Category: quick & easy

Simple scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Simple scones, vanilla butter and caramel ginger pear jam. Click through for all three recipes!

It’s cold! On weekends this time of year, I wake up hungry. Hungry and chilly, I wander bleary eyed into the kitchen. Indy sits next to me some mornings, on “his” kitchen rug patiently waiting for the back door to open so he can take care of his… *ahem* daily constitutional. I put the Keurig on and stand there waiting for coffee in my pajamas, fuzzy socks or slippers, rubbing my eyes thinking, “God I wish I had something to shove in my pie hole.” Usually… I also wake up lazy; too lazy to make something. But if I’m lucky I already have made something! For example, scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Jay is a huge fan of scones. So am I really, and for some reason I never make them. I should really make them more often. They’re ridiculously easy and delicious- requiring no mixing other than by hand, no special equipment. And also? They go with everything. Like the recipes I’m giving you today: caramel pear jam and vanilla butter.

Yes, I said vanilla butter. I’ll get to that in a sec.

And… caramel ginger pear jam. It is pear season, you know. Go getchu some gorgeous pears and do something. Ginger is so warming, and it gives an exotic kind of scent to the jam. But you can feel free to omit it and keep it just caramel pear, if you want. YES- YOU GUYS GET THREE RECIPES IN ONE POST TODAY. OMG AREN’T YOU LUCKY.

Caramel ginger pear jam.

By the way- these scones are NOT just a vehicle to get vanilla butter and jam into your face hole. They’re buttery, flaky, and delicious. Totally great on their own. But also great with: marmalade, plain butter, clotted cream, crème fraîche, and just about any kind of jam or jelly you can imagine. They also can be totally changed up to suit you.

They really are easy too. I swear.

Simple scones.

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Dutch apple-pumpkin crisp.

One particularly nasty, cold, and quite rainy afternoon in late October, I decided to use the remainder of my leftover pumpkin puree and the apples I had left (that were barreling straight towards being “too soft to use”). I knew I had to use up both of these things sooner rather than later, and I couldn’t imagine in what way I’d do it. Two apples aren’t really enough for a pie, and these weren’t pie apples anyway. And one scant cup of pumpkin puree is probably enough for muffins or cupcakes, but… been there, done that, yanno? How many pumpkin muffins can one person eat!?!?

I contemplated pumpkin-applesauce, but two small apples aren’t really enough for a good amount of sauce. I didn’t think it was worth the effort.

Dutch apple-pumpkin crisp.

Thankfully, Google is our friend. I found this recipe by Betty Crocker and adapted it to suit my needs (I do not currently own a microwave). It’s a great way to use up leftover pumpkin puree that may or may not be on the verge of tossing, and maybe a few straggler  “soft spotted” apples, too.

I love making these “crisps” or “breakfast thingies.” I’ve made summer stone fruit versions, and berry varieties that were more cake-y. The addition of oats not only makes it heartier but makes it versatile; it almost screams HAVE ME FOR BREAKFAST, TOO! And it’s so cool and autumn-y out. The leaves are all pretty reds and yellows. Ya just need somethin’ like this to eat on a November morn.


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Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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Spiced ginger walnut pumpkin cake with vanilla maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting.

Readers of my blog will remember when I said a few weeks ago that it was pumpkin time. Well, it definitely is. Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere. As far as the eye can see! Pumpkin is the universal symbol- and flavor- of autumn. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin Oreos… the thought of it makes me want to pull out my fuzzy knit socks and my favorite sweats and read a book. Because fall.

That’s how I feel about ginger too. It’s a fall and winter thing, for me.

Spiced ginger pumpkin cake with maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

I saw the original form of this cake in an e-mail from one of my favorite stores, Sur La Table. I decided to switch it up a bit, tweak it and bake it in a different way. The frosting I also changed completely, because I don’t like cream cheese frosting. So I made a vanilla maple buttercream-ish frosting instead.

I know it sounds like a lot going on- just like that apple pie, but I promise you it works beautifully and it is not “too much.” It’s a gorgeous cake that works perfectly for any fall Sunday dinner, or even Thanksgiving, but also just for your average cold fall weekend.

I made this cake twice. The first time I used a 1 1/2 qt. vintage glass Fire King baking dish  (this one actually) that was about 10″ x 6.” I just greased it lightly and skipped the parchment. The second time, I used this vintage loaf pan, but you can use any baking dish or pan that’s roughly the same size. It can be a little wider and shallower, square instead of rectangle, or even a little deeper… but regardless, you shouldn’t have to change the temperature. Just watch the time. You don’t want the cake to burn! Baking it as a loaf, it will take around 40 minutes to bake.

But both times it came out perfect- so don’t stress what kind of pan you use.

