Cranberry Pear Pie

Do you ever feel like you’re going to lose it? If the dog puts her head sweetly on my leg one more time and looks at me with those puppy dog eyes. If the cat utters another single meow as she begs me to toss her duck tape football toy. If one more car drives by my house TOO LOUDLY. If one more part of my body, my leg, ear, arm, anything, itches. If one more insignificant item drops to the ground, and I am forced to bend down and pick it up. I swear to God I will explode.

I may or may not be on my period.

I may or may not be perpetuating that stereotype that women go crazy on their periods.

Dudes, this does not give you the green light to throw a girl’s period/pms in her face when she’s being “weird.” This is called a double standard. It’s cool.

It’s days like this that I should not have jars of Nutella in my house. Or half of a pie. But I’m so glad I have half of a pie in my house for two reasons. One, it’s a damn good pie, and I love a damn good pie. Two, it was a result of a damn good weekend.

My trips this fall seem to be coming at just the right times, just when I need distraction the most, when I’m getting too caught up in my own weird head. This past weekend I drove up to Milwaukee with the dog to do the Lakefront Discovery 15K with my friend Heather. More on the race in a later post.

Car rides with Mir.

Before my arrival in Milwaukee, Heather alerted me of a pie crust she had made that was waiting for me in her freezer. We had plans to fill it with nutella (that pesky condiment again), apples, and cherries, but somewhere between the free post-race beers, the dude in pink and purple spandex, the guy painted blue, and lunch at a lovely local restaurant called Cafe Benelux we changed our minds…cranberry pear would be a much better filling.

We didn’t start the pie until around 9 p.m., and if you know a thing or two about pie making, you know a pie takes about an hour to cook, and then has to cool. Completely. Like it’ll tempt you on the counter for another hour as the filling continues to thicken. So we didn’t actually eat any until breakfast the next morning. But let me just say that when we did….mmmmm.

This pie should probably end up on your Thanksgiving table. Who wants traditional apple or pumpkin anyway? Or it could just end up on your Wednesday night table. But you should really make it ASAP while the pears are in season. And, lucky you, fresh cranberries should be appearing in groceries soon in preparation for the holidays. If they aren’t freshly around though, just check your freezer section.

This pie is sweet and fresh from the pears and perfectly tart from the cranberries with just a touch of spice from the cinnamon. It’s this perfect combination. If, however, you do not like a tart pie, you can add more sugar. I just happen to like my pies kind of slutty.

You have all sorts of crust options! It’s really exciting. You have my personal favorite, a vodka lard/butter pie crust, a non-vodka butter and crisco crust, or an all butter vodka crust. Feel free to use all butter in that non-vodka crust if that’s your thing. Just sub the crisco with the same amount of ice cold cubed butter. Heather and I made this pie with a crumble topping. It’s way yummy. You can totes make this a double crust pie if you heart desires though.

So let’s make a pie, bitches, and get out of our heads!

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Race Recap: Wine at the Line 5 Mile

Fall is officially upon us here in Indianapolis. This is my favorite time of year. I never get tired of the crisp blue skies and the bright trees. Plus, fall makes for perfect running temperature. After what seems like months of summer, the relief of not sweating and feeling as though I may suffocate from heat and humidity is so welcome. This fall also marked the beginning of running for me again. I took the entire summer off due to a pretty badly sprained ankle, and set the beginning of August as my official start to run date.

I signed up for Wine at the Line, a 5 mile race just south of Indianapolis at Mallow Run Winery with four of my former co-workers. Michael and I did this race last year. It involves a scenic 5K or 5 mile run through some farms around the winery, and lots of free wine after the race. The whole afternoon is very relaxed, and the course really isn’t incredibly challenging.

So, now the question: how to get back into shape after taking three months off due to an injury? I didn’t want to rush back into running and just pound my poor ankle, but I wanted to be in good condition come October 6. Ashely who writes at (Neve)Homemaker, one of my favorite running/food blogs, had mentioned Hal Higdon’s training programs before, so that’s where I turned. I followed his intermediate 8K plan. Three days of the week I would run at a nice easy pace, one day I did a long run, and one day was a tempo run or interval training. Perfect to slowly bring me to racing shape.

When it comes down to it, coming back from an injury has really taught me to listen to my body. Taking a day off if my ankle hurts is OK, cutting back on mileage is OK, and so is pushing myself extra on a day I feel awesome.

So, Wine at the Line.

This is my friend Heather on the left. She is a beast. You don’t believe me, do you? It’s the crown, I know. Or the friendly smile.

