Category: unique

Apple-cranberry pie.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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Ossi di Morto and Day of the Dead.

Feliz Día de Los Muertos, everybody! And if you’re a person of faith, Happy All Souls Day. Today is a date on the calendar that holds a lot of tradition and meaning, in many cultures.

Ossi di Morto cookies, aka bones of the dead.

Traditionally, these cookies are Italian cookies used to celebrate All Souls Day, which is today. The name is Ossi di Morto or Ossa de Mordere, and that means “bones of the dead.” Because of the tie-ins between Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Saints Day/All Souls Day, my idea was that they’d be a fantastic way to celebrate both days and both celebrations together, as one. They are so similar it seems only right… and we’ll get to that in a sec.

OSSI DI MORTO, aka bones of the dead cookies.

Growing up, my nana told me all about All Souls Day. My nana was 100% Irish, born to a mother who was a first-generation American, and her mother in turn was right off the boat so to speak. The tales and superstitions were a plenty. I grew up hearing all about them, and all about the reverence and respect for the dead this time of year is about. Traditionally, today is a Christian day to remember the souls of the departed, which to Catholics is known as the Commemoration of The Faithful Departed. Its a day to pray for those who’ve passed on, to remember them. You may be thinking, “Uhm, thats the same thing that the Day of the Dead is.” And you’re right. But you might not know that originally, the Day of the Dead was celebrated in summertime.  During the 16th century Spanish colonization, Mexicans moved their celebrations of Día de Los Muertos to October 31, November 1 and 2 to coincide with the triduum of All Saint’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. November 1st is All Saints Day, however in Mexico it’s known as Día de Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de Los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels) and is primarily honoring deceased infants and children. The prayers were traditionally posed to the goddess known as Lady of the Dead, now known as La Calaveras Catrina– the popular skeleton woman we see in drawings and depictions.

Of course, the Mexican way of “celebrating” these days are actual celebrations; food- yes, those sugar skulls too, parties, parades, decorating ancestors graves and of course prayer too. The Catholic version of All Souls Day is more somber, however in Italy they do light candles in the streets and have a bigger, louder celebration of today than perhaps most other Europeans. Brazilians also have a similar way of celebrating today, they call it Dia de Finados and it’s a public holiday.

I did grow up loosely Catholic- so I’m well aware of the ins and outs of these days and I prefer the Mexican version myself, even though I am not of Mexican heritage.

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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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Maple, brown butter & bourbon apple pie… with walnuts.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple pie with toasted walnuts.

Wow. That’s a mouthful and a half, huh? It didn’t start out being all of that. It started out simple: bourbon apple pie. And then I said to myself, let’d add some toasted walnuts. But this finished pie is a result of me letting Jay get all up in the kitchen with me while I was making it. I mean, it’s only fair- it was HIS pie. I don’t eat apple pie.

I know. Blasphemy. I LOVE apples, though, if that counts for anything.

Granny Smith & Ginger Gold apples for a fall apple pie (with maple, brown butter and BOURBON)

I’m a purist. I prefer things to be straightforward and to the point. My cupcakes are never (and never will be) green tea and macaroni and cheese cupcakes with tangerine frosting and Maldon sea salt flakes. I like things to be good, original, sturdy. My apple pies are usually just that; apple pies. I add the spices, sure, and sometimes I’ll throw in some brandy or bourbon, but for the most part it’s a basic apple pie. Jay, on the other hand, likes to throw all kinds of things into his food. He comes up with these crazy (to me) ideas right before making whatever he’s making, or while he’s making it, and it’ll go from a basic brisket or barbecued chicken to something recognizable but yet completely new… with all these ingredients I never would’ve thought to add. And it comes out amazing. So he decided- as I was slicing apples- that it would be fantastic to add brown butter to it. Oh… and some maple syrup, too.

So that’s what I did. And it smelled quite fantastic the entire time.

