Thankful for Pie 2017 Edition

Here we are, at the end of another year. This year in particular was a challenge, mostly due to the fact that it seemed like every other day that the world as we know it was crashing down around our ears. That’s why doing a year-end round-up thing is usually so pleasing to me. Even if nobody’s reading/listening, it gives me an opportunity to look back on everything that happened and pick out all of the good parts. Especially the stuff that might not have made it onto the blog. It makes you remember the good things, even when everything else is still pretty terrible.

First up, in January, Dan and I went to the Women’s March here in New Orleans.

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We hung out with some of the coolest, nicest people ever and got to see some truly hilarious protest signs.

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It really felt good to walk amongst so many people who felt like they just needed to do something. Who are doing things and working hard to make things better. I had a coworker ask me, very sincerely, the day afterwards, “But what is everyone marching for? What’s made them so angry?” My answer: “Everything.” I knitted quite a few Pussyhats for friends and for myself, and Dan and I will definitely be wearing them when we march again this year.

In January, I also finished a vest for Dan, a project that still fills me with pride.

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Speaking of Grow Dat (the little farm that Dan’s running through all joyfully), in February, Dan and I really got the ball rolling on getting creative and cooking with our weekly CSA haul.

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Every week there was more and more kale, and we rose to the challenge. Seriously, I have never eaten so many greens in my life.

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I pickled beets and carrots and daikon and peppers and okra and anything else I could get my hands on. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all of our homecooking. We unfortunately did not sign up for the Grow Dat CSA this year, mostly due to the fact that my time’s going to be even more limited because of school, but it’s definitely helped us to eat better and for me to step up my cooking skills. Do go check out Grow Dat and the Hollygrove Market if you’re here in New Orleans. You’ll be glad you did.

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Studying was a huge part of my life this year, having started grad school in January after graduating from nursing school in May of 2015. I did not take many pictures of it, because it is not particularly visually exciting, but school really ran my life this year. I kept working full-time as well, until the summer, because I am a crazy person and thought that I could handle it. Now I’m down to two days a week (but it’s still night shift and still a crazy-busy job), but at least now I can breathe.

In March, I had to go to “intensives” for school, and I got to see what is possibly the greatest billboard advertisement of all time.

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You might think that a busy highway is no place for Sir Mix-a-lot jokes. You are wrong.

In April, Dan and I found my doppelganger in the New Orleans Museum of Art.

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And we went to a Hootenanny!

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Grow Dat hosted this huge party for all of its subscribers and donors this year, complete with bluegrass music and square-dancing lessons, and all kinds of amazing food and cocktails from all around the city. I may have had a whole lot of strawberry punch and donated a large amount of money to buy a tractor, but those kids were so excited that it was impossible to not get super excited about tractors right along with them.

In May, I made some dice bags.

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Want to make your own? Here’s the pattern, and here’s the chart for your very own LOTR-inspired monogram on the front.

Then, Bailee and I drove ourselves down to Austin in order to personally hand them to the McElroy brothers.

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It was amazing, plus I made an extra-special awful face in that picture, so that’s how I get to remember it for the rest of time.

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We got to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law, and I got to meet some wonderful Twitter people in real life and eat brunch with them, which is why I think the Internet was really invented: to eat brunch with cool people in different parts of the country.

In June, I went to San Francisco to visit my best friend, Jonathan, and his wife, Rebecca, who are two of the best people, just hands-down.

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We went to a Japanese mall.

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We saw Justin Townes Earle.

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We saw the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model.

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We saw beautiful water and gardens.

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We ate at In-N-Out Burger.

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We saw Elvis Costello at the Greek Theatre. (My third time seeing him, and a wonderful birthday treat.)

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We saw so much modern art at SFMOMA that I’d previously only seen in textbooks, which blew my mind a little bit.

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Warhol, Chuck Close, George Segal, Robert Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Duchamp, Josef Albers…I didn’t want to leave.

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We also watched a lot of the new season of Twin Peaks, so it seemed only fitting that I baked us a cherry pie to enjoy.

What a wonderful trip.

During July, I was deep into the throes of knitting for the Summer of Socks, but I figured that this would be a good opportunity to post some pictures of the baking I did this year. Nothing ended up on the blog, but dang there was some good baking coming out of my kitchen.

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And I haven’t posted any pictures of the cats yet!

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Bowie and Trip make every year better.

In August, I made a lovely baby blanket for a lovely lady.

