Thursday, October 30, 2014

S'mores Bars That Will Make Your House Smell Like A Campfire (in a good way)

Dear Turkey,

Thank you for posting on my our blog. Now my co-workers will stop asking me if you are real.

After you read this post, you will either
1) be jealous
2) wish you were not associated with me

Yesterday I was reading a Rachael Ray magazine academic papers at the public library (at least I don't subscribe to it, okay?), and I found a recipe for s'mores bars. I was really intrigued by this recipe; most s'mores bars are too complicated/snobby/crusty which detracts from the awesomeness of the whole idea. I became so preoccupied with these bars that I just had to make them today before work. At 9 am.
I made her recipe even simpler by eliminating some ingredients (they were originally supposed to have coffee in them). However, I think that s'mores bars need to be toasted, so I finished them under the broiler (after discovering that a candle lighter does not work as well as a blowtorch).

Simple, Not-Deconstructed, Toasted S'mores Bars

1. Line a 9-inch baking pan with parchment.
2. Microwave 10 oz (which is almost a whole bag, after you ate a handful) of chocolate chips and 1/3 c sour cream until melted (I don't like sour cream, but this is a match made in heaven). If your mom only has low-fat sour cream, no worries. This melts quickly; don't burn it.
3. Crush a package of graham crackers (10 crackers) BEFORE OPENING THE PACKAGE.
4. Sprinkle half of the crackers on top of the parchment, and top that with 1-2 c marshmallows, depending on how much you like marshmallows (if you want to know how much I like them, see pic).
5. Pour the melted chocolate mixture on top, and then follow that with the rest of the crackers and more marshmallows.
6. Toast the top with a candle lighter blowtorch or broiler (this will happen fast! do not walk away!).
7. Let cool and set up in the fridge or freezer if you're in a hurry.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Sear What You Did There

Dear Tofu,

Well you have really done an awesome job with this blog. Hopefully you won't mind me jumping in for a moment to share my dinner with you; I need to take a break from my novel. Which all of your readers should read when it's published, even though there is no good food in it. #shamelessselfpromotion #dealwithit

Even though I am soon to be a fabulously famous novelist, I still like to cook. I like to mise en place (that's French-literate speak for "set shit up") meals when I'm at peak writing frustration (should that be a comma, a semi-colon, a colon, or a period...let me read it for the 127th time AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH). So today that was about the whole afternoon, but luckily I had lots to prepare. Last night I dealt with the frustration of a blackout, so there was no cooking. #yayfordeliciousmexicantakeout

So here was dinner tonight, courtesy of NSTAR power (product placements do not signify approval of blog authors). Since I have done the work ahead of time, let me point out that these things do not go together. They are, however, both delicious, so just make them separately

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Soy-Balsamic Reduction
~ 12 sea scallops (or however many you want to pay for and eat, which may not be the same amount)
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T rice vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1/2 T sesame oil
red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic
coconut oil

Dry the sea scallops, season them, then dredge them in flour. Heat coconut oil on medium high and pan sear the scallops for about 2 minutes per side; don't futz with them people. Leave the fond (that's French-literate speak for "burned crap stuck to the pan") and remove the scallops. Then add the sesame oil and, when hot, the garlic and red pepper flakes (as many as you want to feel burning you). When the garlic smells fragrant, add the vinegars and soy sauce and reduce for a few minutes until a little syrupy. Plate the scallops on a simple salad and drizzle with a bit of the reduction.

Garlic-Thyme Sweet Potato Bakeds
~2 sweet potatoes (or however many you want to pay for and eat; lucky these are cheap)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
~3 cloves garlic
olive oil
cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 500F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper (just do it; you'll thank me). Cut the sweep potatoes into wedges and season them with the salt, pepper, and cayenne. Crush and chop the garlic and sprinkle it over the potatoes. Coat the potatoes in oil and mix all that stuff up. Then stand them on baking sheet as best you can and put the sprigs of thyme on them. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how dark you like your bakeds.

Alright. Time to go. My characters are about to kill me, and I already killed them!


How to Use Up A Butternut Squash...

...that has been in your fridge for a week.

Dear Turkey,

I have probably written a post with this title before, since I love squash, and using stuff up is my speciality.

First, I made squash bread, which is a standby in our house. I adapted the recipe from this classic cookbook. My constituents wanted something that could soak up cream of broccoli soup, and also rolls that you can pull apart.

