jeff's yams in caramel sauce and his cream cheese caramelized onion mashed potatoes. Sweet heavens. My stomach just growled again.

I was too overwhelmed with everything to remember to take photos of the dessert spread, so come meet our gorgeous friends:


Kim showing off her food baby while waiting for her Derby pies to heat up.


Tara patiently waiting for someone to slice into the Porto's chocolate-Grand Marnier cake that Brooke brought.


And finally, our late-November birthday boy got a nautical red velvet cake to celebrate. We closed out the night with hot whiskey apple cider and naps on the couch. Perfection.

Monday, November 23, 2009

crunch


It's practically sacrilegious to even think of making sweet potatoes this close to Thanksgiving. I usually don't even want to think of Thanksgiving food for at least a week so that I can properly prepare for the gluttony of that magical Thursday. However, I've been given a teaser about Jeff's Thanksgiving sweet potatoes, and they're nothing like these Sweet Potato and Shrimp Fritters so I thought it was safe to use up some of my supply.

This was another childhood favorite that I had thought was lost to me when I moved out of my parents' house. I made my own tempura batter - equal parts (1 cup) flour and pale ale plus the 1/2 tsp. of turmeric. I left the shells on as we did when I was growing up, but Matty wasn't a huge fan of them, even after I told him it was just like eating soft-shell crab. Oh well. To each their own. He peeled off the shells while I merrily crunched along.

We didn't have any delicious pickled daikon/carrots as would have been an appropriate garnish, so I decided to make a sort of corn relish using this recipe for Caramelized Corn with Fresh Mint. Instead of caramelizing them in butter per the recipe, I used some bacon grease leftover from Matty's breakfast this morning. Although the bacon grease lent an amazing smoky flavor (grilled corned on the cob without the hassle of setting up the grill), the whole dish wasn't particularly mind-blowing, but it did its job as the garnish. And it's still the kind of thing I can see myself making when I'm home alone - when I get tired of just having roasted broccoli for dinner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

when we meet again


I cannot believe it took us five months, but our still-nameless (anyone have suggestions?) cooking club reconvened to turn a table full of ingredients into a five-course fall supper. This meeting's theme was "favorite chefs," and we all submitted our favorites for Hilary to organize. I can't quite remember who was responsible for what, but here goes:


Clockwise from left:

Jamie Oliver's Candied Bacon Green Salad
This bacon. Is. To. Die. For. I had never even heard of using clementine juice to candy bacon, but boy am I glad Jamie Oliver thought of it. It doesn't come out particularly citrus-y - just swoon-worthy morsels of delicious porkiness. I was also a huge fan of the rustic croutons and the addition of pomegranate seeds. Somehow, the pomegranate was able to lighten up the whole salad in spite of the fact that its very name included the words "candied" and "bacon."

Judy Rodgers' Savory Onion Tart (I think I found the link to the recipe, but wouldn't you know it - the LA Times' archives is undergoing maintenance. I'll try again later).
I mean, you had me at "onion tart." I am a huge sucker for caramelized onions. Especially caramelized onions that have been super thinly sliced by Gina's mandoline. But please, let us talk about this crust. It is insane. It is so flaky and buttery and delicious. Like a more substantial puff pastry. Hilary was afraid of not having enough time to prepare the dough, so she made it last night and brought it with her. She described all the steps involved, and I have to be honest - upon first hearing it, I thought it was terribly fussy. I mean, it's tart dough. People make tart dough all the time. Why does Judy Rodgers think it takes 4 pages to describe how to do it? And then you take a bite. OH. THAT'S WHY. I bow down to her Zuni greatness.

Julia Child's Cheese Souffle
I believe this was the recipe that was printed out for us, but Gina ended up having the original Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which trust me, I've been looking for at every Flea Market) - not sure what the variations are, but it did feel special cooking from that book.

It wasn't quite as scary as we all thought it would be. It's really all a matter of timing with this dish, and it would probably have been entirely too much for one person to undertake on their own, but having 4 sous chefs definitely helped. It was worth all the effort, though - all that melting cheese smelled impossibly good while it was baking, and even though it fell before we took it out of the oven (we think the culprit is a souffle dish that may have been too large), we girls polished off the entire thing. There's a reason this dish is a classic - you just can't go wrong.


