Poptails – Boozy Frozen Pops for Grownups

Poptails – Boozy Frozen Pops for Grownups

Poptails! If you don’t know what that means, Claire is here to explain, and save your face from melting this summer. I can’t believe this never occurred to me. After all, I enjoy booze quite a bit, and I really hate being hot. This is only natural. Let’s join Claire for some grownups-only frozen treats!

Summer has officially begun. The temperatures are reaching record highs, and my air conditioning has been running at full tilt. I could go on about it, but frankly, even I am getting pretty sick of hearing myself talk about the weather. It’s time to accept the seasonal realities of my life here and just thank my lucky stars that I don’t live in Phoenix, where I hear it has reached nearly 120°F. In any case, even though it’s becoming increasingly hard to avoid talking about it, this post is not going to be entirely about the heat, as I have actual things going on in my life this week.

On Friday, my husband Pier underwent a little surgical procedure that has had him laid up for the past week. He can’t lift anything over 8 pounds, so I’ve been helping him settle into a couch nest during the day with a little bed tray table and his lap-top, and distracting the cats from trying to climb into his lap every 20 minutes. He isn’t in a ton of pain, but the Tylenol and bags of frozen peas he’s been using don’t quite cover the discomfort, so I’ve decided to add booze to his regimen. Over the weekend, it was easy; we just drank margaritas and watched movies and played card games. Now that the work week is back on, though, I’m not home during the day, and he’s not quite as comfortable with drinking all day by himself. Luckily, I have concocted a brilliant triple-threat plan to tackle the heat, the pain, and the day-drinking stigma with one solid blow:

Frozen pop cocktails. Or POPTAILS, because who doesn’t like a good portmanteau?

A simple google search will yield dozens of recipes for alcoholic pops, and it can be fun to get a little fancy with it, but in my experience, a recipe isn’t always necessary. The rules to poptails are simple and few. 1) If it tastes great as a cocktail, chances are good that it will taste great as a poptail. 2) If you want a solid pop, your mix cannot exceed 20% alcohol. Not that a boozy slush treat isn’t also good, but it’s not quite the same experience. 3) Frozen pop molds are also fun, but not always necessary. A disposable plastic cup actually makes a great mold, and all it takes is a little push on the bottom to free the poptails from the cups. With these rules in mind, I set out to the grocery store to find things that I thought would taste good with booze in them.

Poptails

I started with fancy-pants juices. Naked and Odwalla and Bolthouse Farms make nice, thick juices that are packed with fruit, so they have a lot of flavor. A little vodka or rum would be easily disguised under the richness of one of those, so I picked out a couple of options. Next, I picked up some sweet tea, because I know my man is a sucker for an Arnold Palmer, and I happen to have a bottle of homemade limoncello in my liquor cabinet. As I headed away from the juice aisle, I caught a whiff of the bulk coffee section, and my next poptail idea hit me. My favorite wake-up drink is coffee heavily spiked with Bailey’s Irish cream, so that was a no-brainer right there. Lastly, a couple of summers ago, I ran across this recipe for creamy margarita pops, and I’ve been dying to try them out ever since, so I grabbed a bag of limes and some plastic cups.

Poptails

With the exception of the margarita poptails, I didn’t use any recipes, so I just measured out at least one cup of base beverage to one quarter cup of alcohol for each mixture. I ended up mixing strawberry banana juice with tequila, mango juice with vodka, coffee with Bailey’s, and sweet tea with limoncello. The two juice mixtures turned out ok, but next time I try those, I’ll dial the alcohol back a little further, because they did not freeze very well. Even after 24 hours in the freezer, they were still a little soft. The other two flavors froze perfectly, and Pier even texted me at work today to tell me how much he enjoyed the Arnold Palmer-pop. The margarita pops also turned out fabulous, and fully worth the time I spent juicing my 10 limes.

