Thankful for Pie (somehow pie-less, yet still awesome) 2015 Edition

I guess this recurring post is just the year in review now, instead of a declaration of love for pie, due to the fact that I can’t get my act together around Thanksgiving anymore. (Want to see previous years? 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.) Nevertheless, you can be thankful for things anytime during the year, right? Right.

Also, even though I know for a fact that Dan and I ate a whole ton of pie this year, there are absolutely zero pictures of pie! I know, right, but my crust game was just seriously lacking this year. Have no fear, no matter what, pie is always right up there on the list of things that I am most grateful for.

Here we go.

IMG_2123

IMG_2127

January was a bit of a blur, as I was starting my last semester of nursing school. Pancakes and beignets were enjoyed at every available opportunity.

429

Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day nearly collided in February. Let me tell you, if you want to see some really unflattering pictures, look through about 100 pictures of me screaming at a parade. I get so serious about absolutely needing some useless pieces of plastic, and I look completely deranged. Anyway, Endymion is one of my favorite parades, so it was great to take some out-of-town friends and act like a maniac just to get a frisbee.

2015-03-14 222

2015-03-14 109

Ha! I lied! Of course, there has to be pie for Pi Day in March! (Seriously, I completely forgot about this amazing pie until just this moment. Bad, bad baker.) My friend Amanda came up with possibly the greatest pie name ever, Chocolate and Cream and Berries? Oh My! Any pie that has punctuation in its title automatically has my vote.

319

April brought with it a lovely scarf with beautiful silver beads, of which I still have approximately 8000 and no ideas for how to use them.

IMG_2283

Also, my last nursing school exam! I had a much-needed old fashioned at the St. Roch Market and resisted the urge to run around dancing in the streets.

May? Oh man, May was busy.

141

Graduation Day!

2015-05-18 330 edit

Valedictorian!

IMG_2339

Party planning!

2015-05-18 343

Rumchata Ribbon Ice Cream! Let’s be honest. The ice cream was the most important. That, and that lemon and blueberry bundt cake up there was pretty amazing, too.

2015-05-17 205

I designed and made a pretty cowl, Cowl Before the Storm, and it might just actually be cool enough to wear it today when I go see Star Wars.

IMG_20150528_020622

IMG_20150528_023114

We went to see the Rentals! I got to chat with Matt Sharpe a little bit after the show, and I told him that I played through my cassette tape of Return of the Rentals so many times since age 13 that the ribbon snapped.

Yes, that is a Stay-Puft marshmallow man dancing up there during the show. It’s best left unexplained.

20150530_123839

Also, I dressed up like Fox in Socks at some point. Bright red scrub pants are the bomb.

IMG_2309

Dan and I tried to take June as easy as possible.

20150621_001654

I came home from work after midnight on my birthday to find a chocolate cake surprise from my love, plus new vinyl records!

IMG_20150606_142827

IMG_20150610_215710

We did all kinds of coloring. (Yes, I am aware it is super trendy. No, I do not care. Coloring is awesome.)

2015-06-22 417

I made these awesome alcohol-drenched cupcakes.

In July, I started my new real-world job.

IMG_2356

I never would have predicted that I could simultaneously experience so many different emotions at one job, in even one hour at one job. My previous job life has been mostly retail and management-type stuff, and the feelings range from frustration to accomplishment, but mostly you just want to hurry up and finish things so you can go home.

Working with these kids has been so different and so eye-opening for me. I get to celebrate their victories, sing along to their favorite movies, comfort them and dry their tears, make crazy faces and make them laugh, be the bad guy with the medicine so that their parents can continue to be their heroes…in the short time that I’ve been there, I’ve experienced profound loss and unmitigated joy side-by-side with these children and their families, and even though I come home from night shift exhausted and generally don’t have any idea what time it is anymore, I can definitely say that I made the right decision to work in pediatrics.

IMG_20150617_171816

IMG_2354

Plus, the hospital is close to my very favorite snoball stand, so that’s a plus. There are no shortcuts to quality.

At the end of July, my grandmother passed away. I actually found out about this the day before I took my NCLEX nursing license test while simultaneously battling terrible food poisoning brought about by Chinese food shrimp. There was a big mess in my brain for a fairly long time.

317

She loved Christmas, and I felt her absence from our table this year strongly.

20150719_135724

Making pretty scarves helps you get through these things, even though it’s August and way too hot outside.

September?

20150916_100300

20150916_092758

A trip to Los Angeles to deliver a very special scarf

20150919_150055

IMG_1973

…to a very special person.

IMG_20150918_180341

I met the love of my life at the wax museum. It was hard to let go.

And then, the Emmys? What?

20150920_152144

I was just as surprised as you, Jamie Lee.

20150920_173116

Such a crazy trip, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law, who seem to have created a habit of making opportunities for me to get to go do amazing things. You guys are great.

IMG_20151011_131901

In October, my baby Bowie had his 8th birthday. Here are some more adorable cat pictures, just because.

20150614_142124

IMG_20150608_112153

Dang, those cats are cute.

November started with more alcoholic cupcakes.

2015-11-07 920

There’s still a lot of winter left to make your own RumChata cupcakes, so you should get on that.

20151218_221432

In December, so much blanket knitting (which you all just read about yesterday, right?), plus carouselfies…

20151208_093900

…more beignets and coffee…

20151208_095010

…and a large pack of angry cranes that followed Dan for about 10 minutes, thinking he would share his beignets.

