Posted in Posts about People, Seasonal Cooking

Thanksgiving Bonus

So, this is my ice bucket. It is precious, and sings when you take the lid off to remind you to replace it, lest all the ice melts. We’ve had it for a few years now, and some of the notes come out a little off-key, but we don’t mind. It’s the little ice bucket that could. This year, folks, my dad decided to put it into a pair of mannequin legs.

Let me back up.

Back in October 2016, my grandmother wanted a mummy to put on her porch for Halloween. She goes all-out for every holiday, and Halloween is no exception. So she bought herself a mannequin online and asked my dad to help her transform it. My father, being the good son that he is, took on the challenge (a little too excitedly).

This is Molly and Dad. Well, Molly’s head, anyway. Dad was home alone this weekend since Mom was on a business trip…Things took a turn.

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So eventually, after dyeing strips of cloth, pasting them onto Molly with Mod Podge, and replacing her head with a skeleton, Molly was complete. Gram put the photos on Facebook and thanked Dad for the awesome job.

Flash forward to the next week. My uncle went to the town dump and spotted a pair of mannequin legs (just the legs…) at the “good table”. That is an area where people place things like televisions and bicycles that aren’t broken, but no one wants to bother with selling them. What was the rational thing to do? Pick up the legs and give them to my dad!

I get home from school for Thanksgiving break and my dad asks me to help him saw off the top of the legs to make them flat. He wanted to put a piece of glass on the top and turn it into a tall cocktail table (it was a male mannequin. Cock-tail…get it? We thought it was funny).

I tried to warn Dad, but he didn’t realize it was hollow until it was too late. Looking down the mannequin’s wais,t I could see all the way down to the inside of his feet. So of course, how does my dad solve this disaster? He puts his utili-kilt (everyday work kilt) on it and STUFFS MY ADORABLE SINGING ICE BUCKET INTO THE OPENING OF THE MANNEQUIN LEGS. He even went so far as to make it ~anatomically correct~ but I will give you the blessing of not including a picture.

Either way, Thanksgiving was weird as hell with everyone scooping ice out of a pair of legs all day.

P.S. We named him Fergus

Posted in Seasonal Cooking, Sneak a Snack

Thanksgiving Treats

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Happy post-turkey day everyone! My family always hosts the holiday at our house (because we have the biggest dining room). This is something that I totally take advantage of, because I get to stay in sweatpants until the first guest arrives, and we get to keep most of the leftovers.

The table was piled marvelously high with delicacies such as mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing. But for dessert, I made my Oreo truffles. These are the most delicious little morsels you will ever pop into your mouth, I promise.

All you need for this recipe is one pack of regular Oreos, an 8 oz. block of cream cheese, and enough semi-sweet chocolate chips to melt and cover however many balls you can roll out of the dough. By regular Oreos, I mean the original flavor, and not DoubleStuf. If you use DoubleStuf then the dough will be too moist and won’t hold together.

The first thing you need to do is break apart the Oreos. Either put them in a large zip top bag and smash them with a rolling pin or coffee mug, or grind them up in a food processor. Whichever method you choose, be sure that the mixture is finely crushed. You don’t want your guests (or yourself) to bite into a clump of hard cookie.

Once the cookies have been completely obliterated, add in the cream cheese. It may help if you cut the block up into sections and add them one at a time. You can mix it in by hand, with an electric mixer, or straight into the food processor and combine until you can’t see any streaks of white.

Roll the dough into small balls, no bigger than 1”. Line them up on a metal sheet pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate so they can firm up a bit and can be handled without melting or falling apart.

While they are in the fridge, melt your chocolate chips in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler than just rest a medium-sized glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Or, just microwave and stir, in 15 second increments. You just need to make sure that you don’t let the chocolate get over 90° F or it will lose its temper and won’t solidify properly.

All that is left to do is dip your truffles into the melted chocolate to coat them completely. Using a fork to fish out the truffles, tap the fork lightly against the lip of the bowl containing the melted chocolate; this allows any extra coating to drip off. Let your truffles rest back on the cookie sheet with parchment paper, and place in the fridge to set. Remove them from the fridge a few minutes before eating so the shell can soften up a bit.

 

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Happy holidays!

XXO Maddie

Posted in Dining with Friends, Seasonal Cooking, Sneak a Snack

How to Celebrate the First Snow of the Season

Ladies and Gentlemen, the first snow of the season is here! And I am here to tell you just how you can celebrate it.

First, you have to get through all of you classes, or the entire work day. Just because it’s the first snow doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty more. And those storms will come rolling in with big puffy flakes that drive you back under the covers. So don’t waste an absence or a sick day—save it for when you actually need it!