Poptails Done

These treats are super fun to come home to after work, and super fun to eat all day while you sit on the couch playing video games. Ten out of ten, would recommend. I’m already scanning the door of my fridge for more poptions.

 

Campfire Pies for Outdoor Fun

Campfire Pies for Outdoor Fun

I’m predicting this summer’s food trend is going to be campfire pies. I really want this to be true, at least… Campfire pies are so beautifully simple and remind me of childhood. I had completely forgotten the magic of campfire pies when Sarah mentioned them a while back, but now she has me on a mission. This is going to be the best summer. You should get on the campfire pie train, too. I promise they will make all your outdoor fun even better, and with Memorial Day coming up, you’ve only got a little time left to get your supplies. Sarah is here with all the details to get us started. Let’s make some pies!

Oh, Memorial Day weekend. That extra day off of work that feels desperately needed as you gear up for summer, the chance to get away for a weekend, the cookouts. The cookouts. My favorite thing about the holiday weekend is naturally food-inspired.

For the past ten years, my husband and his friends have been going to a cabin in a nearby state park to celebrate Memorial Day weekend. Due to us being a number of people spread out over the state, we have a Google Drive spreadsheet that goes back several years, listing who brings what. This, guys, is an excellent idea.  The cabin trip is the best kind of tradition – over the years we’ve rented boats, hiked, gone swimming, played games, played putt-putt, and gotten ice cream. Every year we add new things to do, but a few mainstays never change. One of these is the cooking out.

The firepit outside our cabin gets heavy use year after year. The first night of our trip is always dedicated to campfire pies. Consider the grilled cheese sandwich. Buttered bread, hot skillet, melty cheese. Yes? Now add the satisfaction of cooking those suckers outside on the coals of your bonfire and a fun gadget (I love fun gadgets). To make campfire pies, you will need a pie iron. I recommend having two for maximum production efficiency. You have a few options based on how you like your sandwiches. If you don’t like crust, go for one of the round pie irons, but be warned! These result in smaller pies, and you can’t stuff them as full. For bigger pies that include crust, go with this guy. Your campfire will need to have some decent coals – I recommend waiting at least half an hour after starting your fire to begin cooking.

Campfire pies are endlessly customizable and the perfect addition to your outdoor fun!

You can basically make any kind of sandwich or sweet pie with these babies. I’ve gone grilled cheese, hot ham and cheese, any kind of dessert pie you can think of, and even ooey gooey brownies (oh yes!). Sandwiches are pretty easy – some element of sauce and/or cheese is necessary to hold your pie together and give it a lot of flavor. Dessert is pretty much anything your heart desires that fits between two pieces of bread. Pie filling of any kind, pudding if you’re feeling a chocolate pie. The best dessert I’ve had is the aforementioned ooey gooey brownie, which is brownie batter poured straight into the pie iron, no bread required. Cooked correctly, you’ll open your pie iron to a molten chocolate mess that is absolutely delicious (add marshmallows for a s’mores-ey kick). Today, we’ll be making pizza pies with cherry pies for dessert.

Ingredients:

  • Stick of butter
  • Bread (go white bread, here)
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzerella cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Cherry pie filling

-Preheat your pie irons. Once your bonfire has some coals, position your (closed) pie iron against them to get the metal hot. It doesn’t need to be screamin’ hot, but a little preheat will help your buttering game.

-Butter! This is what gives your campfire pies that delicious sear. There are two opinions on buttering- butter your bread, or butter the pie irons. I find you use less butter (and can therefore make more pies!) when you butter the pie irons. So unwrap the end of a stick of butter and rub it on each pan of your open pie iron. Enjoy the sizzle.

-Position your bread, being careful not to burn yourself. Add pizza sauce, a good handful of mozzarella cheese, and some pepperonis. You can load up both sides of your bead if you like, but while that results in mega-flavor, it can also make your pies burst open like a hot pizza roll when you bite into it. One side of toppings is sufficient.