This girl runs like a gazelle, and damn if she doesn’t make it look easy. We started the 5 miles together, and for a bit I ran ahead. Then Heather passed me, and then I lost sight of her crown. (We ran in our crowns.) But you know what? I crossed the finish line and she didn’t tell me her time. She didn’t ask my time. We congratulated each other and discussed running with crowns. We talked about work. I could take a lesson from Heather. I could be less competitive, not obsessively check my pace every half mile, and remember that I run because I love it, the rush of feeling like I’m cruising, the road passing under my feet.

By the way, the crowns, the cow get up? We’re two members of the Dairy Queens—only the best Chicago Ragnar team ever.

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Oh, and my results? 42.55, a new PR at this distance. Fourteenth in my age group. And I was right on my goal of 8:30 minute miles. I’m proud.

Sweet Sweet(Vegan)Dulce De Leche

Some things go together. They just do. Peanut butter and chocolate. Miras and Lolas. Summer and sitting on blankets listening to outdoor concerts. Yoga and twisty poses and tears. (This happened last night, it did. I’d heard of people crying in yoga, and tonight I was one of them. Thank God it was  hot yoga and my tears were indistinguishable from the sweat pouring down my face.) Winter and furry boots. Cold mornings and hot coffee. Apples and caramel.

Apples and caramel. Mmmm. That’s fall, right? I remember going to the Feast of the Hunters Moon as a kid in the fall and eating caramel apples. I always had a really hard time taking that initial bite. The caramel coating the apple the way it did made the whole situation very sticky and overwhelming. But I loved that combo. I still do. The tart juiciness of the apple and the sweet sticky caramel.

I love caramel in general. (Are you counting how many times I say caramel in this post?) I could eat it straight out of a jar with a spoon. And recently I did just that standing over my kitchen sink, completely shamelessly. See, until recently I had battled with caramel and never won. Regular caramel is more or less sugar with some water that’s heated up til it’s liquified and crystalized. I could never pull the sugar and water comob from the heat fast enough. Nobody likes burnt caramel. Trust me.

Dulce de leche is traditionally sweetened milk and sugar heated up. It’s like a super creamy awesome caramel. Plus, if you cook it a little longer, you end up with chewy caramel candies. Oh heaven. I was ready to conquer this bitch.

Oh wait. I’m lactose intolerant. Bring in the sad trombones. Waah waah.

NBD. Google to the rescue. Found: One awesome, amazing, easy recipe for dulce de leche WITH BOURBON (extra bonus!) that your friends probably won’t even realize is vegan. Result: Jar of sweet goodness to spread on bread, apples, and baked goods … that is if you can actually stop eating it straight from the jar.

The trick with this recipe comes in the cooking time after  you add the salt and confectioners sugar. (That’s powdered sugar, FYI. Make the mistake of using regular sugar instead of confectioners sugar once, and you won’t make it again. Swear.) If you want the dulce de leche to be a smooth pourable sauce consistency, cook it for less time here, about 10 minutes. If you want more of a candy consistency, cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Oh yeah, and use a bigger pan than you think you’ll need. You don’t want this business boiling over and into your burner. This will only cause fires the next morning when you make your oatmeal.

So, let’s go! Indulge in fall-time combinations!

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That Really Deep Hole That’s Filled With Apple Crisp

Yesterday was hard. The first week Michael was gone was hard. I cried a lot. It was kind of like going through a break up all over again, but this time I had a kind and wonderful supportive boy to comfort me, instead of one to feed me crap lines like “this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” (What’s up with that anyway? I heard someone say that on TV, ahem Dawson’s Creek, today, and thought why do people say that? If this was really the hardest thing you’d ever done, would you be doing it?) So I sat around feeling sad for a week.

Then things got better. They just…did. Nothing in my life changed. Mike is still in another country. I’m still here, my life sort of on hold, sharing my bed with two girls (sexy, no?).But things got better.

Then yesterday hit. Like a fucking bag of bricks.

Yesterday the Jew in me welcomed the new year. Shana Tova! This year for the first time the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah were filled with anticipation, the kind you feel before Christmas. I think this has to do with the fact that I work at a Jewish organization now. The office was filled with people wishing each other Shana Tova, discussing holiday plans and meals, and talking about what they would do with their two days off. That’s right, I didn’t work yesterday or today. I couldn’t wait to spend the days contemplating the last year and looking forward to the new one. But then I spent Monday alone. Which would have been fine, but alone means lonely these days, too. And what with the holiday and all and the condescending little prick of a college “super senior” who sat down next to me at services, I just couldn’t handle the aloneness.

Now, I am not even here to complain. Guys, I’ve got it damn good. I don’t have to hide my religion, I get to celebrate it freely. I have a loving and loyal boyfriend who, despite living far away, gives me confidence in our relationship every day. I just. Fell. Into one of those huge holes, the kind where the bottom is really far away from the top, even though you can see the top, the bright blue sky, clearly. You just cannot climb out of that damn hole.

