Reunited and it feels so good.

Dear Annes,

I’m sorry this post is coming to you so late. My excuses are work,  game night, and changing of the roommates.  However comma but, I have done some delightful cooking. Sadly, there are no pictures because I am the worst. Please enjoy.

So, this cooking and baking from the last few weeks includes, but is not limited to curried squash soup, purple cauliflower soup, fluffy pumpkin cookies, a red purple velvet cake, harvest soup, the real rosemary applesauce, and ciabatta bread.  Fall really makes me want to create food.  I have to admit, former roommate Ellie made the curried squash and purple cauliflower soups.  All I really did for those was taste them throughout the cooking process and eat them later.  Both were very delicious, and I don’t have the recipes.  However, I will discuss them a little more in depth below.

Curried squash soup:   This soup had butternut squash, red lentils, onions, carrots, some tomato pureee, curry and some other ingredients I cannot recall at present.  When we first made this soup, we left everything chunky, which is not my preference.  Regardless, the soup was delicious and flavorful.  Because both former roommate Ellie and I are Italian, we have very little control over the amount of food we produce.  We have an innate drive to feed everyone, so we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD.   There was so much soup left over, but don’t you fret your pretty little head, because I turned it into other food, aka Carolyne pretends she can make Indian inspired foods.  That experiment consisted of me blending the soup, putting chunks of chicken breast in it, and pouring it over basamati rice.  Delicious.  Just thinking of it makes me want to eat some now, even if it is 10:30 PM.

Purple cauliflower soup:  Ellie bought this beautiful purple cauliflower from the farmers market and decided it would become soup.  We conjectured a very pretty soup with vibrant purple color.  What we got was dingy lavender color, but a damn delicious soup.  I’m not entirely sure what Ellie did to create this soup, as it was nearly finished when I got home from work this past Tuesday.  Again, we had so much soup leftover, mainly because the cauliflower was ginormous.  It was about the size of a beach ball.  I happily at the rest of the soup all week.

Fluffy pumpkin cookies:  This was my contribution to Tuesday’s meal.  These cookies are like warm, plush pockets of pumpkiny goodness.  I liked them best just out of the oven and sans cream cheese frosting, which could be a little overpowering.  Ellie made the frosting because she’s better at it, and I’m not big into frosting. I like my cookies naked.

Red Purple velvet cake:  It all started when my good friend, Wesley, became an employee of my company, and thusly had to move up to the middle of nowhere Upstate New York and become my current roommate.  I firmly believe that most occasions deserve cake or cookies or any baked good, really, so naturally Wesley received an “employment cake” of his choosing.  He decided on a red velvet cake.  Now, Anne, I must divulge a secret; I’m terrible at making red velvet cakes/cupcakes.  I don’t know what it is about this cake, but we are not agreeable.  I think a part of it is that this cake requires that I have abnormal amounts of red food coloring on hand, which I infrequently do not.  This excursion was no different.  I had an ounce bottle and one of the little gnome-like bottles of red food coloring, which was not enough to equal two full ounces, so I decided to use blue food coloring, which produced a beautifully rich aubergine cake. I also have to say that I am not fond of eating red velvet because of all the food coloring.  I don’t care that food dyes might give me cancer because SO MANY THINGS in this world can give me cancer, but I feel like such a large amount of food coloring alters the taste of the cake.  I made cream cheese frosting to go with the cake, and it was okay — not as good as Ellie’s, but not terrible.  Ultimately, Wesley liked the cake.  The cake did get better as the week went on. Maybe it just needed to sit?

Harvest soup: Anne, I definitely messed this one up.  I was loosely using this recipe, but was throwing in whatever else I had in my kitchen that needed to be used. (Please note that everything but the broth, pepper, and olive oil came from my local farmers market — even the celery.)  I had a leek that needed to be used, so I put it in the soup, and it killed the soup.  I’ve done that with leeks before. I think because they have a slightly onion-y taste, they can be used liked onions, but that is not true at all. At. All.  So, then I had a giant pot of soup that didn’t taste great, but I could not bear to throw it out, so I pondered my options.  I decided to add a sweet potato and some more salt and pepper and an obscene amount of curry and pour it over rice like the curried squash soup earlier in this post. Note: the curry made this SO MUCH BETTER! I threw some cubed chicken breast in it, too.

