P.S. The faces and tongue action from this kid kill me.
P.S. The faces and tongue action from this kid kill me.
The minute Halloween was over and cobwebs taken down, blow-up turkeys and harvest decorations were put up in place. Now, Christmas is in full swing and I have yet to wipe the cranberry sauce off my face. This is not complaining, just a mere observation. I happen to lurrrrvv this transition.
The launch of Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving for my family, all out balls-to-wall style. Music in the car and on the iPod dock, movies to fall asleep to in bed, colors in our wardrobe...it's all one big Griswald freakshow that we wait the whole year for. If there really was a Whoville, my family would have the brightest house, the biggest roast beast, and hold the record for undefeated Holiday Cheermeisters.
It's a bit much for my British husband to handle (he's still recovering from the shock of Thanksgiving traditions such as ambrosia and marshmallows on top of yams) though he's a great sport nonetheless. He'll endure Bing Crosby at 7am, multiple trips up the stairs with tubs of Christmas decorations, endless shopping trips at the mall, and moving then re-moving things around the house to see how they look when his 8 1/2-month pregnant wife can't.
He'll also brave the batches and batches of holiday goodies that come one-after-another out of the oven. And begrudgingly admit that he actually enjoys that weird-tasting anise stuff cooling on the counter. How annoying.
How friggin' hilarious is this baby shower invitation? The genius behind it is my insanely talented coworker, Ryan. Check out more of his work here.
I wanted to post Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies today but had an extremely bad result with Martha's recipe over the weekend. Don't try it, and if you do, skip the cayenne. Anyway, back soon with something delicious. Hopefully.
In the few weeks since my cousin gave me this tortilla soup recipe I've made it probably three or four times. That's a monster compliment considering I make soup about five times over the course of a year, always being cabbage. Call me Charlie Bucket, I just love that purple stuff.
Every time I attempt tortilla soup I end up with a result that is too extreme on the spectrum: gourmet and expensive to a point where it tastes like something entirely different, or cheap and quick but boring shmoring. THIS recipe, though, is the one!
It still lives in the cheap and easy category but it's purrrrfect in texture, kick, and combination of goodies. It takes minutes to throw together and provides a week of leftovers (my favorite kind! Time to pull out that thermos!). If you're a Trader Joe's girl like me, you'll live and breathe by this one.
The process is so easy, it goes like this: sautée onions and chicken together, add chicken broth, add cans of stewed tomates, black beans, and corn, kick with some spice and voila. Top it with your favorites and boo-yah, it's dinnertime.
In my third trimester of pregnancy (whaa? where did the time go?!), I have been absolutely mental for spice, namely jalapenos and pepperoncinis. If it's a meal I can add either (or both) to, I'm in love. And if it isn't, well, I'm pregnant and I'm going to anyway. Heartburn doesn't scare me. (That's a lie, heartburn is a b*tch.)
I made this soup with cornbread (whose pictures, I'm afraid, came out even more pee-yellow than these, if you can believe that, and will have to be redone for a later time) for that pumpkin carving party I told y'all about. I made a double batch that about seven people slurped up while watching The Others and wielding large knives. Only safe, quality fun at my house.
What's your favorite part about pumpkin carving? Cozying up and picking one out at the patch? (Me.) Having people over, making tortilla soup and cornbread, and popping in a scary movie? (Me.) Competing to come up with the most original design and seeking total pumpkin carving domination? (Husband.) Cutting it open and gutting out the mushy insides? (Little brother.) Or lighting the candle, turning off the lights and admiring the finished product? (Most sane people.)
Or do you happen to be like my sister and look forward to the roasting of seeds? As in, a Halloween without roasted pumpkin seeds is a Halloween wasted. I was only halfway done zig-zagging the top off my pumpkin when she pushed a colander of sloppy entrails towards me and begged me to get the oven going. "Whaa? But I only just....OKAY!" I can never pass up tradition, nor genuine holiday enthusiasm such as that. My excuse for having the most boring jack-o-lantern this year is that I rushed it to have more time in the kitchen. Serving guests! Gosh. Next year I'll do the Mona Lisa.
There are a million delicious ways to season roasted pumpkin seeds, my favorite being basic butter and salt. You can also try sweet, spicy, and gourmet versions...but that's like taking popcorn and doing crazy stuff with it, and who likes those weird Christmas popcorn tins of funky flavors? Okay, well you're on your own then.
Even my British husband, the man who has experienced Halloween all of five times, liked the salty crunch of these nuts. (Awkward phrasing? Maybe.) And that was after witnessing the process of obtaining them. He's squirmish, I never knew.
I've realized that when it comes to baking I have a great instinct, and when it comes to cooking...a terrriiible one. How is that possible, I ask you? I made a horrendous-with-a-capital-H vegetable puree soup last week that ended up being choked down the garbage disposal while the husband dramatically plugged his nose and held back gags. It's soup, gimme a break. Wait til diaper duty. Yeah I'm talkin' to you.
With cooking, I trust recipes to a fault, in addition to an innocent tendency to get spice-happy. With baking, I improvise and veto instructions left and right, taking out some salt here, adding an extra dash of vanilla or cinnamon there, amending cooking temperatures and times as I go.
I threw together this quick apple crisp for my older brother's birthday and found myself hardly looking at the recipe and taking extreme liberties with the cinnamon, lemon, and crumble topping. I'm sorry but half a teaspoon of cinnamon sprinkled over ten chopped apples will not even tickle a tastebud. And Martha, everyone knows an apple crisp is all about that crisp top! Don't hold out on us. This is not prison.
