baking · cake · comfort food · dessert · vegetarian · Yummy

Earl Grey Cake with Honey Buttercream

I haven’t moved in 7.5 years. Prior to my last apartment, I had moved every 6-18 months since turning 18 years old. But this last apartment stuck. I moved into it after spending 3 years in New York trying to “find myself,” lived there with my then fiance (my now ex-husband), started my blog there, watched my first cat suffer with cancer there, welcomed new cats into my life, reclaimed my identity after the divorce, fell into a yoga obsession, became a yoga teacher, started dating, suffered heartbreak, fell in love, welcomed a mischievous kitten into my life, and baked the whole way through it all in that tiny ass kitchen. That apartment felt like a part of my identity. It was my first true home as an adult. That being said, I was ready to move on from it. It was time. So we did it. T and I moved downtown, which is a fucking dream. I’ve always dreamed of living in the heart of the city, and now I finally have the chance.

The move itself was a goddamn nightmare, of course. I mean, it went as well as it could, but it’s a fucking huge pain in the ass to move 2 apartments in one morning. It didn’t help that we had both been at our old places for several years. Shit accumulated more than I’d realized. Fuck, we have a lot of shit. We both thought we’d have the place fully unpacked and set up within a week. We’re on day 10 and still semi living out of boxes. This adds to my stress level, which is already sky high with transitioning to a new job at work, getting all the paperwork and payment together for the farmer’s market, and being contacted by my biological dad’s sister on Ancestry. This literally all happened within the same week, which is why I couldn’t blog last week. This bitch needs some time to herself. Fuck.

I’ve literally been fantasizing about baking in the new kitchen. It’s not as tiny as the last kitchen, but it’s not gigantic. After 7+ years of cooking and baking in my old kitchen, I think I’ve earned the name Tiny Ass Kitchen regardless of where I live, but only time will tell if I decide on renaming things.

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During my last few weeks at the old place, I started a baking frenzy. I kept thinking it would be my last time baking in that kitchen. And I felt like making something fancy as fuck. Earl Grey is one of my favorite flavors. It’s really delicate, which is a sharp contrast to the dark chocolate I often prefer in my desserts. I’m not a huge fan of honey, but it works here. Lavender would also be a good addition, but plain old vanilla buttercream would also be lovely.

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I want to make this for Cortney and have it with tea and fancy dresses.

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Earl Grey Cake with Honey Buttercream (original recipe here)

For the cake

2 teaspoons loose leaf earl grey tea, separated (I used the bagged kind and just cut open the bags because I’m a lazy ass… if you are using true loose leaf tea, you’ll want to grind one of the teaspoons up a bit)

1 cup whole milk

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable oil (coconut oil also works well here, but you’ll want to melt it)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

For the honey buttercream

1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup honey

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan over low heat add the milk and one teaspoon of loose leaf tea (not ground). Let simmer for five minutes to infuse the tea into the milk, but avoid letting it come to a full boil. Allow it to cool to room temp (feel free to set it in the fridge for a bit). Strain out the tea. Set aside. In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar before adding in the eggs one at a time. Continue mixing while adding the vanilla and oil and allow the batter to become light and fluffy. I never truly know how light and fluffy these things should be, but just use your best judgement. While it is mixing, in a separate bowl you’ll want to add in your flour, baking powder, salt, and finely ground tea (or a teaspoon from a tea bag because you’re a lazy ass like me – I promise it won’t matter). The original recipe says to sift the dry ingredients together. Fuck sifting. Just don’t pack any of these things into their measuring cup/spoon, and you’ll be fine. If you want to be super accurate, you’re on the wrong food blog. This isn’t the British Baking Show. Mix the dry ingredients together before gradually adding them to the mixer while it is set to low speed. Try not to overmix. Once everything is just combined, add in the infused milk. Distribute batter into 2 greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans (it calls for 8″, but I only have 9″ – it’s fucking fine). Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for about 20 minutes before removing cakes from the pans onto a cooling rack. If you lose a chunk to the bottom of a stubborn pan, don’t panic. Take it as a sign from the snack gods that you deserve a treat! And fill the hole with frosting. Everyone wins.