Campfire pies

-Close your pie iron. Many come with latches, but they can be difficult to open when your pie is done if you’re not keen on burning yourself or your food. Make sure your pie iron closes completely, or you’ll be picking ash out of your food.

-Position your pie iron on your coals. This cooktime is tricky, because it depends on how hot your coals are. After 5-8 minutes, pull your iron out of the flame, find a decent light source, and, while holding your pie iron parallel to the ground, open one side to check the doneness. You want to lift the side of the iron that has been sitting on the coals, since that is the part that has been cooking. If you have a nice grilled cheese sandwich-style sear, close your iron, and put it back on the coals on the other side.

-Once your pie is done, things get slightly tricky. Have a plate ready on a flat surface. Hold your pie iron over the plate, and open both sides slowly to pop out your sandwich.

Campfire Pies

-When it’s dessert time, butter your pie iron.

-Position your bread, then add a few spoonfuls of pie filling.

-The cooktime is about the same, maybe a little less. Be sure to check it often and flip halfway through.

-Enjoy your dessert!

Campfire Pies

One safety note: Be very, very, very careful where you place your pie irons while they are still hot but not in use! Campfires generally take place in the dark, and pie irons unfortunately do not glow in the dark or light up. My group of friends has resorted to a designated pie iron area, where all pie irons live if they are not on the fire being used. Trust me, you do not want to add a hospital visit to your fun holiday weekend because someone burned themselves badly. And it should go without saying that children should be very carefully supervised while using pie irons. To be safe, the wooden handles are the only portion of the pie iron that should be considered safe to touch.

Do you have any Memorial Day weekend traditions? What kind of campfire pie are you most excited to try first?

Home Bartending – Basic Bar Gadgets and Classic Cocktails

Home Bartending – Basic Bar Gadgets and Classic Cocktails

Just in time for the weekend, our Cocktail Queen, Sarah, is back! This week she is sharing with us some basic bar gadgets plus how to use them to make three classic cocktails. I own all of these bar gadgets, but I have never used any of them (well, my muddler has been used to break up ice a few times, but I don’t think that counts…), so I think it’s high time I graduate from pouring bourbon and opening beer. Let’s see if Sarah can teach me a thing or two about making real, grown-up cocktails! You can come along for the lesson, too, and we’ll practice our new-found bartending skills together.

So let’s talk classic cocktails. You don’t have to be a film noir star to be able to enjoy an old fashioned, but you will need a few basic bar gadgets to help craft your masterpieces.

I’ve been expanding my own collection of home bar gadgets as of late, and my cocktail game has never been stronger.

The bar gadgets in question today are:

Bar Gadgets

Cocktail Strainer

This should fit perfectly over a pint glass or other shaker, allowing you to strain ice and any other bits you’ve mixed into a fresh glass.

Muddler

We will get into the finer details of proper muddling in a later post, but this is great for crushing ingredients before adding alcohol – we’ll be using it to make old fashioneds really easy to make.

Stirring Spoon

This is surprisingly helpful, especially when you are stirring a cocktail in a tall pint glass. Your average spoon won’t make it all the way down to the bottom, and the slender, spindly handle maneuvers more easily around bulky ingredients (believe me – I was as surprised as you that a FANCY SPOON is a great bar gadget).

Channel Knife

This is the most technical tool we’ll be using today. The best tutorial I’ve ever seen on cutting twists is here. It demonstrates three easy ways to make a fancy-looking garnish. I like the channel knife because I LOVE gadgets, but it’s also handy if you aren’t making a lot of drinks or don’t have a use for fresh-squeezed lemon. Twists cut with a channel knife are also a little more delicate-looking than ones done with a vegetable peeler, making for extra fancy. I found the bulky handle of the channel knife easy to control once I had practiced a bit. Oh, and the bonus citrus zester on this one is nice to have on-hand. Pro tip – have friends over for “practice cocktail night;” it is VERY fun.

