You Bake, You Learn: Pistachio Pound Cake

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Ok, seriously, I don’t know how the hell you are supposed to bake successfully at altitude. I live 5,280 feet above sea level (and have my whole life), and am yet to master the secrets of making baked goods delicious on every single attempt. Sometimes I make stuff and it turns out splendidly (see Chocolate Gingerbread or Pecan Pie Muffins for proof). Sometimes I make stuff, and it’s slightly questionable. Like this Pistachio Pound Cake, the recipe for which I found in Pinterest, so I am totally pulling a “Pinterest Fail,” and blaming it on faulty boards. Or something.

It’s not that the bread isn’t delicious, it’s just that of course 1 hour and 15 minutes into baking (at which point it was supposed to be done), it was still runny on the inside. I covered it with tin foil to keep the top from burning, but an extra 25 minutes in the oven caused it to become a bit hard on the outside. This can be ameliorated with a quick 20 seconnd microwave zap before serving (ala mode, DUH!), but I am kind of a perfectionist, so staring at this hardened loaf of bread for the last few days knowing it isn’t exactly as I had dreamed has left me…crestfallen.

After chatting with some fellow baker ladies, and consulting this handy little guide on All Recipes, I have realized I need to add more liquid, reduce sugar, and increase temperature to prevent my sweets from quickly-rising, then falling, then turning into a hard dry loaf of dense sadness. Look, we still ate this bread, warmed, with white chocolate ice cream, and it was delicious. Warm and nutty, sweet and…dry. The adjusted recipe is below. God speed.

You bake. You learn.

Pistachio Pound Cake

(adapted from Leite’s Culinaria, makes one 9″x5″ loaf)

For the pound cake:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (minus 2 tablespoons if at altitude)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I substituted one cup with whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk or unsweetened almond milk (1/2 cup milk if at altitude)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup ground pistachios

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup crushed pistachios

1. Preheat the oven to 325* (350* if at altitude). Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the 2 long sides of the pan. Butter the pan and parchment.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and honey on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Add the flour and the milk to the creamed egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on medium-high for about 20 seconds between additions, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the pistachios and beat on low just until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cake is cracked on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Take a peek at the cake after around 45 minutes and if it’s beginning to brown quite a lot, cover the cake with aluminum foil to prevent the top from becoming too brown.

5. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then either grab the parchment overhang and carefully unmold the loaf or invert the loaf onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and slide it under the wire rack. Let the loaf cool completely

6. While the cake cools, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, honey, and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. (If you prefer a simple, runny glaze, heat just until the mixture is combined. If you prefer a sticky, candylike glaze, cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook, still stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the glaze from the heat.)

7. Slowly spoon the warm glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Some of the glaze will inevitably run down the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the cake and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving. Serve warm, with freshly whipped cream or ala mode.

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Meatless Monday: Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli, Tomato, and Creamy Lemon-Dill Sauce

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Like most of you, I am busy. And like a lot of you, I am poor. And like all of us, I don’t appreciate either of those factors standing between myself and delicious, healthy food. I am constantly looking for easy, balanced dinners. As kitschy as it sounds, concepts like “Meatless Monday,” can structure routines for nutritious and satisfying meals when time and money are crunched. Plus, we usually eat like ravenous animals on the weekend, so by Monday evening we are both relieved to have lighter fare.

Last night I made an incredibly easy pasta dish featuring vegetables I needed to get rid of (just so happened to be broccoli and plum tomatoes) and a creamy lemon-yogurt-dill sauce. (The dill was an add-in because I had it and it was beginning to wilt in the fridge.) Jillian Michael’s has a recipe that is similar to this, but calls for zucchini instead of broccoli, leaves out the dill, and boasts some incredibly annoying name like, “Skinny Girl Fettuccine.” You can use whatever vegetables you have, whatever pasta you have, whatever herbs you have, but please for the love of God, don’t call it “Skinny Girl,” anything.

Whole Wheat Pasta With Broccoli, Tomato, and Creamy Lemon-Dill Sauce

(adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, serves 4)

  • 8 ounces whole wheat angel hair or pasta of your choice
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pint cherry or plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook according to the package directions. Remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and set it aside. Drain the pasta. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, parmesan, lemon zest, dill, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and steam for ~9 minutes, stirring periodically.