For this pie, we chose a mix of Ginger Gold (kind of a Golden Delicious variety, a cross between them and an Albemarle Pippin) and Granny Smith, the classic apple pie apple. We decided to make this pie randomly the night before, so we grabbed about 2 1/2 lbs. of apples to be on the safe side. This pie uses 5 apples, which is (usually- unless you have HUGE apples) less than that.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple walnut pie... whew, what a mouthful!

I SUCK AT CRUST. Always. It starts off great, and then I always have some kind of problem, particularly with the top crust. This time, I was all set to make a covered pie, not this garbage-y lattice I have going on. But disaster struck and I was forced to do this. It was a HUGE DISASTER. I won’t even say what it was… but it sucked. And the shitty thing is, it looked pretty decent pre-disaster. *sigh*

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Wicked witch cupcakes.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Aren’t these adorable? I know they are. They’re definitely not scary at all. But maybe the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t have been so upset if Dorothy had dropped a cupcake on her sister, instead of a house. Don’t you think?

Wicked witch cupcakes.

So, it’s getting close to Halloween. Everyone is either having a party, going to a party or expected to make something for a children’s party… or just for the kids, period. You need something easy but cute to make (and maybe use to impress people with your creativity) and I have just the thing- these!

Black and white with a little green is my favorite Halloween color combination. I usually avoid black and orange because it’s everywhere. It’s also really versatile, it can be used for witch cupcakes, monster cupcakes, vampire cupcakes… just about anything! And if you get a lot of black or black & white cupcake liners, you can also use them year-round for other things.

But anyway today we’re talking about witches. Wicked witches- who had a cupcake fall on them- with legs made of striped paper straws and shoes made of black paper. So easy!

Wicked witch cupcakes! Made with paper straws and black paper.

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Quick maple whiskey pickled carrots.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I have made pickled carrots before, a long time ago. Four years ago; when my food photography was atrocious and my canning skills were n00b level. I made an adapted version of Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from her book A Homemade Life, which was basically spicy pickled carrots with rosemary. They were good and very much enjoyed by everyone who ate them, but for some reason I never again made a pickled carrot.

Until now.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I really don’t know why I never again pickled carrots, really. I always thought of it when I saw beautiful multicolor heirloom carrots at farmer’s markets. I literally would see them and think, “How gorgeous would those be, pickled up in a jar?” And then I’d promptly move on and never actually do it. I’d probably just eat them in a salad or soup and that would be that.

But I recently had this genius idea. While making Jay his whiskey sour/maple whiskey pickles for the zillionth time, I thought, “Hey wait a minute… maple glazed carrots… maple whiskey pickles… what about using this recipe for pickled carrots?!” He looked at me as if I was insane (a normal occurrence) and then nodded slowly and smiled and said, “Sure…” I think he was just humoring me.

And so of course I just had to try it out. I did not have any fancy colored carrots, unfortunately, just plain old skinny organic orange beta-carotene-filled “normal” ones. However, it really would be lovely to fill up a jar with a variety of colors and sizes of carrots for this. Excellent presentation.

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Nectarine blackberry preserves with purple ruffled basil.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation #canbassador

I’ve been posting about being a “Canbassador” for the Washington State Fruit Commission quite a bit this summer. First it was cherries, I recovered a gigantic box of gorgeous straight from the orchard Rainier Fruit Co. cherries and I made some awesome recipes with them- I even managed to bake up some delicious mini-pies and make a sauce with them! Then, I got a second huge shipment of a mix of yellow peaches and gorgeous yellow nectarines. They were so beautiful sitting in bowls around my kitchen/dining room.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation

I made some peach preserves with hot peppers from our garden (you’ll see that recipe soon), peach salsa and peach peel butter with vanilla bean and apple brandy. But the nectarines. I was stumped.

Then I bought some blackberries on sale because they were beautiful and perfect and cheap. I do that sometimes. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, but I buy them.

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