Weekly Baking: Take One

The month of weekly baking started a bit early, since Monday was Halloween. My office decided to have some Halloween related festivities at the end of the day, including trick-or-treating to one another’s cubicles. So, instead of handing out store-bought candy, I thought it would be nice to make something since there are only about 25 employees in my office. Because one dessert just isn’t enough, I made two.

The whole purpose of this month’s attempt to bake something every weekend is because I enjoy the act of baking, but more importantly myself and my husband enjoy the fruits of my labor. It’s true that baking can be time consuming, scientific, and tedious, but it’s almost always worth it. Plus, who doesn’t like taking homemade treats to work as snacks?

I’ve been eyeing this Funfetti fudge from Little Bitty Bakes for quite some time now and finally remembered to pick up white chocolate chips at the store. I’ve had Funfetti mix and cans of condensed milk for weeks, but have somehow always managed to forget the chocolate. I know they aren’t Halloween related, and are instead much more fun and whimsical looking than scary, but I thought the idea was just so cool, and the recipe seemed easy enough. This was my first attempt at “fudge,” and considering how easy it was, I definitely need to make it more frequently.

Next up were homemade Oreos, or as Eat, Drink, and Run called them, Fauxreos. Either way, I was able to make them a little more festive by using some food coloring for the centers, and these were pretty simple to make. This recipe also gave me the opportunity to use my beloved KitchenAid stand mixer twice. My husband likes to make note that I don’t use it nearly enough (his way of trying to get more dessert from me), so this recipe let me really put it to work. I can’t believe not that long ago I used to try and make buttercream by hand. No wonder I couldn’t write for days.

These two treats weren’t particularly daunting or required much baking, so that is why I chose them both together, and as my first weekend baking project. I figured I could get more involved and creative from here. Who knows, maybe by the end of the month I’ll be making macaroons! Well, at least a girl can dream, right? I’m thinking next week might be a pie – since I just recently purchased and subsequently gave away as a birthday gift a cookbook simply called Pie. Of course before wrapping it I flipped through, and had a serious craving for chocolate pecan pie. We’ll see. I’ve got a week to decide!

This Week in Yum and a Winner!

As I mentioned last week, I’m thinking about doing a weekly post for all of those things that I ate and were noteworthy, but didn’t necessarily have a recipe for, or did, but it wasn’t my own and I really didn’t change anything.

The week was rather low-key in the kitchen. Since I spent the weekend up in Rochester, Sunday night’s dinner was quick and easy, and went unnoticed. We also didn’t have anything for dessert, which might as well be blasphemy in our household. I quickly remedied the situation for the rest of the week, though.

On Tuesday night I made a batch of Carrots ‘n Cake’s Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins, which were posted on FitSugar last week. They are perfect any time of day – breakfast, snack, dessert… and as you can imagine I’ve had one for each. I left out the nuts (simply because I didn’t have any), but they were delicious. You should make them.

The rest of the week was passable with the highlight being a re-do of these Mexican Stuffed Shells. They are one of my husband’s favorite dishes. This time, I swapped out the ground beef for beef soy crumbles, and they were still just as delicious. We had some homemade burritos, and then peirogis the other nights. We headed to Stuff Yer Face on Friday to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and I devoured my stromboli and washed it down with a Franziskaner Weissbier… yum.

Since Halloween is on Monday, the husband and I attended a party Saturday night. I of course went as my favorite baked good, a cupcake!

Sunday was an attempt at a long run (that wound up to be a failure thanks to some knee pain), and plenty of time spent in the kitchen. I whipped up a batch of The Post Punk Kitchen’s Scalloped Potatoes. Oh. my. goodness. These are absolutely delicious, easy, and even cooler, completely vegan. I’m psyched that we have leftovers! The only change I made to the recipe was instead of using eggplant bacon (Hubs isn’t a big fan of eggplant), we got tempeh (which he actually really enjoys) and I used some liquid smoke to add the “bacon” flavor.

I ended the week with some serious baking for Halloween in the office, but I’ll have to save that for another post!

