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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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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This or That … Chocolate(vegan) Cupcakes

This is a face I am certain about. This Mira, I know, it’s an easy decision. I don’t waver. It’s never, “Should I love this dog or not?” It probably has something to do with those ridiculous eyes.

With most everything else in life I am a very indecisive person. I sit on the fence a lot. Doesn’t that sound painful? Who even came up with that phrase? I want to be more decisive just so I don’t have a fence up my butt.

Anyway.

I like to have things both ways, because most of the time I can’t decide which way is best, tastiest, most advantageous. For instance, would I want to make my home in the city or the country?

Right now my home is in the city. I’m 10-15 minutes from great restaurants, a grocery, the cleaners, parks and museums, the highway … When I say I’m going to run to the store, I mean I will be there and back within twenty minutes if I know exactly what I want (which, let’s be honest, rarely happens). I can ride my bike to the farmers market.

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I love living in a neighborhood. It’s got character. I smile at people as I walk the dog along the tree-lined sidewalk. We gossip about the yard work the couple up the street is doing, and we curse the damn lady who walks her dog without a leash.

At the same time, I crave long and quiet roads, houses with huge yards, big inky black night skies filled with endless stars. I think this side of me stems from camp in the mountains tucked away in a stoplight-less town of Tuxedo. I want to sit in my house with the windows open and not hear cars drive by. I want to not have to close my curtains at night to block out the street lights.

Biking north of the city with friends.

This or that?

I’d like to be a vegetarian, to make that commitment, that decision. I don’t love meat (besides bacon, oh dear God), and I am sure OK with eating lots of vegetarian foods, such as tofu, beans, lentils, and vegetables. I just can’t make the decision. Because what if it’s wrong? What if one day I want a burger? What if one day I want to run to the grocery five minutes away to get a pound of chicken salad? (I may or may not have done that this weekend.) So I go back and forth. I rarely cook meat in the house. Chicken or fish, the occasional beef. I only buy meat when I know how and where it’s been raised. Then I feel better about eating it. Always in moderation. Does that make me a semi-vegetarian?

This or that?

If making decisions was as easy as eating these chocolate(vegan) cupcakes, then I’d have bought a house somewhere totes rad and would be a super vegetarian.

Yeah, they’re vegan. That means no eggs, no butter, no  milk. That means in my mind kinda healthier. That means in my mind that I am being a vegan for the two minutes it takes me to eat one of these. So I feel good. Like I’ve made a good decision.

Now, don’t expect these cupcakes to taste like regular chocolate cupcakes. They don’t quite. The texture is all around different, and that’s not a bad thing. They’ll stay tasty and edible for a week before they start to dry out/get weird. And they have a secret ingredient in them—avocado! I’ve made them a couple of times for audiences of mixed varieties, and everyone has enjoyed them.

My advice? Make the decision to make these for the vegan in your life who can commit to a lifestyle, the on-the-fencer who wishes she could commit to a meatless life, and the lover of all things non-alternative who you think should branch out. They’ll all love these cupcakes.

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Peach Butter

Summer is fleeting and always fills up too quickly with plans. Do you notice that? I’ve had very few weekends since June without some kind of something going on. I’ve loved every planned, filled and busy minute, really. And I know that this summer has probably been extra busy because Michael is moving at the end of it all. We’re cramming. Aside from all that, the moments that stick out the most for me have been the quiet ones, unplanned or regular and weekly. I guess I’m a girl who likes routine and the familiar.

One of my best friends and I laid on her apartment floor shivering in the air conditioning, eating Mediterranean food and talking about everything and nothing. (Do you remember what you and your best friends talked about before you talked about everything and nothing? Before conversation just came and went? I don’t. It’s just always been this way for me. My BFFs have been around for lifetimes.)

I spent an entire quiet afternoon and evening in the kitchen, watching transformations happen with just Mira and my iPod for company.

homemade mozzarella cheese started as milk!

I lounge in bed with Mira and Lola on weekend mornings for at least half an hour before getting up.

Mom and I go to yoga twice a week. Mother daughter relaxation detoxification time.

Saturday is farmer’s market day. We started this last summer…getting up, riding our bikes to Broad Ripple High School, and shopping. Well, I shop, wander from stand to stand, gush over tomatoes and berries, and Michael follows along, agreeing that we could have sweet corn for dinner this week. I love moving through the dogs and people, selecting fruits that we sometimes can’t wait to eat til we get home.