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And a very cute bunny.

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Dan and I also enjoyed the eclipse with Dan’s custom made shadowbox viewer, and a giant welding helmet. Everyone loved science for a whole day. It was great.

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In September, Dan and I finished up a masterpiece.

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And then we just couldn’t stop doing puzzles. We have three now that need to be framed and hung before we’re allowed to do any more.

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Dan also took this nice picture of me in the courtyard of Le Petit Theatre before we saw a show.

In October, we showed some friends from out-of-town around the city for Halloween, which always includes some above-ground cemetery action.

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Yep, that’s right, that’s a human jawbone just hanging out. Every day is Halloween here.

I took those same friends to the National World War II Museum, and we had a great, although sobering, time.

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The production value of this museum is downright astounding. I highly recommend it, even though I’m not really a huge wartime-history buff, just because everything was so detailed and interactive. Just make sure you plan to spend the whole day there so you can see everything. The place is massive, and the four hours we spent were simply not enough.

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This was my favorite fun fact.

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I also posted about some awesome socks in November.

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And I visited Bailee in Mississippi for her birthday!

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We ate all kinds of fried chicken and fancy pastries, listened to Taylor Swift and did our Tarot. A really, really good day.

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I surprised myself and made a beautiful rainbow baby blanket in December.

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Complete with turtle friend.

And then I made another one.

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With elephant to match.

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All of these pregnant ladies in my life have such good taste, so I really had to step up my game to give them some beautiful things.

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Dan requested apple pie for his birthday (as per usual), so I got my buttermilk crust game-face on.

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He also had an extra request this year, and that was that a make peach cobbler for one of his coworkers, a widower whose wife used to love to bake. He’s a good egg, that Dan.

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Then, the Summer of Socks was upon us, and I posted all about my super-secret sock knitting escapades, in three installments (1, 2, and 3!).

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Then, just a few days ago, Dan and I welcomed a new family member into our lives.

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Her name is Turbovicki, and she’s very red and half-electric. We love her.

I have never had a new car ever in my entire life, so I’m having a complicated mix of feelings about it. On the one hand, I feel like I really don’t deserve something so nice. I’m bad about treating myself and doing nice things for myself, because I just don’t ever feel like I’ve done anything special for it. It was a very big decision to even allow myself to think about having a new car.
On the other hand, oh my god if this isn’t the coolest car ever. I’m trying to get over myself and enjoy it.

So, all in all, a pretty good year, full of baking and knitting and schoolwork and love. Speaking of baking…

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First thing for the new year will be a new pie recipe, so you can enjoy all kinds of chocolate and cherries to start 2018.

I can’t even express how good it feels to look over all of this and to be able to share it with all of you. I’m always glad to have the outlet of blogging and to be able to share my (albeit small) accomplishments with a tiny corner of the world. I hope that you all had a good year, despite the ongoing garbage fire of a world, and that we can share the upcoming goodness of 2018 together.

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Pickled Okra & Roasted Peanuts? Don’t mind if I do.

My friend Gaby recently made the mistake of making me interested in something.

She told me about a lovely farmers’ market and farm located right in the middle of New Orleans called Hollygrove Market & Farm, and they have a weekly “box” (spoilers: it’s actually a bag.) of amazing farm-fresh vegetables, fruits, and other glorious food items that come from all kinds of wonderful backyard and independent farms in Louisiana and southern Mississippi, and it’s only $25. How awesome is that? It is remarkable that after living 6 years in Colorado, I somehow never got in on a CSA-subscription, but know that I have been enlightened as to Hollygrove’s existence, things are a-changin’.

Part of what’s great about Hollygrove is that they put up on their website what’s going to be in the “box” each week, so that you can choose if you want to get in on that or not. Right now I am kicking myself for not going this week because homemade organic blueberry jam was involved. And sweet potatoes! Sigh.

Anyway.

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Since I started making Hollygrove a part of my grocery considerations, I have received some treasures (like this amazing okra that has no business being so beautifully green) that needed some extra prep work, with awesome results. Working from a CSA-style box makes you change the way you think about cooking. It makes you want to eat seasonally all the time. It makes you want to go put your own hands in the dirt for a while. And it makes you wonder how hard it would be to make things that most normal people usually buy.

Enter pickled okra.

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People from the South go crazy for pickled okra. Every single person that I talked to about the possibility of pickled okra proclaimed their undying love for pickled okra right there on the spot. Even Dan enjoys pickled okra, and that’s saying something.