So on to actually making these bad boys. Today, we’ll be delving into Negronis, Old Fashioneds, and Cosmopolitans. Negronis are probably the most obscure on that list, but my sources say they’re coming back in a big way as of late. There are a few special ingredients you should have, both to have a nicely stocked home bar, as well as to impress your guests.

The well-stocked bar will contain:

Sweet Vermouth

(the red kind)

Angostura Bitters

(Peychaud’s are also acceptable)

Campari or Aperol

I, personally, have found that the bitterness or orangeness of Campari is not something I prefer to be able to taste in a cocktail, but Aperol is another bitter alcohol that I find palatable. Either of these is going to be a bright orange bottle, giving your cocktail an unmistakable color. One bottle of this will last you quite a while, since it’s rarely called for in drinks, but its presence in your home bar will make you look like an esoteric expert.

Fancy cherries

It might seem silly to spend $20 on a jar of cherries, but these will last you a good long time, and Luxardo is the bartender’s gold standard cherry. I tried several fancy cherries for this post, and the thick syrup of Luxardo helps this guy stand up to a boozy drink. I promise you can taste the quality. Woodford Reserve also makes a decent cherry for slightly fewer dollars.

The drinks!

Bar Gadgets

Old Fashioned

  • 2 sugar cubes
  • Angostura bitters
  • Seltzer or water
  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Orange
  • Cherry

Drop 2 sugar cubes in a heavy-bottomed glass (they’re actually called old fashioned glasses for a reason!) and shake a few dashes of bitters on them.

Add half an orange wheel and a cherry.

Pour a splash of seltzer or water in the glass. Seltzer is going to lighten this drink up in a surprising way if you’ve only ever had these with water before. It’s a nice change of pace that I encourage you to try even once.

Mash gently with your muddler. The sugar cubes should no longer be cube-shaped, and your fruit should have released some of its juice, but don’t pulverize the fruit.

Add ice. The giant fancy ice thing that’s a trend? The reasoning behind it is that the bigger the ice cube, the less surface area it has compared to several smaller ice cubes. So you get the same amount of chill factor with more time to drink before the ice has completely melted or waters down your drink too much.

So add your ice, then 2 parts whiskey. I used my trusty Bulleit Bourbon, which has lately been housed in a fancy schmancy decanter and looking very stylish. Stir it gently and let it sit for a few moments before sipping. Garnish with an orange wheel and a fancy cherry (snacks with drinks are always appreciated by me).

Bar Gadgets

Cosmopolitan

  • Sweetened lime juice
  • Vodka
  • Lemon
  • Triple sec
  • Cranberry juice

In a cocktail shaker, start with ice. Any ice is fine here, since we’re going to shake this guy.

Add 1 part sweetened lime juice.

Add 1 part triple sec.

Pour in 2 parts cranberry juice.

Finish with 3 parts vodka, and shake thoroughly for about twenty seconds – your shaker should be cold to the touch.

Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Bar Gadgets

Negroni

  • Campari or Aperol
  • Gin
  • Orange
  • Sweet Vermouth

In a pint glass or shaker, start with ice.

Add 2 parts gin.

Measure 1.25 parts sweet vermouth and pour it in. (Note to purists – I reversed the proportions of Campari and sweet vermouth to match my own tastes. Traditionally, you’re adding more Campari than sweet vermouth, but I preferred it this way)

Add .75 parts Campari.

Take your long-handled stirring spoon and stir this for about twenty seconds, or long enough that you feel silly stirring. This is going to make sure your drink is cold.

Strain into a glass. This can be served up (no ice) or given some ice cubes to keep it company. Garnish with an orange twist.

Bar Gadgets

Which drinks should I mix up for you next? Do you have an obscure bar gadget that you’ve never used?

What’s Trendy? Low-Carb Veggie Noodles!

What’s Trendy? Low-Carb Veggie Noodles!

