thursday things – owl cafes, new oreos, and a super bowl round up

thursday things

In case you were wondering, I’ve decided that it’s time to move to Japan. Apparently owl cafes are a thing there and I can’t possibly resist.

I learned last week that if you hollow out a Reeses cup, Oreo filling will fit perfectly into the hole… I would personally have had BOTH fillings, but that’s just me.

Speaking of Oreos, they’ve announced their newest flavor: “Filled Cupcake” (aka: Hostess Cupcake).

And Lays has announced their newest flavor competition, with flavors like Korean BBQ and Smoked Gouda & Chive.

You may remember me rambling about the majestic and elusive Quesalupa around this time last year, but somehow I completely forgot about them when I went home for Thanksgiving and missed my chance. Lucky for me, the Quesalupa is now poising itself for nation-wide domination, so I will finally have a chance to try the heart attack in a shell after all!cucpake oreo

All three of these babies (Oreos, Quesalupa, and Lays) are scheduled for a Feb 8th release date – soon to be most-self-loathing-filled day of my life (so far).

My only saving grace may be the fact that it’s impossible for me to find new flavors of things on their release dates. Phoenix seems to be a bit ‘behind the times’ in these areas, so I may be able to spread out my self-loathing as I eat my way through February’s new items.

In the meantime, Oreo released a new “Cinnamon Bun” flavor. It’s a cinnamon cookie with a “cinnamon bun flavored creme.” While the flavor wasn’t bad, I didn’t think it tasted like a cinnamon bun. It tasted more like Dunakroos (remember those?) or Teddy Grahams than anything else. So far on Oreo flavors, S’mores and Brownie Batter are still my two faves.

I also found out that not only is Phoenix getting THREE Shake Shacks this year, but that one of them will be SO CLOSE TO MY HOUSE I COULD DIE. I’m so excited my heart could explode.

In other news, I hear that “Super Bowl” thing is happening this weekend, so in case you still need recipe inspiration, here are some ideas!

Super Bowl Recipe Round Up

2015 Christmas Gift Guide

It’s almost time for presents, and if some of you are still left in the dark as to what to get your food-loving friends, I’m here to help!

For the ice cream lover:

Collage ice cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home ($10 – $16)

Wilton Incredible Ice Cream Scoop, cuts through even the hardest ice cream (~$10)

Ice cream containers – disposable or reusable – the choice is yours!

For the occasional ice cream maker, a Cuisinart 2-qt Ice Cream Maker (~ $50)

For the hard-core ice cream maker, go for the Cuisinart ICE-100 (~$200)

For the baker:

Collage baking

The KitchenAid Stand Mixer ($200 – 300) reigns supreme. If it’s just not possible, a well-made hand mixer can stand in, though it won’t be nearly as good for breads and heavy-duty doughs.

A heavy duty rolling pin ($20) and some helpful rolling pin guides ($8)

Durable measuring cups and spoons ($10)

I love these Oxo Containers ($17) – they’re great for storing flour, sugar, and anything else you can think of! (That size holds a 5-lb bag of flour)

A trusty kitchen scale ($11) for those recipes that measure by weight instead of volume.

For the pizza-maker:

Collage pizza

I’ve gone through a lot of pizza-cooking devices and this baking steel provides the best results by far.

Or go all out for the Pizzeria Pronto propane-powered pizza machine! ($299)

A nice pizza peel ($25)

A trusty pizza cutter ($12)

For the bartender:

Collage bar

No bar is complete without a cocktail shaker – get one with style like this adorable penguin-shaped masterpiece ($20)

Step up your skills with the ultimate bar book ($12).

Never miss out on a drink with this carry-on cocktail kit ($23). It makes an especially great gift for guests who will have to fly back home after the holiday!

Try something new with Scrappys Bitters sampler kit ($24).

Always have great-tasting wine with this pocket-sized wine aerator ($30).