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking really helped me out on this one with this super easy recipe for refrigerator pickled okra. For those not in the know (and you’re looking at food blogs on the Internet, so how could this be?) refrigerator pickling is a quick-pickling method that doesn’t involve lengthy boiling periods for brine-making, sealing, and sterilization, since the contents are usually much, much smaller and meant to be consumed within a month or slightly longer. These types of things are especially appealing if you only have enough okra to fill one quart jar (about a pound) and the grocery stores in your area would look at you sideways if you asked them where they kept the wide-mouth funnels.

Directions were followed, with the one exception that I put a few peppercorns into the mix instead of hot peppers, because I have come to terms with just not being badass enough for that. And then the waiting ensued. You have to wait to eat these for at least two weeks, otherwise your okra will somehow be both fibrous and slimy, a disgusting combination. But, if you diligently wait the two weeks?

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You will be rewarded.

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And then you will eat a whole bunch and brag to everyone on Facebook and Instagram that you did something that countless millions of other people have done before you, but oh my god it doesn’t matter because pickling is a miracle.

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These are sour and crunchy and amazing, with little seeds that pop in your mouth. You will probably never ever buy a jar of pickled okra again.

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In fact, you’ll now be looking for more opportunities to spend an inordinately long period of time hand-crafting something that any other person would have used a 2-for-1 coupon for.

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Like roasting your own peanuts!

The next time I got the “box,” Hollygrove had included a pound of green peanuts. What on earth are green peanuts, you ask? Oh wait, you already knew? Well, I had no idea and needed some assistance. Avalon Acres helped me out. Green peanuts are basically totally raw, straight from the ground, chock full of water and ready for boiling or roasting.

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Something that they don’t tell you is that peeling green peanuts is not a walk in the park. Peeling this one pound of peanuts took me at least half of a game of Scrabble. Good thing I had coffee to aid me.

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The peeled peanuts were soaked (floated, really) in some salt water…

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…dried off and coated in salt and pepper…

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…and then roasted for waaaaaay longer than the recipe told me to. I’m thinking that I probably need to get my oven checked out now, since I had a very similar problem roasting pumpkin seeds last year. The recipe claims that 20 minutes at 350 degrees should be enough, but we went more than double that time before anything looked vaguely roasted.

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Good news, though. They were delicious.

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Normally, the little papery inner shells of peanuts give me the heebie-jeebies, and I always am careful to peel them aside if eating roasted peanuts. On these? They were the best part! Every bit was super crunchy and smokey, and they only lasted about 48 hours.

My desire for making common household condiments and appetizer-type things has only intensified. I think I need to rush into this headlong and make my own ketchup now. Who’s with me?

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. Need I say more?

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There were a few days last week when it really felt like spring here in New Orleans. Dare I even say summer? All I know is that I saw a lot of shorts and sandals for a little while, which got me thinking of ice cream. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to get me thinking of ice cream.

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The day that I ended up making ice cream, however, ended up being the day when a cold front swept through, dumping tons of freezing rain on all of those people in their shorts and sandals. I chose to soldier on, ignoring the weather and rejoicing in my tiny amount of free time.

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I ended up taking my own advice and toasting up some coconut to go into my coconut milk base. It was definitely the right way to go.

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I had made some brownies (the always delicious Moosewood Fudge Brownies, this time without the chocolate chips and with pecans instead of walnuts because there were no walnuts to be found in my house) earlier that week, and the last two brownies were just sitting there on the counter, feeling lonely. What else could I do but chop them up and throw them in there? It was just the right thing to do. Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. I just couldn’t resist.

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream
adapted from the Hungry Mouse‘s 3-Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2 13 oz. cans of coconut milk (for some reason, the only ones I could find this time were 13.5 oz. each, but I don’t think it caused any problems)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (or unsweetened, or flaked, whatever you want)
2 1/2 leftover brownies (Whatever your favorite brownie recipe is. You already know mine. I usually cut up my 8×8 baking dish into 9 pieces, so each square of brownie is somewhere around 2.5″ square.)

Directions:
Toast your coconut by spreading it in a thin layer on a baking sheet and putting it into a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Be sure to watch it closely and stir it often, because it browns up really quick. I only needed 5 1/2 minutes. Chop up 2 of your brownies into little brownie cubes, and then leave the 1/2 brownie to the side for crumbling.