Pull-Apart Squash Rolls


1 T yeast dissolved in 1/4 c warm water
1/3 c milk, warmed up a little
1 c cooked and mashed squash (or canned pumpkin, sweet potatoes, whatever you have)
1/3 c brown sugar
generous pinch salt
1/3 c melted butter (plus some to butter the pan) (you could probably increase this to a whole stick and just add more flour)
2 c whole wheat flour
2-3 c white flour, enough to make a dough that comes together


Combine everything except the flours and mix. Add the whole wheat flour and knead with your hand. Then gradually add white flour until the dough forms a nice stretchy ball. Butter a round baking dish (like a Corning-ware). Make 12 or 15 balls and cram them into the bottom of the dish. Let this rise while you preheat the oven and poke around for a bit. Bake at 400 degrees until the rolls are golden brown on top. This took me about 40 mins, but it will depend on the water content of the dough and the size of your pan. If in doubt, cook them longer. Cool and remove one at a time, just before eating.

So I had some squash left over and I was really intrigued by these salted pumpkin caramel cookies that I saw in one of my mom's magazines that I like to complain about and then secretly read in the bathtub. (If you have ever tried to secretly read something in the bathtub, you will know what I mean.) I like the idea of pumpkin products with actual pumpkin (or squash, which is what canned pumpkin is) in them. However, this recipe calls for canned pumpkin, and I think the water content of my squash was too high, causing the frosting to be more like a pumpkin buttercream than a caramel. 

Salted Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprint Cookies 

For the dough, beat:

2/3 c butter, soft (this worked out for me because the rolls called for 1/3 c, so I melted 2 sticks)
1/2 c brown sugar (I am going to reduce this to 1/3 c next time)
1/2 t salt
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1.5 c flour

This recipe is supposed to make 36 cookies. Yeah right. I made 15 and I thought that was a lot. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 mins. If you want them to be beautifully round, chill the dough for an hour or so first. 

For the caramel:

Bring 1/2 c sugar, 2 T water, and 2 T light corn syrup (it's worth it) to a boil. 
Boil gently until golden brown. Try not to stir it too much. But also try not to burn it. Remember, boiling sugar is super hot! 
Remove from heat and add 1/3 c whipped cream, 2 T butter (I didn't have cream so I used a whole stick of butter), 1 t pumpkin pie spice (I used a pinch of cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger), and 1/2 c canned pumpkin (I am going to try 1/4 c next time if I don't use canned). 
Chill this for a few hours until it's spreadable. Frost/dollop cookies and sprinkle with sea salt.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's Frittata With YOU?

Dear Turkey,

'Tis the season to ask the age old question: What's Frittata With You?

There's a lot to say on this subject, so let's just stick with what's frittata with me:

What's Frittata With Me?

My mom says I can make dinner but only if it's fast, uses stuff up, and she only has to wash one pot. This is just the kind of challenge-that's-not-a-challenge that I love. So I grate (it's worth it) a potato and an onion and saute it in a few T of oil in a cast-iron pan. Then I add about a cup of chopped broccoli, 5 eggs (I just cracked them directly into the pan), a little salt and pepper, and about 1/2 c (each) of cheddar and parm. I mix this all up just until eggs are mostly uniform, and cook it on medium heat until the eggs start to get custardy all the way through. Then I broil it for about 5 minutes until the top is deliciously umami. Serve with Dinosaur BBQ sauce and tabasco.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest Post From My Favorite Neighbor

I decided to take this project on after baking pumpkin yesterday from our CSA, Common Threads and feeling non-creative after just finishing my 3rd pumpkin bread in the past 2 weeks.  I've always wanted to make ravioli (or any pasta in general) but it seemed pretty out of my league.  My husband turned on Animal Collective and I got in the groove, taking breaks only to breastfeed (and text pics to you).  Did this take a long time and seem really hard?  Yes.  But it was so worth it.  And my food baby is reminiscent of only a true-pregnant reality a few short months ago.

Ravioli Dough:
1 1/2 c flour (I used white whole wheat flour, you can use white or whole wheat also)
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp olive oil
1-4 TBsp cold water
Put the flour, salt, eggs and olive oil in a food processor until well blended and crumbly.  Add water only if you need to, in order to increase stickiness.  Knead dough and divide into 4.  Roll out two sheets roughly the same size (I hung one over a glass while I was using my pastry mat to roll out 2nd one).  Roll them as thin as you can! 