Make sure the cakes are completely cool before frosting. I cut my layers in half to create 4 separate layers. It’s nice to have extra frosting in the middle, but it’s certainly not necessary.

For the honey buttercream

Add all buttercream ingredients to the mixer and whip until light and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes. Frost as desired! I kept my cake really minimal. It had a really thin layer of frosting, so you can see the cake through it in some spots. I also used some extra honey to drizzle along the edges. This is pretty initially, but doesn’t hold up well. If you want to do the honey drizzle, do it right before serving.

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Basics · comfort food · dip · easy · Party food · quick · snacks · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

Lazy Spinach Dip

The first time I ever tasted this dip was when I lived in New York. My former college roommate (and very dear friend), Pam, made it for me. At the time I was completely incapable of cooking for myself. I can’t fucking stress that enough… I was literally eating bologna sandwiches, instant ramen, and easy mac (not even the boxed stuff) on the regular. I WAS BUYING CABBAGE THAT I THOUGHT WAS LETTUCE. THIS WAS MY REALITY.

It was a dark time.

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But then Pam made me some spinach dip over drinks at her place one night, and I was floored by how easy it was to make. I remember being fucking hammered one night (she didn’t drink much, so her boo and I would drink for her), and having the last mouth full of spinach dip STILL IN MY MOUTH when I realized there was another batch and I shouted, “OH MY GOD, THERE’S MORE!” It was the truest expression of pure joy.

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Not long after that night, I decided to have another friend over to watch the Oscars (this was the one and only time I pretended to care about that shit). Trying my very best to be a real adult, I prepared snacks. This spinach dip was the star, but I would like to note that I also served cheese and crackers like a seasoned hostess. It was still BYOB though, because this bitch isn’t made of money.

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Lazy Spinach Dip (found here or on the back of all Lipton’s Vegetable Recipe Mix packaging)

10 oz frozen spinach

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 packet (1.4oz) Lipton’s vegetable recipe mix (previously known as Lipton’s Vegetable Soup Mix)

Fill a medium sauce pan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add in frozen spinach and simmer for a few minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix spinach with all other ingredients. Chill in fridge for 2ish hours. Or just eat that shit right away because you’re fucking starving and this shit is delicious.

Serve with veggies or chips. I recently started making this dip again, and T is addicted. We serve it every time anyone comes over, and also sometimes just for us. Fuck sharing.IMG_20190203_124333.jpg

 

baking · chocolate · comfort food · Cookies · dessert · easy · Party food · quick · snacks · Swedish · vegetarian · Yummy

Havreflarn – Swedish Oatmeal Crisps

After more than a year of thinking about it, I finally did an Ancestry DNA test to find out more about my heritage. I’ve always been told that I’m at least 50% German, because my great great great grandparents immigrated here from Germany. Of course, no one in my family was taking into consideration that they could have immigrated to Germany from elsewhere sometime before that. Nope. We’re German, and that’s that.

Turns out that that is all a goddamn lie. My results came back last week and I am actually predominately English and Swedish, and only 15% German. While I am immensely disappointed in my lack of Norwegian ancestry (as I felt very at home in Oslo), I have fully embraced my Swedish heritage. After frantically emailing several new family members (none of which have emailed me back – fuckers), I immediately went on the search for a traditional Swedish cookie recipe. No joke, I found this recipe on Pinterest while using an elliptical at the gym. I’m not even a little sorry. I maxed out at like 20 minutes of exercise that day, and promptly ran home to start baking. I followed the recipe to a T, and my cookies still ended up looking like this:

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So I adjusted some things for the next batch. I decreased the butter by 2 tablespoons and made the cookies a little smaller. Don’t get me wrong, the original batch was still delicious. They just weren’t quite as pretty. Also, the recipe called for an entire stick of butter and it only made 6 cookies. The bowl with the dough had a puddle of butter at the bottom after I’d finished scooping it all out. It was fucking madness.