Once you are at home, make a list of things that you will need. In the case of me and my roommates, we immediately went back out into the cold snowy air (yay, but also, why??) to pick up milk and ingredients to make cookies. Then we went back to the dorm. Can you guess what we did next?

That’s right, we baked them! Then we ate them!

Your list should look pretty similar to that. Take off your work appropriate clothes and put on comfy sweatpants and start baking. I may or may not have the Nestle Tollhouse recipe for chocolate chip cookies memories, but you can use whatever recipe for whatever cookie you like. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl—flour, chocolate chip morsels, sugar, chocolate chip morsels, butter, chocolate chip morsels, eggs, chocolate chip morsels. Can you guess what my favorite part of the dough is?

It also needs other stuff like vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda, but who really cares about that stuff??

Once your cookies are safely in the oven, make your drink of choice. Now because I still had a lot of home work to do, I made a nice strong cup of chai tea. Sprinkle a little extra dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, add a splash of milk and a sprinkle of sugar, and you have a mug of the best holiday beverage that will ever pass your lips.

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These cookies and tea are best enjoyed with a few great friends and a bit of Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. If you don’t have any work to do and just want to relax and enjoy the season, then I recommend some Spiked Spiced Cider… But that’s another post! 😉

Enjoy!

Xxo Maddie

Posted in Bite of Breakfast, Seasonal Cooking, Sneak a Snack

Festive Apple Pie Cresents

While it’s not quite Halloween yet, I’ve been noticing myself getting a little ~excited~ for the holiday. Being the last day of the month, All Hallow’s Eve has its advantages of the dramatic build-up.

Pumpkin carving. Apple Picking. Costume hunting (or building, in my case). And of course the decorations. And scaring people. And the candy.

Where was I?

One of the perks about Halloween is the festive and creative food you can make. No need to go crazy with a turkey that needs a 24 hour marinade like on Thanksgiving, or a yucky fruit cake that no one eats on Christmas. Halloween food can get away with being made from the leftover ingredients you have in the kitchen.

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To make these yummy mummy roll-ups, you’ll need a roll of pre-made crescent dough, apples–preferably green so they don’t fall apart in the oven– both white and brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg (or if you are fancy you can use apple pie seasoning), and mini chocolate chips. Plus a little bit of butter, if necessary (butter is always necessary).

Pre-heat your oven according to the instructions on the tube of dough, then lay out and prep each triangle. You will only need 1 or 2 apples, since you’re just putting one large slice per triangle. Mix the two sugars with the cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle generously on the dough.

Once all the triangles are seasoned, roll them up, wide side to skinny side, so that the tip of the triangle is on the top. Lay each crescent so that the seam won’t fall open, then place two mini chocolate chips for eyes and TA-DA! Your apple pie crescents look like mummies!

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Bake according to instructions and remove when golden brown. If you want them extra golden brown, spread a thin layer of melted butter over the top before popping them in the over (you’re welcome).

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Let cool before eating, and try not to eat them all in one sitting. If you can’t, justify it with the fact that they have apples and apples are healthy.

Trick or Treat!

Posted in Bite of Breakfast, Seasonal Cooking, Sneak a Snack

The Return of The Invasion of The Pumpkin Spice Latte

 

Today’s date: September 22nd, 2016. This is the official Autumnal Equinox, also known as the first day of fall. So, roll out the red carpet, gather the trumpeters, and a drum-roll please…

It’s here, it’s here! Autumn has finally arrived! But you know what that means: So has the Starbucks child prodigy, the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Some of you may already stop reading there, and I cannot hold that against you. Once September 1st rolls around and Starbucks releases the PSL, it feels like that is all anyone can talk about. There are three teams: the team that loves PSL, the team that hates PSL, and the team (my team) that loves to watch the drama unfold between the two.

I may be a bit hypocritical in this area, because I have never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte. This is because I like my coffee to taste like coffee. I also like my bagels to taste like bagels, my pancakes to taste like pancakes, and my Cheerios to taste like Cheerios. All you PSL Haters can’t jump on Starbuck’s back for the mind wipe they perform every autumn, because they aren’t the only ones. It seems like as soon as the leaves change color, artificial (and sometimes *natural*) flavoring gets dumped onto everything.

If youre on the team of hating the PSL, I can see your reasoning. It seems like people drink it as an excuse to finally say they drink coffee (it’s not coffee, it’s ice cream that’s been microwaved and poured in a cup). It simply cannot be that good that you are willing to spend almost $6 dollars on a few ounces of a hot beverage.

If you are on the team of loving the PSL, I feel you. It is like autumn in a cup. The first couple sips are like drinking in everything that makes fall wonderful: pretty leaves, cozy sweaters, and nights by a fireplace. It gives you a feeling of nostalgia and excitement for the fun things to come that the season has to offer.

