Monday, January 25, 2016

Fresh Blood Orange Cake

Hope everyone survived the Snowpocalypse! I spent my entire Saturday in the comfort of my tiny apartment kitchen, cooking up my first lasagna bolognese. As soon as the blizzard was announced, I decided that I had to spend the whole day cooking up something delicious, hearty, and comforting. I settled on making a lasagna bolognese, and after braving the storm to make a 10 AM spin class, I came home and spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. I simmered a pot of bolognese for four hours and then cooked up a rich, creamy bechamel. After baking the lasagna, we settled down at the table and enjoyed an amazing meal. The lasagna was hot and cheesy, rich and hearty, and I loved every bite. Sure, there was room for improvement, but for my first lasagna, I was really pleased with the outcome. It was the perfect way to spend this blizzardy weekend; there's just nothing like decadent comfort foods to enjoy in the dead of winter. 

Unless, of course, we're talking about citrus. There are few things better than seeing bright yellows and oranges in the middle of a sometimes depressing season, and there's nothing like enjoying fresh, zesty flavors after eating bowl after bowl of hearty stew, soup, or pasta. I always make a point to seek out as many citrus fruits as I can one January hits, especially Meyer lemons and blood oranges. These two fruits are only available for a short window of time in the winter, so it's important to use them while they're available! They may be a little tricky to find, but they're out there, I promise. This year, I actually had no trouble finding blood oranges for once. I just walked right into the fruit and vegetable market around the corner from me, and there they were!  I was there to buy something completely different, but when I saw a tiny mountain of blood oranges in front of me, I just had to buy a few. Hopefully this scenario repeats itself when it's rhubarb and sour cherry season! 

Friday, January 15, 2016


Over the holiday break, I tackled my Mount Everest: homemade croissants. I can say with full confidence that there is no recipe that has ever intimidated as much or that I’ve wanted to try more than a batch of fresh from the oven croissants. The amount of time and precision they demand, the careful laminating process, and that insane butter block you have to create…those were just the reasons at the top of my list for always pushing them aside—"I’ll try them eventually,” I always said. Well, that moment came over the holidays when I found myself alone in my apartment, ready for some kind of project or week-long task to entertain myself with. I was debating whether to settle down on the couch with a new book or new TV show (which I’m now trying to figure out how to incorporate in my regular, real-world schedule), when the idea of climbing and conquering Mt. Everest came to me. It was the perfect opportunity—I was in my own kitchen and didn’t have to contend with anyone telling me that preparing a whole batch of croissants was a delicious, yet frivolous decision; I had all the time in the world; and I was bored out of my mind. And so, I set about planning my croissant adventure. 

A few weeks prior, I received an email from Sur La Table about signing up for their two-hour croissant workshop. I actually considered signing up for one of the classes over my break, thinking it would be a good use of my time. Of course, I ended up not signing up (it must have been a combination of my forgetfulness and lack of desire to actually spend $80 on a two-hour workshop). So it was a little funny that I was fully immersing myself in baking up a batch of croissants at home, as if I had any idea what I was doing, instead of a class. I mean, I had read about the process many, many times before, so I knew exactly what I was supposed to docreate a giant block of butter, encase it in a fluffy yeasted dough, pound it out to an even layer, fold it up like a letter, and repeat two more times. I felt like I was ready. I read Thomas Keller's recipe over and over the night before I was going to start, but when it was game time, I found myself so nervous about getting every little step just right. I referred back to the recipe dozens of times, even though I knew what to do. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chocolate Walnut Breakfast Buns

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season, filled with family, friends, and lots of delicious, comforting food. I'm lucky enough to get a nice holiday break at work, so I was off for just over a week. Even though I did my fair share of Netflix binge-watching and had many "I'm gonna nap right now because I can" moments, and experienced more food comas than I'm proud of, I had a very productive week off. Last week was the first week where I had a full kitchen completely to myself, and I made sure to take advantage of it. My pantry and kitchen toolbox still aren't quite as stocked as I'd like them to be, but they're getting there, slowly but surely. It was also the first time I baked in my new apartment for the blog, so that was a new experience on its own. I'm so used to baking in my parents' kitchen and photographing in their living room, so doing it somewhere else took some getting used to. Since I only brought my "essential" props and tools, I'm still missing quite a few items that would make the process a bit more seamless. Figuring out how to work the lighting in my new space is also a challenge, especially because my sheer curtains aren't up yet!