Ravioli Filling:
1 c fresh baked/cooked pumpkin
2 heaping TBsp Greek plain yogurt (you could also use sour cream or ricotta cheese)
2 1/2 TBsp chopped onion
1 c parm. cheese (I used an Italian mix of parm, prov and mozz.  If you have it, it's amazing)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. sage (I used powdered, but fresh would be great too--more like 1/2 tsp)
1 Tbsp cream
Mix all ingredients by hand--you don't need a blender or beaters.  Place small (approx. 1 inch balls) blobs on rolled ravioli sheet, lined up so that when you put the second ravioli sheet over, you can press down around the balls with your fingers.  After this step, use sharp knife to cut ravioli squares.  Press down edges with a fork to ensure they don't fall apart in boiling water.
Boil ravioli for 8-10 minutes.  They will float to top when cooked.  I cooked mine in two batches.

1/4 c walnuts (toasted with brown sugar).  You could also use pecans.
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TBsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 TBsp balsamic vinegar (or vinegarette!)
Melt butter for 3-4 minutes until it just begins to turn brown, remove from heat (before it burns!).  While butter is melting, combine other ingredients, make sure everything has dissolved.  After you've removed butter from heat, combine walnuts and other sauce mixture with butter. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Banana Leather

Dear Turkey,


1. You just got a Trader Joe's and you want to buy everything in there.
2. You just ate a lot of your friend's expensive fruit leather while she was taking a nap and you feel guilty.
3. Your mom asks if you'd like to bake something with her 500 overripe bananas.


Banana Leather. I looks like leather. For real. It tastes like bananas/caramel/honey/cinnamon/lime. It gives your mouth a workout in just the right way. It cost you: nothing (if using your mom's ingredients), or way less than it would to buy it (even at Trader Joe's).

So Cheap, So Easy (if you are going to be home for, like, 2-5 hrs) Banana Leather


Blend 7 ripe bananas (or equivalent amount of other fruit [I would cook apples first]), 2 T lime juice, 4 T honey, and a generous pinch of cinnamon until smooth.
Pour onto a parchment-ed cookie sheet.
Bake at 225 degrees depends. Probably about 2-4 hours. If you think you have enough batter to spread between two cookie sheets, I would. The baking time will depend on your oven/the humidity/liquid content of the fruit/size of your cookie sheets/etc. You will see that mine got nice and dark; the middle is like classic fruit leather and the edges are like caramelized banana bark/brittle, which is fine with me. It looks like it would be hard to pull the parchment off the back, but it wasn't.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Am Seriously Old

Dear Turkey,

Since you already know that I am old, I am not ashamed to remind you that I like. bran. muffins. And I like prunes. Before you stop reading this and navigate to a youthful website, I want to say that bran prune muffins are really good. Like, really good. Even my toddler likes them. When I look at the ingredients I actually can't believe how tasty they really are.

Not Just For Old People Bran Prune Muffins (I know)
(Adapted from Bob's Red Mill [see link above])

Ingredients (for 24 -- if that's too many, make half the recipe, or store them in the freezer and microwave right before eating):

1 c prunes, sliced (and pitted, obvi)
2 c wheat bran (I recommend Bob's Red Mill and maybe one day when I'm famous they'll pay me)
3 c whole wheat flour (I know -- aren't you feeling righteous already?)
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
2 c milk of your choice (I used soy, unsweetened)
1 c molasses (yes, that is all the sugar)
1/2 c canola oil


Combine everything and don't overmix. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Use muffin papers.

From, an Old Person,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Awesome and Beautiful Vegan Food

Dear Turkey,

You probably know that I have some tactics to get people to like vegan food. You will see that I did a variation on one of these by covering my vegan dessert with ice cream. However, this main-course dish is so good that I didn't need to trick anybody into eating it.

Umami Sensation Un-ashamed Vegan Baked Tofu Stir Fry

In case you are getting intimidated by that awesomely-long title, rest assured that it will take you little more time to make this dish than it took me to make that title.

For the tofu:

Oil a glass baking dish.
Slice one cake of extra firm tofu into thin rectangles (they can be big, jut not thick, if you know what I mean).
Combine 4 T peanut butter, 4 T brown sugar, 2 T tamari, and 1 T lime juice. Melt this in the microwave until it's mixable and then season to taste.
Line the baking dish with one layer of tofu and then pour/dollop the sauce all over it, repeating if you have more tofu and sauce.
Bake at 425 degrees until you are really convinced it's about to burn. If the sauce gets kind of broken up/crumbly, no worries. That just adds to the umami sensation.

