Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks Mom!

That's right, I am (or will be, in 5-7 days, standard shipping) the proud owner of a new kitchenaid mixer!!!! wooohoooo! This is an early Christmas/birthday gift from my mom. My birthday is right after Christmas and normally I complain about getting joint presents, but this year I am more than happy about the situation. It turns out, my mother has been secretly communicating with Aaron (this is a topic that I will not address in this here post) even before my mixer died a few days ago to see what kind I wanted and if he thought it was something I would like. He of course said "UM YEAH" when she asked and then agreed to do some shopping since its pretty hard to carry-on a stand mixer when flying from Omaha to DC.

So, we purchased the mixer this morning and it will be shipped to VA! I'm so excited I'm already imagining all the wonderful things I will be soon as my papers are turned in, that is.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Pre-Thanksgiving Feast

Because Thanksgiving break is only five days (with two of those being the busiest travel days of the year) and only a week before all of my semester work is due I always stay here rather than go home to be with my family. It is too long of a trip for such a short time, plus I just need to do work and I go home just a few weeks later for Christmas. Don't feel too bad for me though :) I will be going to NJ with Aaron so I'll be surrounded by delicious food nonetheless. The bad part is that I don't get to eat all the foods that I'm used to having from my normal Thanksgivings with my family (Thanksgiving is, after all, my mom's favorite holiday).

(this is a photo of my friend Mike carving this turkey, which is ironic since he's vegan. He also used to work at a butcher shop before he was vegan and the rest of us had NO idea how to begin carving a turkey so he swooped in to save the day!)

To remedy this situation I decided to host a small, pre-Thanksgiving dinner with my friends. We all like to eat, many of my friends aren't going home either and turkeys were on sale at the grocery store a few weeks ago so it all came together perfectly! Ever since we received the November issue of Bon Appetit, Aaron has been hankering to make a recipe for cranberry relish and a pumpkin pie so I assigned those two dishes to him and I took on the turkey, stuffing, green beans, rolls and mashed potatoes. Since Thanksgiving food isn't really that hard to make (its more a matter of managing the high-demand oven) everything turned out great!

Here is the lineup:
Sage Butter Roasted Turkey with Cider Gravy
Sourdough Stuffing with Apples and Golden Raisins
Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrette
Mashed Potatoes (a la my mom...lots of butter and milk)
Buttered Rosemary Rolls
Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

(Elizabeth was late to dinner and we had already run out of chairs so...she had to sit on the pilates ball--that's what happens when you're late.)

Like I said, everything was deeeelicious! The links above lead to the recipes at their original sites, but here is the recipe for the pumpkin pie that Aaron made, because a) this is technically a blog that writes about dessert and b) it was a great pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Pie
from Not Without Salt

Use any pie crust recipe, we didn't use the one from this recipe.

Pie Filling:
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 dried bay leaf
1 vanilla bean
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1.4 t. nutmeg

Combine the pumpkin, spices, cream and sugar in a medium sized pot on low heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture and then put the pod in too. Cook this mixture for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about an hour. (or do this the day ahead and put it in the fridge) Re-warm the filling and add the eggs, but be sure not to cook the eggs. Bake at 350 for about 35-45 minutes.

For cream just add 1-2 T. maple syrup to 2 cups whipping cream.

 And because everyone loves a picture of Joe, here he is doing something...probably trying to escape.

Friday, November 20, 2009

RIP Mixer

This morning I have some sad news to share. My dear little mixer died last night. It bit the dust just as I was mixing up a batch of brioche dinner rolls for a dinner I'm having tonight. (Suffice it to say, those rolls are no more.) It was very sad--I cried actually. I was sort of anticipating it since I use it at least twice a week, normally more like four times and its been getting progressively slower and hasn't been able to hit "high" power for a few months now. Normally, this would be very bad because I bake CONSTANTLY and you can't bake cakes without a mixer--perhaps my cake baking career will temporarily turn into a ice cream-making career. Today, however, its especially bad because I have mashed potatoes on the menu. I know, i know you can theoretically make mashed potatoes by hand, but I want to make them with a mixer because that's how my mom makes them and they are extra creamy that way. Plus, I love mashed potatoes.

So, this post is devoted to my dearly departed mixer and the creamy mashed potatoes that could have been.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Better than Baking

The only thing better than baking cookies for yourself is having someone else bake them for you. The past two weeks have been crazy, to say the least. This past week I gave the lecture to 130 undergrads in the class I TA for--it was on Buddhist architecture, which is certainly not my specialty so I did a lot of practicing (Aaron is practically an expert on Buddhist architecture now, he's heard the lecture 3+times). I've also been writing like a crazy person: I recently finished up a draft of part of my thesis as well as a draft of one of my papers and this weekend (later this evening hopefully) I will be finishing up a draft of a second paper. I practically wake up typing my thoughts and think in terms of footnotes.