20151217_160726

20151214_100709

Plus, super secret work on a super secret project that I am terrible at keeping secrets about. Let’s just say, it involves a certain Avenger with a propensity for wearing patriotic colors, plus his troubled half-robotic-armed friend. That’s pretty vague, right?

—–

It’s been a year of ups and downs, that’s for sure, and as I looked through all of my pictures, I was struck by how much I didn’t really document things much this year. It just felt like a whirlwind to finally finish school and start a new life in nursing, or perhaps I am also lazy and attracted more to sleep than to putting my life back together again after school.

Now that life is starting to reassemble around my new job, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of making things. Hopefully, 2016 will be full of pies (and I’ll actually remember to take pictures of them), knitting, hugs, and love, not just for me but for all of you out there. I’m just itching to get out there and make things already, and I can’t wait to show you when I do.

Advertisements

RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream. Oh, and I graduated from nursing school.

So.

2015-05-18 310

Damn it, RumChata, I’ll get back to you in a second. Stop looking so delicious. (Or, as the lady at the liquor store told me, stop looking like a giant bottle of lotion.)

141

On Thursday, I finally, after an insane three years of paper-writing, textbook-reading, note-taking, care plan-making, and IV-flushing, graduated from nursing school. Hooray for me!

Now, when I write about things on here, the attitude is usually “hooray for me” all the time, mostly because it’s a blog, and what other kind of attitude are you supposed to have when you are mostly writing about your own accomplishments in knitting and baking? (And cats. I do write about cats a lot.) It’s also written from that perspective because I often have a very hard time accepting compliments in the real world. Or thinking that my work is good enough in general. I often ride a very fine line of knowing that I am extremely capable when I work hard at something and also thinking that the world and everything I love will suddenly plummet to a firey descent of death if I don’t get an A on this damn paper.

It makes life weird.

Anyway, attitudes like that which generally make my day-to-day life anxiety-fraught (and the word ‘anxiety’ consistently makes it onto the most-frequently-used tags cloud at the bottom of the page, so are we really surprised?) made this moment that much sweeter.

2015-05-18 330 edit

Yep, valedictorian. I just. I. I don’t even know. I was pretty sure that it was coming (except during one particularly harrowing afternoon when it looked like some sort of weird snafu of transfer credits, prerequisites, and weird university by-laws was going to make it not happen), especially because of my general desire to set unattainable goals, but I still don’t even know what to say. All I know is that I smiled from ear-to-ear for nearly 48 hours straight. Might be a record.

Now. Back to the ice cream.

A graduation party had been in the works for some time prior to all of this, mostly because I wanted to make sure that I could properly thank the people in my life who made the experience bearable with their kindness, warmth, and humor, with an entirely ridiculous amount of food and alcohol. When I was brainstorming desserts, my friend Brittany issued me a challenge. An ice cream challenge, which is probably the best kind. She suggested making alcoholic ice cream. RumChata ice cream, specifically.

2015-05-17 063

Hey there, you beautiful bottle. Glad you’re back.

If you’ve never partaken in the glory of a shot of RumChata, let me let their website describe it to you: “Rum and horchata had a lovechild, and it’s delicious.” Good copy.

It tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But with alcohol. And it is a fantastic addition to any graduation party, all on its own. But in ice cream? I found lots of fakey-type ice cream recipes online for it (like the coconut cream or bananas methods), but to make it a real custard-based ice cream, I had to get creative.

You see, RumChata is 27.5 proof alcohol, low on the general drinkability scale, but high when it comes to attempting to freeze something. Some research was definitely required to get everything to work out properly. Enter Ice Cream Happy Hour, a fabulous book by Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison and definitely required reading if you’re attempting to freeze anything that’s loaded with alcohol. Their method employs prepared gelatin and chilled alcohol incorporated at the end of the custard base chilling process, which is totally genius stuff right there. I also pulled together inspiration from the Pioneer Woman and Food.com in creating this cinnamony delight.

Here we go.

RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream
with a great deal of adapting and combining from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, Ice Cream Happy Hour, the Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Ice Cream and Virginia’s Cinnamon Sauce

Ingredients:
Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pinch salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3 cups water
1 tsp vanilla

RumChata Ice Cream Base:
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp softened cream cheese
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 packet plain gelatin
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup chilled Rumchata liqueur

Directions:
Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:

2015-05-17 046

Whisk all ingredients together, except for the vanilla, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.

2015-05-17 047

2015-05-17 049

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and set aside to cool. (I let it sit out on the counter while I prepared the ice cream base and then refrigerated it until it was time to assemble the finished ice cream.) The sauce will thicken as it cools.

2015-05-17 062

RumChata Ice Cream Base:
This is all done using the Jeni’s method of ice cream making, which comes highly recommended by me and countless others. Please do go check out their website and support them in their awesome grand re-opening.

Mix two tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl (a giant bowl) with ice and water in order to chill your ice cream base when ready.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, being sure to stir constantly to prevent scorching or boiling over, and boil for 4 minutes. (And be precise, people! Your ice cream is counting on you!)

2015-05-17 055

Remove from heat and gradually whisk in your cornstarch slurry mixture. Return to the heat and bring it back to a boil, still stirring, allowing it to cook and thicken up for about 1 minute. Fish out those cinnamon sticks and throw them away, unless you know something I don’t about what to do with them now.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the ground cinnamon and mix until well-distributed.

2015-05-17 056

2015-05-17 057

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziplock bag, seal it, and submerge it in your giant bowl of water and ice until it’s totally chilled, about 30 minutes.

