thursday things

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I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away!  I’ve been preparing my body by starting my Thanksgiving eating early.  I have to make sure I don’t wuss out and get full halfway through my meal.  If you’re still lost, don’t worry!  Take a peek at my Thanksgiving Survival Kit (with additions from our lovely Shannon at A Periodic Table), last year’s Thanksgiving recipe roundup, oh, and even stuff to do with the leftovers.

Still not ready? Food52 has 5 links to read before cooking your turkey and Serious Eats has their very own comprehensive Thanksgiving Survival Guide.

By now, we’ve all seen Martha Stewart’s in the media again. After she shamelessly bashed bloggers just one short month ago, couldn’t help but enjoy this response from Adam Roberts on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/amateurgourmet/status/402482382151757824

You can see her own tweet here, if you so please.

On a semi-related note… I’ve had Twitter for a while, but have just recently started actually paying attention to it and the fact that it exists.  So, if you’re on twitter, feel free to say “hi” or whatever.  We could be real life Twitter friends!  Isn’t that exciting?

Almost as exciting as being a cupcake.  (Tips:  Click the top-left of the video for volume.  Click anywhere else on the video to give the poor girls legs a rest.)

In a related note, I’m feeling like I might be a cupcake for Halloween next year. I wasn’t quite sure how I would pull it off this year but if I start early enough I might be able to make it happen.

Our good friend tried to warn us the other day about looking for owl things on Etsy.  It was super hilarious because it came just mere moments after I stumbled onto this beautiful masterpiece.

Unfortunately, she was just moments too late, because I already saw this.

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And am already in love.  For the low price of $9.99 it could be yours! Just think of the possibilities!

In cookie news, this amazing video goes in-depth into the magic behind making cookies.  It’s pretty freaking amazing.  WE ARE MAD SCIENTISTS!

We’re also saving lives by murdering tons of salmonella germs to save our loved ones… To review, we are amazing salmonella-murdering mad scientists.

In other news, San Francisco made a little boy’s dreams come true… I’m sure you’ve all heard of Batkid by now, but if you haven’t, you have to check out his amazing story.

On a semi-related note, if you’re at all interested in ruining your own childhood, check out the real stories behind some of the most popular Disney movies … Just remember, you’ve been warned.

If you’ve not seen the new Volvo ad featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme’s epic split, you’re not missing THAT much (aside from a pretty spectacular trick from someone who I wasn’t even sure was still around).  But it will help you to understand Channing Tatum’s spoof of it.

You can read the story and see them both here.

Lastly, otters.

Because… otters!

otter jump

 

 

natalie’s thanksgiving survival kit

You have just over a week to prep, and you may have your menu planned, you’ve probably counted your dishes and re-counted your silverware… but do you have all the tools you need?

Here’s my list of Thanksgiving necessities… and tips on how to use them all year round (AKA:  How to justify buying them for yourself right before the holidays). :)

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 one around $75, 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 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.  A reliable thermometer.

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.  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 turkey and 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! 

6.  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. 

7.  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.

8.  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.

Now it’s your turn!  What are your Thanksgiving tips and/or your favorite Thanksgiving tools?

triple chocolate pumpkin pie

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It’s Sunday.  2013.  New year, new day, new week.  New pie?

Yeah, that sounds right.

I made this particular pie as an accompaniment to our regular pumpkin pie that I made for Thanksgiving.  I wanted to try something new, but didn’t want to start some sort of Thanksgiving mutiny all over a pie, so I figured if I made TWO pies, then I could also make this one.

I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing, “chocolate pumpkin pie??? weeeeird.”  I know.

But at the same time, it seems like it should work, my logic was basically something along the lines of, “Chocolate?  Good.  Pumpkin?  Good.  Chocolate + Pumpkin?  Double good?”

My first bite was like “woah, definitely tastes like chocolate”… like super chocolatey.

Then the second bite, “definitely tastes like pumpkin”… as the subtle pumpkin flavor came in for back-up.

“… but it tastes good” … Bite three, “It tastes really good”

Particularly with a touch of cinnamon whipped cream.

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Now I realize fall is long gone, but that doesn’t mean my extreme love of pumpkin just packs its bags and goes to Florida for the winter.

Nope.  My love of pumpkin persists all year long.  So why couldn’t you make a pumpkin pie in January, or February, or even August?

I hope you can tell from the picture that this pie is amazingly creamy.  The chocolate layer on the bottom protects the crust from getting soggy, providing a nice crunch to contrast with the smooth, creamy filling.