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Dump your coconut milk (being sure to avoid spraying coconut milk all over yourself and the kitchen counter, like I did), sugar, and vanilla into a large food processor.

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Doesn’t that look a little bit like miso soup? It’s weird. Blend things up until they appear more presentable.

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Pour your coconut milk base into your prepared ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You’ll only have to process it for about 30-40 minutes total.

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Add the toasted coconut and crumble up that remaining 1/2 brownie piece into the ice cream base when you only have 10-15 minutes left to go on the processing so that they are well-distributed.

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While you’re waiting for the rest of the spinning time, put some brownie cubes in your waiting ice cream container. This is how Jeni makes her delicious chunky ice creams, so we are taking a page from her. She is a genius.

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When the ice cream is done spinning up, pour a little bit over those brownie pieces, and then put some more brownies on top.

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Repeat.

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Until there’s no more brownies or ice cream. I made sure to cover the entire thing with a layer of the coconut ice cream base so that the brownies were totally submerged, just to avoid those brownie chunks drying out. Cover the top of the ice cream with a piece of parchment paper and then put on that airtight lid. Allow the ice cream to freeze for at least 8 hours, but overnight is best.

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We did end up trying some that night, after 8 hours of freezing, and there was still a bit of graininess to the texture. However, this had completely disappeared by the next day. It’s definitely worth the wait.

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The sweetest of the coconut and the richness of the brownies and pecans work really well together, I believe. Dan declared this the best ice cream I’ve made so far. That’s saying something.

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Now if only the weather would cooperate.

My mom’s baked macaroni and cheese is better than yours. Or your mom’s.

My mother recently became bionic.

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Meaning that she got a total knee replacement last week, and despite recovering nicely, did not feel up to the hours of standing required to make Thanksgiving dinner.

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As you already know, I am always game to make dessert and cranberry sauce, because these are usually my favorite parts of the meal. Dan and my dad also got in on the cooking this time, being responsible for the meat and side dish portions this year.

However, when I said two seconds ago that dessert and cranberry sauce are my favorite things? I was lying. My mom’s baked macaroni and cheese is my favorite dish in the entire world. I know it doesn’t have chocolate or cranberries or pumpkin or pie crust in it, which is usually all I write about, but trust me when I say that this stuff is fantastic. It is simultaneously sweet and savory, eggy and cheesy, creamy and crunchy…it’s perfection in a casserole dish. And now I had the honor of making it, listening intently and making notes on a Post-It while my mom dictated the next step to me from the kitchen table.

Want to make it, too? Of course you do! That would be pretty terrible to give it such a big intro and then say it would remain a mystery, right? Right. However, here’s a caveat before we really get started. We are from New Orleans, and in New Orleans, we don’t measure while we’re cooking, so getting the measurements nailed down on this thing was a bit of a guessing game. (Note that I didn’t say that we don’t measure while we’re baking. That would just be utter craziness.) I think that what we came up with was pretty damn near perfect, but depending on your oven, your humidity, the phase of the moon, and whether a black cat crossed your path, you may want to shift your proportions a little bit.

Let’s go.

Jinger’s Mom’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese
the only macaroni and cheese that you will ever need to know how to make ever again

Ingredients:
1 package of long macaroni noodles (My mom insists on Luxury, a local brand that’s pretty delicious, but you can use whatever you’d like.)
salt & olive oil (for your pasta water)
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 lb. shredded cheddar cheese (She actually told me 1 lb. and then a little bit more, so this is a big guess as to how much we used. Using too much cheese would be a big non-issue, really.)

Directions:
First step? Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Boil up a whole bunch of water in a huge pot, making sure to salt the water and add a little bit of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. Don’t skip this, because the noodles are going to sit by their lonesome for a while after this, and you really can’t have stickiness there.

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After the pasta’s done (and we mean DONE done, as in fully softened but not falling apart, as my mother informed me that she doesn’t believe in al dente), drain it and place it in your favorite casserole dish. I believe the one that we used is a 4-quart one, but I generally have no idea as to these things.

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While the pasta is cooling off a bit, beat your eggs lightly in a medium-sized bowl. Then, add your sugar.

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Eggs + sugar = macaroni magic.

Whisk it up good. Add your milk and whisk some more.

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Then pour it on top of those patiently waiting noodles, and mix it up as gently as possible. You want those long macaroni noodles to stay long, right?