2015-05-17 058

2015-05-17 060

When the ice cream base is chilled, it’s time for alcohol! Put the 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Allow it about 2 minutes to properly absorb, and then cook the mixture over low heat for approximately 3 minutes, until it is clear and all the gelatin has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the chilled RumChata, resisting the urge to take a big swig from the bottle as you do so.

Pour this new alcohol mixture into the Ziplock bag with the chilled ice cream base, and then give the bag a good massage to make sure that everything’s mixed up nice. Pour the whole thing (most easily accomplished by snipping off a corner of the bag and squeezing it out) into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and process it until it’s thick and creamy, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

2015-05-17 066

This can be very different for different machines, and with the alcohol content involved in this one, may be very different from your normal time. Usually, my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment takes only about 30-35 minutes before the base is ready to freeze, but in this case, I let it go for 45 minutes before I realized it was just never going to be as lofty as it usually gets. Instead, I then poured it into a freezer container and stuck it in the coldest part of my freezer, taking it out to whisk it up every 30 minutes or so for the next 2 hours, at which point it had finally evolved into something I was more familiar with. Just keep an eye on it and have a little cinnamon-based faith. Even if it doesn’t get as beautiful as normal, it’ll turn out.

Pack your new ice cream into a storage container, layering the cinnamon sauce as you go.

2015-05-17 068

2015-05-17 069

2015-05-17 072

The recipe makes a boatload of sauce, so there’s plenty left over to warm up and put on top if you want when you’re serving it. Press a sheet of parchment paper firmly against the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid. Normally, ice cream only takes about 5-6 hours to cure in my freezer, but this one was best left in there for the course of 24 hours. Plan ahead for this ice cream deprivation.

When you’re ready, make sure you’ve got people crowded around and waiting, because even after all that effort, if you so much as look wrong at that ice cream when you take it out of the freezer, it will melt just to spite you. (But no, seriously, you don’t have to let it thaw or anything like you might normally. Just get to scooping and work fast.)

2015-05-18 342

2015-05-18 343

Marvel in the fact that it actually worked! And then hurry up and scoop some more because you’ve got more people waiting.

2015-05-18 344

This is Brittany, the gauntlet-thrower for this entire experiment, and I think she was pleased.

2015-05-18 346

I think everyone was, as this was the scene five minutes after I started scooping.

2015-05-18 345

Luckily, I saved a tiny bit for myself at the end to enjoy. The ice cream itself was smooth and packed with warm cinnamon flavor, with a hint of that rum that reminds you that you are eating some ice cream only for grown-ups. The cinnamon sauce ribbon was slightly icy and grainy, but in the best way possible, giving the whole thing an interesting texture and more complex palate. It tasted like…Cinnamon Toast Crunch. With alcohol.

2015-05-18 347

Mission accomplished.

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake – a tale of adventure, mishap, and Irish Cream

2014-10-03 057

I went to go and get a flu shot yesterday, and on the way home, I went to the grocery store and bought the following items:

2014-10-03 699

I didn’t need 3 whole cans of pumpkin, but they were on sale, and I was powerless to resist.

Since last week or so, probably since the calendar officially told us that fall was here, I have been daydreaming about a cake that incorporated 2 of my favorite things: pumpkin and cheap Irish cream liqueur.

I am aware that most people use Irish cream as a mixer in more elaborate cocktails or as a way to make their coffee more interesting, but, over the years, it has become my favorite drink all on its own. Just in a tiny glass with an ice cube? I have no idea why it’s so great, but it is. Irish cream is made with Irish whiskey, sugar (or honey), and cream, blended together into perfection. Its thick, silky texture makes it an easy substitute for milk in any cake recipe. And its warmth and slight hint of spice from the whiskey makes it, in my opinion, a great pairing for the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves inherent in pumpkin baking.

Putting them together makes so much sense to me that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of it before. Or really, that no one appeared to have. I found a whole ton of recipes involving combining pumpkin and rum in cake-y form, but nothing with delicious, wonderful Irish cream. This needed to be fixed.

In my kitchen, it’s not fall until…

2014-10-03 702

…now.

I went to Betty for inspiration and a basic yellow cake recipe, and then just experimented from there. There was a tiny bit of heartbreak along the way (ooooh, spooky foreshadowing!), but everything turned out amazing in the end.

Ready?

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker‘s Starlight Yellow Cake and inspired by the glories of fall, in general

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups Irish cream liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease and flour the bundt pan of your choice.

2014-10-03 701

Seriously, do this thoroughly. (More foreshadowing, I know. Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!)

In large bowl, put all ingredients, except for powdered sugar, and beat together on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then at high speed (or only halfway if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer, like me, because high speed would probably send pumpkin splattering all across yourself and your kitchen) for about 3 minutes.

2014-10-03 705

2014-10-03 712

2014-10-03 719

Pour batter into prepared pan.

2014-10-03 723

Admire the lovely orange color and the amazing smell for just a second before you pop it into the oven. While baking, that heavenly smell will only intensify. Your kitchen will smell like hot toddies and pumpkin pie. You will suddenly decide that you are the smartest person on the planet. Or maybe that was just me. I do tend to get a little bit cocky before the fall. BUM BUM BUUUUMMMMM!

2014-10-03 002

Now, here’s where things went a bit awry. I baked my bundt until a toothpick came out clean (about 50 minutes), which is usually the standard. However, this resulted in a cake that was just a little too…delicate for the rigors of being a stand-alone bundt. It’s super moist and delicious, and I wouldn’t recommend changing anything about the ingredients, but just increase the baking time in order to get a thicker, tougher crust on there that will prevent this type of tragedy.

