Oh Snap.

Gingersnap, of course!

My mother has thrown down the gauntlet, and challenged me to a gingerbread house contest. The deadline is New Year’s Eve, and I’m in the process of testing out gingerbread recipes, because mine has to win. Not every recipe is cut out for a career in architecture, so I’m finding other uses for the copious amounts of gingerbread dough in my fridge.

This particular recipe, the gingerbread from Bittman’s How To Cook Everything (which, side note, is becoming my new favorite resource, even though I totally used to say I wasn’t into cookbooks), makes perfect ginger snaps. I’ve been dipping them in my morning coffee.

The Recipe: Gingersnaps, adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe featured in How To Cook Everything

Yield: 4-5 dozen
Time: 40 minutes

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp for sprinkling
1 cup mild molasses (or blackstrap for more savory gingersnaps)
1 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Do This
Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger — which, by the way, smells really awesome.

Mix the baking soda with a couple of tablespoons of warm water, and add to the butter/sugar/molasses mixture. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, and blend well. Shape the dough into a big lump, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 350, and remove your dough from the fridge. While the oven is preheating, let the dough hang out and soften for a few minutes, then roll out to your desired cookie thickness. Gingersnaps are supposed to be fairly crisp, so I like to aim for about 1/4″ or thinner. Cut out desired shapes (I was boring this time and went with round, but you can use cookie cutters if you like) and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sugar, just for fun. Bake for 8-10 minutes (until the edges of the cookies start to turn golden brown) and cool before tasting. The cooling step? Not optional. If you try to sneak a cookie before they’ve cooled off, you’ll discover that they’re so soft that they’ll break into little mushy, delicious bits.

Of note: I chose to do round cookies with this recipe because the dough didn’t want to play nice with the more intricately-shaped cookie cutters. It was alternately too hard (right out of the fridge) or too sticky (after 10 minutes) and I couldn’t get the dough to the consistency I was looking for. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles! I’ve got plenty of gingerbread recipes to try out, so expect to see an abundance of festive treats.


It’s Nablammo!

Or NaBloPoMo, but Joy and I like to mispronounce on purpose.

This means: I’ll be posting on here EVERY DAY in November. Yep, every day. For those of you who like constant updates? This is going to be your favorite month :)

To kick off November, here’s some tasty spiced cider!

Why yes, that brand of whiskey is called “Feckin” — although any feckin’ Irish will do.

Besides the apple cider and Irish whiskey, I like to spice this tasty cold-weather treat with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and vanilla. I’m terrible about measuring with recipes like this, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say 2-3 shots of whiskey, a tsp of cinnamon, half a tsp of nutmeg, 2 tsps of brown sugar, and a half a tsp of vanilla, then cider to fill the rest of the saucepan (a couple of pints). It’s pretty inexact, but I like to go by smell.

Trivia: that is, in fact, my old stove. I’m using photos from the time I made this cider at the old place because (a) we used Feckin’ whiskey instead of the boring kind I have in my kitchen now, and (b) I wanted to remind myself that I really like Joy’s new saucepans.

I simmer the spices in the whiskey first, then add in the apple cider. I’m not sure whether there’s any special benefit to this technique, but it definitely makes the kitchen smell nice!

The cider is best served hot, on a chilly day. It’s totally appropriate for unseasonably warm days, too.

My Big Fat Greek Pastitisio

Miss Roommate’s fabulous Greek grandma shared her pastitisio recipe with us. She also gave us a package of awesome Greek noodles…bonus!

For a few hours, our house totally smelled like a grandma house. In a really good way.

Carbs. Meat. Cheese. Cream sauce. If that’s not comfort food, I don’t know what is.

This is a really great recipe to make with some help from a friend. If you have Super Greek Grandma Powers (or you’re really great at handling multiple saucepans at once), it can be done by yourself, but having someone handy to find a spatula, drain the macaroni, and not laugh at you because you’re awkwardly trying to stir three things at once is pretty nice.

The Recipe:
Cream Sauce
2 3/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Do This
We made the cream sauce at the same time as the rest of the pastitisio, but I’m listing it first because “add cream sauce” is part of the main pastitisio recipe. If you’re good at multitasking, run all four burners at once!

Pour the milk into a medium-large saucepan. While it is still cold, stir in the corn starch. Turn the heat to medium-high, and heat the milk (but don’t boil it), stirring constantly. Once it starts to get hot, add the butter. It should melt fairly quickly. Keep stirring. I’m not kidding.
Beat the eggs (or…have someone else beat them, because you’re stirring the sauce) and add them in. Don’t worry about the grated parmesan for now, it gets to hang out until the rest of the dish is assembled. Still stirring? Good.

If you’re multitasking, turn the heat down to very low, and try to remember to give the cream sauce a stir throughout the process. The sauce is heating and thickening, and you want to make sure that it doesn’t burn or get lumpy.