Veggie Noodles are the latest trend in the food world, and I’ve got to admit, I kind of love it. I LOVE vegetables, and I’ve been using spaghetti squash as an occasional pasta substitute for years. With the introduction of the spiralizer, I can now make noodles out of zucchini and other squashes, carrots, and just about any other firm veggie! You don’t have to use it as pasta, though. Another great way to use veggie noodles is to simply prepare them as a side dish. Sautéed in a little butter or olive oil with garlic and salt, they make a great addition to any meal. This is one trend I’m happy to jump on board with! Lucky for you, Sarah W. is also a spiralizer fan, and has a spectacular zucchini noodle and meatballs recipe to share with us. This one is particularly friendly if you are on a low-carb diet. Take it away, Sarah!

I have a foodie confession to make: I am not a huge fan of Italian food. Pasta has never been a religious experience for me the way that it seems it should when gauging my social media feeds. (I am fully aware that Italian food consists of more than PASTA, and have indeed eaten my share of other dishes. All are quite good! It’s just not my favorite food genre.) People. Love. Pasta. I am not a finicky eater, but when I go out to eat, I prefer to order something I couldn’t easily make at home, and when I’m cooking at home, my comfort spices include chili powder, thyme, cumin, and hot sauce.

That being said, whenever I picture cooking in the kitchen, it stems from the image of someone’s Italian grandma making sauce and noodles from scratch, stirring a bubbling pot smelling of garlic and love. To me and my fanciful brain, that’s traditional cooking. I just don’t do very much of it myself. So for this week’s blog, I decided to push myself back to basics and see if I could modern it up without being too crazy. The current trend of veggie noodles seemed like a good compromise.

We recently had our neighbors over for dinner, and they are pasta fanatics. I knew I wanted to make something at least Italian-inspired that would also be flexible enough for my current gluten-avoidance. Some Googling led me to this awesome recipe for Lasagna Meatballs, which I adapted and served with a choice of zucchini noodles or traditional pasta in fun shapes. I got a yield of 40 meatballs, which, including sauce and cheese, netted me 1.3 carbs per meatball. Not bad for those counting carbs! Your mileage will vary, depending on the cheeses (ricotta and mozzarella both contain carbs) and sauce you find around you, but this is a pretty delicious recipe that can be easily adapted to different diets by changing the base.

In order to make zucchini (or carrot or let-your-imagination-run-wild other vegetable) noodles, you will need a spiralizer. You can julienne your veggies, but they won’t have the same flexibility and movement that a pasta noodle does. I have a small, basic one and it’s served me well. Its size makes it easy to store since I don’t use it very often. Vegetable noodles are really trendy right now, and it’s easy to see why. They’re not labor-intensive; they can be tailored to go with a variety of dishes; they’re visually appealing and a way to get more color on your plate.

I had never made meatballs before, and these are a little wet, by virtue of the ricotta cheese. I skipped the breadcrumbs/flour usually called for in meatballs, and decided to use some extra Parmesan cheese instead. This was a good idea.

Zucchini Noodles with Lasagna Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey (I used turkey)
  • 1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage (I used sweet)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • parsley, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 cups pasta sauce (I used the lowest carb I could find – 5 carbs per serving)
  • 1-2 roasted red peppers
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 3 zucchinis
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine the sausage, turkey, eggs, ricotta, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic to make your meatballs. Dice or finely chop the roasted red pepper and add to the mixture. I found it was best to have some “rings off” time and combine this by hand. At this point, the meatball mixture is very wet.

Add ¼ cup of your Parmesan cheese. If you still don’t like the consistency, add another ¼ cup.

Form 1-2” meatballs and line them up on a large baking sheet. They can be somewhat close together, as they won’t spread while they bake. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes. Bigger meatballs may take more time. As mentioned above, I got 40 meatballs out of one batch.

Grab a baking dish and start loading your meatballs in. I was able to cram all 40 into a 13” x 9” dish. Cover with sauce. Cover that with mozzarella cheese, finishing up with the remaining Parmesan. Cook this for an additional 30 minutes.