Pumpkin spice ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

The cake can also very easily be made vegan: just take out the eggs and substitute with an egg replacer, flax seed or tofu. And you can use a vegan frosting option too. Although you can definitely serve it without frosting and it’s awesome, too.

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Mad Scientist’s Mocktail!

I just love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, it comes during my favorite time of year and the decorations and food/treats are just the best. Plus, the COSTUMES! I love the costumes! For example, here’s Tim Burton (yes, that Tim Burton) in a Halloween costume his mother made for him. Do you see a little bit of Jack Skellington?

Tim Burton as a child in a costume his mother made for him for Halloween.

Ugh. That reminds me, I love the movies, too. My absolute favorite Halloween movies are the old Universal Studios horror films, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein being tops. I do love me some Tim Burton, of course, as well as Halloween. But the treats.. and the tricks… now those are really, really fun.

Mad Scientist's Cocktail- aka white hot chocolate turned green!

It’s just all-around awesome, don’t you think?

I had this idea a while back when I made that pink hot chocolate for Valentine’s Day. I thought it would be awesome to do a Halloween version; I was thinking of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his laboratory, with all kinds of things bubbling. I just never got around to it. But then I realized I had these awesome vintage Pyrex beakers and stirrers… and well, you know. Mad scientist. Laboratory. Beakers. It all just made sense.

Mad Scientist's Mocktail, Frankenstein's Brew... whatever you want to call it, it's awesome. And easy!

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Roasted pears with a whole bunch of good shit.

Maple brown sugar roasted pears with bourbon whipped cream!

Usually this time of year is filled with Halloween-themed posts. I don’t usually do many non-Halloween things, because I love Halloween and for the entire month of October my life is ruled by all things Hallows Eve. But this year, I found my inspiration lacking. I had a lot of other ideas- like that apple pie– and I wanted to do those. So pardon me for deviating from my norm. I promise you won’t be mad, though, cause these recipes are FIRE.

Yes, I did just say that. But how can you go wrong with maple & brown sugar ANYTHING??


This all started when I bought a bunch of pears and had no clue what I was going to do wth them. I ended up making some small-batch jam (which you’ll see in a few weeks or so) and then I left the rest until they were getting mushy. I kept saying, “I’m gonna make a pear cake.” I swore up and down I was making a cake with them. I felt them every day, said to myself “Ugh, they’re getting too soft…” then laziness took over and I never did anything with them.

Peeling pears to roast with maple syrup & brown sugar.

Indy loves pears, and he had some major oral surgery, so I promised him one of the softest ones. But that left me with two more. So I said, “Self, we’re finally gonna do something with these pears!” I mean, I can’t let the fruit flies have them. And so I did this. Roasted pears. Maple & brown sugar roasted pears. With bourbon whipped cream. Made with a lil brown butter of course.

And the whipped cream, because I mean, why not? I love bourbon whipped cream.

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I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me…

Monster bark! Perfect easy no-bake Halloween treat.

… Even my chocolate!

Isn’t Halloween the best holiday ever? I mean, every holiday has its merits. Christmas is great. Thanksgiving is even awesome- all that food. But HALLOWEEN, YOU GUYS. This is the best time. When else is it acceptable, even expected, that your food either resemble body parts or have eyes? It’s only at Halloween, and it’s basically awesome.

Monster bark for Halloween!

I call this “Monster Bark.” You can call it chocolate bark, Halloween bark, whatever. It depends also on what candy you use on top. Mine has bloodshot eyes, so clearly it has to be monstrous. Yours can be totally different! People usually think of bark as a Christmas thing; peppermint bark. But there’s no reason why you can’t make it for any holiday or occasion.

First you need a bag of chocolate. I prefer to use real chocolate as my base, and if I want more color (i.e. Candy Melts) or other kinds of chocolate I add a little in by swirling it or layering. You can in theory do whatever you want, I just find sometimes the Candy Melts melt a little quicker, so using chocolate as a base helps keep it firm. I used Hershey’s Special Dark for the base of this, and I added a little bit of black food coloring to make it look a bit darker. You can use a mix of white, milk and dark chocolate, or use dark chocolate with orange and/or green Candy Melts swirled in. Or add some white. Use your imagination!

I obviously stuck with one color.

Monster bark for Halloween.

You can use a bag of chips melted, or two large bars of chocolate. Depending on the amount of people or the size of your pan, you can even double that.

Next, you’ll need sprinkles and candies. I went really simple, but you can go crazy. Mine has Wilton candy eyes, candy corn, Wilton orange + black sprinkles, and some green and pink round sprinkles as well as candy pearls. You can use regular old Halloween candy too, and pretzels, and nuts… whatever it is you love.

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