Lidia Bastianich's Lobster Risotto
Holy hellfire. This dish is why tastebuds were created. It was by far the biggest production of the afternoon, and it was so worth it. I almost followed through with my threat to eat the leftovers we had packed up for Matty on the car ride home. Almost. But I love him and stuff, so I chewed some gum instead.

Here's the abbreviated version. If I find a link, I'll scare you off with that later:
Step 1: Kill the lobsters. Oh God. A job for brave girls like Gina and Jen.
Steps 2 & 3: Get two saucepans going with almost-identical vegetable mixtures. One pot becomes the risotto pot, and the other becomes the lobster sauce pot.
Step 4: Make lobster sauce out of lobster pieces (meat in shell), crushed tomatoes, tomato paste. Remove and reserve lobster pieces.
Step 5: Make risotto as you would with stock. Or, if you happen to know classy girls like Gina, use the homemade lobster stock she happened to have in her freezer.
Step 6: Add lobster sauce in as one of the stock additions.
Step 7: Stir and stir and stir.
Step 8: Turn risotto out into a serving bowl. Top with reserved lobster.
Step 9: Ooh and aah.


We closed out the evening with a tribute to one of my favorites, Dorie Greenspan and her Devil's Food White-Out Cake.

One of the reasons I wanted to make it is because I am just awful at cake-decorating. I don't split layers horizontally very well, and I am even worse at frosting. Well, I managed to avoid splitting the layers because I didn't read the directions very carefully and brought 9-inch cake pans instead of the required 8-inchers. This left me with very short layers, so we decided to just leave it a two-layered cake, and instead of crumbling a leftover layer for topping, Laura shaved some Scharffenberger over top.

The frosting was slightly terrifying - boil syrup until 242 degrees and then with a mixer going, pour into stiffened egg whites. Our syrup never got that high (continuing my streak with candy thermometers), but we thought it had been boiling long enough, so we poured it in while it was still at about 225 degrees. It still turned out magnificently.

The cake was positively ethereal - so light and fluffy and perfectly complemented by the marshmallowy fluffiness of the frosting. Again, I had already texted Matty that I was bringing some home to him, so my Big Red got a thorough chewing on the car ride home.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

you complete me


Day 5. My heart is full, my belly is full - I actually can't believe we managed to have 5 sit-down dinners in a row together. And really, that's what's been the most magical thing about this extravaganza - being able to spend some time and extra care around the two things I love most in this world - food and Matty (though not necessarily in that order).

I made Poblano Mac + Cheese. Because he's the cheese to my macaroni.

I think I'm out of words. Poblanos - good. Macaroni - good. Cheese - good. I made chiles rellenos out of some of the pasta mixture because I figured it would photograph better. It's good in a baking dish, too, but it doesn't come out very thick. The consistency is more like a nice saucy pasta - I'd decrease the amount of half and half and maybe an egg if you like it thicker.

The recipe below is borrowed heavily from YumSugar, but I took out a few steps to be able to get to dessert faster.

Poblano Mac + Cheese
4 poblano peppers
olive oil
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
2 cups half and half
3 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. farfalle
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Brush peppers with olive oil. Broil until blackened all over. Place in a large bowl, cover and let cool to room temperature. When the peppers are cool, peel, chop and de-seed them. Set aside.
2. While peppers are broiling, cook farfalle until just shy of al dente.
3. Whisk together eggs and half and half. Stir in peppers, cilantro and 2/3 of the cheeses. When pasta is done, add to mixture.
4. Pour pasta mixture into a 3-quart baking dish. Top with remaining cheeses. Bake for 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

should've known better


Our version of a light dinner: Seared Salmon with Bacon-Molasses Vinaigrette and Mushrooms Stuffed with Brie.

So I thought I'd be cute and try to use my grill pan again for the salmon, but in hindsight, it made the dish a lot less bacon-y, which is never the goal. First of all, diced bacon hides between the grooves of a grill pan, so it's not easy to move it around and evenly crisp it without splattering everywhere. Second, bacon grease also tends to hide between the grooves of a grill pan, so I wasn't properly searing the salmon fully in the bacon fat. The salmon still ended up tasting like salmon, which was fine, but for the extra step, I would have wanted it to taste more like bacon. Over it. We probably did our arteries a favor anyway.

