Seasonal Eats

Another week and I’ve been MIA. I know, I know. It was the last full week of class this week and finals are impending as I mentioned earlier this week.

4 exams, 1 35-page paper before December 16th. What was I thinking? I am way too easily swept up in the excitement of classes that sound interesting and/or are with great professors. The good news is that only 2 of my exams utilize “black letter law” which is good for this theory loving girl.

But for the record, I feel a bit like this right now:

Alert, anxious and rifling through paper.

So, as I mentioned it was a busy week but I did manage to cook a delicious dinner this week. Unfortunately, I did not come up with the recipe myself. Can’t win them all.

I made Pumpkin Mac and Cheese and it was everything I wanted and more. I love those dinners that you can make in a casserole dish and then eat out of for meals. Yes, this means I ate pumpkin mac and cheese three times this week. Don’t judge. I foresee this happening more than once in the next few weeks.

This was also my first time using pumpkin, rather than just laying on them. I KNOW, I KNOW. All healthy living bloggers, whatever that is, are OMGSOOBSESSED with pumpkin. I have decided that I like pumpkin in certain contexts. For example, I for sure like pumpkin topped with whipped cream or with carbs and cheese. I still have 3/4 of a can chilling in my fridge so I need to figure out what to do with that. If you have any suggestions for a 3/4 can of pumpkin let me know by dropping a comment!

In other news, Thanksgiving is next week and Kaitlin is hosting! I am so excited to have thanksgiving with Kaitlin. She’s a food blogger so I know it’s going to be good eating plus lots of wine and I’m clearly going to need a break at that point. I’ve decided to make Eat, Live, Run’s caramelized Brussels sprouts because, as we know, I love Brussels sprouts. I also plan to make my eggplant dip. Any by “my” I mean “my mother’s” and by “my mother’s” I really mean “Barefoot’s”. I’ve never blogged the recipe so you can look forward to that next week!

Finally, I have Tavern news!

My favorite restaurant has opened another outpost in Beverly Hills. I haven’t been yet since I live walking distance from the original but if you’re in that hood make sure to check it out!

Go get yourself a treat. You earned it.

Also, I found Suzanna Goin’s (the chef/owner of Tavern) Brussels sprouts recipe which is on the Tavern Thanksgiving menu: Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Balsamic, and Breadcrumbs. Oh yes. I debated making it for Thursday but there are going to be many veggies at Kaitlin’s thanksgiving and I want to be accommodating. I debated bastardizing the recipe by switching out the veal stock and pancetta but doing that just didn’t sit right with me.

But! I encourage you to make it and let’s face it. It has pancetta and Brussels sprouts so I will be making it eventually!

And finally, Congrats to everyone who passed the bar today! I cannot believe that a year from now I’ll be finding out my bar results.

So, since I have no free time to cook my own things, link me a great, easy, quick recipe for me to try.

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Vanilla Bean Pound Cake with Coffee Reduction and Pumpkin Ice Cream

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program I was lucky enough to receive two pounds of Godiva Coffee’s two new seasonal flavors: Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Pecan Bark.

While I love coffee, I’m not a huge fan of flavored coffee. What can I say? I love bitter things. I decided the best way for me to enjoy the coffee wasn’t simply brewing it, but placing it in the context of a fall dessert. I decided to make a variation of Orange Pound Cake and top it with a strong coffee reduction.

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean, split and the insides removed

3 tablespoons coffee, I used Godiva Coffee Carmel Pecan Bark flavor

2 scoops seasonal ice cream, I used Trader Joes Pumpkin Ice Cream

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350. I started by combining the sugar and butter. Then I beat the sugar and butter for 8 mins until it was very fluffy. I am a major proponent of beating butter and sugar for a minimum of 8 mins, it tastes so divine.

Yes, I may have had a few bites of this while watching the Emmy pre show last weekend. Can you blame me?