Needless to say, I've been pretty worthless around here considering I've basically been sitting in the same chair for the past ten days aside from the times I go to sleep and go to class. Luckily, Aaron knew that I NEED cookies in times like this and made these chocolate chip cookies the other day. They were very delicious (I've already finished them) and he used really nice dark chocolate.

Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
from smittenkitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar.
3. Beat the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy into the melted butter mixture. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Spoon cookie dough onto the cookie sheets (Use 1/4 cup for large cookies and tablespoons for regular sized cookies)
5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted.

Also, Joe is doing well--he seems to be making progress with the house training (knock on wood...).
Here is a picture (a bit blurry, but you get the gist).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall Cookies!

I don't know if everyone did this as a child, but when I was younger we made cut-out sugar cookies for every holiday. We had a set of special cookie-cutters for every major holiday: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter. We would make these sugar cookies that my dad really liked and then decorate them with colored sugars and icing, although what sticks out most in my mind is sneaking pieces of dough after my mom rolled it out on the countertop.

Since it was such a tradition when I was a kid, it still seems like something I should do for every holiday as if the holiday cannot be complete unless it has appropriately decorated cookies! Normally, I really only get to do this for Christmas because its the only time I am at home and not bogged down with work, but this year I decided I could set aside an evening and make some for Halloween too. Aaron and I had a baking extravaganza, a wild and crazy Saturday night! The recipe is from Martha Stewart and we used some royal icing to pipe and then flood the cookies.

Sugar Cookies
from Martha Stewart

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium; add eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture gradually, beating until incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Roll out onto a floured surface and use cookie cutters to shape. Place cookies on sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Decorate as desired.

Royal Icing
from Martha Stewart 

1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter

mix two ingredients together in a bowl until combined. slowly add up to 1/2 cup water until desired consistency. Use thicker icing to pipe edges of cookies and slowly dilute icing with more water to "flood" cookies with thinner, colored icing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


...our new puppy, Joseph Shmuley Biden--we call him Joe for short (we really call him Joe all the time, we just liked the rest of the names too so decided to tag them on for fun). We got him on Saturday at a rescue house in Stephens City, VA which is about two hours from our house. Right now, he weighs less than ten pounds and is about eleven weeks old. He was the runt of the litter and his brothers and sisters were picking on him so he's extra sweet.

So far he's been a very good puppy, except we can't get him to go to the bathroom--at all. We take him outside every hour and he looks at us and so we take him back inside and go through the whole thing an hour later. He had one accident in the house, which I can only surmise was a result of his bladder just being unable to hold it in for so long! Other than that, nothing has come out since we brought him home yesterday afternoon! I think this problem will resolve itself as soon as he gets used to our house, though, I'm not too worried (famous last words?). For more pics see my flickr.


The end of October signals several things: an extra hour of sleep, the beginning of November and only five more weeks until my papers are due (!), and most importantly-- HALLOWEEN! Its a pretty big deal around UVA as far as parties go, I try to steer clear of campus because the frat parties are in full swing this weekend. While graduate students generally hole ourselves up in the library, reading until our eyes are sore, we do go out sometimes and Halloween is one of those nights that we tear ourselves away from our books long enough to attend some sort of social event. Last night, (actually Halloween eve) there was a party for all graduate students at a local restaurant. It was a really great time and I've included some pictures below of myself and friends. I dressed as Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn's character in Breakfast At Tiffany's). I don't have brown hair, but I had the rest of the stuff and it was a pretty straightforward costume. Aaron was Vampire Bill from True Blood, but his fangs kept falling out so he really ended up looking like a normal guy. My other friends (below) dressed as a Queen bee, Sisyphus, and Medusa. For more pictures see my flickr site.

Do not fear, I also had a chance to bake some special Halloween goodies. This time, one of my colleagues and I collaborated for our archaeology class, bringing snacks (the class is from 3:30-6pm so we are all pretty tired and hungry by that point). I made "whoopie pies" (also known as "gobs" if you're from Pennsylvania, apparently).  Basically, they are sandwiches of mini cakes with icing in the middle. I made chocolate whoopie pies with white icing in the middle and they were very moist. I added some orange sprinkles (at the recommendation of Martha Stewart) to add some festivity.

Whoopie Pies
from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and applesauce, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix just until smooth (do not overmix).

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean, 10 to 14 minutes. With a thin metal spatula, immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating until smooth.

Spread bottom of half the cookies with 1 tablespoon filling each; sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently so filling oozes out slightly. Sprinkle exposed filling with nonpareils. Let rest 15 minutes to set. (To store cookies, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.)

NOTE: I spooned the batter onto the cookie sheets, but next time I'm going to use a big piping tip in order to make them all a consistent size. I think this will also allow me to make smaller pies, which makes them more bite-size and perfect for parties. I think I might also try a Swiss Meringue Buttercream next time.