The results were satisfying and oh so deliciously fall. Hot apples, crispy oats, and fragrant cinnamon make my heart and stomach swoon...and I'm a chocolate dessert lover! Granny Smith apples (with a few fuji, too) create the perfect sour tone underneath that layer of crispy sweet. My dad—the king of apple desserts—had seconds and could possibly be heard murmuring sweet nothings into his bowl. Gold star for me.
My freshman year in college, I had the worst roommate in the history of roommates. I've never loathed or desperately wanted to get in an all-out physical brawl with someone more than this chick. And I'm a totally nice, peaceful person. I swear. We passive-aggressively tortured each other for a solid year—the hate in that dorm room was so palpable that my friends wouldn't even visit. I'm clenching my fists and squinting my eyes just thinking about it...[deep breath] oh dearie, where was I?
The one thing I remember about that psycho, that I always thought was so weird and typical! of her, was that she loved pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. At the time I thought, Who the hell likes pumpkin cookies? The antichrist, that's who. Her mom would send care packages with piles of them tucked perfectly in brand-new tupperware with a handwritten note. Then she'd slowly nibble on them, plucking at her laptop keyboard while I death-stared her from across the room.
But I have to hand it to that nutjob, she actually had one legit cool factor going for her that I never realized until now. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are the best thing that have happened to me since fried bananas and anyone with a proper tastebud in their mouth agrees. I'm still working on pumpkin pie (I know, friends, I know) but so far pumpkin spice bread, muffins, lattes, and cookies all fit nicely into my category of addiction.
Not all of us will get there, not all of us will give that bright orange substance a chance. My husband (if I had known pre-wedding...!) gagged when I gave him a force-feeding yesterday. He's slowly converting to an all-things-cozy lover so in good time, I'm sure. He's just playing hard to get.
I should warn you that these cookies are in a league of their own. More bread-like and cakey, uber moist and easily adaptable. You can change up the chips to your preference, add nuts like I did, all the good stuff.
Hot off the baking sheet, they are glorious. With iced milk or vanilla ice cream, you can't go wrong. Alongside tea or coffee, they are the supreme afternoon treat on a blustery autumn day. I've got these ready at hand for the rain that starts this week...
A week or so ago we experienced a crazy thunder and lightning storm followed by rain where I thought, Finally! Fall is here, let the festivities begin! as I've prematurely done three or four times already. And of course, I was tortured by the return of brutal heat, that I swear is here to stay. Argh.
Well, during that two day period of deliciously cozy weather (I may be part Addams, part Oregonian but who doesn't love a good storm?!), my sister showed up with a box of firewood, her sleeves rolled, ready for a craft project. We were feeling ambitious enough to try cinnamon stick-wrapped candles in addition to teacup, but by god it was the most difficult, expensive idea (five or six sticks to a $7 bottle!) we've ever had. On the contrary, the scented teacups were easy as pie and quite cheap to make. Don't even get me started on the trip to Michaels!! Love. That. Place. Stop. It.
And they were fast, since we used microwaveable wax and skipped the whole glue-gun nonsense. Who owns a glue gun?! I'm not as crafty as I thought because I definitely don't. Added to my Christmas list.
We melted the wax in just a few minutes, added a few drops of cinnamon scent, wrapped the wicks (that came primed already, you'll need to look up priming if yours aren't) around pencils and set them in the cups, and poured. Then we let them set and voila! Cute, vintage, sweet-smelling candles perfect for fall. Along with tea, spiced bread, scary movies, apples galore, seasoned firewood and pumpkins, you've got to be stocked with an assortment of candles.
I love to eat by candlelight [insert husband: "Um, I can't see my food."] or have some casually lit by the fireplace or on the coffee table on blustery nights, with a movie or puzzle going. The light is soothing, flattering, and altogether cozy cozy, which—surprise!—is my obsession year-round but especially come autumn. There are few things in life I love as much as fall.
You know what I've been wanting for years? Since my childhood days of plastic pink Barbie lunch boxes in the cafeteria? A classic, sturdy, take-anywhere, fill-with-anything thermos. Grown-up style! For that rainy hike on the mountain when you can stop, take off your mittens (not in California but this is my dream), wrap your hands around some hot cider or tea and inhale that soothing warmth. Or that freezing wintry day when, instead of leaving the office to find an over-priced sandwich two miles away, you can skip the trenchcoat and puddles, and twist off the top to some spicy butternut squash soup right at your desk. Without even a microwave or bowl.
Last year, my sister gave our dad and brothers thermoses for Christmas—a brilliant and affordable gift idea. They last for years too! But instead of waiting til December, I'm scoping one out now in time for fall. And my requirements aren't many: able to contain both food (soup) and beverages, well-insulated, good-sized and convenient. Cheap and semi-cute would be nice too but I'm looking for the 2-in-1 capability more than anything. I realize that some of these picks don't cover all my wants but they're the closest I could find. And that's where you come in...any other suggestions? A tried-and-true thermos you live by? Or am I the only person who thinks about this stuff? The perfect thermos...
1. Thermos E5 20-oz. Travel Mug, Target, $21.99
2. Zojirushi Tuff Sports Vacuum Bottle, REI, $44.95
3. Sigg Thermal - Jungle Out There, Sigg, $34.99
4. Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle, Amazon, $29.95
5. Thermos Large Capacity Food Bottle, Thermos, $26.99
6. Stanley 24-oz. Classic Vacuum Food Jar, Stanley, $29