Fall Colors

The grocery store is finally carrying canned pumpkin!  Hooray!  This calls for both a celebration of fall and a chance to redeem myself for earlier cooking fiascoes.

That’s right.  Pumpkin gnocchi.

The recipe made enough for four servings.  I sauteed some of it in a brown butter sauce, and then Gabe and I had a dinner of pumpkin gnocchi with alfredo sauce and sweet peas.

I heard the New England fall colors were amazing. I didn't expect to find them on my countertop!

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Back to Basics

My two favorite kinds of ice cream are cookies ‘n’ cream and mint chocolate chip.  My very first ice cream making venture this summer resulted in cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream, and since then I’ve made the following flavors:

  • seven layer bar
  • cookie dough
  • oatmeal chocolate chip cookie
  • cookie dough/heath bar
  • heath bar/snickers/chocolate covered pretzel
  • vanilla frozen yogurt
  • raspberry sorbet

All that, and I still hadn’t made one of my favorites!  What a travesty.  I bet you know what’s coming next…

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Challah Back Girl

I’ve been making challah from scratch for about a year now, ever since Gabe told me it was really hard to make a good challah… he knows what gets me cooking.  Some of them turn out beautiful, some of them end up looking kinda strange.  I even had one that looked like a platypus, and I served it at a dinner party!  (Oh the horror!)

My favorite part of baking challah is braiding the loaves.  There are so many different and intricate braids: four strand, six strand, double-decker, figure eight, crown shaped, even one that looks like a bunch of grapes.  For Rosh Hashanah this year, I decided I wanted to learn how to make a traditional round challah.  It was surprisingly easy, and so beautiful!  (Rosh Hashanah loaves usually have grapes kneaded in, but I left them out, because… well… eww.)

Fun fact: challah has been eaten for millennia, but the idea of a braided loaf may have originated from Protestant villages in Germany around the late 15th century.  Another way we’re all connected!

Here are the braids, first a traditional six-strand, and then a round challah:

Starting a six-strand braid

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Jumping into Fall

Now that it’s officially fall, I’ve let go of summer and am ready to leap into autumnal recipes headfirst. I think there’s something about going back to school that gets me into fall mode. On Friday Gabe helped me make this awesome recipe from Jane: butternut squash and sweet potato soup. We had a friend over for dinner and she exclaimed delightedly, “This is grown-up food!”

This week I made cran-raspberry cider and chicken noodle soup, and on Friday I was all set to make pumpkin ice cream, but the grocery store had no canned pumpkin. They told me it was “out of season.” What??

And then I realized it was 76 degrees outside and only September 23rd.

No worries; the seasons will just have to catch up with me. I’ll probably be baking Christmas cookies in October.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • a sprinkle of crushed red pepper
  • 8 whole canned San Marzano tomatoes (about half of a 28-oz can)
  • 1 1½-2 lbs. pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • good olive oil

In a medium pot set over low heat, heat olive oil. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the pot and break them up with a wooden spoon to release the juices. Sprinkle in a dash of crushed red pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until tomatoes begin to turn dark red.

Turn the heat to medium-high and stir in squash and sweet potatoes. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking that the vegetables are just submerged.

Once vegetables are tender, remove pot from heat and mash with a potato masher until thick and creamy. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into four bowls. Garnish with grated Parmesan, a few dollops of mascarpone, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Source: Slightly adapted from Ruth Rogers

Affirmations

This may be a grainy, underexposed iPhone photo, but I wanted to capture how it feels coming home around 10:30 from my night classes.  (Despite what the picture may convey, it doesn’t feel like entering a haunted house.)

My classes are over at 9:00 or 9:30 PM, depending on the evening.  Then I have a long, tiring ride home on one bus and two different trains.  I always feel exhausted, but then I near our apartment and see a cozy light shining from the windows.  And I smile and think about everything I learned that evening– and how excited I am to start my career– and by the time I’ve taken the stairs two-at-a-time and burst through the front door, I’m bubbling over with excitement.  Poor Gabe, weary from law school, tries to keep at least one eye open as I jibber jabber about collections management and ethics and historical accuracy.

I generally have to calm myself down before I can even think about hitting the pillows and falling asleep.

That’s how I know I’m doing something I love.

Home sweet home

The Bagel Challenge

I may not be able to properly pronounce the word “bagel” (according to a certain Jewish food authority who shall remain nameless), but to buff up my baking credentials I decided to try my hand at making them.

Tonight’s personal challenge also stemmed from the fact that I can’t– for whatever reason– make perfectly big and fluffy sandwich buns.  I’ve tried countless recipes and they all end up teeny and rock hard.  Not to mention the fact that my honey white bread always flattens out until the loaves are a mere 2 1/2 inches tall… great for tea toast but not so great for reubens.

Moral of the story: my bread-making abilities are a work in progress.  Tonight’s challenge took me well over five hours, but it was worth it in the end!

Bagel dough

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Carrotcicles

At 7:00 this morning, I attempted to finish packing my lunch by including a bag of baby carrots.  (To complement my homemade hummus and fulfill a self-imposed vegetable quota, of course.)  Between shoveling bites of breakfast in my mouth, I searched every nook, cranny, and drawer of the refrigerator for the elusive vegetable.  No luck.  I knew I hadn’t used all the carrots in last night’s fried rice supper, so they had to be somewhere.

Imagine my surprise and annoyance when I realized I had absentmindedly stashed the carrots in the freezer.

One T ride, historiography class, and five and a half hours later, they’re still frozen.  I’m up at Tufts all day, so maybe they’ll thaw by dinner tonight!

At least they kept the rest of my lunch cold...