Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weekend Pics

I know... It's Wednesday, so this is a bit belated.  But if Sandra Lee can wear a blouse made out of the same fabric as her curtains, then I can show you my weekend pictures in the middle of the week.

 Cardinals won the world series!  And no, we're not done hanging pictures yet.

 Husband ate a late-night hot dog.

 Tater and Charley made friends.  Yes, the pug is wearing a Halloween sweater, it makes him feel fancy!

Not gonna lie, I enjoy a dog in a costume.

But this is just... wrong.

 Impromptu "just because" cake and ice cream.

 Early Sunday morning.

 Morning mimosa...  In a plastic cup.  With chipped nail polish.  Keepin' it classy.

My first country music show.  Love.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fancy Pear Tart

Want to get me rousted out of bed and out the door early on a Saturday morning?  Well I have two words for you:  Amish farmers!  Like, horse and buggy, white bonnet, friendly bearded Amish people selling the fruits and veggies from their farms.  The Saturday market in Tower Grove features a few Amish farmstands, and because I have zero self control, I found myself at home that afternoon with about six pounds of pears.  

My husband and I made a deal.  I would make him a pear tart if he would make me a pear-based cocktail.  So I googled and googled, and as soon as I saw the words "butterscotch pastry cream" thrown in, I was sold.   Never mind that I had never made a tart before.  A tart is just a shallower pie, right?

With the holidays approaching, it's time to think about festive treats that solicit "ooohs" and "aaaahs" from your party hosts.  This tart fits that bill perfectly.  While it has a few different components, they can all be made ahead of time, and the tart assembles in a snap.  People are always impressed when you make your own pie crust, and this one does not disappoint. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lovely Weekend

People joke about the lack of seasons in Los Angeles , but like many Angelenos, I had no complaints about year-round sunshine and beach days. But the more time we spend in the Midwest, the more I'm becoming enamored of the red and orange leaves, the cool crisp air, and that back-to-school desire to buy some cute new boots and a big chunky sweater.  We had a beautiful weekend in St. Louis, here are some pictures.

Coffee, cornbread, and a canning cookbook.

 A red and orange tree in Tower Grove park.  The photo doesn't do these colors justice.

 A HUGE head of farmer's market cabbage.

Sunny day in a corn maze.

A view of the city, from out in the sticks.

My first real pumpkin patch!  Where the pumpkins were still growing in the ground!

This is a pumpkin cannon.  As in, it shoots pumpkins at about a bajillion miles per hour.  So fun.

Very Good Applesauce

Autumn has put me in a bit of a difficult position.  I have an undeniable weakness for these...

But it's just John and I...

Oh, and the dogs...  But they don't eat apples.  As much as they would like to.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Spice Cake Revisited

This weekend, we hosted our first house guests. John's mom and grandpa came to visit, and it was wonderful to explore the city, try new restaurants, and finally use our dining room table.

When I have guests for a weekend, I like to have a casual sweet treat for whenever the mood strikes. Nothing fancy, just a hunk of cake or some simple cookies to nibble on while we drink coffee and catch up.

Allison and I both share a love for this apple spice cake, and it's perfect for fall. But John's mom is vegan, and so am I (well... I'm trying. Parmesan cheese and I got back together for a while, and I'm trying to break it off). So the recipe needed a bit of tweaking. And I thought this might be a good thing to share with y'all, in case you ever have a house guest who has dietary restrictions. If you think you can't bake without sugar and eggs, you'd be surprised at how a few simple changes can make just about any recipe vegan-friendly.

So just to recap, vegan means no animal products. So no eggs, butter, milk, buttermilk, and for the most hardcore, no white sugar. It turns out that a lot of granulated white sugar is bleached in a process that uses cow bones. Ew. But fear not! There are some easy substitutions that won't compromise your flavor or texture.

Meet flaxseed! These little seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, and when they're whipped up with water, they take on the sticky consistency of eggs. They also have a nice nutty flavor, so they pair perfectly with this recipe. Just buzz them in a coffee grinder...

And mix with water in a blender (or use an immersion blender).