In addition to celebrating my newfound heritage, I’m also on the lookout for anyone on my biological dad’s side of the family. Not knowing who he is has never bothered me much, but now we have all this technology, so why not use it? I’m curious as fuck about this entire family that is out there waiting to be found. It’s crazy. I am the product of artificial insemination via sperm donor, so I’ve been messaging all the people I don’t know on my DNA match list (which contains over 400 people) with things like, “Do you know of any men in your family that went to medical school in Minneapolis in the 80’s and possibly donated sperm?” I’m like that lost duck in the children’s book looking for it’s mom. Except it’s my dad, and I have the internet. So I’ll just continue to message everyone on Facebook with names from my DNA list asking, “Are you my dad?” And maybe eventually someone will know something. Or at least check their fucking messages and respond even if they don’t.

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When I researched these cookies, I found out that Swedish women used to have coffee parties back in the day. At these parties they would serve seven different types of cookies. If they served less than seven, they were considered cheap asses. If they served more than seven, then they were showing off. Honestly, you’re lucky if you get one kind of cookie at my house. Who makes seven different kinds of cookies for one party? Those guests sound like a bunch of entitled bitches.

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6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

3/4 instant oats

2 tablespoons light cream (or half and half)

Preheat oven to 375. Butter and flour 2 cookie sheets, as these WILL stick.

In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Once melted, lower heat to medium-low and add in the sugar. Stir until fully incorporated. Continue with the flour and oats, again mixing well after each ingredient with a wooden spoon. Finally add in the light cream. Continuously stir over medium-low heat while the edges bubble for just a few minutes. Pour dough into a medium sized bowl and set in the fridge for 10-20 minutes, or the freezer for 5-10 minutes (dough will still be warm, but not hot). Each cookie will be about a tablespoon of dough. Press each ball of dough down a little bit with the back of  a spoon. The dough should still be a bit warm, so this should be easy. It will encourage the cookies to spread, which helps make them thin and crispy. Because they do spread so much, make sure to leave lots of space between each cookie. Limit yourself to 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Recipe makes about 12 cookies.

OPTIONAL BUT AWESOME: Dip half of them in melted chocolate. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips that I microwaved for 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. Place dipped cookies on parchment paper to cool.

Asian food · broccoli · comfort food · corn · dinner · easy · healthy · lunch · mushrooms · pasta · Ramen · vegan · Vegetables · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

“Homemade” Vegetarian Ramen

It can be difficult to find good ramen as a vegetarian. I’m lucky to live in an urban area with access to various ramen restaurants, but 90% of what is offered is meat based. Then again, 90% of all restaurant foods are meat based. The struggle is fucking real.

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Fry those little fuckers on every single side. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

When Cortney came to visit last summer, I decided to take her to United Noodles, which is an Asian market in Minneapolis. It’s the one that T first took me to back when we were still figuring out if we were dating or not (check it out here). At the time I was completely fascinated by all the products, and ended up focusing hard on the sweets. Mochi is one of my favorite foods, but it can be hard to come by in the Midwest. This place housed a plethora of mochi options. None of which were as good as the fresh shit in Hawaii, but I digress. Despite not serving fresh mochi, it’s the best Asian market in the cities as far as I know. Since Cortney is Hawaiian, I knew it would be of interest to her. We ended up deciding to make ramen at home, which I didn’t think was possible. She had a plan, and showed me exactly what we’d need. Without her, this recipe wouldn’t exist. She knew the good miso paste to purchase, and which noodles were best (I didn’t take a pic of those – sorry!), as well as how to add the “right” toppings. Of course, we also loaded up on all the bomb-ass Asian snacks (Ube mochi to be specific, as well as Pocky sticks, and various cookies). It was a goddamn feast when we got home!

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Last week T got a hankering for ramen, so we made the trip back to United Noodles. I picked up all the ingredients to make some veggie ramen at home (even opting to omit the tofu to speed up the process – that shit can be time consuming), all while he was loading up on the prepackaged dried shit. When he said he wanted ramen, he meant instant. It still blows my mind how frequently he’s counting those as a meal without adding a single vegetable. Is anything really a meal when a vegetable isn’t included? Oh wait, this is America. Sigh. Nevermind.

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This is the good stuff. If you can find this, use it. If not, don’t panic. It’s just soup. Calm the fuck down. Any miso paste should be fine. 

If you want to simplify things, you can always leave out the tofu. If you eat meat, you can always add in meat. It’s not that fucking difficult. This is a sort of “figure it out as you go and don’t be a dumbass” type of recipe. It’s not specific amounts meticulously measured out, but rather a lot of throwing in things that you think will taste good. If it’s something you enjoy in other things, add it here. Some people think it’s weird that I like to add corn. To those people I simple say, “Fuck off, and make your own ramen.”