The mushrooms were fun. Super easy, quick party trick. The herb topping was inspired. Leftovers in the pan are also great mixed with a little olive for focaccia-dipping.

I'm going to guess that this will be the disappointment when Culinary Lovefest #5 is recalled when we're old and gray, but I suppose if this is our biggest disappointment this week, we have nothing to worry about it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

take love easy


I feel like I'm slacking a bit on Day 3 even though I gloriously had nothing on tap for today.

Exhibit A: Lasagna. I've already made this lasagna before so there was absolutely no risk of failure. Since that isn't any fun, I decided to replace the original magnificent sauce with an Arrabbiata Sauce that involved a terrifying habanero and hot Italian sausage.

Honestly, the sauce wasn't at all spicy. The sausages proved to be much hotter. Next time, I'm throwing in the whole habanero. And maybe even leaving out the sausage. Just to taste more of the delicious tomatoes and cheese mixture.

Exhibit B: Roasted green beans. I grew tired of the Google machine (I know, impossible), and could not be bothered to look at any more green bean recipes. Threw about a pound of haricots verts with half of a thinly sliced red onion, olive oil, salt and pepper and put it in the oven with the lasagna for 20 minutes, then blast it at 425 for 10 minutes while the lasagna (and I) rested.


Exhibit C: I confess, I bought the cannoli shells. I just didn't want to deal with the prospect of deep-frying. The last time I made cannoli (coincidentally also for an anniversary), the cookies were baked, so I had more control over the mess I was making. And with my new discovery of the Monte Carlo Deli and the fact that they sell cannoli shells, I figured I'd just leave it to the professionals this time. :)

I did make the filling, though - pumpkin. What it lacks in chroma, it more than makes up in taste. I was initially concerned that the pumpkin butter would make the filling too cloyingly sweet, but it turned out to be a very balanced set of flavors. I didn't have mini chocolate chips as Matty requested, but I think my substitution of Heath toffee bits did the trick.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

rock lobster


According to various Internet resources, the fifth anniversary is associated with wooden gifts. Wood is strong and long-lasting and giving such a gift symbolizes the strength and solidarity of your relationship. Now I don't necessarily believe such hoo-hah, but I am always up for a gift-buying challenge.

Matty gave me a beautiful pendant (that ain't me), and I got him grilling planks. Sure, not quite as romantic, but I do hope I got back some style points by using them for Day 2's dinner: Cedar-Planked Lobster Tails.

Easiest thing in the world. To give credit where credit is due, Matty was responsible for all things involved with the grill, as well as the photography. All I did was split the lobster tails (tiny 4-oz. ones - we bought 4), butter, salt, pepper and red pepper flake them. Ten minutes on the covered grill and on the cedar planks yielded delicious, moist, perfectly spiced lobster meat.

And that cedar imparts such wonderful flavor! While cleaning up, Matty remarked that he could take a bite out of the plank, it smelled so good.

I know, I know - where's dessert? Well, we made the "mistake" of getting two whole cupcakes from Crumbs on Friday night, and obviously could not finish both, so we had the last one last night. Homemade desserts are coming, though, I promise (both you and Matty)!

Friday, November 13, 2009

at the beginning with you


Five years ago today, I was frantically kicking things under my bed and into my closet, trying to make my bachelorette pad presentable for Movie Night with a guy I was desperately trying to impress. Well, I guess I wasn't trying to impress him that much because I chose "Zoolander," and even prefaced it by saying it was one of my favorite movies.

It wasn't as funny that night as I had remembered it, but it was still time well spent. Even for a person who values sleep as much as I do, I was still euphoric when I finally got to bed in the wee hours of the morning after having sat up and talked all night with the best listener and the most supportive person I may ever know.

The next afternoon (we both slept in), he called, we talked some more and decided to slap a big ol' "dating" label on ourselves. That was November 14th, and tomorrow marks our 5-year anniversary.

We're keeping things on the frugal side this year, so part of my gift to him is a 5-day cooking extravaganza. Day 1: Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce.

