So Many Pictures

I had a very busy last couple of days!  I’m looking at another one today…and tomorrow!  I have lots of cooking planned for today.  It’s hard to tear myself away from the TV, though – Sci Fi is showing Stephen King movies and The Stand just started.  I love that book and haven’t seen the movie yet, though I guess I’d better leave most of it for another time or I’ll be sitting here for several hours!  Before that I watched the remake of Carrie, which I liked.  Carrie is another one of my favorite books by King and I never liked the original movie, but I adore Angela Bettis and think she made the perfect Carrie.

I spent a couple of hours of quality time with the printer on Saturday and some time yesterday with the nice people at the local Staples copy counter!  Can you guess why?

That's the cover...I colored one of the pages and we scanned it, so it still looks like crayon!
That's the cover - I colored a copy of page one and scanned it so it looks crayon-y.

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And Now for the Food Part

Sometimes, a recipe is so tasty that you don’t get a decent picture of it before it’s gone.  This is one of those recipes.  There aren’t any leftovers, either, so I have to make it again to make it look more appetizing (and I will, and eventually I’ll also drag my Very Photogenic black& white dishes out of storage and they’ll do all the work for me).

Cheesy Potato Soup with Broccoli, Mushrooms & Bacon

I was only able to take this because it was still too hot for Z to eat.
I was only able to take this picture because it was still too hot for Z to eat.

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How Many Links Can I Put in an Entry?

I’ve got another apple pie just out of the oven, this time made a little differently from my original recipe: no sugar added aside from a couple generous splashes of maple syrup, a big glug of vanilla extract, and a dusting of ground ginger (not fresh this time – I wanted the bite to be subtle) as the lone spice.  I did keep the lemon juice and zest, though.  The mix of distinct flavors made the apples lots of fun to both smell and taste-test – first all you can sense is the lemon, then the vanilla kicks in, followed by a nice mellow maple flavor, and then BAM, right in the mouth, a little kick of ginger.  I also added a couple shakes each of ground nutmeg and cinnamon to the crust, and generously sprinkled the whole top of the pie with cinnamon and sugar before I popped it into the oven.  I happened to have a little extra crust and found some colored sugar so here’s how the pie looks fresh from the oven!

Yay, apples!
Yay, apples!

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Photography is Hard!

Every time I cook something halfway interesting, I try to take a few shots of it, some for use but mostly for practice.  My camera is nothing incredibly special but it isn’t bad, albeit totally clunky.  It has a sweet flip-screen, though; you can see yourself while you take a self-portrait…Anyway, I find that, much like myself, most of the food I cook isn’t always the most photogenic.  So I was excited to get a nice subject from my parents.  I think it was a find on one of my mom’s many farmer’s market trips.

Cute enough to eat...
Cute enough to eat...

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Filling the Days

As many people know, I recently (ok, this past July) left my job as manager of a local record store for the domestic life.  Though overall it was a great opportunity to expand my musical and cinematic tastes and I met many wonderful people, staff and customers alike, I’d had enough stress and decided it just wasn’t healthy for me anymore.  You know it’s time to leave a job when the entire drive home you can’t stop thinking about how you can’t WAIT to get home to your vodka bottle and erase the day.

Since I no longer have any obligations whatsoever aside from the occasional dinner with my family, I’ve had lots of time to fill.  It took some time to adjust, and it’s still a little weird.  What do you do all day when you can do pretty much anything?  Well, true to form, I mostly stay inside, though I do get up a lot earlier than i used to – usually around 8, and trying to creep towards 7.  The place where I live now is on the water and the early mornings are peaceful, so I enjoy waking up slowly with a big mug of hot tea most days.  I spend the hours before noon reading recipe feeds, catching up on the news, casually practicing French (while half-wondering if I should be working on my slightly-more-advanced-but-still-lousy Spanish skills instead…oh my GOD Rosetta Stone is a neat program!), planning and working on cross-stitch projects, watching Martha religiously (only applies to weekdays), working out…Not necessarily all of those things each morning, though!

To fill my afternoon hours, I usually head down to the kitchen and whip up some sort of baked treats or a nice dinner for Z (and often myself, but I need practice cooking meat).  I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, many of which I get from the feeds that are updated every morning on my home page.  At least half of the recipes, though, come from the myriad food blogs whose feeds I also subscribe to in a different category on the homepage.  I have a ridiculously long list of them at this point, and the majority of them are also bookmarked separately so I can fill any idle hours with archived goodness.  Having so many sources of recipes means that all sorts of cuisines, tastes and skill levels are represented.  Many I just bookmark for later, thinking I just don’t know how to do one of the procedures required but SOMEDAY, or I don’t have a pricey ingredient but OH I WILL, or it’s just not the right season for something but MMM NEXT YEAR…Occasionally, though, I’ll turn to Z and say “would you eat *insert random dish, usually something with meat so I actually care if he’d eat it or not*?”  The response is often “what? I’m busy,” but every once in a while it’s a thoughtful (or even excited) “yes please!”  This recipe is one that elicited a more enthusiastic answer, and is only slightly adapted from the relatively new and very attractive Pithy & Cleaver.

Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms (original recipe)

Looks so warm and comforting, like you could just crawl in between the mushrooms and rice.
Looks so warm and comforting, like you could just crawl in between the mushrooms and rice.