4. Push the broccoli aside so a space on the bottom of the pan is clear. Add the garlic, and cook for 15 to 30 seconds, until golden but not really brown.

5. Mix the garlic into the broccoli.

6. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

7. Transfer the broccoli mixture into the yogurt mixture, and stir to combine. Add the drained pasta, and toss gently to combine. Add the reserved pasta cooking water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to thin it. Sprinkle with parmesean and serve with lemon wedge.

Whet Your Whistle: Bourbon-Soaked Cherries and Mama’s Old Fashioned

Hello. I love you.

Hello. I love you.

I love whisky. And I love cherries. So when I recently had my first bourbon-soaked cherry at my favorite up-scale watering hole, Black Pearl in Denver, I thought I had died and gone to Hipster-Lush Heaven. I adore a good Old Fashioned, seriously, nothing tickles my fancy quite like it, and with the boozy cherries added in, it’s dreamlike. After ordering two more (with extra cherries), I made my way home to Google, “bourbon-soaked cherries where to buy.” Turns out, you can’t buy them. So I Googled, “bourbon-soaked cherries how to make,” and found endless sites with recipes for these little gems.

A few days later, Christmas Eve as it turns out, I decided to give these a whirl, since I happened to have the cherries (only seven dollars a pound at Whole Paycheck!) and obvs had the whisky. Clay helped me pit the cherries using this weird little device from the espresso machine that sucked the pit right out of the flesh. I don’t even know what this device is called or its original intended use, but you can easily pit a cherry with a small pearing knife, or what-the-hell, get creative and find some random household item to help you with the process.

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See. Weird little device, worked like a charm.

Cherries are SO affordable in December.

Pitted cherries.

After pitting the cherries, you make a simple syrup from scratch (or if you’re like me, you just have this sort of thing at your disposal most all of the time). Then, as with any canning or preserving, you have to sanitize the jars and lids, which is honestly the most time-consuming part of the process. Once that’s done, you add the fruit, simple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and your bourbon of choice (I like Breckenridge or Maker’s Mark) to the jars. Seal, boil again, and voila. Bourbon-Soaked Cherries.

Boiling after assembly to ensure proper sealing.

Boiling after assembly to ensure proper sealing.

Bourbon-Soaked Cherries

(adapted from Gastronomical Sovereignty, makes two large jars or four small)

  • 4 cups fresh cherries, pitted, washed and dried
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 lemon for juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-8 oz bourbon

1. Place the water and sugar in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.

 

2. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Remove from the heat. (This is your simple syrup.)

 

3. As you dissolve the sugar, you will need to sterilize your jars, lids and rings. You can do this in a water bath canner if you have one, or just a very large soup pot if you don’t (I used a very large soup pot and it took a long time because there was only room for one jar at a time.) Fill the pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Using a pair of tongs with rubber ends (so as not to drop the jar), carefully place the jars, lids and rings in the water in batches so they fit comfortably with one to two inches of water above the jars. Boil for ~15 minutes. Carefully lift jars, lids and rings out of the water and set aside on a clean, dry surface.

 

4. Using very clean hands, place the cherries in the jars with 3/4 inch of head space left over. Pour the simple syrup over the cherries (still leaving that 3/4 inch of space at the top and spoon 1 to 2 oz of bourbon over the entire mixture). (I did a shot glass and a half.) This should leave you with 1/2 inch of head space.

 

5. Secure rims and lids on the jars (make sure they are very tight!) and place back in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Carefully remove from water and allow to set. Once cool, check to make sure the rings have in fact sealed and refrigerate any that don’t.

As long as the lids seal properly (if the lid doesn’t click in, it hasn’t sealed), these will keep in the pantry for at least a year. Once opened, they’ll last a month or so in the fridge. (But seriously, who has the self-control to make them last that long?) Bourbon-Soaked Cherries are versatile – mash them into your favorite cocktail, scoop them on a bowl of ice cream with hot fudge, add them to your greek yogurt with a scoop of hazelnuts, garnish your favorite sweet bread with them, or just eat them out of the jar every time you walk past your refrigerator. My favorite way to enjoy them is mashed into an Old Fashioned. In the bathtub.
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See, I really do booze in the bathtub. I didn’t make that part up.