For the stir fry:

Saute 1/2 (each) onion, red pepper, and green pepper in some oil until the onion starts to brown. Then add 1 can (each, drained) straw mushrooms and baby corn. Add 1 T tamari, 1 T lime juice, 1-2 T brown sugar, and 1-2 t siracha. Cook just until the canned veggies are hot and the liquid is just starting to boil off. Top with tofu and enjoy.

For dessert, I tried an apple pave that was inspired by this awesome cookbook, although the authors would probably sue me if they found me appropriating their techniques so loosely. This was interesting the first day, but it was really good after it had been in the fridge for 48 hours, kind of like a really sophisticated fruit cocktail. If it's too vegan for you, you can always cover it with some homemade custard (I used my usual base and added maple syrup, vanilla extract, and chopped pecans at the end).

Raw-inspired (but don't tell them) Apple Pave

Slice two different (like one sour and one sweet) apples and one Asian pear paper thin (I know).
Line a square tupperware container (one about the size of a salad plate) with plastic wrap. Make sure there is enough hanging over two edges that you will be able to wrap it over the top of the container when you're done.
Combine 2 T honey, 2 T maple syrup, juice of 1 lime, and 1 t rose water. Taste it. Isn't it awesome? See, those vegans are on to something.
Spread some of this sauce on the bottom of the lined-container and then alternate layers of apples/pear and sauce (like lasagne). Drizzle some sauce over the top when you are done.
Close the plastic wrap and place another similar-sized dish or container over the top. Then place a 2-lb weight (like a big can or something) on the top container. Basically, you need to press this so you can slice it later, and you don't want a big sticky mess. That's the goal. Put your contraption in the fridge for at least an hour.
When you're ready to eat, slice with a sharp knife and serve with custard, or vegan custard. Garnish with pecans if you are fancy.


Friday, October 17, 2014

You Can Make Bubble Tea

Dear World,

Are you sick of spending $5 every time you want bubble tea? Do you have that sneaky feeling that you can make enough for you and all of your friends for that much money (your real friends, not your facebook friends)?

I used to work at a bubble tea place, and I knew that bubble tea isn't that hard to make -- if you always buy your bubbles from the same supplier, use the same pot with the same amount of water on the same burner and cook them for the same amount of time. In other words, I knew it would take some trial and error to perfect the process in my own kitchen.

Here are three pieces of advice so you can learn from my mistakes:

1) Quick-cooking bubbles: there are pros and cons. Cons: unpronounceable chemicals (and they are made who knows where which can make even that hard to trust). Pros: they cook in five minutes instead of an hour, and the scary chemicals make them much more forgiving to chilling/freezing/reheating/etc. (you're really not supposed to do any of that, except maybe freeze them once at the beginning, but these bubbles make it more possible). If you start messing with the chilling/heating business you will get the hang of it.

2) As my grandma says, use a really big pan. Otherwise they will stick and burn (that was fail #2: we called those Lapsang Souchong Bubbles).

3) If you cook the bubbles according to the directions (or store them in the fridge, not according to the directions), and they get crumbly/crunchy/disintegrate-y (you know what I mean), you can restore them to their typical chewiness in the microwave. I wish I had known this before (fail #1).

So there really isn't much of a recipe here, since you should cook the bubbles according to the package directions (what you want to buy is "Tapioca Pearls" -- there are different kinds, but the brown ones that look like rabbit poop are what's in the bubble tea we're used to).

When they are cooked, immerse them immediately in a simple sugar syrup that you may have already made (I would use 2 c water for about 2 c uncooked bubbles). Then, either use them right away, put in the fridge for a day or so (and then microwave before use), or freeze until you are ready to microwave and use them.

You can add these to any tea, juice, coffee, etc. I made a big quart jar of really sweet iced tea, and then used 1 part tea:1 part soy milk in each glass. If you really want it to taste as creamy as at the bubble tea shop, you have to use gross non-dairy creamer (no judging).


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chocolate Babka

Dear Turkey,

Chocolate Babka is important to me. I used to bring it home from Zabar's before Wegmans started carrying it. I never thought I could make a good one, or that it would be so easy. But my parents liked it, and so did your parents (hence the "reunited, sort of" label). (And, yes, I know that real Jews only eat Cinnamon Babka and Rugelah. Their loss.)

This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, where her description of how easy it was won me over. And then I made it easier.