New challenges aside, I'm pretty happy with the recipes I managed to bake last week. Each was rewarding in its own special way, and I'm excited to share them. First up, fluffy Chocolate Walnut Breakfast Buns--you're not on any kind of New Year's detox program right now!

I made some Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls a few weeks ago to satisfy a craving I had back when I was super busy getting ready to move to my apartment. They were great and totally hit the spot at the time, but the craving just came back just around Christmas. As good as those cinnamon rolls were, I couldn't shake away my need for pillowy soft yeast buns.  Fortunately, the craving came back at just the right moment. With loads of spare time at my disposal for once, I set out to create the fluffy, gooey cinnamon buns I was my brain was telling me I needed...except that as I was making them, I changed my mind. All I wanted was a chocolate breakfast bun. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

World Peace Cookies

Christmas is exactly one week, WHAT? It certainly doesn't feel like it is, but here I am, buying wrapping paper, praying my gifts ship in time, and planning Christmas Eve/Christmas Day breakfast menus worth remembering with my sister. This is my first holiday season away from home, and it's a bit strange. It used to be that I was the first to welcome Christmas into the house-- I'd put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, start (but never finish) a gingerbread house, and untangle the icicle lights to hang off the roof. My sister was always a little indifferent about getting the house ready (she was more into eating my Christmas cookies), and while my mom loves putting up Christmas decorations, she needs a push from me to get started. Essentially, all the Christmas spirit in our family came from me. I always said that if I wasn't home the house would be lacking in decorations, and of course, that's what happened this year! My mom took out a few decorations from the attic, but didn't go crazy, and instead of classic icicle lights, my parents installed a red and green strobe light of sorts that covers the entire house ( which I'll admit look kind of cool actually).

I wish I had had more time to decorate the apartment for the holidays and get crafty. I've been meaning to make some orange and clove pomanders for weeks, and I wish I had gotten a wreath (it seems silly to get one now), and I would have loved to make lots of homemade hot fudge sauce (or anything really) to jar and give away as gifts. Unfortunately though, there was just no way any of those things were happening. I barely even had a chance to do any holiday baking! The blog was way too quiet for my favorite time of the year (especially for baking), but I'm hoping I'll get to squeeze in one more Christmas recipe before next Friday. But until then, let's talk about the amazing cookies we have in front of us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chewy Molasses Ginger Chews

It's been a very quiet month on the blog. I hate that it's been this way, especially since I was so excited to announce my big comeback and get back into blogging regularly. Everything just seemed to happen at once though--coming back to blogging, searching for an apartment, actually moving in, Thanksgiving, the holidays, getting a new stove, getting sick, lots of freelance work...things have been pretty hectic around here, to say the least. Fortunately though, personal life seem to be getting back on track and quieting down, so hopefully I'll actually get to keep my promise and get back to blogging consistently (and enjoying some downtime in my new place!). One can only hope, right?