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“Homemade” Vegetarian Ramen

4 oz extra firm tofu

4-6 tablespoons miso paste (to taste)

4 cups water

Salt and pepper

16oz Noodles (dried or fresh are fine – can easily be found in any Asian market, or the Asian foods section of larger grocery stores), follow cooking directions on packaging

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Any or all of the following optional toppings: boiled egg, green onions, enoki mushrooms (see photo to right), bok choy, seaweed, frozen corn, bamboo shoots, any dark leafy greens, broccoli, chili oil, sriracha, etc (the sky is the limit – go nuts)

Bring water to a boil and add in miso paste. Stir and simmer until fully dissolved into water. Taste to see if you need a little more (I like mine a bit stronger). Simmer for a few minutes.

For the tofu: Place between 2 layers of paper towels and place a heavy plate/pan/book on top. Wait about 20 minutes to allow the weight of the plate to squeeze out the excess water. Cut into 1-2″ cubes. In a hot skillet (over medium to medium-high heat), drizzle enough oil to cover the surface (I like to use olive oil with a splash of sesame oil for flavor) , and evenly distribute the cubed tofu. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Fry for a few minutes on each size, trying not to move things around too much. It can get smokey depending on the type of oil you use, so be aware of that and lower the heat if needed. After a few minutes, those little fuckers should be browned on one side. That’s when you flip ’em all over. I like to brown all sides of the cube, but that’s up to you. I just love ’em extra crispy.

Place a handful of cooked noodles into a large bowl. Ladle over some of the miso broth and top with tofu and veggies of choice. Drizzle with any hot sauce or chili oil you like, and dig in!

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Anyone else have a go-to recipe that is a lot easier than it looks? Comment below!

Did you make this recipe? Post a photo and tag @kelseyskitchen23 on Instagram!

casserole · Cheese · comfort food · dinner · easy · Hot dish · lunch · potatoes · Vegetables · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

Tater Tot Hot Dish and Stolen Laundry

Last week I was trying to do 12 things at once, which included laundry. I have lived in my apartment building for 7 years (!) and have always left my laundry in the dryer (and sometimes washer when I’m forgetful) longer than is appropriate. But! I am also of the belief that if someone’s clothes are in the way, it’s totally okay to take their clothes out and put them on top of the dryer. Anyone that is opposed to that is a fucking baby. Like, why? It’s fine. If you don’t want people touching your clothes then live in a nicer building with in-unit laundry, you goddamn princess.

So I started laundry one night last week. Once it was in the dryer, I went to T’s place for the night. Again, I do this all the time. And I’m not alone! Lots of people leave their laundry down there. When I got home the next morning and went to grab my laundry, it was gone. The reusable dryer ball that I use was placed on top of the machine, but there wasn’t a single item of clothing to be found. I called T immediately, fuming. I was pacing the halls and loudly bitching to him on the phone at 6:30 in the morning. I almost started pounding on doors, but T assured me that I did not want to be “that person.” In lieu of knocking on every door, I decided to make signs for the laundry room and front doors warning the rest of the building that we had a laundry thief among us, and to call me if they knew anything. After putting those up, I was still seething with so much anger that I decided every fucking apartment door in the building needed a sign. I ripped out notebook pages and wrote notes to tape on every single fucking door.

After putting up all the signs, I went to work in old ass scrub pants (since all my good ones had been stolen). I had also texted my landlord and maintenance person to see if they could do anything about it. Turns out there is a camera in the laundry room! Nowhere else, of course, because no one is at all concerned about the homeless person that had been living in a storage unit, but I digress. There was at least a camera where I needed it in this moment.

It ended up not coming to that, though. A few hours later, I got a phone call from one of the guys that lives in the basement units. He doesn’t speak much English, but stated that he was “very sorry” and that he would “put back.” From the little bit I understood, it sounds like it was an accident. Or at least that’s what he’s claiming. I’m sorry, do my hot pink pants and lace underwear look like the clothing of a middle aged man? And why would he make sure to remove the dryer ball? I don’t trust anyone. It sure seems like that fucker was legit trying to steal my clothes. I like to think my aggressive notes all over the building made him realize he shouldn’t fuck with me.