Then I added the vanilla extract with a spatula and mixed with a spatula. Then I gradually beat in the eggs using a hand held mixer.

Then I added the salt and gradually added the flour. After adding the flour I added the insides of the vanilla bean. I split the bean with a knife and scraped out the insides. I made sure it was well mixed with the spatula.

I buttered a loaf pan and poured the batter in.

I baked for 60 mins.

While the pound cake was baking I got cracking on the coffee reduction. To start, I brewed 3 tablespoons of coffee in my French press, using 1 1/4 cups water.

You can use whatever brewing method you like. I only have a French press (I’m a bit obsessed with it actually) because personally, I think it brews better coffee. It’s mostly important that the coffee is a little stronger than usual.

Then I poured the coffee into a pot and set the heat on low to simmer the coffee.

It’s important not to let the coffee burn. I kept an eye on it until the coffee had reduced by half.

I check it by pouring it into my liquid measuring cup.

Reduced by over half: success!

I put the reduction aside to cool and took the pound cake out of the oven after it finished cooking and let it cool.

When I was ready to consume I sliced the pound cake, topped with my favorite fall ice cream (Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream) and drizzled the coffee reduction over it.

Fantastic! The coffee was very flavorful and the scent was pretty intoxicating. I still probably wouldn’t drink this plain because of my personal preference for non flavored coffee but the scent was delicious. I also loved how the coffee was absorbed in the pound cake. Typically I add cinnamon or something to the pumpkin ice cream because I love adding things to pumpkin ice cream generally. I actually think I liked the addition of the coffee reduction more. The coffee reduction makes the flavor of the coffee even stronger and the strong flavor played well off of the pound cake and the ice cream.

I spent the rest of the week adding the coffee reduction to things like ice cream and muesli. Overall, I really liked Godiva Coffee for baking purposes and I will probably use it again. Indulgent and delicious for Fall!

It rains, I cook up a storm

So today was an oddly rainy day in LA. I made a good faith attempt to make it to the library. I made it about 10 mins to the coffee bean and tea leaf. At that point I realized that my water proof backpack was leaking. So I got a non fat, decaf vanilla latte which I proceeded to spill all over myself on the walk home. It was a full retreat. However, with my JCrew trench and JCrew hot pink rain boots I was the most chic preppy girl in all of Westwood.

Once I got home I did some work but mostly cooked. I made muffins, lunch for tomorrow and home made pizza for dinner.

Muffins:

1 cup flour
2 tbl. sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
2 tbl. melted butter
1 pear, peeled, cored, chopped
1/4 cup of crystallized ginger, pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take all the dry ingredients except the ginger, pecans, and pear and combine in a large bowl, set aside.

Then take the egg, milk, and melted butter and combine together. Take the wet ingredients and combine with the dry.

Once the dry and wet are adequately combined into a dough add the ginger, pecans and pear. Make sure that you have done a chop on all three. Rough chop is good for the ginger and the pecans. After they are combined place into a muffin tin.

Before...

Put into the oven for 30 mins. Once finished let cool and refrigerate! Recipe courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Pizza:

Then for dinner I made a pizza. I bought prosciutto this week at Trader Joes and really was just looking for the best vehicle with which to eat it, so I made pizza. I took a plain dough from Trader Joes and used a tomato sauce, salt, pepper, prosciutto, spinach, pine nuts, garlic, and goat cheese.

I cooked it at 450 degrees for 10 mins. It puffed up and smelled so good!

So good!

Grown Up Funeral Potatos

Right now you might be asking yourself, “what is a funeral potato?”

A concoction so delicious that it can only be described as “the food of the gods”. Seriously though. It is unclear where the funeral potato originated from or where it got its name. Some say the name comes from the fact that they inevitably always pop up at Lutheran funeral luncheons, which normally take place in the gym next to the sanctuary. Others will tell you that they earned their name because they are “so bad for you, eating them will give you a heart attack”. I like to think it’s a little bit of both.