As busy as things have been lately, I did make sure to sign up for this year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It's my third year participating, and I look forward to baking and receiving cookies more and more each year. What I don't look forward to is choosing what to bake. It's silly, because that should be the part that I get most excited for, but it never works out that way. I can never ever make up my mind, so then I end up stressing more than I should over what to make.  That's the only part that's no fun at all, but once I figure it out, I love the rest!  I love figuring out how to package the cookies, getting sweet surprises in the mail, and of course, knowing that this enormous blogger event is benefitting Cookies for Kid's Cancer, a really fantastic organization that works to provide research grants to leading pediatric centers across the country who are looking to find more effective treatments for children battling cancer. It's a beautiful cause, and it's incredible to see how much the Cookie Swap grows each year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Chocolate Pistachio Loaf Cake

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I think I'm just starting to recover from my food coma, but that intense feeling of fullness was completely worth it. This year, my family celebrated the holiday with my boyfriend's family for the first time, which seemed fitting given that we moved in together literally four days before. Our families joined forces and created an amazing Thanksgiving meal with an Italian flair. We started with prosciutto and melon and caprese salad, followed by an enormous plate of the best lasagna in the world, and then all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings were served. After downing a plate piled high with turkey, stuffing, two types of cranberry sauce, two potato dishes, several types of salad, stuffed mushrooms, and an assortment of freshly baked rolls and cornbread, it was time for dessert. I went a bit overboard and ended up bringing Gluten-Free Brownies, pumpkin pie, a Simple Almond Cake, Linzer Cookies, and the prettiest Apple Pie I've ever made. Tiramisu and roasted chestnuts rounded out the meal and by the time I realized how full I was, I was in no condition to do anything except pass out on the couch...basically, I did Thanksgiving proud.

While I love Thanksgiving, I'm happy the holiday is over. One down, two more to go! The holidays are my favorite time of the year, but I'm really looking to just get back to a more normal schedule. Between getting ready for the move to Astoria, the actual move, setting up the apartment, work, and Thanksgiving, I've had an incredibly busy November. It flew by and i can't believe that I'm sharing a recipe I made in the last week of October in December. I've worked on this post in bits and pieces over the last few weeks--typing up the recipe one night, selecting photos the next, editing them a few days later, and this entire post was pretty much written on the subway ride to and from work. 

I do see an "end" to all this craziness coming soon though. The apartment is in amazing shape, and C. and I are getting used to what is now the new normal. We'd been planning on living together since we graduated from college two years ago, and even though we've spent so much time together over the last six years, being able to say that we actually live together still feels very surreal to me. I'm sure it will feel that way for a while, but it's nice that we're slowly settling into a routine and figuring out how this whole cohabitation thing works. It's been an exciting and busy time, and as much as I'm ready to just have my regular routine all figured out, I couldn't be happier about the way things are unfolding.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Favorite Apple Pie

My last post on the blog was published way back on November 7. And today I'm republishing an existing much for coming back, right? I can honestly say that I've had every intention of publishing something new but for the last few weeks, I've literally had no time to do much of anything. This entire moving out process was draining and exhausting...I mean, I went to IKEA not once, not twice, but three times last week. I love IKEA and their cinnamon buns and froyo and Swedish meatballs as much as the next guy, but three times in a week is just too much. When I wasn't at IKEA, I was packing, at Target, at Home Goods, at the Home Depot, basically anywhere and everywhere that wasn't my computer. I actually had a whole new recipe and photos that I could have published, but I didn't have spare second to even sit down and select which photos I wanted to publish, let alone edit them, type up a recipe, and write a reasonably coherent and mildly interesting blog post. And to be honest, I'm so pooped from the move that I'm still not sure I'm able to do so. I'm sure this isn't my most interesting post, but I think that all I need to get back in the game, now that I'm more or less settled into my amazing ew apartment, is a few days of rest and a whole lot of Thanksgiving in my belly. 

Since the big say is only two days away, I figured I would bring back an old recipe while I'm still recovering from moving my entire life up to my fourth floor walk up apartment. A really good, classic, no-frills apple pie is, in my opinion, the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. I personally can't stand pumpkin pie (believe me, I've really tried hard just getting to a point where I think it's ok), so I consider apple pie to be the Thanksgiving dessert to end all Thanksgiving desserts, and this version is especially delicious. 
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