This recipe feels ill timed, as it is the time of resolutions. That means most people have resolved to lose weight, which makes me sad. Instead of focusing on weight, let’s focus on feeding our bodies good food. Sometimes that means food with lots of cheese and tots, and sometimes it means tons of fresh veggies. Today, for me it meant something easy and comforting. It’s been a long and hectic holiday season, and it’s cold as fuck outside here in Minneapolis. That means it’s hot dish season. I didn’t grow up with tater tot hot dish, like a “normal” Minnesotan. My mom (and extended family) is from Wisconsin, so we always called this kind of thing a casserole. And we never used tater tots. The first time I ever even ate tater tot hot dish was when I made it for my roommates in New York at the age of 23. Before that the only casserole I’d had was noodle based and had tomato sauce and ground beef.

Since becoming a vegetarian I have discovered Morningstar Farm meatless crumbles work great in any recipe that calls for ground beef. The texture is pretty spot on. Plus, it made this recipe even easier, as I literally just had to dump a bunch of bags and soup into a bowl. I did not bother cooking the crumbles beforehand, as they would have plenty of time to warm up in the oven. The whole thing took maybe 5 minutes to throw together. The preheating of the oven took longer.

I have to thank Sarah for this recipe. She comes over to hang out with T and me sometimes, and almost always makes us some fucking delicious hot dish. I like to put an egg on it for our hungover asses the next morning.

Tater Tot Hot Dish

2 bags (12oz each) Morningstar Farm meatless crumbles (or 1.5 pounds of cooked ground beef)

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1 cup milk

1 bags frozen mixed veggies (I used 10oz bags and they were a mixture of peas, green beans, and corn)

1 pound frozen tater tots (you’ll have leftover)

2ish cups sharp cheddar cheese (enough to cover)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl mix together the meatless crumbles, veggies, soup, and milk (plus a little salt and pepper). Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and cover with shredded cheese. Finally, line up all those cute little tots on top. Throw it in the oven for 45-60 minutes. The tots should be crispy and delicious.

Put an egg on it for breakfast, especially when hungover. Then get your second sleep to avoid a full day of your hangover’s bullshit.

comfort food · dinner · easy · healthy · pasta · Sauces · squash · vegan · Vegetables · vegetarian · veggies · Yummy

Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta

Ya’ll know how I feel about fall, right? It’s not my jam. I just don’t give a fuck about the leaves. They end up all over the streets and sidewalks, which means I step on them, and little bits inevitably get stuck in my legwarmers. I know what you’re thinking… But, Kelsey, the colorful leaves are just so pretty. Ugh. (Insert eye-roll emoji) I really couldn’t care less.

I do, however, love love love butternut squash. I discovered it only a few years ago while making simple vegan soup, as well as some bomb ass mac and cheese. This was not a food I grew up with, as the number of veggies my mom likes could probably be counted on one hand. The one time I had any type of squash was at my high school best friend’s house, and it was covered in cinnamon, and around Thanksgiving. While I liked it in the moment, I don’t love when squash is made to be very sweet (which is also why I generally don’t like sweet potatoes, because I always think they’re going to taste like regular potatoes, and then I feel like I’ve been fucking lied to). It feels like they should all be savory, so I’m completely thrown off when they’re sweet.

Last week was Thanksgiving, which, as a foodie, is my fucking jam. I love the start of the holiday season so much. Especially because it also signifies the end of autumn, so everyone can just shut up already. T thought it’d be fun to have all 4 of our cats under one roof for the holiday weekend. He suggested it several weeks ago, but claimed ignorance when I reminded him last Sunday, full on acting like I was a goddamn nutcase for suggesting such a thing. To which I responded with, “Not my problem, man. We’re doing this. It’s already decided.” He may or may not have had a few drinks when initially thinking it was a good idea, but that’s not my fault. So we did it. I lugged over my 2 cats, along with all their shit, and all the ingredients for the full spread of food I insisted on making for Thanksgiving despite the fact that it was only the 6 of us (and 4 of us were felines). I absolutely could not be talked out of making every single side dish. I even made pumpkin shaped (sort of) dinner rolls from scratch, which was enough of a project on it’s own. Since I’m terrible at reading the recipe all the way through before starting, I accidentally ended up with 30 motherfucking dinner rolls. THIRTY. Let me remind you that there were a mere two humans to feed, and we had a full menu of vegan turkey (the only thing I didn’t make myself, and by far the least delicious thing on the table), mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, and some fucking homemade apple pie in addition to those dinner rolls (for pictures of the end product, check out my instagram – @kelseyskitchen23). We also had 3 cats and one monster of a kitten to work around in all of this (Let’s be real, Bourdain had to be put away for most of the cooking, otherwise he’d have sneaked off with all the butter).