Mama’s Old Fashioned

(serves one)

  • 1 shot bourbon (I like Breckenridge or Maker’s)
  • 1 shot juice from Bourbon-Soaked Cherries
  • 3 Bourbon-Soaked Cherries
  • one slice orange or satsuma
  • 3 splashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • one large ice cube

1. Mash fruit and bitters in bottom of high-ball glass.

2. Add juice, bourbon and ice cube to glass. Swirl around in glass for 45 seconds. Drink. Repeat.

F*$# Yo’ Cleanse: Crock-Pot Four Pepper Chili Verde With Pork Shoulder

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It’s January. It’s cold and dark and we are all hungover from the perpetual marathon binge known as “The Holidays.” From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, we are bombarded with meat, potatoes, booze, pies and cookies, leaving us all feeling a little overindulged.

As the old year comes to close and the new one approaches, resolutions are set, and people find solace in lying to themselves and their 500 closest friends on Facebook about all of the lifestyle changes they are going to make…later. Just one more piece of Cranberry Cheesecake and one last glass of scotch to rinse down all of the bad choices made in the last 365 days, then we will start fresh. Eat more greens. Lose 15 pounds. Run four times a week. Stop eating solid food altogether. By January 2nd (Let’s be honest, none of this shit actually starts on the first. There are hangovers to be nursed.), everyone and their mom is fully immersed in the January cleanse.

Look no further than your social media newsfeed or the cubicle next to you for evidence of these ridiculously constructed pipe dreams. Oh, this year you’re only drinking kale sludge you made in your 400 dollar blender? You’re not eating anything with a face before 2 pm? You’re skipping all grains and animal products and subsisting on cold crudites for the next month? Cool, bro. I mean, I get it. We are all scared and bloated. But I don’t see how starvation is going to fix any of that. I don’t know about y’all, but it’s only the 10th day of the month, and I’m tired of The Cleansers. Seriously.

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The couch is your cleanse, and I am Dave Chappelle as Rick James. Fuck. Yo’. Cleanse.

Sure, I’ve cleansed. And yes, I was in fact, at one time in my life, a vegan. It was fun for awhile and made me feel quirky and hip, and certainly justified all the plaid and glittered Tom’s loafers in my wardrobe. But for me, what starts as a healthy lifestyle change invariably devolves into an emotional battle of willpower vs. hanger (you know, the fine line between hunger and anger). Some people can actually sustain shit like this and fit into their size 4 capris by April, but I always end up miserable, attempting to artfully camouflage my cankles with American Apparel’s latest offering of “Bobby Socks,” and drowning my sorrows in cupcakes and whisky. So this year, my resolution is to eat real food. And more of it.

And I’ve been doing just that. I’ve been relying on soups and stews lately since it really is very cold outside. Just this week I made Mama’s Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup and Mexican Oregano Lime Chicken Soup, both on the stove. But to me, nothing is more warming or comforting than a giant Crock-pot of chili. I make it frequently, because it’s easy, filling, and allows for a TON of leftovers. (Perfect to freeze and thaw for lunches or a quick dinner a few weeks down the line.) While traditional chili recipes always hit the spot, they can get old, and we’ve already had every variation of bison chili I can think of at least twice this winter.

So today, I made this: Crock-Pot Four Pepper Chili Verde With Pork Shoulder. This recipe calls for ~2 pounds of pork shoulder (or butt), skips the beans, and relies only on onion and green peppers for the rest, making it ideal for smothering huevos or rellenos, or simply eating on its own with warm tortillas for dunking.

Tomatillos and jalapeno, anaheim, pablano, and green peppers.

Tomatillos and jalapeno, anaheim, poblano, and green peppers.

Much like any other slow-cooker recipe, the preparation for this dish is quick and easy – just sear the pork, cut the peppers and onion, toss it all in the Crock-pot with the chicken stock and spices, and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4. I made this early in the morning and went about my day – occasionally stirring and frequently smelling the olfactory orgasm that is this chili. Honestly, our apartment smelled so divine, I almost didn’t want to leave for yoga and a haircut (funemployment priorities).

Early in the stewing process.

Early in the stewing process.