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Favorite Cupcake Alert!

I got home kind of late last night and bed looked too comfy to make myself stay up.  I had a fun evening, though!  The recipe for the cookie dough balls will be posted eventually (I’d love to get into homemade ice cream and make homemade cookie dough, but I think I’ll wait until spring).I still don’t really “get” wine but I definitely like some better than others, and i learned which red wines I like all right and which ones I hate and why (it’s all about tannins, yucky yucky tannins).  I tried one that tasted like cherries, that one was pretty good.  I also won as a door prize a beautiful handmade wood cutting board, made by the host of the party.  Hello, new food photo backdrop!

There really isn’t much to say about this recipe other than it’s my absolute favorite, and it’s really easy and fun to make.  The topping of chocolate candy is a way to cover up the fact that I don’t really know how to make frosting, but anything very dark chocolate would work great on top.  Probably nothing too fluffy…I’ll have to learn how to make frosting sometime and will replace the candy once I figure something out.  Definitely open to suggestions on that front.

The mellocreme pumpkins on top are purely decorative and I don’t care if people eat them or not, but I think they’re the best way to convey the message “oh hi, we’re just some pumpkin cupcakes, yup, cupcakes that taste like delicious pumpkin, that’s what we are.”  The Halloween wrappers are highly recommended – I usually only make these cupcakes in October.  They could also be a fun Thanksgiving treat with different decorations.

This was originally a cake recipe and ends up making about 30 cupcakes in total.  Sometimes I make the full 30 and sometimes I make 24 and a small cake in a lightly greased Pyrex dish.  Also, they look like muffins, all foldy and cracky on top, instead of cute, smooth, cupcakey little domes.  Don’t trust them.  One taste and you’ll be all, “oh yeah, that’s CAKE.”

Candy-Topped Pumpkin Cupcakes

Hi! I'm a friendly, lonely cupcake!  Yup, just me here!
Hi! I'm just a friendly cupcake, all by my lonesome! Nobody here but me!

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A Few of my Favorite Things

The cupcakes will have to wait as I don’t know if I’ll even be topping them tonight (they are in the oven right now).  So, tomorrow, writing about my absolute favorite cupcakes.  I intended to make some of them tiny to take to a wine tasting I’m attending tomorrow night with my mom but I’ll have to bring full-sized instead – the liners I bought for the mini muffin pan were stand-alone liners and just a little too big for the tin, and I wasn’t going to bake anything in there unlined since something I tried yesterday (failure apple muffins) ended up with little silvery bits stuck to the edges of the muffins.  I think that particular piece of fail was due to the liner being cheap and painted (wtf WHY) and possibly also the muffins being overly sticky.  Urg, they were disappointing.

ANYWAY

This is a dish I really love to make in the fall and early winter, because it’s POMEGRANATE SEASON!  I love pomegranates for many reasons – their theological amd historical significance, their gorgeous red hue and their roundness and heft, their bizarre and oddly poetic resemblance to the human heart, and, of course, their juicy, tangy-sweet kernels.  Not to mention the pomegranate is one of the offical “fad superfoods” due to its high level of antioxidants (I think it bumped blueberries off, though the goji berry is number one at the time…it’s like a yearly thing, it seems).

This recipe is one I found online a while ago when trying to find a tasty use for pomegranates besides savoring the plain seeds victoriously after the lengthy fight to get them out.  Or…was it while I was searching for couscous recipes?  I don’t remember, but it doesn’t matter since I love both!

You're meant to mix it in the pan first but I'm excitable.
Yummy!

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How Do You Like Them Apples

It seems like everyone’s going apple picking and generally enjoying apples lately, but they don’t all know what to do with them.  Apple pie is the easiest answer, but it can be a little daunting if you’re not experienced in the kitchen.  I love cooking and even I get intimidated by many pie recipes, calling for frozen butter and ice water and needing to keep everything just so cold.  It can be ridiculously easy, though.  A simple olive oil-based crust needs no freezing temperatures and no meticulously cut pieces of butter, and takes only a minute or two to come together.  Honestly, the hardest part of the recipe is peeling the apples, and only if you’re using a basic hand peeler like I do and not a fancy peeler/corer stand thingy.

I’ve made two pies with this recipe so far and changed it a little bit each time, like I do with most baked goods.  This version is the most recent, and you can definitely play with the spices or sugars to suit your taste – the most important thing in the recipes is pre-cooking the apples.  This will shrink them down before they go in the pie and the whole thing will stay nice and tall.  If you assemble the pie with raw apples, they’ll cook down right inside the pie and you’ll get what we call the “apple gap” around here.  A gap will probably also cause your top crust to collapse in on the pie, which makes pies look very sad.

Big Fat Apple Pie

Lookit that nice golden crust!
Lookit that nice golden crust!

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What I’ve Been Up To

Finally finishing high school, moving to Portland, taking two jobs, leaving one, getting promoted at the other, running out of money, moving back, getting a new job, working my way up to manager, getting my own place, getting lonely, getting a tortoise, getting sick of working constantly, quitting my job and finally moving in with Z to take some time and focus on the things I really enjoy – arts, crafts and cooking.

And you?