Trendy Veggie Noodles

When you have about 20 minutes left on the bake, use the spiralizer to prep your zucchini noodles. These are fairly simple. Trim the ends of your zucchini. Hold the zucchini firmly in the spiralizer and turn so the blades cut the vegetable. This will produce noodle-shaped ribbons. These can be sautéed in a pan over medium heat for 4-5 minutes in butter. Twenty minutes out is a good time to start boiling water if you’d also like to serve pasta as an option.

Trendy Veggie Noodles

I served these to my pasta-fiend neighbors (while calling them “lasagna meatballs”) and got this reaction: “The meatballs themselves don’t seem like they’d be cheesy, but they’re really cheesy!” They were a hit.

Trendy Veggie Noodles

Have you jumped on the veggie noodle trend? What’s your favorite vegetable to use, and how do you prepare it?

Printer-friendly recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Lasagna Meatballs

Waffles! Don’t Be a Square – Jump on This Hot Food Trend!

Waffles! Don’t Be a Square – Jump on This Hot Food Trend!

Waffles are pretty much the best thing ever. Which is why I’m amazed it has taken this long for everyone to jump on board the waffle train and make this breakfast delight the hottest trend in food. There is even an entire website dedicated to putting things in waffle irons and seeing what happens! Not to be left out of the trend, Chef J has created a delicious dish that puts twists on both waffles and cheesesteaks!  These are two of my favorite things, so this is your invitation to wow me, Chef!

It’s time to face the awful truth, people! Breakfast breads are breaking through the preconceived boundaries of established meal paradigms. They are — oh shoot… I should have said “waffle truth”! That would have been a great pun…  Anyway. Waffles are good for food times other than in the morning. That was the whole point of that emphatic outburst. How about waffles for dinner? Great idea! Let’s eat them with steak and cheese, and maybe some beer, too!

If you have a waffle iron gathering dust and dog hair, sitting in the back of a long-forgotten shelf, it’s time to dig it out and dust it off.

A waffle iron is one of the best appliances a kitchen can have: it has two heating elements, allowing for the revolutionary ability to cook from above and below!

It can handle any dough you can throw at it — try pizza, muffin, biscuit, cake… you get the idea. Try smashing your sandwich in a waffle iron! Use a soft bread and lots of cheese; you might just have your mind blown.

Here is one of my favorite recipes. It’s something along the lines of a Philly cheesesteak, but with a Phoenix twist.

Phoenix Cheesesteaks with Cornbread Waffles

Waffles:

  • 1½ cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 12 oz. milk
  • 4 oz. maple syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 TBS oil

Sift dry ingredients together.
Mix in wet ingredients and stir to combine.
Cook in waffle iron.

Fixins:

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. grilled sirloin, flank, or similar steak; sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, roasted and sliced
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 oz. beer
  • 1 TBS tamari
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 6 oz. jack cheese, sliced
  • 6 oz. mahone or mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Salt & pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet.
Sauté garlic, pepper, and mushrooms until garlic browns.
Add sliced steak, 4 oz. beer, tamari, rosemary and cumin. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and reduce by 1/3.
Spoon the mixture over half of the waffles, top all waffles with cheese.
Broil for 2-5 minutes on high. Put the two waffles together to make a sandwich.
Dip in remaining pan juice.

Printer friendly recipe: Waffle Cheesesteak

Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Pumpkin season, also known as Fall, is my favorite time of year. I know I can technically make pumpkin pie any time I want, but there is just something about this time of year that makes it taste better! Maybe it’s the smell of fires crackling, or the site of the leaves changing… oh wait, that stuff doesn’t really happen in Phoenix! Whatever it is, Fall is the perfect time to enjoy something pumpkin! This pumpkin crème brulee is one special dish that I might even carry over into the rest of the year. Luckily for me, Chef J is right around the corner and I can usually bribe him for treats (although I made the ones in the photo – I clearly need more practice!). Since he can’t come to your house, you’ll have to settle for learning how to make it yourself. Teach us how, Chef J!