This summer we’ve also been frequenting a particular ice pop stand, Nicey Treat. Avocado, pineapple-basil, mango-ginger, key lime pie…perfect on a hot day.

I can judge the passing of summer by the fruits at the farmers market. Strawberries mean the beginning of summer, but they go quickly. Raspberries mean summer is in full swing, but you can’t expect them to hang around too long either. Blueberries and blackberries show up at the same time and stay for awhile. But peaches, they’re my favorite, and thank goodness that they come with the strawberries practically and stay all summer long.

When peaches made their first appearance at the market, I bought an obscene amount. I kind of went crazy. In fact I’m pretty sure the girl thought I was nuts. Good thing I bought that many though. We ate a few fresh and right away. This summer marks Michael’s first experience with a fresh peach. He’s finally living for real. The rest of the peaches I promptly turned into peach butter.

Peach butter is magical. It’ll create those perfect routine and quite summer moments for you. How can it not? It’s peachy, sunny, barely sweetened, and so easy. Peaches, a bit of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of ginger in a pot. I could easily go through an entire batch in a few weeks, but I try to savor the stuff. I’ve even gotten into canning, and make a few jars to last me through the winter.

Canning isn’t hard. I cross my heart. Promise. I’ll tell you how to do it. Actually Deb of Smitten Kitchen will tell you how to do it, but I’ll put it here on my site so you don’t have to click around and around the web.

I love these labels!

So please, make some peach butter, enjoy a quiet summer moment with it spread on toast, a biscuit, pancakes or right from the jar. Then get back to cliff jumping, road tripping, and concert going!

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Fish Tacos aka summer.in.winter

Every winter I say the same thing. “This cold, I cannot stand it! I can’t live here another winter. Why haven’t I moved south yet?” And every winter I’m still here, freezing my butt off in Indiana. Now realistically I’d miss snow like crazy. I’d hate having a warm Christmas. I’d miss cozy sweaters and scarves. Regardless, I’m a good cold-weather complainer.

This winter has been incredibly mild as of yet, and I should really be keeping my whiney mouth shut. I’ve been able to run outside comfortably  in January. Like I can feel all of my fingers the whole run. Yet I still curse the frost on my car windows every morning and swear this will be the last winter I spend here.

So to brighten up even the mildest winter and to give you a breath of summer, I give you fish tacos. This dish is a favorite of mine to order at restaurants. A good fish taco starts with a corn tortilla, a small one please. It’s filled with a few strips of flaky fish, grilled or breaded, I’m not picky. It’s topped with a fresh, bright, tomato-heavy salsa, cabbage, and a dollop of sour cream. It’s like a fresh party in your mouth!

I’ve made the fish tacos in The Essential New York Times Cookbook twice now, and, in my humble and not highly refined fish taco palate opinion, these fit all of the above requirements. This meal is probably one of the only times I will cook out of season. You can totes find decent tomatoes at your local Whole Foods. They’re probably from Mexico, but this one time I say, you support that foreign food economy! Just be sure to buy extra butternut squash at the farmers market this week.

Make some fish tacos for dinner. Go. Remind yourself that winter does have an end, that warm weather will come, that even if you live in a cold locale you can still taste summer.

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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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Jars, Jars, Jars

Last week we sat on the couch watching T.V. together. I very softly began singing a Green Cove Tajar Day chant, “Thunder, thunderation, we’re the witches, and we create a sensation…” Michael looked at me and said, “Are you singing an0ther camp song?”

So when I suddenly ended up at camp last Thursday evening for a week to help out, I don’t think anyone in my real-world life was too surprised. Things haven’t changed much here, and yet the differences are noticeable. First year counselors were my campers. Stalker Carol, she’s a counselor. What? I’ve taught riding lessons, rode a horse, checked heads for lice, almost cried at campfire, and gone to a co-ed. This place, God what is it about this place that gets in your blood? I love it.

So, I haven’t been cooking or baking. I’ve been eating camp food, which really isn’t that bad. But, no recipes for you. Instead, I’m going to give you a kitchen tip. A life organizing tip, if you will. Jars. The uses are endless really. And not only that, but they are so pretty all lined up on your counter top, filled with iced coffee or a smoothie, or soup for lunch. Mason jars are classic, and you can buy them for fairly cheap at most grocery stores. However, I just reuse food jars from things like spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, and lemon curd. Wash the jar and remove the label and sticky gunk with a hard-bristled brush or a scouring pad. Then start filling!