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If you are on my team, the team of loving the drama as it unfolds, grab a seat. I love to watch people in the Starbucks line roll their eyes whenever someone at the till orders a PSL. I admit, it does make me wish there was a separate line for people who just want to order a black coffee, but I digress. My roommate Jean says that the PSL is overrated and “basic as fuck” and I agree with her.

Besides the fact that it is an overpriced cup of hot whipped cream, have you ever seem a PSL without the lid? The surface of the beverage is dotted with little pools of oily flavoring that they pump into the cup. It looks like the BP oil spill got an autumn makeover (is that too aggressive?).

Either way, no matter what team you are on autumn is here! I hope you are all ready for the next few (dozen) posts about apple picking, pie making, and pumpkin carving. Fall is my favorite season, so pull on your tall knitted socks and get ready to dive in…to a huge pile of leaves!

XO Maddie

Posted in Dining with Friends, Dinner Done Right, Grilling and Barbeque, Seasonal Cooking

A Standing Ovation for Summer

 

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Summer is almost ready to take its bow, allowing for autumn to take the stage. And while fall is my favorite time of the year, I can’t quite let go of summer just yet.

Summer isn’t just a feeling; it’s a state of being. Summer is standing in the warm rays of sun that filter through the glass windows while I wait for my coffee to brew. Summer is tossing a sundress over my head and being dressed within seconds. Summer is grilling on the back deck with friends while you wait for the sun to sink below the tree line.

Grilling steak is much simpler than people think. Yes, it’s hard to gauge temperature, and no, there is no way to tell how cooked it is until you cut into it, but that is all part of the mystery. You have to throw away your fears and forget about how good or bad that it may come out. This isn’t just a meal: this is the final curtain call for summer.

The first thing to look for when cooking steak is the right cut of steak. Steak comes from cows, and cows are big, with each cut of meat serving a different purpose. The shank is a tough piece of meat, and is usually sold with the bones in and is excellent for stews; the tenderloin is the most versatile cut. You can slice it into medallions for fillet minion, or you could cut closer to the front and have a nice, thick T-bone and reenact the scene from Law Abiding Citizen.

beef-ribeye.jpgFor grilling, a good cut would be rib-eye. This comes from the rib area, and is most often served without the bone. If you had it served bone-in, then it would get the nickname “cowboy rib-eye”. Make sure that your rib-eye is about 1” thick, with lots of good marbling. Marbling refers to all the little veins of fat running through the meat. As the steak is cooked, the fat renders and provides flavor and moisture.

 

If you are cooking on a gas grill, turn the burners up to high, making sure that the racks are scraped clean of debris that may catch fire or alter the flavor of your steaks. If you are using a charcoal grill, make a small pile of about one to two quarts of hard lump charcoal, or a pile of around 100 charcoal briquettes. Yes, there is a difference, but that’s for another post! 😉

About 20 to 30 minutes before you start grilling, take your steaks out of the fridge to get room temperature. Make sure that they are dry, and pat them with a paper towel if they seem damp. Liberally season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides of the meat, and brush some oil or butter on your grill.

Once you lay your steak down, DON’T TOUCH IT! Let it sit on the grill for at least 90 seconds so that grill marks appear and the seasoning forms a crust. After another 15 to 20 seconds, rotate the steak 90 degrees so that you will get that legendary crisscross grill mark that is only attainable at restaurants and Food Network. Not anymore, Grill Master!

 

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Is your mouth watering yet?

Once you do this to both sides of your steak, move it to the cool side if it needs further cooking. Any more time over the direct heat could cause overcharring and blackening, which you don’t always want.  The internal temp for medium-rare is around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with medium-well landing at 150° or higher.

A good way to tell how far your meat is cooked is to firmly poke it. And I don’t mean jabbing at it with your tongs—which better be spring loaded stainless steel—I mean pressing your finger into the meat to gauge its firmness. The best way to learn is to check the temp of the meat once it’s to your liking, then press your finger into it once it’s cool.

The firmness of meat will correspond to the fleshy part of your hand right below your thumb. For raw meat, the easy give of when your hand is flat will give the best feel. For rare, touch your index finger to your thumb and press on the round part of where your thumb meets your palm. For each next finger, that is a further cooking step. The more cooked your meat is, the firmer to the touch it will feel.

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An inforgraphic that shows what meat feels like at each stage of cooking

After taking the meat off the grill and putting it on a platter, place a pat of butter onto each steak that you cooked, no more than a tablespoon each. Then, wrap the whole platter in aluminum foil and let stand to rest. Resting allows the juices to ‘settle’ within the meat, so that when you cut into it, the juices don’t spill out onto the plate; they stay inside and keep your steak nice and moist.

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This is a pretty fool-proof way to grill meat, so now you can eat like a king (or queen!) any night of the year. Now, gather all your friends around, pour the wine and open the beers, because summer just got an encore.