Besides the drop in temperature, you can always tell when Fall is officially upon us by the abundance of pumpkin pie flavored coffee drinks. These ubiquitous pumpkin lattes are flavored by the signature spice blend that makes the traditional holiday pie such a hit: allspice, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Rarely is there anything close to pumpkin (or any squash, for that matter) in those over-priced morning mugs, but they are delicious.

A pumpkin is just a squash. Sometimes it just happens to get a face carved into it… As a squash, it can be used in place of the beloved butternut in most any recipe. Try roasting it with garlic, sage, and butter. Puree it and use it in that ravioli recipe you have always wanted to try. Toast and salt the seeds and throw them in a salad or just eat them by the handful! There are lots of ways to enjoy this awesome orange veggie (it’s actually a fruit!), but my favorite is always dessert. Pumpkin pie is a classic for a reason, but someone else can make that. I like to go a slightly different route with crème brulee! Just make sure if you’re using fresh pumpkin, you buy the kind meant for cooking, not the kind meant for jack-o-lanterns!

If you have a butane kitchen torch, this is when you get to show it off. If you don’t have one, this is the perfect excuse to get one! You can also burn the sugar under the broiler – just keep a close eye on it.

Pumpkin Crème Brulee

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 oz. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. pumpkin puree
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp water or cream
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Sugar for burning

Heat oven to 350°F.
Bring cream, pumpkin and spices to a simmer.
Whisk together the egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, vanilla, corn starch slurry, and pinch of salt until pale yellow and frothy.
Slowly add a few spoonfuls of the hot cream to the egg mixture while whisking constantly.
When the egg mixture is hot, pour it into the cream and bring it up to a simmer, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken.
Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove any pulp or cooked egg bits. Fill ramekins with custard and bake in a water bath until just set, about 25 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool. These can be served while a little warm, or chilled for a few hours for a thicker dessert.
Top each custard with sugar and burn with torch (or under the broiler) until bubbly and brown. Do this step just before serving to ensure a crisp sugar shell!

Printer friendly recipe: Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Gadget Love: The Story of Susi the Garlic Press

Gadget Love: The Story of Susi the Garlic Press

Story time! I grew up in a gourmet kitchen store surrounded by the best the culinary world had to offer, both in equipment and food. I spent my formative years learning the ins and outs of cookware, knives, butcher blocks, and gadgets. Thousands upon thousands of gadgets. We had two “gadget walls,” both of which were probably 20 feet long and 12 feet high. They were loaded with every little doodad a cook could ever dream of using! From meat tenderizers to cannoli tubes, ice cream scoops to crab crackers, we had everything.

Part of the store’s  appeal was that we ran cooking classes nearly every day of the week, and in these classes, our students got to sample our collection of old standbys and hot-off-the-line gadgets. From the time I was a young pup, I got to help prep for classes, which meant I got to play with all of these toys, too (forget action figures and dress-up, I wanted to play chef!). I remember the first time I got to use the garlic press; I was probably eight years old and barely contained the strength to squeeze that magical bulb through those tiny little holes.

Between the sheer delight of turning a clove into a pile of minced ambrosia and the lingering pungency on my fingers, I was hooked on this little gadget.

Crushing garlic was now my favorite thing to do ever in the whole world. This was over 20 years ago and I still rarely use that magic trick to wash the garlic odor from my hands (although I will use it to get rid of fish odor – that’s just gross). The scent takes me back to those early days in the demonstration kitchen of feeling so important to be able to help out a celebrity chef.

A gadget that creates delicious memories.

The nectar of the gods. Brought to you by Susi.