I slow-cooked it for well over eight hours, torturing myself and my dog, Toot, with the intensely appetizing aroma. (I had to make myself an Old Fashioned with my homemade Bourbon Soaked Cherries to curb my apetite.)

Old Fashioned to temper my rumbling tummy. Bourbon-Soaked Cherry recipe to follow. Promise.

Old Fashioned to temper my rumbling tummy. Bourbon-Soaked Cherries recipe to follow. Promise.

When my boyfriend finally arrived home from work, he swore he could smell it from the parking lot of our apartment. It was perfect…divine…heavenly (!!!) served over a bed of white Basmati rice, garnished with melted extra sharp cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, lime juice, and cayenne pepper hot sauce. The pork was so very tender, and the heat of the four peppers was slow to build, but strong. You could easily add beans, potatoes, or rice to this right at the very end to make it more a comprehensive stew, but I took a potato-masher to this to shred the meat chunks and am looking forward to smothering our eggs with it this weekend.

Crock-Pot Four Pepper Chili Verde With Pork Shoulder

(serves 6, adapted from Everyday Southwest)

2 to 3 pounds pork shoulder (or butt) roast

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 to 6 tomatillos, halved

2 jalapeno peppers, diced

2 anaheim peppers, diced

2 poblano peppers, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

4 cups chicken stock or broth

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper sauce

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1. Cut the pork into 2 inch cubes. Sear the cubes in the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.

2. Add all ingredients except the vinegar to the Crock-pot. Cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or for 6 to 8 hours on low.

3. Add vinegar and spices to taste. Serve.

Post-potato-masher-shred.

Post-potato-masher-shred.

Hey, enjoy your wheatgrass-lychee-vinegar-mangosteen smoothie. Imma be over here putting this on everything in my fridge. Fuck a cleanse, and Happy 2013, y’all.

#bloglate: Roasted Shrimp and Quinoa Spring Rolls with Sriracha-Peanut Dipping Sauce and Carrot-Ginger Soup

Roasted Shrimp and Quinoa Spring Rolls with Sriracha Peanut Dipping Sauce and Carrot-Ginger Soup (as always, pair with a glass of sparkling white wine)

Roasted Shrimp and Quinoa Spring Rolls with Sriracha Peanut Dipping Sauce and Carrot-Ginger Soup (as always, pair with a glass of sparkling white wine and ignore the scary pile of papers on my grandpa lounge chair in the background)

A lot has happened since Hanukkah. My official end-date for my full-time nanny gig came and went, I made bourbon-soaked cherries for my current Old Fashioned obsession, JaVale McGee hit his first career three-pointer and subsequently simulated soup-making on the Nugget’s home court. (A man after my own heart.)

I realize this is a #bloglate, but it’s worth sharing. Also, I promised a friend of mine that I would blog this recipe after bragging about its deliciousness on Facebook. However late, I am a woman of my word.

A few days before Christmas I made these amazing Roasted Shrimp and Quinoa Spring Rolls with Sriracha Peanut Dipping Sauce and Carrot-Ginger Soup. Door-to-Door Organics is always delivering me these enormous bags of carrots, which I love for salad dressings and soups, especially in the winter months when I will take all the Vitamin C I can get. I love Whole Foods’ Spicy Carrot Soup, and was inspired to recreate it using a recipe from their Website. Honestly, it wasn’t nearly as good as the soup they have in the store, but it was warm and gingery and complemented the cool but spicy spring rolls.

Warm carrots, potatoes and ginger make for a deliciously satisfying yet light soup.

Warm carrots, potatoes and ginger make for a deliciously light yet satisfying soup.

The thing I love about peanut sauce is that you can be so creative and innovative. (Read: sometimes I don’t have all the ingredients for a recipe so I just kind of wing it.) I completely revamped the peanut sauce associated with the spring roll recipe, because the original was oh so blah. I added more Sriracha, some soy sauce (because screw your cholesterol), and some rice vinegar. But look, get sexy with it! Add some chili paste, some crushed red pepper, some garlic salt, whatever tastes good! I guarantee you, it’s very difficult to really mess up a peanut butter-based sauce. You could put cat food in it, and it would still be damn delicious.