So you sit in there at the bottom and you wallow. Oh man, does wallowing feel good sometimes, right? And you wonder how you are a functioning adult and how you manage to get out of bed in the morning. And then you move to the wallowing part where you wonder why you don’t have kids yet. And just because you haven’t been having unprotected sex and pumping small humans out of your vagina doesn’t mean you haven’t been busy. And then you imagine what you’ll say next time someone asks you, “So what’s new? How’s it going” You’ll say, “well, i got out of bed today, and i’m much more self-aware, and i haven’t cried yet today,” or something equally brutally honest like that.

So whatever. I had the world’s saddest wallow-fest at the bottom of a big hole. The end only came after I had sat in the bathroom and cried, big hysterical ridiculous gaspy cries, for 15 minutes. Then I was suddenly near the top of the hole. Sometimes it just takes a good cry, right?

Sometimes it takes a good cry and a good apple crisp.

I haven’t indulged in making baked goods in awhile. Trying to, you know, keep that cholesterol down by avoiding butter. But suddenly I just had to. I turned to my Joy the Baker Cookbook, the chapter called “i need a hug, or a brownie. maybe both.”  I have this bowl overflowing with apples from the farmer’s market. Lola Kitty was suspicious at first.

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Then I turned the apples into an amazing crisp. Lola Kitty approved.

This crisp is more or less like an apple pie without the slightly time-consuming crust. (Even I will admit that a crust can be a hassle when all you want is some buttery comfort.) It bakes up nice and cinnamon and sugary with a crispy, slightly oaty topping. And it’s called “man bait” apple crisp. And as I stood in my kitchen blending butter, flour, and sugars together with my hands, I sighed. This is right. This feels so good. Thank God for butter and sugar.

So, maybe you’re in a hole. Maybe you need to catch yourself a man. Maybe you have too many apples from the farmer’s market. Make this dang apple crisp. And watch Joy make it in St. Louis in this video JTB apple crisp.

Things get a little weird. Obvs. We’re talking about Joy. Though she does have the talk show host “sewn up” …. and there’s even a Ghost reenactment. This is why I love Joy. She’s hilarious and weird and normal and lovely, and that’s how she is in real life. I met her.

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Pumpkin pancakes with apple maple syrup

Right now I am sitting in a coffee shop. Michael is sitting across from me doing work on a paper for Sweden. He’s a big deal. The couple at the table next to us is having a first date. Michael and I text back and forth about them. He has nice eyes. She’s a lot smaller than him. He was probably skinnier back in the day, but maybe he doesn’t have time to workout now that he has a 9-5 job. And HOLY SHIT WTF does that dude have a tail? Welcome to Broad Ripple. In order to make this afternoon more…cafe-like, I’m listening to Pink Martini on my phone. Some of their songs sound very Parisian cafe. All of them sound like they could be on the soundtrack of a black and white movie from the 40s. It’s making the ambiance less dude-with-a-tail-y. I feel fancy.

I love breakfast. Have I said that before? Making a pot of coffee, taking the time to cook eggs or pancakes or biscuits, making my plate look pretty before I set my fork to the food, and then sitting on the couch and eating at a relaxed speed without the pressure of having to run to work hanging over my head. I love drinking multiple mugs of coffee over a few hours, really taking in and enjoying the taste. Breakfast can really be a ritual.

I have two weekend breakfast stand-bys: eggs with runny yolks, poached in my new-old egg poaching pot from my grandparents house or fried eggs, or pancakes. I have a variety of pancakes in my weekend breakfast repertoire. The latest addition are these pumpkin pancakes. They’re filling and thick and made with whole-wheat flour, and full of autumn spices. And the apple maple syrup. Oh heaven. sautéed and cinnamoned apple slices briefly cooked in a dousing of maple syrup. This is the breakfast of autumn kings and queens. Or at least the exact breakfast I’d like to eat on a blustery November day. This recipe makes more than enough for one or two people for one meal. I still like to make the full recipe though, and put the extra batter in the refrigerator to use for a quick weekday breakfast.

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Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

Last time I posted I think the season could still be considered summer. Now we are knee deep in autumn. This is totes my favorite season. Changing leaves, cool weather/perfect running weather, cozy food, and art contest prize delivery trips!

Michael and I ran in a 5K with a few of his friends earlier this month.

I have yet to run a race in my FiveFingers, a goal I set for myself in the spring to reach by the end of the summer, but this 5K was amazing. It was at Mallow Run Winery, a bit south of Indianapolis. Firstly, I’m super happy with my time of 24:25. Guys, that’s a 7:52 per mile average pace! That’s under 8 minutes! These are things I never thought I’d say about myself as a runner. Secondly, we got a free glass of wine after the race. Thirdly, we tasted various wines after our free glasses.