 

Throughout the years the store was open, we sold at least a dozen different brands and styles of garlic press, but my old trusty remained my go-to gadget every time I helped in the kitchen.  I received a stunningly beautiful $45.00 German garlic press as a wedding gift, as well as the updated and larger version of my favorite, but they just weren’t the same. When the store closed in 2009, we were allowed to ransack the kitchen to grab a little piece of memorabilia. You better believe I made a beeline to the drawer that held my first love and snatched her right up for my own! I took home enough stuff to overstock my kitchen for the rest of my days, but my hands-down most sentimental item is still that garlic press. I use it several times per week, whereas I think I used that fancy German one maybe three times over the last ten years (I actually got rid of it!). My trusty press is named Susi, which isn’t even remotely creative because that’s what the manufacturer named her, but I didn’t want to confuse her in her new home. Okay, that’s enough anthropomorphism for one garlic press. It’s amazing what a silly little gadget can mean to a person. I will never get rid of my garlic press because it carries with it my memories of growing up. Let’s just say the garlic fumes aren’t exactly what make me teary-eyed when I’m making dinner. My favorite gadget.

Are you “overly” sentimental about anything in your kitchen? I want to hear about the pie plate passed down by your grandma, or the rolling pin your dad used to chase a raccoon out of the kitchen (that has to have happened to someone!). Please share your stories with me – I love a good cry (or a good laugh)!

 

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Having grown up in a gourmet kitchen store, I have a fabulous collection of kitchen essentials. Unfortunately, I have a mass of non-essentials, too! I need to focus on my kitchen fitness!! Honestly, who really needs six whisks of the same style?

The new year brought a new home with a smaller kitchen and, let me tell you, this kitchenware collector did not adjust well! For a solid month we lived with pans literally stacked on the floor, utensils pouring out of boxes, and a butcher block table so overloaded with stuff I couldn’t even use it! After stubbing my toe on a cast iron skillet for the 27th time, I’d had enough. I painstakingly went through every piece of cookware, bakeware, gadgetry, and appliance and whittled my way down to a manageably fit kitchen.

A few of the more ridiculous things I ousted:

  • Five whisks (kept four!)
  • Three 8” fry pans. THREE!!
  • Two nasty 12” skillets
  • Two garlic presses
  • A brand new ravioli rolling pin (why??)
  • Two identical carrot ribboning tools (why I even had one is beyond me)

A few things I can’t live without:

  • Counter-space-hogging espresso machine
  • Super quality cookware and knives
  • Silicone spatulas (colorful AND functional!)
  • My KitchenAid mixer
  • Quality cutting boards
  • Cake pans (endless uses!)
  • Cheese graters (yes, plural – don’t judge.)

And a few things I WON’T live without:

  • Vita-Mix blender – Don’t use this enough to justify the hefty price tag, but it’s magic!
  • All 22 of my wonderful German knives (seven are steak knives – it’s not that excessive!) –I use about four of them regularly, but they’re all in one block, so getting rid of some won’t save me any space!
  • My 23-year-old gigantic Scanpan “witch’s cauldron.” I have used it exactly two times, but it’s the bee’s knees and holds 9.5 quarts of stew AND 23 years worth of family memories.
  • Absurd (someone said that!) amounts of cookware. After getting rid of about a dozen pans, I still have a full pot rack (excellent addition to a small kitchen, by the way) and then some.

Clearly I have a hard time letting go of things I might possibly-some-day-in-the-distant-future use (looking at you, pasta machine). Getting rid of some of my unnecessities, however, made me appreciate the value behind the pieces I kept. I can do just as much with a simple set of tongs, spatulas, and bamboo spoons as I could with the multiple boxes of utensils I chucked (donated, don’t worry).

before & after

Moral of this story is that investing in quality multi-tasking pieces not only makes sense financially, but will improve your kitchen fitness. Plus you end up with space to keep the occasional frivolous purchase (*cough* individual instant popsicle makers).

You know that feeling when you clean out your closet and it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe with room for new boots? It’s like that. So next time you throw a spatula in frustration because its fat rubber handle won’t fit into your utensil crock, do yourself a favor and get your kitchen fit!

What are your must-haves for the kitchen?