Rice paper is kind of funny to work with. You have to soak it for just the right amount of time to get it to a good, workable consistency (not too dry that it won’t fold properly, not so wet that it will tear while folding). I found that if you soak it for just a second shorter than you might think is appropriate, it continues to absorb the water once you have it on your work surface and ends up folding and rolling beautifully.

It's easiest to get all of our ingredients spread out onto your work space before you start rolling.

It’s easiest to get all of our ingredients spread out onto your work space before you start rolling.

We rollin'...

We rollin’…

Once you do it a couple of times, you get the hang of it and to assembly goes rather quickly.

Once you do it a couple of times, you get the hang of it and to assembly goes rather quickly.

Both recipes yielded plenty of food, giving us leftovers to snack on until the great binge fest known as Christmas arrived. I loved that both dishes were light and healthy, and kept in the fridge just fine for several days.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

(adapted from Whole Foods, serves 4)

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 pound carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Heat 1/2 cup broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ginger, carrots, potato and remaining broth and heat to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In batches, carefully puree in a blender. (Here’s a tip I wish someone told me years ago, before giving myself third-degree burns from boiling hot blender explosions: only fill the blender half-way, and take the round plastic center out of the lid and cover it with a folded kitchen towel. The heat combined with lack of air intake can cause literal blender explosions – very messy and very painful!) Add water or broth if needed to thin to desired consistency. Reheat soup if necessary. Stir in lemon juice and garnish with chives.

Roasted Shrimp and Quinoa Spring Rolls with Sriracha-Peanut Dipping Sauce

(adapted from Nature Box, serves 4)

  • 12 (16-cm) rice paper wrappers
  • baby spinach or mixed greens (I used the latter)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cucumber, julienned
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise
  • several sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
For the spicy peanut sauce (my version):
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 TBSP hoisin
  • 4-5 tsp Sriracha
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp soy sauce
  1. To make the dipping sauce, whisk together peanut butter, water, hoisin and Sriracha in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Working one at a time, wet rice paper for 10 seconds and transfer to a work surface; place spinach or lettuce in the center of each wrapper and top with 2 tablespoons quinoa, 3 slices of cucumber and carrot sticks each, sprinkle of cilantro and 3 shrimp halves, cut sides down.
  3. Bring the bottom edge of the wrap tightly over the filling and then folding in the sides, rolling from bottom to top until the top of the sheet is reached, being careful not to tear the rice paper. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
  4. Serve immediately with spicy peanut sauce.
YUM!

Bon Appetit!

A Very Shiksa Hanukkah: Roasted Root Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup and Caramelized Apple Kugel

I’m not Jewish. I’m not Christian. I’m not anything. Around the holidays, I simply pick and choose traditions from various cultures for my enjoyment. A menorah here, Christmas Eve Mass there; I am a holiday cultural appropriator of the first degree. And I’m fine with it.

See, I really do have a Menorah.

See, I really do have a Menorah.

That said, I do have several close friends who are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah. My Gentile love for the Festival of Lights started a few years ago, when I was invited to my very first Hanukkah party. I brought matzo ball soup and was ever so pleased with myself. Floating dumplings in broth? Yes please. The following year I made a vegan kugel and was told by my friend, Dan, that it was better than his grandmother’s. Unconventional ethnic food better than the original? I must’ve been on to something.

This year, we had two Hanukkah parties to attend, and I was asked to bring my Shiksa kugel to both. To spice things up, I made two different variations of the dish, one with crushed pineapple (for the last night of Hanukkah) and one with caramelized apples and cottage cheese (for the first night of Hanukkah). The Caramelized Apple Kugel is fairly labor intensive – you have to cut up a million apples, caramelize them, make the custard (by hand, if you’re like me and don’t have an electric mixer), soak it overnight, and then bake it for an hour and half. Of course, it’s delicious and received rave reviews from everyone except my Goyish boyfriend, who found the combination of egg noodles and sweet creamy goodness, “strange.” Whatever. We all know carbs and cheese in any form is bomb. More kugel for us!

A few nights later, for the fourth night of Hanukkah, I made one of my favorite variations of an old favorite – Roasted Root Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup. This vegetarian version features turnips, carrots, and my personal favorite – parsnips. Parsnips are like carrots 1.0. It’s almost as if God forgot to add the orange color and sweet flavor. They are bitter, spicy, and pungent, and by God, I love them. The soup is herby and warming, and fairly simple to make; the matzos themselves are not difficult, and are even better as leftovers one or two days later. Even the 10-month-old I nanny loves them!