2014-10-03 005

After I waited the normal 15-20 minutes to release the cake from the bundt pan, I made sure to run a butter knife along the edge, and flipped it over. And about a third of the top of the cake decided to stay in the pan. (It’s okay to gasp a little. I’m pretty sure that I did, too.)

2014-10-03 004

A few years ago, this would have probably made me cry a little. However, I decided that I am a grown woman, and instead, I got to work with a butter knife, making strategic cuts and delicately prying that cake top out of the pan and placing it in its correct place. I was determined to photograph and eat this goddamn delicious cake, and nothing was going to stop me.

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure that lengthening the baking time to least an hour (as long as nothing was scorching) and then waiting a little longer before attempting to get the cake out of the pan would probably solve all of these problems. I’ll definitely be making this one again soon, so I’ll be sure to report back.

2014-10-03 007

Then, I left the cake alone to cool properly (and hopefully decide to fuse together a bit) and made a salad. This is not required, but highly recommended.

2014-10-03 011

After the cake was fully cool, I poked it all over with a toothpick, steering clear of the Franken-cake pieced-together sections for fear of further damage.

2014-10-03 012

2014-10-03 013

Then, I brushed a little extra Irish cream over the top, letting it sink into the top layer of cake. It was probably just a bit less than 1/4 cup, but who keeps track of these things? Just keep going until the top crust is saturated. Then, let the cake sit for just a little while longer, like about 30-45 minutes.

2014-10-03 014

That Irish cream layer will soak in and harden a little bit, giving the cake a sort of “shellacked” outer layer. Ideally, it won’t be sticky or too moist, just sort of thick and glossy.

2014-10-03 024

2014-10-03 029

Now, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of powdered sugar. I debated going crazy and concocting some sort of Irish cream icing or frosting, but this cake is so moist and flavorful that you really don’t want to overpower it.

2014-10-03 046

And you’re done!

Slice into that glorious cake and take a bite. I’ll wait.

2014-10-03 051

It’s so good, right? It tastes like warm pumpkin pie, like whiskey and spices on a cold day. Dan took one bite and said, “I think I’m going to get drunk.” Hence the name: Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake.

2014-10-03 060

Go out and make one (and just keep it in the oven a little longer than I did) in order to bring instant pumpkin spice sass to any party or just to warm up a chilly fall night. You will be glad that you did.

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. Need I say more?

2014-04-18 002

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.

2014-04-16 054

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.

2014-04-16 042

2014-04-16 053

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.

2014-04-16 046

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.

2014-04-16 062

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.

2014-04-16 056

2014-04-16 058

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

2014-04-16 061

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.

2014-04-16 064

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.

2014-04-16 065

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.

2014-04-16 070

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

2014-04-16 071

Repeat.

2014-04-16 072

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.

2014-04-16 099

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.

2014-04-18 004

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.

2014-04-18 001

Now if only the weather would cooperate.

Unexpected Comfort – Banana Bread and ASMR

We all find comfort in different places.

2014-04-16 085

Sometimes these places are easy to find. Sometimes all it takes is pulling out some frozen bananas that you have cleverly hoarded for this very occasion…

2014-04-16 009

…and letting them sit on your kitchen counter until they look really, really disgusting.

2014-04-16 012

Yep, totally gross. Ready to go.

2014-04-16 013

Still gross.

2014-04-16 016

Now we’re getting somewhere. You mash up those bananas and mix them up with various other kitchen items like butter and sugar…

2014-04-16 024

2014-04-16 029

…eggs (to make it totally awesome and neon yellow)

2014-04-16 030

…vanilla and buttermilk…

(And let’s be honest, no one ever has buttermilk in their house. Just mix up a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with whole milk and pretend that you are on top of your life enough to have fresh buttermilk at all times.)

2014-04-16 032

2014-04-16 033

…flour (both all-purpose and whole wheat, just so we can pretend it’s healthy), baking soda, and a little bit of salt.

2014-04-16 018

Grease up two loaf pans, and be pleased with just how clever you are by saving all of your butter wrappers for this specific purpose.

2014-04-16 021

And then realize that your house might have a bit of a butter problem, because this box of butter wrappers isn’t running out any time soon.

2014-04-16 035

2014-04-16 036

Sprinkle those future banana breads with some oats, just so that we can pretend that they are healthy some more. Stick them in the oven and let that banana scent reassure you that the comfort is coming soon, especially on a rainy and cold day in the middle of April in New Orleans, which makes absolutely no sense at all.

Now, while that bakes, we’re going to take a little break to talk about comfort coming from totally unexpected places. About a year ago, I was listening to This American Life in my car, and I had a moment of such surreality that I had to pull over to finish listening to the show. It was an episode called “Tribes” (you can listen to it here), and the segment named “A Tribe Called Rest” pulled me out of my usual passive listening state and blew my damn mind.

Done listening to it yet? Good. As a middle-schooler, I loved watching painting shows on PBS more than anything else in the world. Bob Ross was an utter joy for me. His calm and lovely demeanor, combined with the scratchy sounds his paintbrushes made when he was tapping out some happy clouds, would give me the chills every single time. I would feel tingles run down the base of my skull into my neck, and for some reason in the backs of my knees, just hearing him talk. There was another woman I used to love as well, who wore lots of turquoise rings and painted her acrylics with lots of different weird mediums mixed in, like sand and other crazy textures. The sound of her palette knife scratching in those artfully rendered sand dunes, and her rings clicking together…I have the feeling that if you would’ve have walked by my room when I was watching this, you would have seen tiny-Jinger, sitting completely still on the very edge of her bed, eyes tilted up to the screen and glazed over with quiet joy. I was so into this that when I went to high school and the times for these shows changed, I set up my VCR to record them for me while I was at school, so that I didn’t have to miss them and their head-tingling goodness.