Easy, Delicious, Semi-Jewish, Not Healthy but Not-Too-Sugary-Either Chocolate Babka

For the dough (DO THIS 12-24 HRS BEFORE), combine:

2/3 c melted butter (yeah, that's an annoying amount, I know)
4.5 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1 T yeast
1 t orange zest
3 eggs
1/2 c warm water
1 t salt

Knead with your hands until a ball forms, and then for a few extra minutes. Chill, covered, for at least 12 hours (yes, this will make it hard to roll out, but it will prevent a sticky mess).

Before you are ready to roll it out, make the filling:

3/4 c chocolate chips + 1 stick butter (melted in microwave)
1/2 c confectioners sugar
1/3 c cocoa
generous pinch cinnamon

After that, divide the dough in half. Put one half back in the fridge (do it). Roll out the other half on wax paper (probably no flour required) until it's as thin as you can make it, which might not be that thin. Muscles required. Spread half the filling on the dough and then roll it up. Before you place it in a greased bread pan, twist the roll so it looks kind of like a twizzler. Don't stress if it's looks ugly or messy. It will be fine and nobody will care. Repeat for the other half of the dough and then cover the bread pans and let it rise for an hour or so. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean and the loaves are getting golden brown.

Meanwhile, make a sugar syrup by bringing 2 parts water, 1 part white sugar, and 1 part brown sugar to a boil, stirring. Then let it cool. This keeps well but if you're only using it for this, you probably only need a tablespoon or two of each thing. When the loaves come out, immediately paint (or pour, if you're lazy) them with syrup:

Be prepared to have lots of friends,

Friday, October 10, 2014

Caramel Corn

Dear Favorite Cousin,

I struggled with how to start this post, in case there are other cousins out there who think they are my favorite cousin, so I'll just be a little vague here so as not to exclude anybody:

I have so many great memories of eating caramel corn at your apartment abode in Syracuse Upstate New York with your dog friends and your now husband roommate.

I also struggled with whether or not this would be as good with microwave popcorn. You were right: no regrets. Also, the popcorn was "lightly salted," and salted caramel is a thing. I pride myself on being a person of willpower, but this is something I almost can't leave alone (just ask my constituents), and I have bad teeth, so I should.

Secret Family Recipe Caramel Corn (no oven or real popcorn required)

For the sauce, combine:

1 c brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 c light corn syrup (it's worth it)
2 T molasses
1/2 t salt

Bring to a boil in a NONSTICK pan (trust me: I hate nonstick pans, too, but sometimes you gotta do it) and boil for 5 minutes. Try not to stir it, but make sure it doesn't burn either. Boiling sugar is REALLY hot, so be careful (even after you pour it on the popcorn, it can burn your mouth for much longer than you think). Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 t baking soda and watch the magic happen.

This makes enough for one bag of microwave popcorn or equivalent of real popcorn (since we all innately know how much is in a bag of microwave popcorn).

Pour over popcorn and stir while you can, but don't break too many kernels.

Your Favorite (I hope) Cousin

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just Bake Some Veggies...And Your House Will Smell Amazing

Dear Turkey,

You know I am really into baking your dinner. It takes minimal effort, uses up veggies that are almost too old, and makes your smoke alarm go off, and it's really loud your house smell really good (after you open the door for a while).

First, chop up (don't work too hard -- you can see I didn't)/poke holes in whatever you want to use up. Place them on an oiled/foiled (but not in that order) cookie sheet and sprinkle some of them with season salt and oil (not the squash):

Prep anything else you want to cook later:

425 degrees and about 45 minutes later (steam the broccoli while the squash cools enough to peel it):

I like my onions really crunchy/caramelized/salty, but you can take them out earlier if you want.

And your house will smell awesome in the morning, too.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Pumpkin Cookies

Dear Turkey,

Full disclosure: these cookies are vegan (I was employing one of my strategies to make people like vegan food). But And they are also awesome.

I have some criteria for pumpkin cookies: they must use exactly one can of pumpkin, they must contain things that I always have in my house (hence, the vegan), they must be not-sweet enough that I can eat them for breakfast and not feel gross, and they must be chewy.

I adapted the recipe from vegan baking royalty.

Vegan, Chewy, Easy, Fast, Healthy-ish Pumpkin Cookies


1 can pumpkin
4 c flour (I'm sure you could use half or all whole wheat -- I would use scant cups if I replaced all)
3 c oatmeal
2 t baking soda
1.5 t salt
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
2 c sugar 
1 1/3 c canola oil
4 T molasses
2 t vanilla
1 c mini chocolate chips


Combine everything. For 24 cookies, bake at 350 degrees for 20 mins (but they will be as big as your head, so you might want to make more).