Category: vanilla

Rocky road (of life) brownies.

Guys, I’m sorry. I’m trying really hard to keep up the posts here, but honestly I haven’t been inspired. I’m hoping for some sweet Valentine’s Day inspo soon, but right now the rivers of ideas in my brain have run dry.

However, today, we shall feast like kings.

Rocky road brownies with homemade marshmallows, chocolate chunks and walnuts.

So this happened. Yup. I was sitting home Saturday night, thinking how much I’d love a brownie. Then I saw the marshmallows I made. And the Oxo container filled with walnut halves. And I thought, “Why just REGULAR brownies? Why not SUPER BROWNIES?!” And then while writing this, I realized… rocky road… rocky road of life… because you know, I’m sitting here being dramatic and pouting that I haven’t posted enough at the blog this year (so far). *siiiiiiigh*

The really cool thing about these is that they’re 100% made from scratch. I mean, I didn’t grow the cacao or the walnuts. I probably could- I had an aunt who had a walnut tree in her yard. But I made the marshmallows from scratch, and the brownies. Pretty neat. They’re as homemade as you can get. Look at them:

Rocky road brownies; covered with homemade marshmallows, chocolate chunks and walnuts.

Right? RIGHT?! Insanity. Insane in the membrane. Intensity in 10 cities.

Imagine, if you will, these babies crumbled- or just plunked- on ice cream. I know. Stop. Your brain is gonna explode. Calm down.

Do they make up for the lack of posts from me?

Rocky road brownies; homemade marshmallows, chocolate chunks and walnuts topping rich chocolate brownies.

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Fluffy bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

Bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

Ohhhh, I have been wicked sick. Since December 28th or so, I’ve been a mess. I was on TWO different antibiotics, my head and chest were full of gunk and I could barely taste anything. I went to the doctor twice, got a chest X-Ray, and was given Hycodan syrup to sleep (only after practically begging for it because after 5 days with a total of just 4 hours sleep I was losing my mind). It was bad. To be fair, this was my own fault. Jay was sick in early December, and so was my mom, and then I got sick and just wrote it off as being “just a cold” so I didn’t do much about it. I was told to go to the doctor about 4 or 5 times. I was told it would get worse. I didn’t listen. 

I always do that. Remember when I was in the hospital that time? Yeah.

So it festered and hung around and got worse… and voila! Ended up going to the doctor twice in 5 days. Thankfully, I made it through the holidays. But on New Years Eve I was in a fitful, sweaty sleep on a double dose of NyQuil by 10:30 p.m. I don’t recommend a double dose of NyQuil, by the way. I was just desperate. I’m better now, but a bit of a cough is still lingering, and my head is still filled with gunk. Anyway. That’s the only excuse I have for my semi-absence. Usually, I have some posts lined up, but I was so sick I couldn’t face baking or even standing up for any period of time. Did you know most bloggers (myself included) set up their blogs to post automatically? Yep. Most of my posts are set up a week or so in advance. However, because I was sick, I fell behind. So here we are.

Bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

Coincidentally, though, this post is about marshmallows. And marshmallows tie in to being sick in an interesting way (thanks Wikipedia):

Marshmallow probably came first into being as a medicinal substance, since the mucilaginous extracts come from the root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, which were used as a remedy for sore throats. Concoctions of other parts of the marshmallow plant had medical purposes as well.[2] The root has been used since Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection useful in the treatment of sore throat.[1] The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or “guimauve” for short), included an egg white meringue and was often flavored with rose water.

The use of marshmallow to make sweets dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Another pre-modern recipe uses the pith of the marshmallow plant, rather than the sap. The stem was peeled back to reveal the soft and spongy pith, which was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produce a soft, chewy confection.[2] The marshmallow plant’s sap was also used by gladiatorsin ancient Rome. The sap was rubbed on the body in preparation for the fight.

So really, it’s appropriate that I am sitting here, after recovering from being sick, writing about marshmallows. Especially ones that include another cold/flu remedy… bourbon.

Bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

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B-b-b-butterscotch pie.

Uhm. I’m not really great at pie. Seriously.

Butterscotch pie with toasted meringue!

Or at least thats what I always say. I might not be able to get away with that anymore, though. Between the apple bourbon brown butter whatever it was pie and the apple cranberry pie and now this… people are starting to think I’m just full of shit. They’re starting to think I pretend I’m not good at pie so that I can avoid making it.

But in the past I’ve had on and off love/hate relationship with pie. I’m notoriously bad at the crust because I lack patience. And I also never wait for them to cool before cutting so, yeah, they can look messy. Some come out perfect. Others don’t. This one. Meh.

Butterscotch pie with toasted meringue.

This butterscotch pie came out visually okay. Not great. I was a little tired and it was getting late and I rushed it a bit in my anticipation of eating it. But the taste? OH MAN.

The taste alone made everyone crazy.

But did I mention I’m tired? Yeah. This time of year is kicking my ass. Between working & baking & decorating & blogging & family & this annoying cold I’ve been fighting off… let’s stick with pie.

Butterscotch pie with toasted meringue.

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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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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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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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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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