The flaxseed gets mixed in with sugar and oil. For vegans, use organic cane sugar. It's unbleached, so it doesn't use any animal products in its processing.

And in a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.

Mix the wet and dry, and then add in chopped apples and pecans.

I made the mistake of letting my cake cool in the bundt pan for too long, so it stuck quite a bit. So mine looks... rustic. But with a tasty caramel drizzle, I promise your guests won't mind.

Vegan Apple Spice Cake

Adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups organic cane sugar
3 tablespoons flaxseed, ground in a spice grinder
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water
4 Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
Nonstick cooking spray with flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Combine ground flaxseed and water in a blender, and blend until thick. Set aside.

Working over a large sheet of parchment or wax paper, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; gather sifted ingredients into center of sheet; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine vegetable oil, sugar, and flaxseed mixture; mix on high speed until well combined.

Fold reserved parchment in half lengthwise; with mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Add apples and nuts, to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 70 - 75 minutes (I started checking mine at 1 hour, but ultimately it needed about 70 minutes)

Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.

Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with caramel sauce.

Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce

1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup water, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
3 tablespoons margarine (I use Earth Balance)
3 to 4 tablespoons almond milk (another non-dairy milk is fine too)

Heat a 1 1/2 quart to 2 quart pot or large frying pan with a thick, heavy base over medium-high heat. Add sugar. Stir with a whisk or wooden spoon every 10-15 seconds, for about a minute, until sugar starts to melt. Stir, nonstop, for about 2-3 minutes.

Add vanilla. When the sugar starts to turn just a little darker, or as dark as you want it and the water is almost gone, add margarine and stir nonstop until it melts. Let boil on medium heat for 2 to3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

Add non-dairy milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to boil it about 4 minutes, stirring every 20-30 seconds.

Turn the heat off on your stove, and let the caramel cool for about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Here we are.

Have you ever suddenly found yourself sitting in a large condominium in a Midwestern city, inexplicably listening to country music, and trying to revive a blog that you've sadly neglected for many months? I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that has happened since I last posted here. This has been a weird and wonderful and packed 2011, but this website that Allison and I love so much fell through the cracks. And we are so sorry!

I feel like Al and I have both lived a lot of life in the last few months... Here's a brief update on my side of things, the back end of 2011 in review, if you will.

John got a PhD...
My peanut of a niece was born...

We got married!

This picture was taken on the wedding day. That morning, the power went out... In the entire town. Once we weathered that storm and the lights came back on, I went outside to check out the ceremony and dinner space... And I got stung by a bee. But who was right there, rubbing bee-sting salve on my foot and making me laugh? Allison!

Then we honeymooned...

And then, after a whirlwind summer of love, friends, tanning oil, presents, the ocean, and margaritas, it was time to pack our knives and go.

About three weeks before our wedding, John got offered his dream job, a post-doc at Washington University in St. Louis. It's hard to sum up my feelings about the move in a quick witty sentence. It's one of the hardest things we've ever done, and some of our final weeks in LA were really really sad. I am terrible with goodbyes, and I recall at least one drunken sobfest with my best girls.

But after being here for a couple of months, I can say with complete honesty that I'm glad we did this. St. Louis is charming the pants off me. There is brick everywhere, leaves are falling off the trees, and there is a real sense of community in our neighborhood. Our neighbor is a blonde girl with a pug. And our condo. Holy cow. We have two bathrooms. And in the kitchen, I have an island, and a stunning exposed brick wall. And best of all, we get great light, which means good food photos!And John and I have a neutral baseball team, go Cardinals!

So it's been a lot, but I feel like we're finally home. And the best thing about home is that the food tastes really good here. I'm happy to be back at B+C, and will have a lot to share with you in the coming year. Thanks for sticking around!

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Week I...

...bought way too many goodies at my neighborhood Farmer's Market...
...including about 5 pounds of cherries, that I have many delicious plans for.

...went to a work event at Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant in Napa, where the man himself was preparing and handing us our sushi, and...
...I have to admit I was a little starstruck and may have made him shake my hand later as I mumbled something about loving his food and watching him on TV all the time.
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