It’s probably getting a little awkward in here, so let’s check on that banana bread.

2014-04-16 040

Looking good. Right on track.

I started watching QVC and HSN soon after that, rigging up my old push-button TV with the UHF dial to catch the jewelry shows whenever I could. There was just something about the quiet reverence with which these people displayed and measured earrings with their tiny rulers that would keep me entranced for hours. My favorite memories of summer camp involve sitting in a circle and playing tracing games (where another person traces words on your back or sings a little song that involves tickling and trying to give the other person the chills…you ladies know exactly what I talking about) or braiding each other’s hair. I love going to get my hair cut, not because I care anything about the state of my hair usually, but because the tiny scissor sounds and personal attention give me tingles the entire time. I’m always a little let down when it’s over. My favorite movie scenes involve those of quiet intensity, where the person on screen is performing some sort of delicate or complicated task, and we get to watch it quietly.

Need examples?

 

 

Confused yet? If you didn’t listen to the episode, you might not realize that my life almost exactly parallels the one of the producer, Andrea Seigel, author and screenwriter and general all-around interesting lady. She too was entranced by painting shows and the Home Shopping Network, and goes in pursuit of attaining more “triggers” via YouTube, finding out that she loves watching makeup tutorials. I did the same exact thing. She had no idea that there was a whole community of people dedicated to this phenomenon, and neither did I. Turns out, it has a name. ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. And it’s simultaneously awesome and really, really weird.

Immediately upon getting home that day from listening to that This American Life episode, I went in search of these ASMR videos and fell down a crazy YouTube rabbit hole (like everyone does) of people just like me. People speaking quietly and intently while folding napkins. Or leafing through books. Or practicing calligraphy. Or decoupaging coasters. Or pretty much anything else that you can think of. I discovered that, while I do not like going to the dentist in general, I absolutely cannot get enough of someone pretending to be my dental hygienist, speaking to me quietly and executing a complex series of maneuvers to make it sound like they are realistically cleaning my teeth. It sounds bizarre, I know, but these videos bring me comfort in a way that very other few things do.

I have always had an overactive brain. I would never claim that it was out of control in any way, but I have a very difficult time not hearing and internally commenting on everything that is going on around me. At night, I usually have to make myself fall asleep (I have come to think of it as “turning off my brain”) by reading until I find myself asleep with my face in my book somehow. I have a never-ending string of useless trivia winding itself around at all times of day, and most people have no idea unless they try to tell me something that I just know is incorrect, and it takes more self-awareness than I usually have to keep my mouth shut.

I tend to do everything fast. I tend to speed-read, not the skimming of information just to get the gist of something, but just reading incredibly fast, so much that I cannot share reading materials. I type fairly fast. I work out math in my head quickly. I usually only have to hear something once to remember it for far longer than I ever will need to. This type of ridiculous way of thinking usually doesn’t do much harm except in making me look like a smart-ass, but I really can’t help it. Baking and knitting are seriously some of the only things that I can do at a reasonable speed (and some people who watch me knit even accuse me of stitching too quickly), and they tend to bring me comfort in that fact that they remind me that I am physically capable of slowing down sometimes, and that when I do, good things usually happen.

Speaking of baking…

2014-04-16 073

2014-04-16 076

Done! Let’s let them cool down a bit before we slice them up.

Even though I am not the type of person who dives obsessively into fandoms (yet), I have found another tremendous source of comfort in this community and this (it sounds weird to say it) way of life. ASMR is not just about sitting in front of the computer, listening to people make clicking noises (although, let’s be honest, that’s a lot of it). It’s also about slowing down and appreciating simple activities. It’s about finding pleasure in small things. It’s about breaking down a task that brings you joy and making it last as long as possible. It’s about treating yourself delicately and kindly. It’s about taking care of your brain.

Let me let Heather Feather, one of the greatest people making these videos, break it down for you:

That video right there has helped me to…not to fall asleep really, but to turn off the part of my brain that keeps me from relaxing like a normal person on more than one occasion. It’s fairly goofy, but it’s also kind and sweet and full of amazing creativity. Just like the rest of the ASMR community.

I didn’t think that I would ever post about this, or really ever tell anyone other than Dan, but last week, one of my clinical instructors apparently listened to the same episode of This American Life that I did and came away with a slightly different opinion on the matter. I’m not saying that what she said was…insulting, but she told our clinical group about ASMR in a way that started with something like, “You wouldn’t believe what some people do for stress relief. I heard something on the radio the other day about this weird thing where people like to listen to clicking sounds and people talking quietly on the computer, and that’s how they relax. Isn’t that bizarre?” Not exactly the most ringing endorsement. I took a cue from my totally amazing friends, both online and in real life, and decided to take control of the situation and love the things that I love out loud and not feel weird or shamed by it. I said, “Yeah, that’s ASMR, and I have it.” And I proceeded to relate much of what I have already typed to 7 pairs of very bewildered eyes. And it felt great. Not just owning up to it and defending something I love, but how I surprised myself in disclosing such information to a group of people that I have not known for very long.

Let’s slice up that bread, okay? It’s waited long enough.

2014-04-16 080

2014-04-16 081

2014-04-16 082

Want the recipe? Here we go.

