Goldilocks and the Three Batches of Caramels

Ahhh December baking… steeped in tradition. I love revisiting recipes I’ve made every year since I was old enough to hold a spatula. But this winter I’ve held off on the old favorites until I’m back in Minnesota, choosing to concentrate my efforts on new recipes instead.

Enter caramels. I tried to make a yummy-sounding recipe from Annie’s Eats. And I failed. Then I tried again. And failed again. I finally got the good sense to calibrate my candy thermometer and learned it was reading 25 degrees lower than the actual temperature, leaving me with batches of crunchy toffee instead of chewy caramels. Mystery solved.

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Art Class

As soon as Gabe walked through the door, I told him, “You’re going to laugh at me.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I just went through two bags of frozen, chopped bell peppers and separated the green pieces from the red pieces.”

“Yep,” he replied, “I’m going to laugh at you.”

I love using frozen vegetables for soups. They’re picked at the peak of freshness and flash-frozen, ensuring quality during those sad, long months when farmer’s markets are closed. But so far, the only frozen bell peppers I can find are a medley of both green and red. And everything I learned in elementary school art class tells me that pureeing red and green bell peppers together would result in a very brown soup. No thanks.

So I sorted through two 10-oz bags of frozen peppers and separated the reds from the greens. Worth it? I think so.

Creamy Red Bell Pepper Soup

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Adventures in Cheesemaking

Happy Friday!  This semester’s classes are now officially over and I only have one paper left to write.  The finish line is in sight!

Last week I made a zip-trip out to Stop ‘n’ Shop, the only place in Boston that carries lactose-free half & half.  While I usually make ice cream with only lactose-free whole milk, sometimes I’ll add a tad of half & half to special batches.  And because going to Stop ‘n’ Shop can be a harrowing experience, this time I bought two cartons to save me another trip.

(I’m not even going to tell you about how I got stuck between the automatic doors and had to be saved by a Salvation Army bell-ringer.  Oops.)

Moral of the story: now I have too much half & half!  So I decided to do what any reasonable person would do– make homemade lactose-free ricotta cheese.

The process was surprisingly easy.  I followed Smitten Kitchen’s awesome instructions but used 2 cups lactose-free half & half and 2 cups lactose-free whole milk.  The only gross-looking part was separating the curds and whey.

In less than two hours, I had a creamy batch of ricotta!

We’ve been enjoying it on a baguette with a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Yum.

Buon appetito!

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Fruit Whatever-You-Wanna-Call-Ems

Remember a few weeks ago, when I offhandedly mentioned that I had made an eyeroll-inducing treat?  Here it is!

I used some leftover Thanksgiving cranberries and followed this recipe to make homemade apple-cranberry fruit roll-ups.  (Okay, so the texture is more like fruit leather, but my sisters hate that term.  Either way, they taste good.)

Pretty berries

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Bring on the Baking

Yesterday some Ole friends and I headed down to the Fenway 13 to watch the St. Olaf Christmas Fest simulcast.  I got goosebumps thinking about all the other alumni gathering in theaters across the nation to watch the amazing concert.  Happy 100th anniversary, Christmas Fest!

Now that the concert is over and those 600 musicians are finally getting some well-deserved rest, the Christmas season has officially begun.  For me that means holiday baking is in full force!

The first recipe of the season is a new one: girl scout thin mints.  Oh my GOODNESS.  Despite the fact that I had to use a shot glass to cut out the cookies because I don’t own a round cookie cutter, these turned out awesome.  Gabe and I had fun decorating them with melted white chocolate.  Delicious!

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Coffee Love

It may be December 3, but it’s still warm enough in Boston for us to have our windows open at night.  Seriously.  The balmy weather makes it hard to get into the holiday spirit, but it also means I can continue to make ice cream without abandon.

I received a couple bags of “chipper wood” coffee beans in the mail from Stumbeano’s this week, which has to be the most delicious-smelling mail in the world.  I saved most of it for my latte habit but decided to turn 1 1/2 cups of beans into dessert.  (A very wise decision, indeed.)

Coffee beans + sugar

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