I had no real plan or order to things when I started cooking, and I was doing it all in T’s tiny ass box of a kitchen with no windows. This also meant that I had to bring over every single ingredient, since, of course, he doesn’t have and fucking standard pantry staples outside of salt and pepper. He also had 1/3 of a bag of flour, which we had to use for the dinner rolls, gravy, and pie. We used all but maybe 3 tablespoons of that bag of flour, and I am simple NOT okay with cutting it that fucking close. When it got to be time to mix the pie filling together, I realized I had forgotten the cinnamon and nutmeg at my place. This led to a full-on melt down fueled by the fact that I was starving and hadn’t had any wine yet. I mean, what kind of fucking holiday was this? I fell into T’s arms on the couch, crying and yelling about his lack of kitchen supplies, as he reassured me that it was going to be okay. He said that we didn’t have to make pie. This sent me into a full on feeling of pure rage. Of course we’re going to make the pie – I already have a dozen apples in the fridge! And the pie crust was made last night! What the fuck am I supposed to do with it if we’re not making pie today?! WHO DOESN’T HAVE CINNAMON IN THEIR HOUSE?

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We drove back to my place to get the spices. When we got back to his place, I downed a glass (or two) of wine, and immediately felt better. We got that fucking pie into the oven, and I went to work on the side dishes.

Of course, then the pie filling dripped onto the bottom of the oven, which subsequently started billowing out smoke. I turned off the oven, and T held a giant fan above his head to blow the smoke away from the smoke detector. He had to hold it there for a long time (it wasn’t light) to clear out all the smoke.

I poured myself another glass of wine.

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I think even Bourdain was okay with the lack of butter.

This recipe is creamy and decadent without an ounce of cream or butter. I know – it blew my mind, too. When it’s the star of the recipe, I don’t often know how to handle a squash’s sweetness. This recipe goes full-on savory with onions and garlic. It really would have been at home on the Thanskgiving table last week, but I was too proud to cook something “simple.” Don’t be like me. Make this your next holiday tradition.

Anyone else have a frustrating (or fun) Thanksgiving cooking story? Leave a note in the comments.

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Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta (originally found here)

1 medium butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 3 cups)*

Olive oil

A handful of chopped fresh sage

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups veggie broth

12oz linguine (or long pasta of your choice)

Salt and pepper (always)

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat in preparation for the pasta. In a separate large pot, drizzle some olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the sage and let it fry to a crisp, stirring a couple of times. Once it’s crispy, transfer to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Set aside. Using the same pot, drizzle a touch more olive oil, and throw in the squash and onion. Let it cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss in the garlic and let it cook for another few minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until it has reduced by about half. The squash should be soft at this point.

While the squash mixture is cooking, boil the pasta until al dente (following instructions on package, or be fancy as fuck with some fresh pasta). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta liquid (don’t forget like I did!).

Take the squash mixture, and blend it in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste (be generous!). You may have to do this in batches. In a large skillet, place pasta + sauce over medium heat. Drizzle in some of the pasta water and toss until the pasta is evenly coated with sauce. Keep adding pasta water to thin it out. Mine still ended up being super thick, but that’s okay. Try not to judge yourself.