1/2 lb long macaroni (we used Misko Macaroni Pastitsio #2)
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 3/4 lb ground beef
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 stick + 1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated parmesan
2 shakes (less than 1/4 tsp) cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs, beaten

Do This
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and, as Miss Roommate’s grandma would say, “butter the hell out of your baking pan.”
Cook the pasta as directed (boil some water, cook the noodles for 10-15 minutes) and drain off the water. Set aside in the heavily-buttered baking dish you’ll be cooking the pastitisio in.
Sauté the onions with 1 tbsp of butter and a little bit of water. While the onions are going, brown the meat in a large sauté pan. Add in the tomato paste, ketchup, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and stir in the sautéed onions. Turn the heat to low, and continue to brown the meat.
In a small saucepan, brown (but don’t burn) the 1/2 stick of butter. Pour it over the meat, along with the eggs. Stir in the grated parmesan, and transfer to the baking dish with the macaroni and half of the cream sauce. Mix well, so that noodles, meat, cheese, and sauce are evenly distributed in the pan. Pour the remaining cream sauce over top, and sprinkle with the half cup of grated parmesan that you were probably wondering about from before (it’s listed as part of the cream sauce recipe, but it really goes on top).
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Your house will smell like grandma’s house, and your tastebuds will agree that this is worth the wait.

Easy-serving tip: make the pastitisio in advance, and refrigerate/freeze it. Cold pastitisio is much easier to slice, and it reheats spectacularly. Plus, you can focus on your guests instead of juggling saucepans.

More Pretty Poms

Such a beautiful dark red. It’s all over my shirt, too. Oops.

This pom ended up flavoring some cider. We filled a tea ball with pom seeds, and let that float around in the cider while it heated up. The pomegranate flavor is noticeable but not overwhelming.

The Recipe:
Hot Apple Cider With Pomegranate

1 gallon apple cider (unflavored — the ingredient list should just say “apples)
1/4 cup Captain Morgan spiced rum
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tea ball filled with fresh pomegranate seeds (about 2 tbsp of seeds)

Do This
Pour the cider into a large stock pot, and bring to a boil. Stir in the rum and spices, and allow the tea ball filled with pomegranate seeds to float in the cider. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for at least an hour (or maybe all day). Serve warm.

It’s a really nice warm drink, and I’m a little bit bummed out that apple cider is considered a “seasonal” beverage. This is definitely a must-enjoy while it’s still cold out!

Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice

My pumpkin pie recipe is a bit heavy on the sugar and spice, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Call it a Pumpkin Spice Pie if it’s not quite orange enough for you, but try a slice before deciding that it’s not a real pumpkin pie.

The first slice of pie never comes out pretty.

The Recipe:
Pumpkin (Spice) Pie

2 cups pumpkin purée
3 eggs
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
one pie crust (pre-made, or from scratch)

Do This
Preheat your oven to 425.
Mix pumpkin, sugar, spices, and 2 of the eggs until well-blended. The pie filling should be dark brown in color. I know…this means that the pie won’t be pumpkin orange. This is mostly the brown sugar’s fault. If the filling is very liquid in consistency, don’t worry – it will solidify as it bakes, and actually come out quite fluffy.

This pumpkin-y goop will soon become delicious pie!

Place the pie crust into a pie pan. You can use a ready-made crust, or make your own.
Separate the third egg, and discard the yolk. Beat the egg white with a teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the upper edges of the pie crust with this glaze.

Action shot! Brushing the glaze onto the pie crust.

Carefully pour the pie filling into the crust. Make sure to leave room at the top for expansion – I like to leave at least half an inch.
Slide the pie into the oven. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350. Continue to bake the pie for about 45 minutes (or until a clean fork inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean). Remove from heat, and allow to cool before serving. Whipped cream is optional; I decided to enjoy the pie without any toppings.

Not the bright pumpkin orange you’re used to.

This pie makes the entire house smell festive while it bakes. It’s spicy and dark, but surprisingly fluffy. Perfect for a chilly autumn night.

What A Beautiful Mess

This pastry isn’t pretty. In fact, I’m pretty sure it borders on “reject,” but it is so simple and so delicious that I love it anyhow.

This isn’t winning any beauty contests, but it tastes excellent.

Full disclosure: I don’t know whether to call it a tart or a pastry or what, since it lost all semblance of neatness or shape when I pulled it out of the oven. Maybe I was a little bit too impatient, and should have let it cool before scooping it onto a plate. Maybe it just didn’t want to be pretty.

The Recipe:
Red Pear and Phyllo Dough Delicious Mess
2 sheets phyllo dough
medium-sized red pear
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter
dash of cinnamon

Do This
Preheat the oven to 350.
Slice the red pear to just-slightly-thicker-than-paper thickness on a mandoline. If you’re skilled enough to thin-slice the pear with a knife, do that instead (and go ahead and feel good about it because I certainly can’t!).
Place the sugar and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and nuke for about 30 seconds or until the butter is melted. Shake in just a small dash of cinnamon, and stir together until you have a well-blended, light brown sugary paste.
Stack the two sheets of phyllo dough on top of each other, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place pear slices along one of the short edges of the dough sheets, and layer them along the edge, two “rows” deep. Spoon the sugar-cinnamon-butter mixture on top, and fold the dough over like a soft taco. Or roll it…folding just makes it have a neat edge that will not matter once it falls apart!
Slide the baking sheet into the oven, and bake until the dough is golden-browned, approximately 10-15 minutes. It’s probably a good idea to let the pastry cool for a few minutes, but I’m too impatient to tell you whether that has any effect.
Using a spatula and a fork, move the still-warm pastry onto a plate, mangling it as much as you like (because how it tastes is important, not how it looks, right?).
Serve warm, whipped cream or ice cream optional.

I think I put cinnamon and sugar in this because the red pears look so much like apples, and I may have had apple streudel on the brain. It’s a combo I’m happy with, and the messy-apple-streudel look is totally the next trend in food styling. Eh? Eh?