—–

Simple Comfort Banana Bread
adapted from Ms. Betty‘s recipe, of course

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened (plus, don’t forget those butter wrappers for greasing up your loaf pans!)
4 large eggs
3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 6 from the freezer, where everyone who can’t eat a whole bunch of bananas before they turn brown should be throwing them, right?)
1 cup buttermilk (again, who are we kidding with this? 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar plus enough whole milk to equal 1 cup works just fine)
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
old-fashioned oats, for sprinkling

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure that the oven rack is positioned so that the tops of the loaves are around the center of the oven, to ensure even heat distribution. Grease up your two loaf pans with your butter wrappers.

Mix softened butter and sugar together until well-mixed and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and blend until well-mixed. Add the bananas, vanilla, and buttermilk all at once and mix until smooth. Then dump in both flours, the baking soda, and the salt and mix until just moistened.

Divide the batter evenly into your two loaf pans, and then sprinkle the tops with the oats. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes to an hour before attempting to take them out of the pans. Run a butterknife along the outer edges first to ensure that the loaves are sufficiently loosened from the pan before flipping them out. Then, wait until they are fully cooled, at least 2 more hours, before slicing them up.

2014-04-16 090

2014-04-16 083

2014-04-16 094

You will make a mess.

2014-04-16 093

I usually slice these up into 12 pieces each, wrap them up in aluminum foil, and put them in the freezer so that they are ready for breakfast and lunch emergencies whenever.

2014-04-16 095

If you take one out of the freezer before you drive to school, it will be defrosted and perfect when you pull it out of your bag for lunch. It will make everyone jealous.

—–

So, why combine ASMR and banana bread?

2014-04-16 087

Maybe it’s just that I’m constantly reminded how much I need to slow down and enjoy life. That the best things in this world are the ones that we take the time to craft for ourselves and truly appreciate. That we all need to take a break and relax, and whether that involves sitting down to enjoy a slice of banana bread with a cup of tea or putting on your headphones to enjoy the fact that someone cared so much about you and your weird loves that they pretended to be your dentist or your spa technician or your travel agent or whatever…it’s your thing.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it’s dumb. It’s totally awesome, and so are you.

If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Arnold Palmers

2014-02-25 018

As soon as the weather starts to seem even the slightest bit warmer, my thoughts tend to drift to lemons.

2014-02-25 001

(Want to know the best part about using your phone to take kitchen pictures because your boyfriend left the camera in his truck and then left for work? You have no idea how out-of-focus they are until you are all done! Hooray! Sorry, guys.)

When I was a child, I hated anything lemon-flavored. Lemon bars? Lemonade? I wanted nothing to do with it. Yellow candies of all kinds were not to be trusted (I’m looking at you, yellow Starburst).

2014-02-25 010

I was obviously deranged. Now, in my dotage, I have realized that lemons are the most delicious things that you can get from a tree. You can dress them up and make them super sweet and fancy when you add butter and sugar, or you can leave them in their tangy, sour perfection with just the addition of some black iced tea. That’s right! We’re making lemon cookies and Arnold Palmers today because the heater hasn’t had to come on in at least two weeks, and it’s going to be such a fabulous lemony kick to the face that you will definitely be thanking me later.

2014-02-25 002

The lemon cookie recipe comes courtesy of the always-delightful Jeannette at everybody likes sandwiches. I remember reading it when it first was published in 2007 and heading out to the store to buy lemons that very moment. Since then, I have made them more times than I can count, even once sending them cross-country to sit in for me during a game of D&D.

2014-02-25 006

See? Hipster food-blog-follower cred! I seriously wrote it down on an index card (!), back when her blog was still at BlogSpot. How very quaint of me and my purple Sharpie. This was before Pinterest, people, when I wrote everything down or spent long hours with my printer and bookmarks, making huge Word documents of dessert recipes that needed printing. Want to see the rest? Here you go.

2014-02-25 003

These cookies are obviously something special, otherwise that little index card would not still be in my recipe binder. When you make them, they are little balls of bright, tangy dough, rolled in sugar.

2014-02-25 004

Just look at how cute that is! They taste buttery and lemony and almost floral, without feeling like you’re eating a plant. They are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, absolute perfection with a quick dip in some cold milk.

2014-02-25 012

2014-02-25 015

Yum.

Now, what if we want something that preserves more of that natural lemon essence? That super tart feeling that you’re getting in your mouth right now just thinking about lemons? We make Arnold Palmers!

2014-02-25 007

I’m aware that most people refer to this as Lemonade Iced Tea, but once I learned that a professional golfer claimed that he invented the concoction, I just can’t bring myself to call it anything else. First, we brew up the tea.

2014-02-25 008

Then we get mesmerized by the process of tea steeping. Don’t pretend it isn’t interesting to watch. (I even made a little video of it, if you can ignore the sweet strains of Despicable Me playing in the background.) Oh, heat conduction. You make pretty things happen in water.

While we wait for our tea to cool, we have to juice up some lemons. We’re looking for 1 1/4 cups of delicious lemon juice, which is about 6-7 lemons usually, depending on how large they are.

2014-02-25 011

Close enough.

Then we make simple syrup, which is essentially just combining equal parts of sugar and water together over heat.

2014-02-25 013

Until it’s super clear and bubbly.

2014-02-25 014

All of these things get dumped together into the appropriate receptacles and topped off with enough ice to make yourself about 2 gallons of sweet, tangy, summery deliciousness. And when I say ‘tangy,’ I mean it. That first sip is a game-changer. Feel free to add a little more sugar if you don’t roll that way.