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Nice. Now, dump about half of your cheese (a little bit more than that, really) on top.

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And mix it in.

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And try not to get frustrated if the cheese is a little clumped up in there. She assured me that this was perfectly normal, even though Dan and my dad were making fun of me for my clumpy cheese.

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After it’s all mixed up, put the rest of your shredded cheese on top, making it nice and even, and making sure those edges and corners get covered, because those are the very best part!

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Strike a pose to commemorate the occasion.

Then put your beautiful cheesy goodness into that preheated oven for 1 hour. Try to be patient. I know it’s hard.

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Then pull it out and admire its majesty.

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Remember what I said about the edges being the best part? Proof! My mom and I always immediately go for the corners to get as much crispy cheesy topping as possible.

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Eat it all up and be thankful that my mom told me how to make this so that I could tell you. Make it for your family and friends. Spread the sweet, eggy, cheesy goodness across the globe.

Indulge in some Honey Almond Peach Oatmeal. And then go back to whatever relatively unimportant thing you were doing before.

I’m taking a few precious minutes out from writing a theoretical care plan about a patient with acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure to tell you guys something really, really important.

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Life is better when you eat fancy oatmeal.

When I was a kid, fancy oatmeal meant being able to microwave my own packet of crappy pre-made stuff in an envelope all by myself, especially if it was the kind that came with that little weird jelly packet that you could draw your own designs with.

Now that I am an adult, I have gone past the phase of thinking that oatmeal is disgusting, and I am right back on the oatmeal train. Dan and I will frequently eat oatmeal for dinner if we are at a loss of things that we want to put in our mouths that actually exist in our house. And with all the work and school and hospital-experience nonsense that’s happening around here, it’s nice when you know you’ve got that canister in the pantry waiting for you.

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This weekend, we actually had a free morning together, so the oatmeal preparations got a little bit fancier than our standard nuts and honey fare.

Clockwise from the top left-left hand corner we’ve got some quick-cooking oats, some old fashioned oats (because I need my oatmeal to have some tooth to it, no mushy grossness for me), coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, raw sunflower seeds, and raw almonds. All pretty standard stuff around here.

But where does the “honey” and “peach” part come in?

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There we go. A fresh, ripe peach got thinly sliced, and honey was drizzled onto our nutty oatmeal goodness.

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Yes it was. Now, at this point, we got a little bit of attention from some hungry animals.

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I think it’s fair to say that your oatmeal is going to be really good when tiny cats want to know what you are up to on top of that counter.

Boiling water got poured on top, and then…

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Bam! Oatmeal! Of course, some stirring and delicate perfect placement of peach slices happened, too, but we don’t need to get into that.

Want to make some? I figured.

—–

Honey Almond Peach Oatmeal

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp. oat bran
1 1/2 tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
small handful of raw almonds
several generous shakes (I suppose that’s technically a dash) of ground cinnamon
1 tsp. honey
1/2 large peach, thinly sliced
boiling water (electric kettles are awesome for this exact purpose)

Directions:
Combine all of your oatmeal ingredients (except for the peach!) in a medium-sized bowl while you are waiting for your kettle to boil up your water. Pour boiling water over the top of your oatmeal to cover, and stir thoroughly. Use less water for some really sticky, thick stuff (that’s the way I like it) or more water if you’re into the creamy texture. The oatmeal should absorb the water fairly quickly, in 2-3 minutes.

Dan will often splash some whole milk into his oatmeal right here to make it even creamier. I am not on-board for the whole milk-in-my-oatmeal thing because I want it to be really thick and sticky, but I can see how it would be completely delicious. Milk is optional, but if you’re into it, go for it. It makes him super happy, if that’s any indication.

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Slice up your peach, and lay it on top. Arrange it in a pleasing fashion if you plan to take pictures or if you’re a big weirdo like me.

Now, when you’re eating it up, be sure to get some pieces of cool, fresh peach in with your sticky, gummy oatmeal so that you can fully experience the joy of having fancy oatmeal breakfast.

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Try to resist licking the bowl. It might be hard.

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Tastes Like a Christmas Tree – Coconut Mint Chip Ice Cream

At my work recently, we had a summer potluck situation to celebrate our Summer Reading Kickoff, and instead of baking something easy like cookies or banana bread, I chose to delve myself deeper into my new ice cream maker obsession.

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I started with some sprigs of mint from our backyard garden, not really having much else in mind than minty summer goodness.