Had I not insisted on having roasted broccoli and roasted sweet potato wedges as sides, we would easily have had dinner on the table in 15 minutes. And no one would guess that you didn't slave over and spend a fortune on this.

The steak: filet mignon. I was going to just buy ribeyes, but the filet mignon was right next to them, and I thought, why not? You only celebrate the 5-year anniversary of Movie Night once. They were seared on my brand-new Le Creuset grill pan for about 4 minutes per side and came out perfectly rare.

The sauce: sweet heaven. Matty said that he could have eaten it with a spoon, like some sort of overly decadent soup. I was very, very impressed. At first, I was afraid the blue cheese would be overwhelming, but you can barely taste it in the final product. It was really the perfect addition to the tender steak, and all the extra sauce was happily scooped up by the veggies.

I really should have set the bar lower. ;) Four more days to go!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

so sick


One of the worst sensations in the world has got to be the creeping of a cold coming on. I can never wake up with a full-blown cold and tell the world I'm taking the day off. Oh no. I always wake up with a little tickle in my throat - hm, am I getting sick, or did I just sing too many Renaissance motets at rehearsal last night? I then hope that the power of positive thinking will convince my immune system that, no - that's not intense sinus pressure under your left eye. No, that's not a little earache. And that twinge is most definitely well-worked vocal cords, not anything even slightly swiney.

I wasn't planning on cooking today. I was planning on resting up for a culinary extravaganza this weekend. I was planning on going to see Matty play a gig and then maybe cheating and getting some luscious mac and cheese at the 101. But alas, Sniffly-Pants was relegated to the kitchen to stir a big pot of sinus-opening soup.

Luckily, I'm not at that stage in my illness where my tastebuds have stopped working, and I've lost my appetite. I wanted something soothing, but also something potent. I had bookmarked this soup exactly for this occasion, and below are a few quick changes I made to allow myself to be as lazy as possible.

Burmese Chicken-Coconut Soup

1/2 onion, chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 1/2 onions, sliced
2 T. vegetable oil
3 c. chicken broth
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. turmeric
2 t. paprika
1 c. coconut milk
2 40-gram packages of bean thread noodles
12 oz. spinach leaves
lime wedges for garnish

1. Place the chopped onion, ginger, garlic and 4 Tablespoons of water in a food processor and process until smooth.

2. Heat oil in a large pot. Add sliced onions and brown for about 7 minutes. Add chicken and stir until browned. Add cayenne, turmeric and paprika.

3. Add chicken broth and onion-ginger puree. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat.

4. Add bean thread noodles and let simmer for about 7 minutes. Add the spinach you found in the fridge when looking for limes and stir through until wilted.

5. Turn heat back on and add coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and serve.

I could feel my sinuses opening as the soup simmered. They definitely opened up when I tasted the soup for seasoning - way spicy! Even after I added the coconut milk, I had to add another cup of broth to mellow it out. Thankfully, that did the trick - I was going to be extra upset if I wasn't going to be able to eat the deliciousness that I had been smelling for the last half hour.

I didn't use the fava flour called for in the original recipe because I didn't want to purchase another random bag of flour to add to my collection. The soup still had a perfectly velvet texture - some of it from the coconut milk, but I think more of it due to the fact that I cooked the bean thread noodles right in the broth. Whatever it was, it was just what I needed. Now, I'm going to go slip some Maker's Mark into my tea and hope I wake up good as new.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

better, better, better


Ah, fall in LA. Finally it is comfortable to stand in front of a big pot of chili with the oven below going at 400 degrees to bake some semolina gnocchi.

The initial inspiration for dinner was a recipe I had bookmarked for turkey chili with cornbread dumplings. Unfortunately, I had only read through it hastily and when I went back to review, it involved just a few too many boxed, ready-made ingredients than I was ready to offer Matty for dinner, especially since we effectively hadn't seen each other in 3 days.

I've made the chili before, but this time I just subbed ground turkey because I found a couple packages in the freezer. It was even better than I remembered, and now that I'm thinking about it, it's probably the lowest fat comfort food I can think of. Lean ground turkey and no other fat except what's in the chicken broth. Brilliant. That'll justify all the eating I just did.