Arnold Palmers
or just Lemonade Iced Tea, if you aren’t whimsical enough

Ingredients:
4 bags of black tea
6-7 lemons (enough to make about 1 1/4 cups of juice)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
lots of ice

Directions:
Steep 4 bags of black tea in approximately 2 liters of boiling water. Don’t worry if you end up staring at it for a little while. It’s totally normal.

Juice your lemons and set the juice aside. Prepare simple syrup by combining sugar and water over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the mixture is clear and starting to boil. Discard the tea bags, and combine the tea, lemon juice, and simple syrup together in a heatproof 2-gallon (or two 1-gallon) beverage container(s). Things will be super hot and boiling, so be careful. Top off the mixture with plenty of ice in order to get it up to the 2-gallon mark. Enjoy the cracking sounds that ice makes when it hits all that super hot tea. I know that I do.  Stick that stuff in the refrigerator until you’re ready.

2014-02-25 017

Drink up a big tall glass and eat yourself some lemon cookies. You’re almost done with February. You deserve it.

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

My mother recently became bionic.

2013-11-28 096

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.

2013-11-28 050

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.

2013-11-28 059

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.

2013-11-28 073

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

2013-11-28 076

Eggs + sugar = macaroni magic.

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

2013-11-28 077

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?

2013-11-28 078

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

2013-11-28 079

And mix it in.

2013-11-28 081

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.

2013-11-28 091

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!

2013-11-28 090

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.

2013-11-28 093

Then pull it out and admire its majesty.

2013-11-28 094

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.

2013-11-28 098

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.

Shelter in Place – Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Pie

About a week ago, people were telling us that we were about to get hit by a tropical storm.

2013-10-14 119

Her name was Karen, she was headed right for us…and she was no big deal.

This is nothing new. If you’re from New Orleans, as I am, you learn that you don’t even start thinking about hurricane plans until you get up to a Category 2. Tropical storms don’t faze us one bit. Chances are the fall weekend will be even more beautiful than you could have even imagined if the Weather Channel is freaking out and telling you to buy a bunch of bottled water, batteries, and candles in preparation for the tropical storm ahead. This case was no exception.

2013-10-11 050

We did our duty and filled up the gas tanks and bought some bottled water and made sure that the flashlights were ready to go, and then we went about our business as usual. I had children’s faces to paint during Star Wars Day at work, dammit. Karen wasn’t going to bring us down.

The very idea of staying home during a potential hurricane situation (even one that turns out to be a whole bunch of nothing) makes a lot of people shake their heads in disbelief, I’m sure, but we have a lovely term for it that makes it seem both homey and logical (two of my favorite things)…Shelter in Place.

What sheltering in place means to me is that you have to have board games and playing cards ready. You need candles and books and ridiculously large bags of gummy candy to share with your potential shelter-mates. You need to move your mattresses downstairs and have a slumber party amidst the couches. You need to call all your friends and family and make sure they’re either safe or right in front of you. You need to pet the cats more because they can always tell that something’s up.

2013-10-11 070

And perhaps more than anything else, you need to have some pie on-hand.

2013-10-11 060

Since a large amount of hurricane season takes place in what the rest of the country experiences as fall, variations on pumpkin pie are always welcome and encouraged. This time around, I went with a little experiment in chocolate and pumpkin swirled together to keep us satisfied in the case of potential storms. Luckily, none of that happened, so we just stuffed our faces with chocolate and pumpkin and made plans for what pie to make next time.

Shelter in Place Pie
Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl – with assistance from Libby’s

Ingredients:
Chocolate & Graham Cinnamon Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate and regular graham crackers (I used 12 chocolate crackers and 6 regular graham crackers to get a nice mix here)
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree (goddammit, I love me some Libby’s, but if you want to go for the real thing, go right ahead)
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa

Directions:
Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir all crust ingredients together in a medium bowl until well-incorporated.

2013-10-11 055

Press mixture firmly against the bottom and sides of a 9″ deep-dish pie pan.

2013-10-11 057

Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling.

2013-10-11 069

Hell yeah, crust. Check that action out.

Filling:
Now, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.

2013-10-11 062

Beat eggs in a separate large bowl. Stir in the pumpkin, and then the sugar and spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

2013-10-11 063

I like to really get in there with a whisk to make sure all the lumps are out and that filling is as velvety as possible.

Divide the pumpkin batter roughly in half between the two bowls. Mix the unsweetened cocoa into one of the bowls, and really get your wrist into this because that cocoa will be resistant. Make it bend to your will.

Take your cooled graham cracker crust and get it placed before you with your two different batters. Now take a scoop or ladle of some kind that holds about 1/4-1/3 cup of batter and scoop up some plain pumpkin batter and pour that into that crust. Scoop up some chocolate batter and layer it on top. Repeat until it’s all gone.

2013-10-11 065

Pumpkin pie batter is super fluid and runny, so don’t get upset if it doesn’t layer and swirl as beautifully as you want it to. Just pour gently and give it some time, and everything will be beautiful.

2013-10-11 066

Kind of. Trust me, it looks better after it’s baked.

2013-10-14 125

See?

Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Now, here’s the real hard part that Dan and I can never manage to do. Allow the pie to cool fully before cutting it up and shoving it in your mouth. Don’t get me wrong, this pie was insanely delicious while still carrying a tinge of warmth from the oven, but the flavors had truly melded into something amazing the next day after everything was allowed to rest and come together. It’s even still pretty awesome chilled.

2013-10-11 071

The whole thing tastes like dark chocolate Oreos and sweet spicy pumpkin at the same time. Cinnamon and ginger and cloves warm your nose while chocolate melts on your tongue. If Halloween Oreos actually had pumpkin-flavored filling instead of just orange food coloring, you’d start to get the idea.