For the coffee-lover:

Collage coffee

We use our Nespresso ($200-300) every day and I love it just as much as I did on day one. The perfect gift for the caffeine-lover who wants their coffee in 60 seconds.

The only thing I love as much as our Nespresso is its milk frother ($99) – which does hot and cold froth (who knew that was a thing?). Upgrade your espresso into a latte, cappuccino, or macchiato with ease.

Experience coffee in a whole new way with a Chemex coffee brewer ($45 – 65).

Whatever you’re drinking, drink it in style with a gorgeous double-walled Bodum tumbler ($20).

For the avid home chef:

Collage

When I worked at Sur la Table, we used the Breville Smart Oven ($200-250) for EVERYTHING and I could not get over how consistently amazing the results were. It is by far the best toaster oven around (and can make everything from toast, to pizza, to cupcakes!)

The InstantPot ($120) is the new 7-in-1 that is taking the world by storm. It’s even on my very own Christmas List this year! It is everything from a rice cooker to a slow cooker and even a pressure cooker all in one compact little gadget!

Ranked highest by America’s Test Kitchen, this slow cooker ($70-80) heats evenly and has extra features like a countdown timer and “keep warm” feature so you don’t have to worry about your meal over-cooking!

No kitchen is complete without a sturdy dutch oven, although Le Creuset really has the market cornered you can save a bundle with this one from Lodge ($60)!

Also on my own list, the Food Lab’s guide to better home cooking ($20-30) uses science to level up your kitchen skills.

These are my favorite kitchen spatulas ($15 for 4) by far, I use them for everything and they are super affordable (and dishwasher-safe!). StarPack has a large range of other products that are above-average quality and very durable, too!

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase one of the products that I linked to, I may receive a small percentage of commission for your purchase.

Thanksgiving Round-up

The Menu

These cheddar-bacon gougeres can work double-time as an appetizer or a side.

gougeries

Let your guests enjoy some easy brie bites while they wait for the turkey to cook!

Easy-Brie-Bites-10

Try these savory garlic and thyme biscuits in place of (or in addition to) your dinner rolls!

savory-thyme-biscuits-05

What’s Thanksgiving without gravy?

WGC-Gravy-copy

Never underestimate the power of homemade cranberry sauce.

cranberry-point1

Swap out the green bean casserole for these gorgeous bacon and parmesan brussels sprouts.

brussels

Go ga-ga for corn with corn pudding this year, complete with caramelized onions.

corn pudding

Heat things up with some bacon-jalapeño stuffing.

bacon stuffing

Knock your pumpkin pie out of the park this year by topping it with toasted marshmallow topping.

Pumpkin-pie-recipe-with-toasted-marshmallow-topping-7

Or keep dessert light with this gorgeous grape frangipane crostata.

grap frang crostada

And remember to relax with some sparkling cranberry-orange sangria.

Sparkling-Cranberry-Orange-Sangria-5

 

The Equipment

1. A roasting pan.

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You don’t need an expensive roasting pan, but I’ve seen my fair share of heartache with people attempting to maneuver those flimsy aluminum pans around.  I love this All Clad roaster – it comes with a roasting rack and turkey lifters and is only about $150 on Amazon.  You can save money by skimping on the brand name, Cuisinart has a cheaper one, but I love my All Clad so much that I cried the first time I got it dirty.

  • Justification:  You can use this all year long for roasting, braising, casseroles, or lasagna.  You can even use it as a water bath the day before Thanksgiving and make a beautiful cheesecake.

2. The right oven temperature.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your oven is cooking at the proper temperature first.  Just throw an oven thermometer in and check it while you bake throughout the next couple weeks.

  • Justification: This will help you calibrate your oven (did you know you could do that) to improve ALL of your baking. ALL OF IT. ALL THE TIME.

3.  The right bird temperature.

I love my Thermapen, but we all know how you can lose valuable oven heat every time you open that darn door.  So, you could get a roasting thermometer instead. Cooking to the proper temperature is the difference between that tender turkey everyone loves or that dry stuff that gets covered in gravy.