I was starting to do a search for cornbread dumplings, but then remembered I had bookmarked a recipe for Semolina Gnocchi, so decided to go with that with the chili as a ragu topping.

In my eagerness to get home and get the process started, I forgot to pick up goat cheese at the grocery store. When I got home, I found some usable ricotta and was planning on subbing that, but then forgot to stir it in at the last minute. Ah well.

I baked the cooled polenta at 400 degrees for the required 15-20 minutes, but ended up broiling it for an additional 5 minutes for browning. I think next time, I'll just broil from the get-go to get the gnocchi crisper and browner.

As it was, it was still a great complement to the chili, and a perfect continuation of the lowfat dinner idea. It was a lovely light contrast to the heavier chili, and I might even go so far to say that I liked it better than with the ubiquitous cornbread (although I can't say I like it more than just scooping chili up with Fritos, but we'll save that for a cheat day).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

cool it down cuz it's getting too hot


This Pumpkin Pie Fudge was a lesson in not second-guessing myself.

By choice, I have very little experience in candy-making. Frankly, I don't have the patience for it. In fact, just the other day, my friend Julia and were agreeing that no good can come of a recipe that requires the use of a candy thermometer.

So the first couple steps of this fudge recipe seemed easy enough. Combine, stir, boil until syrup hits 234 degrees (or at soft-ball stage). I had also happened to Google how to figure out if something was at soft-ball stage without the use of a thermometer and learned that a little drop of the syrup in a cup of cold water should form a little ball. Okay.

So the syrup started getting pretty thick, but my thermometer was still at about 160 degrees. Okay, keep at it. I kept stirring and stirring. That looks about right. Just take it off the heat. Well, the thermometer isn't at 234 degrees yet. Finally, I did the water test. Wait? Is that a ball? Well, not really. More stirring. Okay. This is still at 160 degrees. Well, you know how as soon as you turn your back, things will immediately go way past the desired temperature/boil over/make you curse the day you were born? Let's try that. I took a lap around the house and came back into the kitchen. Still no go. I did a couple dishes. Still nothing. Hm. Maybe my thermometer's broken. Let's do that water test again. Oh God. It's forming a ball off the spoon on its own. Oh God. Is that burning I smell?

Thankfully, the burning smell was just a product of an overactive imagination. However, the syrup was definitely cooked past soft-ball stage. I hurriedly took it off the heat, and started adding the white chocolate. And then everything kind of seized up and hardened. By the time the marshmallow fluff made it in there, my arms were sore.

Back to the Google machine. How to fix fudge that's been cooked past soft-ball stage. The first couple results were disheartening. "You can't, you a-hole." Luckily, a couple results down, was a suggestion to put it back on the heat with a splash of milk, and stir until a better consistency. I did what I could and then just gave up and piled it all in an 8x8 pan.

And you know what? It came out just fine. Not the smooth morsel of fall goodness I had hoped for, but still a sweet, cinnamon-y delight. Had I called it Pumpkin Nougat, no one would have been none the wiser. So all's well that ends well, and now I'm off to Sur La Table with the killing I made in birthday gift cards to look for a new thermometer.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

great pumpkin waltz


For the 2nd (maybe 3rd) year in a row, Matty and I have managed to purchase a pumpkin but did not end up having the opportunity to carve it before Halloween. It's been difficult to get into the fall spirit what with all the 80+ degree temperature we've been having, and our schedules have been so completely insane that it was entirely too much effort to squeeze in carving time between work/social obligations and bedtime.

The nights have been cooling down, though, and I'm ready to really enjoy fall. Other than football, my favorite thing about fall is pumpkin. So when Daylight Savings Time screwed with my internal clock this morning, I cheerfully hopped out of bed to make Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins for breakfast.

Instead of nuts (I do not like nuts in baked goods), I subbed 1/2 cup of toffee bits, and even with them and the chocolate chips, I still felt pretty virtuous. The muffins are not very sweet at all, which kind of makes me want to ice them with something maple-y for a more special occasion. Plain, they're a great breakfast option - the pockets of melted dark chocolate provide just enough fun to make you think you didn't wake up early for nothing.