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Those beautiful green leaves got all blended up in the food processor with the delicious coconut milk vegan ice cream base from the Hungry Mouse‘s fabulous recipe, yet again. I might be addicted to this stuff, guys.

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Things got to mixing, and it became clear that just mint alone wasn’t enough to kick off the summer with my coworkers.

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Chocolate and shredded coconut got involved, too.

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Much better.

I meant to get some pictures of the finished product right out of the freezer, but in the bustle of the day, I’m lucky I got to it before it all disappeared.

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Look at all of those little flecks of fresh mint and chocolate! Yum!

I brought magic shell and two types of cones to make a little ice cream bar, but most people just went for plain scoops. I feel silly saying it, but hearing how much people liked it and how surprised they were to taste fresh mint in homemade ice cream was just a fantastic feeling. One of my more eloquent coworkers, A.J., declared that my ice cream tasted just like Christmas trees.

He tried to explain it to me, but there was no explanation necessary, really. I totally get it. It’s fresh and bright and minty, with a little bit of the almost-bitter-but-not-really oiliness that makes me think of rosemary and basil in the best ways possible. The chocolate is dark, the coconut is chewy, and the whole thing coming together in such a lovely way was a wonderful surprise.

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Coconut Mint Chip Ice Cream
adapted from the Hungry Mouse‘s 3-Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2 13 oz. cans of coconut milk
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large-ish sprigs of mint (mine were each about 6 inches long)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Directions:
Strip mint sprigs of their leaves and wash well. Put leaves in food processor and chop until leaves are finely shredded and are releasing their oil. Add the coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla, and blend everything together until all ingredients are well-incorporated.

Pour ice cream base into prepared ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Add the chopped chocolate chips and coconut during the last 10-15 minutes of processing, after the ice cream has begun to thicken. With the oil in the fresh mint, the one took a little longer than expected to set up, with the base processing for about 40 minutes by itself before I added the mix-ins. Your mileage may vary.

Pour the finished product into a freezer-safe container and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a weird freezer-burny skin from forming. Allow the ice cream to freeze for at least 8 hours, but overnight is best.

Then scoop it up and enjoy!

Thankful for Pie – Mostly Wordless 2012 Edition

The simple things this year are what I’m thankful for. The little breaks from stress and school and other ridiculous things. The things that keep us sane (and keep us from freaking out about that dangling preposition up there the first sentence).

Simplicity.

So here we have, presented in no particular order, and without additional commentary, the good stuff.

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2012-02-26 036

2012-02-25 010

2012-07-10 090

2012-05-10 026 2012-04-07 059

2012-04-09 037

2012-02-20 346

2012-11-21 065 2012-11-21 067

2012-04-09 129

232

2012-04-30 036 133

097

076 2012-02-11 016

2012-02-17 018

2012-04-14 007 2012-11-21 074

008

2012-06-11 171 2012-06-11 152

031

2012-11-21 081

2012-11-21 070

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Rice is Nice, But It’s Just a Grain

Remember last time when I apologized for not posting in a while, and it had been only, like, a month, or something?

Good times.

Nursing school started in August. Since my job didn’t stop, and neither did the rest of my life, blogging fell to the back burner. And then the counter. And then possibly fell onto the floor, because, frankly, I don’t have that much counter space around the stove.

Metaphors are fun!

Poor, poor blogging. Poor abandoned 365 Project. Poor us for not being able to eat all of the baked goods that I haven’t been making. Poor knitting…for…not being knitted. I guess that makes it just yarn.

Don’t get me wrong, I am really enjoying school. Well, the actual work and learning part of it, at least. My competitive self is kicking ass and taking names, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

I’m here for the moment, and I’m skipping any more apologies, because who knows when I’ll be having another free afternoon and get to spend it in serious relaxing style (which for me means making a giant crockpot of chili with cornbread, playing a whole bunch of Guitar Hero, and then busting out the rice pudding).

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Woah. Rice pudding! Let’s take that back out of the parentheses!

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Rice pudding is delicious. And amazing. And just the perfect thing to eat when it’s getting slightly cooler outside (which in New Orleans is what really passes for fall). Joy the Baker‘s Brown Rice Rice Pudding is particularly fantastic, creamy stuff. Can I also say how much I like typing ‘Rice Rice’ like that?

However, rice pudding, in its individual steps, is not the most appetizing-looking stuff.