  • Justification: Goodbye overdone steaks and dry birds – from now on everything is cooked to the perfect temperature all the time.  (Did you know that you can use it for bread and cakes too? Did you!?)

4.  Since we’re talking about gravy….

A fat separator always comes in handy.  I have a big one and I use it for stocks and sauces too – pretty much anything I make that might have a bit too much fat in it.  Just dump it in here and let it separate some of that gunk out!

  • Justification: No more oil slicks on your soups or fatty stocks.  Use this thing all year round.  Oh, you can also just use it to measure.  That works too…

5. You’ll probably want to put that gravy on some potatoes, so you’ll need one of

potato

I like this one personally, because it folds flat for easy storage. You could also keep it old school with this guy, or get fancy with a potato ricer.

  • Justification: Who doesn’t have a need for more mashed potatoes in their life? I suppose you could use it to mash other things, too, like ripe bananas or cooked apples.

6.  Carving the bird (Different than ‘Flipping the Bird’)

You really don’t need an electric carver, I promise.  With this tutorial on how to carve a turkeyand an affordable carving set, you’ll be good to go when your time comes.  Just watch a few YouTube videos to get the hang of it and impress your family with a perfectly-carved bird!  I’m almost convinced that I’m hallucinating the $20 price tag on this set, so hurry and pick one up before I wake up and find out it was actually a dream.

  • Justification: It’s a carving set.  And it’s $20.  And it’s full tang J.A. Henkel… CARVE ALL THE THINGS!

7.  Side dishes 

These make and take casserole dishes from Pyrex are perfect for taking your signature side dish to the family gathering, or just to store your leftovers in. UPDATE:  Oh my gosh and looky this – Shannon‘s suggested Corningware comes with glass AND PLASTIC covers!  For transport!

  • Justification: Work potlucks, family dinners… How many times have you wished you had more between yourself and mess than a tiny sheet of tin foil? These lids SNAP. ON. Portable. Storable. Love.

8.  Dessert

A fancy dish is a nice touch to class up any dessert, but I’ve personally never been the type to splurge on those fancy things.  I think that a clear Pyrex pie dish is the perfect balance of affordable and practical… that being said, not everyone agrees with me on stuff like this.  If you insist on a pretty pie plate, this one is just as good and way more affordable than some other options

  • Justification: I don’t justify fancy pie plates.  You don’t need one, but you probably do need a regular pie plate, because the disposable ones are too small for regular-yield pie recipes.

9.  Serving dessert

Every year I forget about the pie/cake server.  Don’t be me.  DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PIE/CAKE SERVER!

  • Justification: Mangled pies and cakes make my heart hurt.  Don’t hurt hearts.  Plus birthdays and stuff… you can use a server, I promise.

The little things:

Jeni’s Spinalong #4 – Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard with Halloween Candy

halloween ice cream - wee eats

With the extension and expansion of our Jeni’s Spinalong project we’ve gone monthly! This gives us a much better grasp of being able to have a “month-centric” theme. For me, October is a lot of things. It is colorful fall leaves, brisk cool air (well, it used to be at least). Since October in Phoenix is apparently a high of 106 today, it’s hard to get into those “cool fall flavors” so I stuck with something that can be “October-y” wherever you are in the country – HALLOWEEN!

Meanwhile, Shannon over at A Periodic Table made a super alluring PB+J Sandwich with Milk Ice Cream Terrine because she wants me to die from excitement.

I didn’t go crazy and dye my ice cream orange, and I didn’t #PSL the place up, instead I took a bunch of Halloween candy, chopped it up, and threw it into some ice cream. Because who doesn’t find themselves with a pile of extra Halloween candy at the end of October?