Roasted Root Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup

(serves 8, adapted from Whole Foods Market)

  • 4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small rutabaga or turnip (both equally delicious), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter substitute, melted
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, garlic and onion on a large baking sheet and toss with oil and salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Turnips, parsnips, carrots...NOMS.

Turnips, parsnips, carrots…NOMS.

2. Meanwhile, put eggs, vegan butter substitute, salt and pepper into a bowl and blend well. Mix in matzo meal and chives, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Much like sleeping, cooking is always more fun when you have good company to do it with. Clay was happy to help with the Matzo meal!

Much like sleeping, cooking is always more fun when you have good company to do it with. Clay was happy to help with the Matzo meal!

3. Bring a pot of water to boil just before removing matzo mixture from refrigerator. Once water boils, wet hands and form walnut-size balls out of matzo mixture, dropping each one into the boiling water immediately. Once all balls have been dropped into the pot, turn heat down, cover and gently simmer for 30 minutes.

You don't necessarily have to refrigerate the mixture for an hour, but it is MUCH easier to work with if it is thoroughly chilled.

You don’t necessarily have to refrigerate the mixture for an hour, but it is MUCH easier to work with if it is thoroughly chilled.

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Matzos simmering.

4. While matzo balls are simmering, bring vegetable broth, dill and parsley to a boil in a separate pot. Boil for 1 minute, then turn down heat to a simmer and add roasted vegetables. Once matzo balls are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to simmering broth. Simmer for 15 minutes, then adjust seasonings with pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Mmm...warm, fragrant, and festive. Roasted Root Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup.

Mmm…warm, fragrant, and festive. Roasted Root Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup.

Caramelized Apple Kugel

(serves 8-12, adapted from Gilt Taste)

  • 8 sweet-tart apples like Empire, McIntosh, or Pink Ladies
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 10 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus as needed
  • 8 ounces medium flat egg noodles (not the spiral kind as they don’t absorb liquid as readily as the flat variety)
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Slice 5 apples into ¼-inch slices, with the skin on, and cook them slowly in a pan, over medium heat, with 2 tablespoons butter for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the slices with 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to cook them for another 10 minutes or so, until they are soft and tender and slightly caramelized.

Caramelized apple slices.

Caramelized apple slices.

2. Boil 3 quarts of water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and cook the noodles until just tender. Drain them and mix in 8 tablespoons butter. Set aside.

3. Force cottage cheese through a sieve into large bowl and beat it with an electric blender until it is light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese bit by bit, beating until it’s fully incorporated. One by one, beat in the milk, sour cream, eggs, white sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt, making sure that each new ingredient is fully incorporated before adding the next. Pour the cooked, buttered noodles and the caramelized apple slices into the bowl and stir everything to combine the ingredients.

Still holding out for that electric mixer I asked for for Hanukkah.

Still holding out for that electric mixer I asked for for Hanukkah.

Noodles and custard...mmm.

Noodles and custard…mmm.

4. Butter a 13”x9” baking pan, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in the bottom, pour the noodle mixture into it, and let it sit in the refrigerator, covered, for a few hours to let the noodles absorb the dairy mixture. (They should sit for at least 4 hours; ideally they should be left overnight.)

5. When the ingredients are ready, bring the mixture back to room temperature. Cut remaining 3 apples into quarters, leaving their skins on, sprinkle them with the remaining brown sugar, and set them aside. Heat oven to 350⁰ F.

6. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the remaining apple quarters evenly on top, skin-side up. Return the pudding to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes, until the top of the kugel is golden. Allow the casserole to cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Best served warm, either shortly after baking or reheated in the oven.

Shiksa kugel!

Shiksa kugel!

Belated Thanksgiving Update: Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Whole Wheat Crust

So as I already explained I am lazy and the scum of the earth and couldn’t seem to get my act together for a Thanksgiving post. But let’s not focus on all that, it’s in the past. Let’s focus on this: Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Whole Wheat Crust, my contribution to my sister’s Thanksgiving dinner party. It was salty. It was sweet. It was appley and divine. And I’m going to tell you how to make it.