So onto the winner of the Hormel limited edition chili and cheese and super cute football chip platter (I just got mine and can’t wait to use it)! Thanks to Random.org, the winner is Kat! Send me an e-mail with your address to foodosaurusrex [at] gmail [dot] com, and the goodies will be on their way!

Pie for dinner

Sometimes I wonder if I think at all before I set out to do something. If I did, though, I’d probably wind up second guessing myself and missing out on a lot of things. After a stressful weekend of moving and unpacking, you’d think I would schedule the following week’s meals to be easy and straight forward, and probably not time consuming. Yet I seem to almost always skip over the process portion of the recipes, and pick them solely based on ingredients (and a picture too, of course).

Yesterday started off bright, well rather dark, and early. The fiancé and I were up at 5:30a and out the door by 5:45a to do our first pre-work run. Now that we’re a bit closer to the office we have more time to get ready in morning, so by waking up about an hour early, we’ll be able to get in anywhere from 4-6 miles, depending on our pace. We did 4.22 at about a 9:15 pace – I wound up getting a serious case of runner’s trots about a mile in, and spent the next two miles struggling, so it was slow and steady. At the same time though, it’s also the longest run I’ve done since the dreaded injury, so I’m more than okay with it.

After work and voting, it was time to start on the first of two long and involved recipes for the week. I went with the “Not Your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie” recipe, which jumped out at me due to the Southwestern styled ingredients (pobalano peppers, cumin, etc.). I can’t remember where it was linked, but this recipe comes from Grist. Since sweet potatoes were involved, they first needed to be softened. I decided to take a short cut and microwave them instead of waiting up to an hour for them to roast in the oven. When getting ready to put all the ingredients into the crust, I came to the realization that I don’t have a rolling pin. Seriously?! I need to get one of them! It amazes me how much I’m lacking in the kitchen in terms of tools and utensils, but I still manage to make almost everything I want.

It was really good – it was completely worth the effort and time involved. Even though I’ve never made a traditional sweet potato pie, I would make this one again and again as it’s a great twist on a classic. Having left-overs is also a huge plus. I’m sure a lot of guests at a Thanksgiving dinner or brunch would be thoroughlly impressed (especially if they’re vegetarian and skipping the turkey)!

While everything was in the oven I had the opportunity to get some homework done. If we hadn’t ran in the morning, there definitely wouldn’t have been enough time for this dinner, voting, and homework. I’m going to miss the longer days come this weekend, even if it means not waking up in complete darkness. But in the end it looks like morning runs have their benefits!

Hopefully I’ll get to do some baking this weekend. I’m thinking either cupcakes or brownies with Halloween candy inside. We have an entire bowl of candy left over from Sunday since we had two trick-or-treaters. Maybe it was because I was prancing around the house like this?

Power tools aside, I highly recommend making this bad boy!

Not Your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie
– Serves 4-6 –

9-inch uncooked pie crust, rolled into a 10-inch diameter circle and refrigerated (I used pre-made)
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 to 4 medium poblano or Anaheim peppers (or substitute 1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle peppers)
4 whole shallots or 2 small white onions, quartered
1/2 cup Mexican crema, or sour cream
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
a pinch of Mexican oregano
a pinch of cumin seeds
salt and pepper
wedge of lime

1. Wash the sweet potatoes well, pat dry, and prick with a fork several times. Place on a baking pan with the shallots or onions. Drizzle the shallots or onions with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Roast at 400 degrees F until the sweet potatoes are very tender and beginning to caramelize. If the onions begin to burn before the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the baking tray and set aside.
3. Cool cooked sweet potatoes completely.
4. When cool, slip the skins off the sweet potatoes and cut into rough 2-inch chunks. (This step can be done up to several days in advance.)
5. If you have a gas stove, roast the poblano peppers over direct flame until blistered and blackened all over. Otherwise, you can broil them until they begin to blister. Place in a paper bag or wrap in foil and set aside to cool. When cool, rub most of the charred skin off the peppers, deseed them, and — with your fingers, if your peppers aren’t of the hot variety — tear the peppers into strips. Set aside.
6. When your vegetables are cool, remove your pie crust from the refrigerator. Roll out and be sure to patch any holes. Drape your circle of dough over your rolling pin and transfer to a pizza pan or baking sheet if not already on one.
7. Spread the bottom of the crust with the crema or sour cream, leaving a 2-inch border around the outside of the crust.
8. Next, spread the sweet potato chunks, the onions or shallots and the pepper strips over the crema. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, the cilantro and the green onions.
9. Fold the edge of the dough up over the top of the filling, pleating the dough as you work your way around the circle. Place the tart in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm up while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
10. Bake the tart for 45 minutes or until the crust is dark golden brown. Remove from the oven, squeeze the lime wedge over the filling and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Soup and a Kitchen Farewell

