Batter Licker

November 29, 2011

raspberry zinfandel sorbet

You already know I’m an ice cream girl. To clarify, when I say “ice cream,” I mean it in the broadest sense, including sorbets, frozen yogurts, semifreddos, popsicles, granitas and mostly any other soft, scoopable, meltable, spoon- or lick-worthy frozen treats.

So when it was hinted that maybe I could bring a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, in addition to my updated, real cheese-including, non-”cheese product” version of my family’s traditional cheesy broccoli dish, which I totally botched because it turned out way more mushroomy than cheesy in flavor; although I love mushrooms, so that’s not entirely a tragedy; in fact, I’m using the leftover cheesy, mushroomy sauce, which I made four times too much of, for a lasagna this week … anyway, where was I?

Oh, right! I had a dessert brainstorming breakdown.

And a totally unjustified sobbing fit. I wouldn’t normally cry over a lack of dessert ideas, but I was sick! And I had a feeling my standard, easy go-tos – toffee and fudge – were out because my mom was likely to make a surprise batch or two.

I might have settled on baked goods. But the weekend before Thanksgiving, we had Friendsgiving, and I had baked some incredible butternut squash cupcakes with maple-sage goat cheese frosting. For some reason, I didn’t feel like baking more of them for Thanksgiving – probably because I had eaten the handful of leftover cupcakes over the past few days.

They were rich. They were savory-sweet. And I was a horribly selfish person because I didn’t think any other baked good could ever top them, and yet I refused to make them for Thanksgiving. They could have been perfect for it – they were so chock full of Fall flavors that they were practically made for Thanksgiving. But in retrospect, after a day of feasting and several platefuls of stuffing, cupcakes would have been way too much.

But sorbet was juuuuuuuuust riiiight (à la Goldilocks and the Three Bears). (more…)

November 22, 2011

butternut squash cupcakes with maple-sage goat cheese frosting

My butternut squash bonanza continues! Think of this as a play on pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Except way better.

Honestly, I thought these up a year ago and never got around to making them. But they haunted me through spring and summer, and now that we’re back to peak butternut squash season, I had to make it happen.

So when last weekend’s Friendsgiving dinner got scheduled, it was a no-brainer. I knew exactly what I wanted to try.

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That’s the beauty of Friendsgiving. My friends and I officially launched the make-whatever-you-want concept last year, after decades of being told by our families that, no, we could not make butternut squash soup as an appetizer instead of Bopop’s bowl full of grapefruit tradition, and no, we could not make a cornbread, sausage and peppers stuffing instead of the rustic bread, sausage, apple and onion standard. (more…)

November 21, 2011

fizzy bubblech (bubbly orange cocktail for sick people)

Yesterday, I sneezed violently and continuously for about 6 hours straight.

I’ve struggled with pretty intense allergy attacks since childhood, so this wasn’t a big surprise. But I still can’t get used to the fact that, when these attacks happen once a month or so, the only way to get them to stop is to knock myself out with Benadryl or Nyquil – a half dose because I’m hypersensitive to medicine too.

And it still annoys me when I wake up the next morning and feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. A truck full of sickness. Severe nasal and chest congestion, post nasal drip, swollen sinuses, and some more sneezing and coughing. As though that weren’t unpleasant enough, if I don’t stay very warm, drink lots of liquids, avoid air conditioning and the outdoors, and barely move the entire next day, this 2-day allergy attack-induced cold ramps up into a 2-week flu.

Once I’m sick, I don’t usually feel like drinking fluids. I used to drink orange juice, but now more than a few sips will produce acid reflux symptoms. I know I’m supposed to drink water or decaf tea, but it’s a constant struggle to get liquid down.

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A couple years ago, I was struck with some creativity during a moment of illness and poured a packet of Super Orange Emergen-C into a glass of club soda. Maybe I had been watching You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, which features an orange soda called Fizzy Bubblech. Maybe not.

Either way, this sick person cocktail has become a sick-time staple for me. The bubbles soothe my throat and stomach, the orange flavor makes it more appealing than nasty plain water (I love water in real life; in sick life, I can’t stand it) without giving me acid reflux like OJ does, and it pumps me full of Vitamin C when I need it most. (more…)

turkey dripping pear farrotto

About four years ago, my aunt offered to pack up the Thanksgiving turkey’s carcass in a trash bag for me to haul home to San Francisco. I crinkled my nose in response. Why would I take that nasty thing with me on the 4+ hour drive home, especially when my largest pot was no more than 4 quarts?

Last year, I hosted Thanksgiving in my tiny, one-bedroom apartment and had finally acquired a sizable stock pot. Entirely different story. The next morning, I broke down the carcass a little, and shoved it into the giant pot with some water, leftover onion ends and herbs to simmer for a few hours. After straining out all the odds and ends, I froze a third of the stock in ice cube trays for smaller uses and the rest in 2-cup tupperware for soups and other bulk uses.

The most awesome part? I had stock for months. And all because I threw some turkey bones and onion end pieces into a pot on a day that I otherwise spent watching movies, enjoying a roaring fire and playing games.

Even more awesome part? After using some of the turkey drippings for Turkey Day gravy, I froze the rest in cubes and used those as “stock starters” once I ran out out actual stock. Just dissolved a few frozen drippings cubes in hot water and magical flavor resulted.

The lesson I learned was to save and freeze (in reasonably small portions) all those seemingly yucky byproducts of turkey roasting. It saved me a ton of money and prep time for several months’ worth of future meals, and cost only minimal time to preserve the drippings and stock since I froze it all almost immediately. (more…)

November 17, 2011

roasted butternut squash, caramelized onion and goat cheese tart

Hi, my name is Kristen, and I’m a butternut squashaholic. When those beautiful, light orange gourds start showing up at the market, I can’t help myself. I pile them into my shopping bag, week after week. And when Trader Joe’s offers up pre-cut squash, I stock up, knowing that makings for a quick, satisfying soup will be waiting in my fridge.

Sometimes, I just roast cubes of squash and pop them into my mouth straight out of the oven. Other times, I turn them into soup, lasagna, pizza, and gnocchi. I’ve even taken to converting my pumpkin curry to a squash curry. As if that weren’t enough, for this coming weekend’s Friendsgiving dinner, I’ll be bringing not one but two squash dishes: a poblano pepper and butternut squash soup, and butternut squash cupcakes with goat cheese frosting.

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But what I really want to share right now is a tart so good that I actually made it twice last week. The tart made its debut at girls’ night last Thursday. Although it emerged a success, I had admittedly rigged the game by serving it to two goat cheese- and caramelized onion-loving friends. (more…)

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