Make raspberry infused vodka (via Shutterbean)

Mix the vodka with lemonade. Enjoy on hot summer days. Store extra vodka (what extra?!) in a jar.


Mobile breakfast in a jar: smoothies!

Delicious cold-brewed iced coffee that you should drink every morning (via Smitten Kitchen).

Store dried goods like rice, beans, lentils, and quinoa in jars. Be sure to label them! (Chalkboard paint on the lids would be cute.)

The End of Creativity

Um, I know. June ended like a week ago.

I have the last two days of creativity for you. 30 Days of Creativity challenged me more than I’d expected, especially after Michael pointed out that I cook every day anyway, so using that as the majority of my creativities was kind of cheating. The point of a challenge is to stretch yourself, right? Coming up with ideas wasn’t the hard part. It was finding the time to create after a long day of work and the budget to create. I am more excited about the ease of DIY projects, and I’ve found lots of inspiration on Pinterest.

So maybe this isn’t the end of creativity as we know it. I certainly feel fine.

Day 29

I revisited the coconut peach cookies, now renamed peachy colada cuffins (that’s cookie + muffin). Peaches have been added and pureed.

Day 30

Vegan raspberry muffins from ReadyMade. I love one thing about these muffins – they’re vegan. No butter and no milk. All whole-wheat flour. But I’ve made healthy, whole-wheat muffins before! The addition of silken tofu and the lack of sugar got my interest. I don’t know that I’d make them again considering they require buying tofu, but I have been enjoying them.

Lots of Days

The above muffin recipe makes 15 muffins. I cannot eat muffins that fast, so after three days I packed them into a large ziplock bag and stashed them in the freezer. Now, most mornings, I take one out, defrost it in the microwave, and make a smoothie (that’s 1 banana + handful of berries or peaches + spoonful of peanut butter + 4 spoonfuls of Greek yogurt/soy milk halfway up the fruit blended in blender). Perfect breakfast! Quick and easy, and can be eaten on the go.

I have lots of music posts coming up now that creativity has ended. Summertime music is here!

Days 17, 18, 19, & 20 a.k.a. I am behind

Creativity is hard to document!

I have also been a bit of a slacker lately. Probably at least half of my creative endeavors have involved cooking, something I do on a regular basis. The whole idea of this month was to stretch my wings and let some creative juices flow. So I’m pacting to do stretch and flow more the second half of this month.

Day 17 

Mira attended a picnic at 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with Michael and me. The summer sun and extensive playing and exploring wore the pup out and she stole some drinks…many drinks…from Michael’s plastic cup. Luckily I had my water bottle with us, too.

Day 18

Homemade bread requires some planning to make. It’s certainly not difficult, but between hours of multiple risings and baking, the whole thing must be planned into the day. Due to bad planning on my part, we had no bread in the house on Saturday morning, and all I wanted for breakfast was some runny eggs with bread. So I made biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. They’re quick and fairly easy. My tips are these: the dough is quite sticky. Add maybe 1/2 cup extra flour. Make sure to bake them until they are truly golden. Slightly underbaked biscuits are not as delicious as fully baked ones. Breakfast was consumed too fast for photos.

Day 19

Happy Father’s Day! I have a…weird…awesome…hilarious…inappropriate dad. He dresses up in drag to raise money for Alzheimer’s, he tells me he needs a classy place for his whores to host more high-profile customers (my father is not a pimp), and he misses my mom when she leaves town for multiple weeks. So, on Sunday, my brother, his girlfriend, Michael, and I made dinner for him: Salads and stuffed shells from 101 Cookbooks.

The secret to these stuffed shells? Lemon zest. It’s mixed into the ricotta filling and spread across the bottom of the baking dish. Trust me, it really adds a unique flavor to the whole meal.

The beauty of this pasta is that you can make it in advance. This would be a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon, freeze, and then make during the week after work. Scroll down to find the recipe after the jump!

I also went up to Zionsville for the annual pet parade and took a few photos for Robert Goodman Jewelers’ Facebook page. My favorite

Day 20

I hung my shelf in the living room! Finally the photos that have been tucked away all hidden on my bookshelf have a real home. And now I have a place to put flowers that is Lolacat-proof! The white roses are from my parents in honor of Oma.

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