I was going to spin these chopped up candies into the standard sweet cream base, but I’ve already used that base so many times before that I felt like I was cheating you guys out of a real new recipe. Instead, I decided to be daring and make the base out of one of Jeni’s custards. That means separating whites from yolks. That means tempering eggs. That means… being a little bit scared because there is a little bit more room for error than with her standard egg-free bases. BUT, fear not, because if I can do it then you can certainly do it too.

Additionally, Jeni’s “Salty Vanilla Custard” recipe offered the perfect amount of salt to balance and complement all the sweetness from the Halloween candy we were throwing in. I suspect that a ribbon of salty caramel sauce would also be great here, maybe even a ribbon of fudge, too, to keep that whole salty-sweet thing going on. But the ice cream is great without them, too. I know because that’s exactly how I ate it.

Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard with Halloween Candy

Ingredients

  • 2 ¾ cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ teaspoon fleur de sel or fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 5 ounces (more or less) chopped up Halloween candy

Instructions

    Make the base:
  1. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the egg yolks and cornstarch; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir the softened cream cheese, salt, and vanilla together until relatively smooth.
  3. In a large (4 quart) saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Whisk to combine and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, boiling for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat - TAKE A DEEP BREATH BECAUSE WE'RE ABOUT TO TEMPER SOME EGGS!
  5. Slowly stream 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs by pouring it onto the side of the egg bowl and letting it stream in, whisking vigorously the entire time. Repeat this process 1/4 cup at a time until you have mixed about 2 cups of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks.
  6. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula.
  7. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and strain through a sieve into the cream cheese bowl. Whisk until smooth and combined.
  8. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice water. Let stand until cold, about 30 minutes.
  9. Once chilled, you can spin immediately or remove the bag from the ice water bath, dry it off, and throw it in the fridge until you're ready to spin your ice cream.
  10. Spin the ice cream
  11. When ready to spin the ice cream, pour the base into your ice cream maker and spin according to manufacturer's directions.
  12. While the ice cream is spinning, chop your Halloween candy to the desired size. Note that the smaller you chop it, the easier it will be to scoop (but larger chunks are more recognizable).
  13. Add the candy chunks in the last 30 seconds of spinning.
  14. Transfer the ice cream to a container (a large Ziploc storage container works here) and freeze at least 4 hours until firm.
http://wee-eats.com/2015/10/01/jenis-spinalong-4-salty-vanilla-frozen-custard-with-halloween-candy/

[ Recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts ]

 

labor day recipe round-up

Labor Day is this Monday, so I’ve scoured the internet for some tasty recipes for your Labor Day BBQ!

Start of with this delightful grilled pineapple salsa from My Name is Yeh 

pineapple+salsa-20

or some watermelon peach caprese salad from Joy the Baker

Watermelon-Peach-Caprese-Salad-6-e1433123745551

this easy homemade snack mix from Playing with Flour 

holiday snack mix (5)

or a bacon-jalapeno cheese ball from Homesick Texan

bacon-jalapeno-cheeseball_DSC2278

And continue on to some mini no-knead pizzas from I Am A Food Blog 

mini-no-knead-pizzas-3w

or healthy ginger lime turkey sliders w peanut slaw from Loves Food, Loves to Eat

turkey slider

or these super savory burrata-stuffed burgers with bacon from Foodness Gracious

burrata-burger-0611-590x393 or take it easy with these slow cooker carnitas tacos with quick pickled onions from Yours Truly which can be made ahead of time and re-heated for your party

taco 2

since it is a holiday, I think this american flag pie from A Periodic Table is definitely needed

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

or maybe this no churn mint ice cream from The Vanilla Bean Blog 

mint-cone2A

or who could resist these cookie pie bars from The Little Kitchen

peanut-butter-cookie-pie-bars-the-little-kitchen-20548

with some refreshing lavendar lemonade from east of eden

LavenderLemonade_1233

and some sweet raspberry mojitos from Crumb: A Food Blog

raspberry mojito

or take it easy with these pitcher-style margaritas for a crowd from Pinch of Yum

Margaritas-for-a-Crowd

 

Happy Labor Day!