First of all, you can skip the homemade pie crust altogether. Go buy yourself two frozen pie crusts from the grocery store and call it good. But if you’re feeling ambitious and want to put your new Anthropologie pastry apron to good use, you can make your own. That’s what I did (except my apron was sewn by my grandmother, don’t be jealous!), and it was a bit of work considering I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose (much drier and harder to work with, unfortunately), but it was well-worth it. Nothing says “I’m a boss,” like making your own pie crust.

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Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Whole Wheat Crust

Perfect Whole Wheat Pie Crust

(makes three crusts, adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1-1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 whole egg

5 tablespoons cold water, plus 2-3 tablespoons for working the dough

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1. In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the shortening into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

2. Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large freezer bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you plan on using it immediately, it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

3. When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. (If the dough is dry and flaky, add more cold water, one tablespoon at a time.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie pan (it will shrink down when baking!).

4. With a spatula, lift the dough carefully from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. Gently press the dough against the corner of the pan. Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

(serves 8-10, adapted from A Cozy Kitchen)

Salted Caramel:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup white granulated sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt

Pie:

2 nine-inch pie crusts (homemade or store-bought)

3 Gala Apples (you can use other varieties as well)

1 Granny Smith Apple

1 lemon

4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)

3 tablespoons white granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Topping:

Turbinado Sugar

Flaky Sea Salt

Special Equipment:

9-inch pie pan

Whisk

Silicon Spatula (so it doesn’t melt in the caramel)

Cookie cutter (I used a star shape, but you can use anything you’d like!)

1. In the microwave or a small pot, heat the heavy cream until it’s warm to the touch. Set it aside.

2. In a medium to large pot, add the sugar and place it over medium heat. Do not stir. Cook the sugar until the bottom starts to turn a light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir the sugar, if needed, so all of it gets its turn hitting the bottom of the pan. Cook the sugar until it turns a medium brown, this process will happen fast so be sure not to leave. Once the caramel reaches a medium brown color take it off the heat and whisk it until smooth. You’ll notice that it will still turn a darker color and cook more as you whisk. At this point it should be a dark brown – if it’s not, place it back on the heat in 30 second increments, whisking the entire time, until it reaches that dark caramel color. Turn off the heat and whisk in the 5 tablespoons of butter (it will bubble up!). Keep whisking until the melted butter fully incorporates into the cooked sugar. Next, add the warm cream (it will bubble up!), whisking it in until it’s fully incorporated. You’ll notice that the texture is much thinner than it was earlier – not to worry it will thicken as it cools. Add the salt and whisk. Transfer it to a glass container and set aside.

3. To assemble the pie, roll out 1/2 of your dough to a 12-inch circle and place it in the 9-inch pie pan. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang – it will shrink in the oven! Transfer the pie pan to the refrigerator while you make the star-cut outs. Take the second half of your pie dough and roll it out. Cut out about 10 stars, re-rolling the scraps and making 2 more. Lightly flour them, transfer them to a cutting board and place it in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat the oven to 300F. Peel, core and slice the apples to a 1/4-inch thickness. I lopped off the tops and bottoms and sliced them horizontally. Transfer the apples slices to a bowl and to prevent them from browning, coat them with the juice from the lemon. Add the flour, bourbon, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to the apples and using your hands, toss the apples until they’re evenly coated.

5. Take the pie crust out of the fridge. Transfer the apple mixture to the pie crust, layering them in a circle pattern. Taste the caramel – does it need more salt? Add more if needed. Pour about 1/4 cup of caramel over the apples. Top them with a few pinches of salt. Brush the edges of the pie crust with water. Place each star around the pie crust, gently pressing them down so they are secured to the pie crust underneath. When you’re done arranging the stars, lightly brush them with the leftover caramel and top with a few pinches turbinado sugar and a few pinches of sea salt.

6. Transfer the pie to baking sheet and place it in the preheated oven. Bake at 300F for 25 minutes, until the pie crust is a very lightly golden brown. Turn the heat up to 350F and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when the pie crust is a golden brown color and the caramel looks bubbly. When you take it out of the oven, the caramel will appear runny. That’s ok, it needs to cool 5-6 hours before serving, and the caramel will thicken to perfection.

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Mmm…so, so droolies!

Bon Appetit!