*Pro tip: Roast those squash seeds with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Then throw those little fuckers on top of the pasta for some added crunch! (Follow my recipe for pumpkin seeds)

 

 

brunch · Cheese · comfort food · dinner · easy · potatoes · sides · vegetarian

Wisconsin Style Cheesy Potatoes

Without getting too into the details of it, my grandma passed away recently. I am 33 years old, and, naturally, have never known life without her. She definitely played a bigger roll in my life when I was much younger, but, though we didn’t spend much time together as I got older, I always found comfort in knowing she was at home quilting. In her younger years, she was also cooking. As a mom of 14, and a grandmother to countless more, she used to host a giant Thanksgiving dinner (which I think was actually lunch, if I’m remembering correctly). I have very few memories of this, as she lived 4 hours away so we didn’t attend often, but I do remember the food. To this day I still don’t know if she actually cooked everything. Was it a pot luck? Did the community help? I was a mere child that did not concern herself with the logistical affairs of adults. I was just excited to EAT. (Which is the possible title of my future memoir.)

Dinner always consisted of the classic Midwestern staples, such as ambrosia salad (literally just canned fruit, cool whip, jello, marshmallows, and nuts), various “bars” (I seriously don’t know what people from other areas call these as a general term, but they’re basically variations of brownies and blondies), lots of stuffing and potatoes (we LOVE carbs more than any other area of the country), roast turkey, and probably ham. While I’m sure there were other things like sweet potatoes and green beans, I was mostly focused on cramming my plate as full of potatoes, stuffing, and desserts as possible. I was a sucker for those bars. They were so foreign to me, despite my Midwestern upbringing.

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You see, my mom hates chocolate (I know). We also weren’t a dessert family in general. Our desserts were isolated to holidays and vacations, and were absolutely never chocolate based (most of my favorite bars have a thick layer of chocolate). Vacations were a free-for-all, and I recall eating ice cream for lunch and/or refrigerated cookie dough for dinner on several vacations with my mom as a child. Holidays always consisted of pie – both apple and pumpkin. My mom would always ask if we wanted whipped or ice cream, and it wasn’t until I became an adult that I developed the boldness to ask for both. I didn’t realize that this was all semi-abnormal until I was in my early 20’s, when I realized most other families offered dessert after dinner every night. Maybe this is why I have such an affinity for baking and sweets.

My mom loves to bake cookies, as we discovered here, but never baked much of anything else. Grandma, on the other hand, apparently baked quite a bit when she was younger. I discovered several years ago that my grandma used to make cinnamon rolls regularly when my mom was a child. Mom said that the kids would often fight over who would eat the last bite of dough that wasn’t big enough to be baked with the rest of the rolls. I made cinnamon rolls once in my life, and it was about 5 years ago. The whole thing was so time consuming and full of steps that it was the last time I ever attempted it. When I mentioned how difficult they were to my grandma, she laughed and said that she made them all the time for her children because they were so easy. Now I’m wondering if maybe I could learn a little patience and perhaps try it again. If she can do it with 14 children running around, I could certainly do it with one cat and one monster of a kitten at my feet.

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But that’s a blog post for another time. This week I made cheesy potatoes. They were something my grandma made for most occasions, and a staple of the Midwestern diet. They were even served with the lunch buffet after her funeral, which then ended with a huge variety of ice cream treats (her very favorite). This isn’t her recipe, as I don’t actually have her recipe, but it was found in the Waunakee, Wisconsin cookbook that I was given for my wedding many years ago, so I figured it was close enough. These are simple, hearty, and creamy – a true comfort food that will stick to your ribs and keep you warm during a cold winter. This week was the perfect week to make them, as it has been unseasonably cold here in Minneapolis, sometimes only making it up to 25 degrees during the day. I’m enjoying the leftovers more than anything, since they are excellent at all times of the day. I’ve been eating them with my eggs for breakfast a lot. Because of my association with cheesy potatoes, they make every meal feel like a special occasion.

We all remember and honor loved ones in different ways. For me, it’s food. Do any of you have recipes that help you feel close to your grandma? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

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6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 small onion, diced

1 can cream of mushroom soup (the recipe called for cream of chicken)

2 cups milk

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 stick butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add diced onion and saute until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 2-4 minutes. Pour into a 9×13 glass baking dish, or whatever you have. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the top browns slightly. Serve with anything you like – eggs, meat, veggies. Or maybe just eat a bowl of this and call it a meal. You do you.

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Bourdain discovered his love of butter this week.

 

*Cheers to you, Grandma. There’s not a single swear in this whole post.*