I first became aware of the funeral potato at Easter dinner. My Grammy (my mother’s mom) was hosting. Of course, being good Midwesterners we were having “Grammy’s famous ham” (which was really just a run of the mill honey baked ham), rolls, asparagus, and funeral potatoes. The funeral potatoes entered the dining room in a casserole dish and I smelled of one thing: cheese. It was love at first smell. Lets admit it, besides being bad for you, cheese can really do no wrong. It might be the perfect food. And my “might be” I mean that it is. From the first bite I was hooked. The flavor is that of cheese melting with the creaminess of sour cream and the subtle hint of green onions. All seasoned with a gratuitous amount of salt. Love, sweet love.

In the year since I moved to Boston I would make my own funeral potatoes, following Grammy’s recipe, but only on Easter. This was for several reasons:

  1. An entire dish serves 6 people. I almost never had this many people to serve.
  2. They are really bad for you. All fattening things. Cheese and sour cream are two of the three main ingredients.
  3. Sheer laziness. They are a side dish and I never had the energy to make a whole meal to go with them. Not that I would be opposed to making an entire casserole dish and eating directly from the dish at, say, 7 pm for about 30 mins. I have done it before. Eating them that way never exactly does right by them though. Mostly it makes me feel both fat and shamed.

But a thought hit me earlier today. What if I dress the funeral potato up and put it on a pile of spinach? I couldn’t believe that thought hadn’t crossed my mind before. (credit to Molly for the spinach idea!)

So with the conviction to make a grown up funeral potato that was deserving of a main course I headed to Trader Joe’s in Westwood and came up with a new recipe.

The basics cannot be changed. To have good funeral potatoes there must be potatoes, cheese, and sour cream. Up front I will tell you that the only LA thing about this is the non fat sour cream. I know. Healthy fail. I vow to start fresh tomorrow. In the tradition of my Grammy I only use frozen potatoes. Those who know me understand that I am a fan of fresh ingredients and always try to cook from scratch. This is the exception. Grammy used this and so I do too. Also, its a time saver and it saves you from chopping potatoes.

impending yumminess

I went to the cheese section and picked up a smoked apple wood cheddar with garlic. The cheese should stand out. I didn’t want to stray too far from convention but its not a Kraft bag so I figured it was inventive enough. I could imagine things like goat cheese or Brie or something really off beat in the future. Next I grabbed a shallot, and cherry tomatoes.

apple smoked garlic cheddar cheese

Once home preheated the oven to 350 and cooked one sliced shallot in a pan with a dollop of EVO over medium heat until softened (3 mins) and seasoned with salt and pepper- one pinch each.

cooking shallots

I love the red color of the tomatoes!

I grated the cheese and set it aside. I used about 3/4 of the wedge.

grated cheese

In a bowl I added a large spoonful of sour cream, a serving of frozen potato, the cooked shallot, salt, pepper, fresh thyme (from my garden- told you I like to cook from scratch), and a handful of sliced cherry tomatoes. Mix the ingredients.

all the ingredients... pre mixing

I put the mixture in a large size no stick muffin tin (in a sad effort to have portion control). And put it in the oven for 35 mins, checking periodically.

Mixed and awaiting the oven. We can call this "before".

In the meantime I made a bed of spinach for the potatoes to rest on and waited for the deliciousness to emerge from the oven. 35 mins later my apartment was enveloped in the rich aroma of cheese, glorious cheese. I removed the potatoes from the oven (they should be slightly browned on top) and let them cool for 5 mins before placing them on the spinach.

AFTER!

All I can say, so so so good. The cheese really is the ingredient that should pop. The rich smoked cheese made the potato that much more savory. The shallot gave a slightly crunchy and a more subtle onion flavor than regular onions would. Mixed with the thyme seasoning, the recipe so good I eagerly helped myself to seconds, sans spinach, with no shame.