About a year ago Serious Eats reviewed an instant pumpkin soup by Maggie and Mary, so I jumped at the chance to buy it. Yes, it took me a year to do so, but I finally tried it. Being our last real night in our soon to be old apartment, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, so along side the soup we had grilled cheese. I sautéed some leftover red onion from the Spicy Quinoa we had, but that was the extent of my culinary adventure for dinner.

The soup was okay. I’m not sure if it’s because of how long it sat in my cabinet, or if it’s really just because it was powdered soup. It would probably be a whole lot better if there were some veggies thrown into it (maybe carrot, celery, even potato). But for something so quick and easy (add 4 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes) I can’t complain too much!

My co-worker and bridesmaid’s birthday is Friday (happy birthday Kierstin!), and she absolutely loves pie. So, I figured instead of doing my typical cupcake, I’d make her a pie! I went ahead and dug up an easy favorite – Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie! I made it on Pi Day this past year, and being it requires no baking and the mixing of only two ingredients, it was perfect. Hopefully she shares, so I can enjoy a sliver after we have our celebratory Thai birthday lunch!

My Coworker and I in our Best Friends Costume!

After we finished up with dinner and dessert, it was time to finally pack up the kitchen. All that’s currently left is our coffee maker (like we can move boxes without coffee!) and some perishables in the fridge. My parents have been kind enough to help us out, so they’re bringing over a cooler Saturday morning that we can put our refrigerated items in for the move. That’s the great thing about moving only 15 minutes away – we didn’t need to completely clean house in the food department. I have to say, our new kitchen is A LOT smaller, but it also has a dishwasher, which will be great for my fiancé. It’s overall a nicer place, too, so I have to take that into consideration. In the end I don’t think I’m really losing any counter space, though, which for me seems to be the most important anyway.

My next post will be from the new place, and I’m so excited to share it with you! It’ll take a few days before I’m fully settled to get cooking again, but I’ve got some really yummy recipes queued up!

Caramel Apples!

As you’re (hopefully) enjoying this post, I’m currently presenting functionality of my company’s software to some of our business partners. Imagine how thrilling time and attendance time allocation through managing and configuring cost centers can be!

For the conference that’s held the third week in October every year (this is year number three), each team member does two presentations on different things within the system. Yes, we’re a time and attendance, payroll, and HR software development company – I support the software that my fiancé makes, how cute! At the end of one of our joint presentations, my work BFF slash bridesmaid and I always play a game. This year, we decided to play a version of Jeopardy. With that we of course needed to also come up with a fun prize to give out to the winners. Last year, we gave out candy, but figured we needed to spice it up. Since the theme of the conference is always Halloween, we went with caramel apples!

While perusing the store on our lunch break, we stumbled upon a package of pre-made caramel that you literally stretch over an apple, bake for 5 minutes, let cool, and enjoy. While I first thought it might be a cop-out to not melt our own caramels and dip the apples, I also realized we needed something quick and easy for a week night. We wanted to decorate them, but couldn’t find any black and orange sprinkles, so we grabbed Halloween themed Oreos.

I have every intention of making real caramel apples, but if you’re ever in a hurry, or maybe you’re planning to make these with some yougin’s, I would highly recommend these. Hopefully, at the end of the game, our partners will recommend them based on flavor, too!

PS  – The Double Tree chain of hotels are genius. All hotels should offer warm chocolate chip cookies upon check-in!