2013-10-14 130

It’s even irresistible to tiny cats! So whether there’s a big storm coming or not, take this some time weekend to mix up some chocolate and pumpkin and your loved ones and shelter in place. You don’t need a better excuse.

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.

2013-09-10 041

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.

2013-09-10 024

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?

2013-09-10 028

2013-09-10 032

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

2013-09-10 036

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

2013-09-10 040

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…

2013-09-10 044

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.

2013-09-10 048

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.

2013-09-10 051

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

2013-09-10 055

A Pizza Masterpiece – Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

2013-08-01 233

Dan and I are both very opinionated people, especially in the kitchen, so sometimes it’s hard for us to make dinner together. Usually one of us cooks while the other person sits at the kitchen table and keeps the conversation going. For certain dishes, we each have our roles, one person doing prep like chopping vegetables and making sure the pans are clean, and the other person mixing and stirring.

However, for pizza, all of these rules go right out of the window. Pizza, in our kitchen, is a collaborative art. It is an event. It is a chance to eat more pepperoni while creating the pizza than actually ends up on the pizza, most of the time.

This time, Dan was responsible for picking our overall topping theme, and we think that we came up with a thing of beauty that needs to be shared. Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie.

I’ll just let you take in the majesty of that name for a second. Here we go.

2013-08-01 194

First, we start with the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World from everybody likes sandwiches, the only pizza dough that you ever really need to know how to make ever again. There’s no need for tons of rising time or pre-planning. You get the idea to make pizza, and with this dough, you can have it in about 40 minutes, with the perfect chewiness on top and cornmeal crispiness on the bottom. Right on. Jeannette’s a genius.

We doctored up the crust just a tiny bit with some oregano and basil sprinkled in there, just for some added flavor. Brush on some olive oil and cover it up with some tomato sauce.

2013-08-01 199

Now, put mozzarella on that pizza, if you’re into that sort of thing. Dan doesn’t like cheese (crazy, I know), so this went only on my side. Feel free to make fun of him in the comments and tell him how awesome cheese is. I certainly do.

2013-08-01 203

Then comes the really good stuff. Thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions, sweet orange bell pepper, delicious fresh pineapple, and some maple-cured breakfast sausage links. Yep. Maple breakfast sausage. I know it sounds weird, but it was a revelation. The maple flavor just adds to the sweetness, and the acidity of the pineapple and tomato sauce cuts through with a delicious tangy finish.

2013-08-01 207

Dan added a bit of finely diced jalapeno to his side, but he is much, much more adventurous than me in terms of the spicy stuff.

2013-08-01 208

2013-08-01 211

Now, I know people might be thinking that this is sacrilegious, that a Hawaiian pizza is strictly ham and pineapple, but we’ve got a special ingredient that makes this undeniably Hawaiian, at least in the origin of its ingredients.

2013-08-01 215

Black lava sea salt is some seriously delicious stuff. We sprinkled some on top after the toppings were done, and every time you encounter one of those little black crystals, the saltiness cut through, making the sweetness even more apparent, similar to the effect of salted caramel or hot chocolate. This particular salt has a certain something to it, as well, that’s difficult to place in the flavor department. We rarely put salt on anything, but the black lava sea salt has a savoriness to it (would you call that umami?) that regular table salt or sea salt just doesn’t have. It’s salty, yes, but serves more to enhance flavor than cover it up. It’s great stuff. Plus, you can get your own right here, no trip to Boulder required.

2013-08-01 217

The sprinkling of black lava salt was accompanied by some pepper as well, and some dried rosemary on my side, from our long-dead, but still fondly remembered, awesome rosemary bush, a casualty of last year’s Hurricane Isaac. It still lives on in my heart, though, and in several small spice jars.

2013-08-01 218

Ready for the oven.

2013-08-01 224

And done! The miracles of the internet.

2013-08-01 227

And it was delicious. We had a moment where we both looked at each other and nodded acknowledgement of this fantastic creation, even pausing Pitch Perfect for a second to tell each other how good we thought it was. Dan’s not usually into stuff that’s too sweet, but he was so into this that he ate his entire half of the pizza that night.

2013-08-01 229

I showed remarkable restraint in leaving myself a piece for another day’s lunch. A rare moment.

Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

for the Crust: go here and follow the recipe for the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World, adding 2-3 healthy shakes of dried oregano and basil (approx. 1/2 -1 tsp) instead of the dried rosemary in at the end, then feel awesome about yourself for making such freaking great pizza crust.

Toppings:
olive oil (for brushing the crust)
approximately 1/2 – 1 cup of tomato sauce (we went with Prego’s Chunky Garden sauce because it has big chunks of sweet tomato)
1/2 – 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese (depending on who’s eating cheese and who is crazily not eating cheese)
1/2 sweet yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, thinly sliced
medium sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
4 maple breakfast sausage links, sliced into small coins (we like Pederson’s Natural Farms from Whole Foods)
approximately 8 oz. of fresh cubed pineapple, thinly sliced
jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (completely optional)
black lava sea salt, pepper, and dried rosemary to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your awesome pizza dough.

After pressing your prepared pizza dough into your pan, brush lightly with olive oil. Spread tomato sauce evenly over crust, and then add toppings all over the place. Add spices to taste. What great directions I am giving you.

Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until sausage is browned and a bit crispy on the edges, cheese is bubbly, and crust is golden brown.

2013-08-01 228

Slice it up and eat it, but try not to burn your mouth from jumping in too fast. Try not to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome.