Sunday, October 13, 2013

Apple Crisp with Pumpkin Butter


I'm coming out of retirement to share this amazing apple crisp recipe.

Okay, maybe "retirement" isn't the right word. I've just been really lazy about posting, for the whole summer, and most of fall. But "retirement" sounds better, amiright, Jay-Z?

Disclaimer: Jay Z doesn't read my blog. 

Anyway. We went apple picking yesterday, and I wanted to make an apple crisp since my boys picked around 293864 apples. My usual recipe is a mashup of my mom's easy-peasy recipe and Betty Crocker's recipe. And every other apple crisp recipe, I guess, because there's not much to apple crisp. But when I went into the cabinet for some brown sugar, I found a jar of pumpkin butter we bought at Pepper Palace a few months ago, and I thought, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh." Which is my default opinion on anything pumpkin-related. I played it safe a little and only replaced half the butter, but OMG. OMGAAAAAAHHHHH.

You'll need:

  • 5-6 big apples (like, the end-of-season monsters)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 (heaping) tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Peel and chop the apples.

2. Put the apples in a large ziploc bag with the flour, white sugar, and cinnamon. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

3. Melt half a stick (1/4 cup) of butter in the microwave. Stir in the brown sugar, pumpkin butter, and vanilla.

4. Dump the ziploc mixture into a greased baking dish. Pour the buttery mixture over it.

5. Bake (covered) at 350 degree for around 40 minutes.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why I Like Traveling with Kids

I've spent the past few days researching toddler-friendly vacation destinations, which means I've spent the past few days reading countless suggestions on message boards that perhaps we should just stay home, or very close to it. 

The standard argument, in a nutshell, is that vacations aren't as important as everyday togetherness for keeping your family unit strong. (Duh.) And since kids seem to like the mundane stuff best anyway -- the playground, the hotel vending machine, the rental car -- why bother going anywhere?

I'm sorry, but where's the logic in that? That's like saying, "Birthday cake isn't as important to your health as eating a balanced diet the rest of the year. And sometimes you bake a birthday cake and your kids only eat the icing! Don't waste your time!" 

Danger, at 7 months old, failing to fully appreciate Bermuda's rich history.
P.S. He's the one in the stroller. The tall one is my husband.

And just because you can find something at home, is that a reason to avoid it overseas? I mean, I can sit in the bathtub with a margarita, so why bother going to Mexico? My neighbors have some fish, so why visit the Great Barrier Reef?

I mean, what kind of unrealistic expectations do people have for vacations? I imagine these parents taking their kids to Holland to learn about the progressive use of wind power, and then getting bummed out when their kids only care that the Dutch put ice cream on their pancakes. (The Dutch are geniuses.) 

The thing is, even the mundane stuff is more fun when you're away. I liked grocery shopping at the IGA in Montreal as much as I liked visiting the Notre-Dame. My kids loved "riding in the red car" at Disney World -- um, that would be our rental Prius.

I'm not saying we're the most worldly family ever, but if the opportunity to go to Europe came up tomorrow, I'm not going to say no just because I might have to pass some time in the cultural wasteland of a Parisian playground, eating my weight in beignets while my kids go down the slide for the 10297309th time. That actually sounds amazing.

Vacationing with kids is different, but in some ways, I actually think it's better. Here's why:

1. Kids can pinpoint the true awesomeness of a city in three seconds flat. Whether it's the playground, the street food, or a nice guy on the bus, kids have sonar for fun. They get the "authentic experiences" that travelers wax intellectual about because kids aren't trying to impress anyone(Where are the locals hanging out? Probably the playground.)

2. Kids give you a permission to be a tourist. It's hard to blend when you're lugging around a three-day zombie disaster supply kit in your diaper bag and your traveling companion has eschewed a "basic black" wardrobe in favor of wearing Angry Birds pajamas all day. But here's a secret: Remember that time before you had kids? When you dressed like a local and memorized useful phrases like "Waar zijn de dichtstbijzijnde pannenkoeken?" You probably weren't fooling anyone then, either.

3. Kids are the great equalizer. Nothing bonds you to your fellow travelers faster than being the other parent using a national monument as a time-out seat.

4. Kids see things like kids. When I was a kid, I thought the countries in EPCOT were the actual countries. My husband still gets nostalgic about his vacations at a rainy campground in New Jersey. I don't think that Monte Carlo would blow my kids' minds any more than the Hot Wheels aisle at Target already does. Yes, kids are easy to please -- but is that really a problem? Is it so bad to go on vacation with someone who thinks that any hotel with an ice machine is a five-star resort and any restaurant with free crayons deserves a Michelin star? Or would you rather travel with someone who thinks the Louvre was too underwhelming, Disney too manufactured, or the Grand Canyon too dusty? (Yep, that was an actual complaint on Tripadvisor.) I'll waste time traveling with my kids any day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

RECIPE: Dry Rub Pulled Pork in the Crockpot

Okay, I know. I've been really bad at updating lately. I have two "day jobs" and, as a result, haven't been wildly adventurous in the kitchen. By which I mean I've been eating stuff that would make a frat boy judge me. (Example: Crush nachos, dump in a jar of salsa, et voila! Tortilla soup! ...why don't I weigh 300 pounds?)

Anyway. My cousin texted me a recipe for pulled pork the other day that sounded ridiculously awesome. But her recipe called for beer, and we only had one bottle in the fridge, and it was some chichi froufrou beer that my husband didn't want me to dump over a slab of meat. Whatevs. So I decided to make up my own recipe.

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

I actually slacked on preparing this (big effing surprise) so I didn't have time to properly marinate it. A good substitute for an overnight marinade is to dump the ingredients in a big Ziploc bag and give it an aggressive deep-tissue massage. This will help some of the juiciness get in there.

My bag was leaky (stupid generic zipper bags!) so I had to banish it to the sink while I worked. 

  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning

Put the slab of pork (marinade included) in the slow cooker, fat side up, and rub, rub...all over the pork. I find this part of the process inexplicably fun. Maybe because it hides the gross sliminess of raw pork. 

Then cook on low for 6-8 hours, shred it up, and mix a little bit of barbecue sauce (I heart Dinosaur BBQ's Wango Tango) with it -- about one tablespoon of sauce for every cup of shredded pork. 


Friday, October 19, 2012

RECIPE: Perfect Peppermint Cookies

So, a weird thing happened this week. My husband's company is having a holiday party today, and one of his coworkers asked, "Will your wife be baking?" -- like, in a hopeful manner. I have a reputation as a good baker somewhere! I'm awesome!

Out of sheer gratitude, I made two batches of my peppermint sugar cookies. These cookies have become my calling card at Christmas time -- they're like sweet little buttons of deliciousness. I can't take too much credit -- the key is my Nanny's sugar cookie recipe, which isn't sickeningly sweet or overly buttery or too doughy. Then I add Andes peppermint chips, which are seriously one of the best inventions of the century.

You'll need:
  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Andes peppermint chips (these are melty like NOT use candy canes!)

1. Soften (but don't melt) the butter in the microwave. Times vary depending on your microwave, but in my nuclear-meltdown microwave, the magic number is 20% cook power for 2 minutes.

2. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and egg. Add in baking powder and vanilla.

3. Mix in the flour. You can slowly sift it in, or you can just dump the whole cup in and deal with the consequences. I usually choose the later method and end up antiquing myself and most of the kitchen, but I'm impatient. At this point, your "batter" should like granules of sand and you'll think, "I screwed up. This will never become a cookie." That means you did it right. (You can skip the next step if you just want sugar cookies.)

4. Add in the peppermint chips. I use about 1/4 bag for each batch.

5. Wash your hands. Then roll the cookies into 1-1/2 inch balls. Because of the sandy batter, you'll have to really smush them together like you're kneading Play-Doh.

6. Cook at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. When you take them out, the bottoms should be just barely golden, and they should fall apart when you pick them up:

7. Move them to a cooling rack and hang in there, because once they cool, they'll stay together like a normal, well-behaved cookie. Cookies always keep baking for a minute or two while they're on the cooling rack. Keep the faith. If you cook them "to perfection" in the oven, you'll wind up with crispy cookies. 

These are relatively easy and so, so good. Enjoy. I just did. For breakfast.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RECIPE (long overdue): Sweet and Spicy Leftover-Veggie Skillet

Sorry for the delay in posting...I've been in DISNEY!

Okay. So I know I technically haven't posted in eight weeks. Long story short, "Disney brain" is a real affliction and it starts very early for me.

I mean, in addition to my usual workload, I was very busy counting down, thinking about Mickey-shaped pretzels, brainwashing my boys*, buying Phineas & Ferb t-shirts, etc.

Now here we are, two months later, and I'm like, "Oh right. I have a blog."

So, as you may remember from previous eco-braggy posts, I joined a CSA this summer. (Did I mention I joined a CSA? Because I joined a CSA.) The upside of a CSA is good karma and a general sense of crunchy righteousness. The downside is having a fridge full of vegetables we're not familiar with, which have a very organic tendency to go bad after a few days, with complete and utter disregard for whether I feel like eating white eggplant this week.

So I needed to come up with a veggie skillet recipe STAT to make use of the leftover veggies. CSA pickup is on Friday, so the skillet usually becomes Wednesday's emergency-rotten-veggie dinner plan.

It's super easy. You'll need:

  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cilantro (or 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro)
  • 1/2 tsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.

Drop in your veggies.

Mix the spices in a bowl, and sprinkle them over the veggies until it looks pretty seasoned. Don't just dump the whole bowl in the skillet! It all depends on how many veggies you have sitting around -- you may not need the entire bowl of seasoning. No one wants to be crunching on chili powder!

Stir it all around until the veggie look cooked. That's usually about 7-10 minutes, but again, it'll depend on how many veggies you're trying to use up.

The combo of spices may sound weird, but trust me on this one.

Enjoy! The summer harvest is almost over {sniffle}**.

* "In 47 days we'll be eating breakfast with Gooooofyyyyyy!"
** That was both a mournful sniffle and the delightful sound of fall allergies. Leaves, would you just fall on the ground so I can breathe again!