Rosemary applesauce: I did it right this time.  The fresh rosemary made all the difference; it dries out during the cooking, so the flavor is infused into the apples.  It’s actually a pretty good applesauce.  I think I need to make some pork medallions or pork chops as a vehicle for this applesauce, and I tried putting  it on my morning oatmeal. Note: This applesauce is not meant to be poured over oatmeal. That was most certainly not a breakfast of champions.

Ciabatta bread: Ah, bread.  The only bread I feel I’ve successfully made is your no-knead bread, which is great toasted with cream cheese.  However, I’ve been trying my hand at ciabatta for quite a while.  Ciabatta is a nice Italian peasant bread with a hard crust.  It doesn’t help that I’m using a vague recipe from my mother, which is apparently the Italian way to cook/bake.  The moral of this story is my bread isn’t as good as my mom’s, even if it is perfectly okay.

So, my dear Anne, I will try to do a better job at keeping you updated in my culinary adventures, especially as we go into the holiday season.  I am so very excited about all the holiday baking I’m planning to do.

Luff and stuff,

Carolyne

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Soup Season

 

Beany. Leeky.

So good I didn’t bother to clean up the bowl before I took a picture.

 

Dear Carolyne,

I can’t stop making soups from my BrokeAss Gourmet cookbook. I know all the recipes are pretty much on the site, but having something to actually flip through is more inspiring somehow.

The one pictured above is the Bacon, Leek, and White Bean soup, which was very good but didn’t seem to yield as much as I anticipated.

 

I also made Chicken, Sweet Potato, and White Bean stew. Flavorwise, it’s quite good, but if I were to make it again I would toss in some flour at the start so that it’s thicker.

 

Love and chicken stock,

Anne

All I Ever Do is Make Bacon in The Oven

Dear Carolyne,

Firstly, I am the worst and I am sorry it has taken me so long to write. There have been kitchen experiments, like this pumpkin beer bread, which I found to be…underwhelming. It was lacking in both spices and pumpkin. I wanted it to be more moist (sorry) and for the flavor of the beer to come out more. Mostly it turned out like basic bread with a few spices.

More successfully, I made some of my friend Kim’s potato leek soup after a trip to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market last weekend.  You’ve probably read this recipe before, but here it is again for posterity’s sake (copy-pasted from Kim’s original message):

“2-ish T butter
3 leeks, white/light green parts chopped (fairly fine slice)
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 shallot, chopped (not really necessary, but I have fun shoving onions in this soup)
4 or so red potatoes, peeled (if you feel like it) and diced
4-ish cups veggie broth
roughly 1/3 to 1/2 c heavy cream
some herbs if you feel like it (I like dill or chives or both if I have any on hand)
BACON, cooked and chopped
CHEEBS

In dutch oven or large sewp-making pot or whatever, drop the butter in and let it melt. When the butter has gotten all nice and melty, drop in the leeks and let them cook for a minute or two until they soften. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and shallot, stir it around and let
it hang out for about 5 or so minutes so that all those veggies start to soften and start smelling yummy. Then dump in the potatoes and the veggie broth (and any extra water you might need to make the broth level just cover the potatoes) and any dry herbs you might want to use. Bring it to a boil, drop the heat and let it hang out on the stove for about 45 minutes – an hour or so until everything is nice and soft and falling apart.
When it’s hit that stage, remove it from the heat, dump in any fresh herbs you might want to dump in (chives are awesome) and let it cool for a few minutes,
and then blend it either in batches through a blender or with an immersion blender or what have you (you could probably mush it to bits with a potato masher,
honestly). When it’s all blended, stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings. I usually serve with a handful of bacon and a handful of cheebs thrown on top, but you could probably mix that in too and it would be good.”

Not the best picture, but totally the best soup.

I almost never follow the amount of vegetables precisely, tossing in whatever I have lying around. This time I added in some hot Thai chilies (also from the farmer’s market) and seasoned it with smoked salt and smoked paprika.

It was definitely worth the injuries I sustained cutting the potatoes. :/

Anyway, it’s the best soup ever. Filling, delicious, smoky, and autumnal. Plus any opportunity I get to use my immersion blender is a good one.

The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is making bacon in the oven, a trick I picked up (somewhat to my shame) from Pinterest. Basically, you line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay out the strips of bacon. Put everything in a cold oven and then turn it to 350°F. Give it 20-40 minutes, you can usually smell when it’s done.

I don’t know if this necessarily yields tastier bacon than doing it in the skillet does, but it is easier and less messy (let the bacon fat congeal on the parchment paper and discard, then you usually don’t even need to wash the cookie sheet).

I’ve also found that this works better with normal-thinner cut bacon. I tried it today with some thick cut bacon (also picked up from the farmer’s market-why are farmer’s markets the best things ever?) and the result wasn’t quite as satisfying. Also, did you know free range bacon is a thing? I was not aware. I know “free-range” is a kind of loose term and can basically mean the animal in question just has a large yard as opposed to a stall or pen, but I like the idea of pigs running around eating whatever before they become my delicious breakfast.

I am not a good person.

Anyway, fall is here too (obviously), and while Midwestern fall may not be quite as thoroughly pretty as New England fall, it’s still pretty great.

View from my balcony. I don't know if you can tell, but it's a little Tim Burton-y today.

The other thing I have to report is that it is time for my annual trip to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store:
Pretty much autumnal Disneyland.

This place is basically a giant yellow barn full of candy. They also sell pies and baked goods (made on site), tons of weird soda, local hot sauces and jams, and, weirdly enough, puzzles.

I will take pictures and report back!

Miss you lots!

Anne

Autumn in New York

Dear Anne,

Autumn in New York — great song, terrible movie, and a wonderful experience.  Iowa has pretty good foliage, but it’s no lie that New York and New England have some of the best autumnal colors.  I love looking at the trees across Otsego Lake.  Right now there’s still a lot of green, but it’s mottled with fiery reds and oranges and buttery yellows.

Main Street
What I see when I leave my apartment.

With autumn comes apple season.  There are numerous small orchards in the area, and they all flock to the farmers markets on the weekends.  This Saturday was no exception.  There were at least 4 vendors selling their apples.  I usually purchase my apples from Middlefield Orchard because they have so many varieties, and their jams are delicious.  I’m particularly fond of their Sunrise Jam (strawberry, apricot, and pineapple).  Last weekend I bought enough apples to eat one with lunch everyday this past week.  The flavor is so present, so flavorful.  (I’m finding difficulties describing how wonderful these apples tasted.) Perhaps it’s because I haven’t eaten apples in a while (I focused on berries and stone fruits this summer.), or maybe it’s because the apples are smaller than the apples in the grocery store, concentrating the flavors.  I don’t know, but I can tell you there are no complaints from me.

Apple season provides the opportunity for so many apple-based recipes:  pies, cobblers, crisps, tarts, muffins, compotes, etc. Yesterday, I decided to make apple sauce.  My dad makes some pretty delicious applesauce, so I called him for his recipe.  He did not answer, but he did call me back and leave me this message.

It’s pretty darn difficult.  You cut up some apples. Throw them in a pan. Toss a little water in there, some sugar depending on how sweet you want it, some cinnamon, and you cook it. Or you can throw crock pot and do the same thing.

Sounded pretty complicated, so I decided to take this one step further and play with the flavors.  Cinnamon was a given because cinnamon is one of the best spices out there, but I wanted to find other savory flavor to pair.  At first, I considered smoked paprika, but I thought maybe the smokiness would overpower the cinnamon.  Then, I tried chili powder, which didn’t do much for me. After twenty minutes of standing in my pantry smelling spices with cinnamon next to it, I finally decided on rosemary.  Naturally, I hopped on the computer to check for any rosemary applesauce recipes. There were a few, and I ended up modifying this recipe from and other adventures… I didn’t have juice, so I used water.

Rosemary Applesauce

10 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
5 tsp brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1 lemon peel slice
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of water
3 sprigs of rosemary
1. Peel, core, and chop apples.
2. Add all ingredients in crock pot.
3. Cook on low for 6 hours.
4. Remove lemon peel slice, cinnamon sticks and rosemary sprigs at the end of cooking.
5. Use immersion blender to puree apples, or keep apples chunky.  It’s up to you.
And other adventures says you can store the applesauce in the fridge for a week.  If you’re looking to keep any longer, consider going through the formal canning process.  This made enough to fill four 8oz jelly jars.
Cinnamon Applesauce
Mmm…so many ways to eat this.
As I mentioned earlier, I used water instead of juice as the original recipe calls.  I also didn’t have any fresh rosemary, nor was my dried rosemary in sprig form.  I didn’t want to have to fish out all the individual rosemary needles after cooking, so I used some cheesecloth and created a makeshift tea bag to infuse the flavor into the sauce.  The infusion was unsuccessful since I did not immerse the pouch into the liquid, but let it sit on top of the apples, which And other adventures had shown in pictures. I think the idea was the steam created from cooking in a crock pot would draw out the flavors from the cinnamon sticks and the rosemary sprigs.  However, I think the problem was that my rosemary was completely dried. So, to sum up, I had regular applesauce.  It’s delicious applesauce.  I’m probably going to make more next weekend.  Next time, I will either have fresh rosemary or let the rosemary steep in the liquid. I also want to experiment with Herbes de Provence applesauce.  I think the lavender will pair very well, making that applesauce perfect for pork chops or pork roast.
Anyway, it’s time for me to go knit while my roommates watch one football team beat another football team.
Luff,
Carolyne

Gingerbread

Dear Anne,

Right now I have some gingerbread in the oven.  It’s your grandmother’s recipe.  I’m not sure how it will turn out because I used a little too much baking soda.  I may have got a little distracted belting out “Maybe This Time” with Liza.  Oh, I should mention I considered not using vegetable shortening for a hot second, but then I imagined Grandma Pat running after me with a wooden spoon, threatening me within an inch of my life for not using shortening, particularly Crisco.  It was terrifying.  Needless to say, I used the Crisco.  I think it will pay off.

This effort is not my best.  As I mentioned earlier, I was very distracted by my debut in Cabaret, playing one night only at Carolyne’s Kitchen, but on top of that, I don’t actually own an 8×8 pan, which is called for in the recipe.  I’m using something that looks like an 8×6, so we’ll see how that turns out.  The gingerbread has been baking for about 20 minutes thus far, and it still looks pretty wet in the middle. (The recipe says to bake for 25 minutes.) Now, while we wait for the gingerbread to finish baking, why don’t we all listen to some Liza?

I decided to make gingerbread tonight because yesterday was the epitome of a fall day.  The sky was a brooding, steely blue, threatening to rain at every turn, red and yellow leaves decorated the streets and sidewalks, and the air had that telltale crisp chill.  Above all, it smelled like fall.  Yesterday, I spent the entire workday listening to Nina Simone and drinking copious pots of tea, all while working, of course.  Today was beautiful, nearly perfect.  The sun was shining, and it was almost warm.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, which is perfect for more tea and a deliciously spicy and warm baked good.  I am all about preparation.

The gingerbread is out of the oven.  It took about 40-45 minutes to bake.  Hallelu! I didn’t ruin it!  You can’t taste the extra baking soda.  The sides aren’t dry.

Image
(Note to self: learn to take better food photos.)

I have not frosted the whole pan of gingerbread because I firmly believe that everyone has the right to choose how much frosting to put on their baked goods.  I am usually not a huge fan of frosting and am often forced to scrape a bunch off, and really that’s just wasteful.

The plan for this gingerbread is to pair with a giant pot of coffee and become breakfast for Ellie and me tomorrow morning.  What a charming way to start a dreary day in Upstate.

Dearest Anne, you already know this recipe, but for our potential readers, I post it below as you sent it to me.

“Grandma McLeod’s Gingerbread”
1/4 c. vegetable shortening (and it’d better be Crisco, or Grandma Pat will find you and scold you)
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda, divided
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 c. white flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 c. boiling water
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 325F.
Cream the shortening by mashing it against the sides of the mixing bowl until creamy.
Add the sugar and beat thoroughly.
Put 1/2 tsp of the baking soda and the molasses in a small bowl and beat until the molasses becomes “light and fluffy”. Then, mix into the shortening/sugar thoroughly.
In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt; set aside.
Stir together the boiling water and remaining 1/4 tsp baking soda. Gradually add about one third of this mixture to the molasses mixture, then add one third of the dry ingredients. Repeat until you’ve added all of the water and dry ingredients, then add the beaten egg and stir batter thoroughly.
Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan and sprinkle with a bit of flour. Pour batter into the pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.
THEN EAT THEM.

Kisses and kitten,

Carolyne

This post isn’t about broccoli, either.

Dear Anne,

Thanks for setting up this cooking blog! (I had to fight the urge to use the word “rad.” This is not the 90s, Carolyne.) I am very excited to share my recipes with you, and possibly the world, or at least some of our friends…maybe…

Shortly after I returned to Upstate after visiting you, I discovered this recipe for plum cake.  That Carolyn’s plum cake looks much better than my plum cake (see below), but this was a good first attempt.

Image

I know how you feel about fruit in general, but what’s your take on plums?  I thought this cake was sweet enough without being overbearing, reminiscent of a coffee cake.  Out of fear of the cake not being cooked all the way through, I left it in about five minutes too long, resulting in a drier product that desired.  However, I fixed that right up with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a cup of tea.

It would have been nice to have you here to enjoy this cake and some coffee with me, perhaps whilst playing a game of Apples to Apples.

Warmly,

Carolyne

Amazingly, the first post is not about broccoli

Dear Carolyne,

Hooray, we have a blog! I think this is going to be excellent, even if we are the only ones who read it.

I wish you had been here last week when I decided it would be a great idea to try and sort of recreate the Savory Quinoa Waffle I had at Birchwood Cafe back in April (side note: right now they have a Pumpkin, Millet and Gruyere waffle and I want to go to there). I do not, however, own a waffle iron, and I thought I could somehow take essentially the same elements (quinoa, asparagus, cheese, and bacon) and make them into muffins pretty feasibly.

Feasibly indeed.

Pardon the questionable phone picture I snapped, but here they are. They are not exactly what I wanted, having turned out a little sweeter and a little, um, breadier than what I was shooting for. They are pretty solid, though, and definitely edible. I wish you were here to eat them with me, though, because no one in close proximity likes asparagus. No one appreciates food like you, mon amie.

Here is what I did:

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup asparagus, cut into small pieces and softened in the microwave with some butter
3 pieces cooked bacon, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup shredded truffle cheese from Trader Joe’s
3/4 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350. You know the song and dance here, mix the dry ingredients in one bowl (including the asparagus and cheese and bacon), but save the quinoa for last. Combine the milk and egg in a separate bowl, then combine with the quinoa mixture. Don’t over mix it.

Prepare a muffin tin in whatever way suits you best. You could probably grease and flour the individual cups, but that seems like work. I opted for stylish muffin wrappers, and I only mildly regret it, as  the paper does seem to stick to these a little bit.

Fill each section 3/4 of the way full or so. The batter is pretty thick so I mostly just plopped a large spoonful in each one. Bake for about 30 minutes, and you’ll know they’re done with you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

I got about 16 muffins out of this, but you would probably get more if you are more stringent about measuring the amount of batter that goes into each muffin.

If I had these to do over again, I would increase the amount of extra savory stuff. More asparagus, more bacon, and maybe some roasted garlic or some shredded carrots too.

Negating any health benefits these might have, I find they are best slightly warm with a little butter and a dusting of grated Parmesan.

I do truly wish you were here to help me eat them, but at least we’ve got this blog thing going now!

Fondly,

Anne