Fourthly, we bought two bottles of wine per couple and sat on the patio and enjoyed many glasses. Wine and running and friendly people are a good combo!

In the last month my magazine’s amazing art director and I have traveled to three cities to deliver prizes for our art contest. Do you have a kid? You should so enter! Multiple perks to these trips include: making the day of a kid and his or her family, giving money to art programs in schools, getting to visit awesome cities!

San Diego. We visited the San Diego Zoo. Oh mah Gawd, it was worth every dollar of the $40 we paid to get in! We ate cupcakes two nights in a row. We saw seals. We hiked on the beach And we saw Erica!

I went to high school with Erica. She moved to L.A. for college and is still there. I’m glad we’ve stayed friends despite miles and time. The kind of weird thing about this whole trip is that most of the time it was cloudy. I thought San Diego was sunny almost all the time.

Knoxville. We had a hotel…disaster…horror story…grossness…long story short, the hotel was terrible and we ran at 11:30 at night. Before we broke free from trucker hell, we wandered around downtown Knoxville. Jen had a contact emergency that took us to this little grocery.

They had growlers and eight beers on tap IN THE GROCERY. Like a little bar in the grocery with awesome beer! I died a little. Just one more reason the South is superior.

Kalamazoo. The Bell’s Brewery is located in Kalamazoo. Oktoberfest is in season. Have you had Oktoberfest on tap at the Brewery that it comes from? Holy amazing caramel-flavored beer awesomeness! We sat in the bier garden and enjoyed some pints. I left with a six pack of Oktoberfest and a variety six pack.

I just realized that I sound like a drunk. Wine. Beer. Beer. I am not a drunk. I am not a drunk …

So cozy autumn food. It goes well with Bell’s beer. It goes well with cool weather. Unfortunately we are having some sort of Indian summer during the days. 70s and 80s, what? I don’t care. I’ve been cooking roasted chicken, potatoes, and butternut squash (which, sidenote, is amazing, sweet, and creamy just diced, salted, peppered, and nutmeged, and roasted), vegetarian chili, and a new soup, coconut curry noodle soup.

This soup is coconuty, spicy, flavorful, and I love the slurpy noodles. I actually managed to eat most of the soup with chopsticks! As is, the recipe is vegetarian, but I’d say add in some chicken or shrimp if you so desire. One of my favorite soup perks is how it lasts for multiple meals. This one gave me two dinners and two lunches. Plus, it was insanely affordable. I got my ingredients at the farmers market and an incredible international grocery in town called Saraga. They have a whole aisle practically of curries. And all sorts of produce from around the world. And all of the exotic food that costs a fortune at the regular grocery cost half the price. I think overall, this meal, or four meals, cost me around $10. Seriously, guys.

The recipe calls for Singapore noodles, but you can sub any rice noodle. Laksa paste is a type of curry paste. I found a jar at Saraga, but if you can’t, just go for any curry paste available. As for vegetables, I used a carrot, a zucchini, and a red pepper.

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Iced Pumpkin Bread

This is a story of how I made my own pumpkin puree and how it was awesome and not scary. This is also the story of how I put the puree in things like my morning oatmeal and pumpkin bread.

Here’s a warning – do not get that pumpkin pie filling stuff. Use pumpkin puree for all your pumpkin cooking and baking needs. You can get it canned this time of year (and only this time of year. Why??), or you can make it yourself. I promise you up and down and all around that making your own is not hard to do. You will need a bit of time. I’d suggest making the puree either the day before you plan on actually using it and then storing it in the fridge, or just giving yourself a couple of hours for puree-making + using puree. All this recipe involves is cutting up the pumpkin into quarters, baking it, peeling off the skin, and pureeing it.

So I spotted pie pumpkins in my Farm Fresh…err, nope GREEN Bean Delivery (they changed their name FYI), and decided it was high time I stopped buying cans of pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller than your average pumpkin, but really I think you can make puree out of any kind of pumpkin. They all seem to be the same to me.

Now you have your pumpkin puree plan. What will you do with it? I suggest pumpkin bread. Or oatmeal. Or put a bit in your favorite pancakes. There are tons of recipes out there. I’m going to attempt to try a few more this fall.

I had one thing in mind for my puree: pumpkin bread. One of Adam’s all-time favorite baked goods is pumpkin bread, and a couple of years ago his mom gave me her recipe (this was also the same time she gave me the potato chip cookie recipe. So now I can pretend to be Adam’s mom by baking him pumpkin bread. And that’s not weird at all.

Make this pumpkin bread. It’s spicy (in a cinnamon and nutmeg sort of spicy way) and pumpkin-y, and never dries out. This time I topped it with cinnamon cream cheese icing, but it’s equally delicious plain.

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