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Brown rice cooking. Here’s where we get our weird scummy bits and floating foam.

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Although, it does look tons more appetizing when it’s done.

(Full nerd disclosure: I sing this song while making anything involving rice in my kitchen. Tell me you can get through this video without chanting ‘Get wild!,’ and I will send you a special present. Maybe. In the meantime, just go watch Home Movies already.)

Back to the weirdness.

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Cinnamon and butter and honey plus cold milk equals weird-looking stuff…

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…which gets weirder…

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…and then starts to look sort of like Jupiter. I can’t be the only one who sees that.

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Then things get downright sinister before they get better.

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But only for a second.

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Raisins just don’t know how to belong just yet.

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And then we have the dreaded pudding skin. Blech.

Let’s speed this thing up a bit until we get to the good part, okay?

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Getting there.

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Woo! A big pile of heaven, straight from the stove, smelling like buttery, cinnamon toast and exotic cardamom loveliness.

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Inbetween all of these steps, some knitting even happened.

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Crazy, I know! My fingers actually remembered what to do, which was a relief.

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And I remembered what else to do, obviously.

Now, if only I could get on track and somehow incorporate the blogging and picture-taking and cooking and baking back into my life of school and work, that would be something. I know that I’ll get a big break in December, so you guys should save up the cookie recipes for me so that I can get all the baking out of my system possible while I can.

Looking forward to it.

Cake and Salad and Excuses

Remember when I used to blog regularly? Ha!

Well, just because I haven’t been documenting my creative adventures on here doesn’t mean that they haven’t been occurring. They’ve just been…rather spaced out amongst general stress, work, and getting ready for nursing school which will be happening super soon.

I am excited.

Here is some evidence that I haven’t just been sitting at my computer watching cat videos (even though it feels that way sometimes):

365 2012-07-03

My favorite project as of late. The Red, White, and Blue cake. This came about when my dad requested a “red, white, and blue” cake for the Fourth of July without any other specifications. I think it looks like the Captain America shield here. Which is awesome.

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Imagine slicing open a plain chocolate-frosted cake to see that swirly goodness. I was such a dork, sitting there and trying to keep my face neutral while I waited for my family to tell me how cool that cake was. As usual, my expectations of how fantastic others will think I am fell a bit short.

But it tasted really good.

After all that, my parents sent me home with a giant bag of tomatoes from their garden that I had no idea how to use. I noticed that I had a bunch of cracked wheat that I had originally bought for some tabouleh that didn’t materialize and some mozzarella waiting for a pizza that I wasn’t going to make anything soon. Ideas began churning.

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Balsamic vinaigrette got shaken up. (I totally had to Google vinaigrette. I’m owning it. That is a hard word to spell.)

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Tomatoes, mozzarella, and baby carrots (I don’t know why, either. They were in the fridge, staring at me.) all diced up.

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Cracked wheat, basil, and dressing added and tossed up.

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It’s definitely a strange amalgam of things, but it was quite refreshing and delicious. I think I’m going to dub it — Caprese Tabouleh. It’s confused about its origins. It doesn’t know why it has carrots in it. But it’s just the thing to use up some tomatoes and cheese that you’d otherwise just shove into your mouth indiscrimately.

Caprese Tabouleh…with carrots for some reason

Ingredients:
4 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
slightly over a cup of dried cracked wheat
1/2 cup diced baby carrots
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, diced
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

Dressing:
adapted from 200 Super Salads, Vinaigrette

1 tsp. sugar
pinch of powdered mustard
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
Prepare cracked wheat according to package instructions. (I just pour boiling water to cover it and let it sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb all the liquid. Then strain it if necessary and let it cool before adding it to the other ingredients, unless you’re alright with soft cheese in your salad.  Sometimes you’re impatient, like me.)

Combine dressing ingredients together in a mason jar and shake it all up. Leave it in the fridge while you prepare everything else to get it good and cold.

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, carrots, and cracked wheat (once it’s cool) in a large bowl. Add basil and dressing and toss it up!

If it’s not cold enough, chill it in the refrigerator for a little bit so that everything can meld together and get cold and crisp and wonderful. Makes about 4 servings.

Enjoy!

—–

Hopefully, even with the oncoming onslaught of work and school, I won’t drop out of sight again. I’ve got a great new knitting project on the horizon. (Hint: it involves argyle and socks. That’s more like just telling you what it is than just a hint, I know.) I’m excited. I can’t help it.

Will I ever not be scared of frying? Zucchini & Corn Fritters!

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Our zucchini plant has taken over the garden. It is enormous, and when it makes zucchini, it makes gigantic zucchini all over the place. It makes zucchini the size of kids’ baseball bats. What to do with all this crazy vegetable goodness that my picky man will eat with gusto?

Zucchini fritters!

This was my first time making such a thing, and I’ll admit right here that I’m kind of scared of frying things in general. I hate the little burning drops of oil that fly up into your face and on your arms. I’m not particularly good at flipping things without ruining them. And, I’m in constant panic that if I don’t burn the food, then I might either burn the kitchen down or cause the smoke alarm to start going off and not be able to get it to stop. (Jinger, why do you have a cooking and crafting blog when you are constantly scared of doing those things? I think that the answer lies in the question, my dear friends.)

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For this first go-round, I looked up a fantastic recipe from right here on smitten kitchen, and decided to face my fears head-on. (Full disclosure: I’m also nervous around my food processor, and the fact that it never seems to work properly makes me swear many, many times and wonder if just using a box grater would be faster and less nerve-wracking.)

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Here’s my shredded zucchini, all full up with salt and letting go of all its water.

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And here’s the part that I was excited about doing — squeezing the water out of the zucchini. I’ve seen so many TV chefs do this, and now I am a part of their cadre.

It was actually just kind of cold and weird, and required a lot more muscle than I previously thought.

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Sad, deflated zucchini. Mixed it all up with some onions, egg, flour, pepper, and baking powder, and then couldn’t avoid the boiling oil any longer.

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And nothing got ruined!

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It was a kitchen miracle. Plus, they were extremely well-recieved. I’m still not a frying genius or anything, but I definitely got some confidence there.

So much that I did it all again the next week, and got fancy all up on that zucchini.

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I’ve held a delusion in my head for a while that I could create something just as delicious as those corn cake-fritter-type-things that you can get at Whole Foods. I’m not there yet, but I think that this adaptation on smitten kitchen‘s recipe is getting close.

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Close enough.

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Close enough that I feel quite clever over here.

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Because (guess what!) I get freaked out sometimes about branching out and modifying recipes and doing my own thing in the kitchen. I’d much rather think of myself as a craftsman rather than an artist in the kitchen because kitchen failure is a particularly shaming type of failure, to me anyway. However, moments like these that end with deliciously creamy, sweet, crispy-edged, and hearty zucchini and corn fritters like these make me quite proud.

Want to eat them, too? I know you do!

Zucchini & Corn Fritters
adapted from smitten kitchen‘s Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients:
2 lbs. zucchini (about 4 medium zucchini, or 2 ginormous mutant homegrown ones)
1 15.25 oz. can of corn, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. coarse salt, plus extra to taste
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
olive or cooking oil, for frying

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Keep baking sheet warmed and ready in oven.

Trim ends off of zucchini and grate either with a food processor (if you’re ready to have an obscenity fit, like me) or with your box grater (which went much more smoothly the second time). Toss the shredded zucchini, drained corn, and coarse salt in a large bowl, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini and corn mixture either in a colander or with a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth. Get out as much water as you can, as this prevents soggy fritters. Soggy fritters are gross.

Put the mixture back into the bowl and add salt to taste. The original recipe suggested 1/4 tsp. more per pound of zucchini, but I found that we needed just a touch more. Stir in the onions, eggs, pepper, flour, and cornmeal until fully moistened and well-blended.

Heat 2 tbsp. of oil over medium-high heat until super-hot and shimmering (I love this term). Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet and flatten them gently with your spoon or spatula. Cook the fritters for 2-3 minutes, until the edges underneath are golden brown. Flip the fritters and cook them on the opposite side for about 2-3 minutes more. Remove them from the oil, drain them on paper towels, and then place them on the pre-warmed baking sheet in the oven while you keep cooking. Keep making fritters until you just can’t make them anymore. Make sure that they stay in the oven long enough to set up properly and stay crisp until you’re ready to eat.

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We ate these with just ketchup, and it was fabulous. The original recipe has a sour cream- or yogurt-based topping that goes with it, and that sounds amazing as well.

These keep in the fridge for about a week (if you can even make them last that long) or can be frozen for months and reheated when you’re ready. Yum!

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With corn or without, the result is the same. Empty plates and happy people.