This pie has not one but three kinds of chocolate.  Semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate.  I had to lighten it a little bit for the BF since he’s not a fan of dark chocolate.  I basically just replaced a portion of the chocolate at each step with milk chocolate.

I know a lot of you have some New Years resolutions to follow, but pumpkin is practically a health food, dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, and I’m sure your New Years diet doesn’t start until tomorrow, anyway…. Right?

Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 16 crackers)
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Ground cloves
  • 1 ounce milk chocolate, melted

Make the crust

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in bowl.
Firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of a deep, 9 1/2-inch pie dish. Bake until firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Remove from oven, and sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over bottom of crust. Return to oven to melt chocolate, about 1 minute.
Spread chocolate in a thin layer on bottom and up sides. Let cool on a wire rack.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Make the filling

3. In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt semisweet chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth.
Remove from heat.

4. Mix pumpkin, milk, brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a pinch of cloves in a medium bowl.
Whisk 1/3 pumpkin mixture into chocolate mixture. Whisk in remaining pumpkin mixture until completely incorporated.

5. Transfer pie dish to a rimmed baking sheet, and pour pumpkin mixture into crust.
Bake until center is set but still a bit wobbly, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pie dish on a wire rack.
Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours (preferably overnight). Before serving, drizzle melted milk chocolate on top.

Thursday Things – HAPPY THANKSGIVING! – and what to do with your leftovers

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Today’s Thursday Things will be exactly what you’re looking for – How to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers.  After you emerge from your food coma, rub your eyes and say hello to Friday (or late Thursday night)… … Continue reading 

the creamiest pumpkin pie in the world

Confession time.

I don’t own a pie pan.  Not a single one.  I’ve contemplated buying one on many occasions, but then I always get hung up.  Do I want glass?  Seems like the right choice, it would give me a window to the pie crust to make sure it browns correctly.  But ceramic is so much prettier, but usually significantly more expensive.  Which leads us to metal, which is an affordable option, and a great heat conductor, but certainly not the prettiest option.  And if it’s not going to look pretty, why do I need to buy a new one anyway?

Round and round I go in my head until I give up and end up in the baking aisle at the grocery store buying another foil pie tin.

Embarrassing.  Right?  A baker without pie plates.  I should be ashamed.

But I’m not.

Luckily I don’t make pies often, I even found a completely pie-free pumpkiny dessert to bring along to Thanksgiving, ensuring I could go an entire year without touching a pie plate if I so chose.  ”Oh, did you say pie? I could have sworn you said to bring pumpkin cake!”

So, after years and years of being pumpkin pie-free, I had to give in.  It is, after all, BF’s favorite pie.  It seemed only right..

This pie is a far cry from the one you get from that can of “pumpkin pie filling” that you pick up at the store.  With a sweet, pumpkiny custard nestled in a tender, flaky crust.  Created and perfected by the geniuses over at Cooks Illustrated, this recipe has a “secret” ingredient (sweet potatoes) that somehow (I can only assume with magic) gives a pie with a more complex, even more pumpkiny flavor.

I was actually not even going to make this pie.  I was going to make a completely different pie, but BFF demanded recommended that I make this one.  Specifically.

So, prepare yourself for the smoothest, creamiest pumpkin pie your tastebuds have ever had the pleasure of encountering.  It’s like a creamy, Thanksgiving hug for your mouth… and your tummy.

Despite being “perfected” in the Cook’s Illustrated test kitchens, I provided a few modifications.  First, I would recommend a medium-mesh sieve, as I think my “fine-mesh” was a bit too fine (granted it’s “double mesh”), causing my to arm cramp up while I desperately tried to press the mixture through.

Also, I assume due to my tiny foil pie plate, only half of the filling fit into the pie crust, which means that TECHNICALLY you could get two pumpkin pies out of this recipe, or you could use a deep dish pie plate for a nice custardy pumpkin pie.  I took a “two is better than one” stance on the issue and decided it meant I had one pie for me and one pie for the family (that wasn’t already cut into pieces for photographs and taste tested for quality assurance).  Lucky them, right?  :)

Oh, and a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream never hurt anyone.  Not anyone that I’ve ever met at least…

Cook’s Illustrated Pumpkin Pie  Cook’s Illustrated, December 2008

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • Your favorite pie crust (home-made or store-bought, I won’t tell)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (I could only find sweet potatoes, I know technically they’re different)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1  teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

While oven is preheating, roll pie dough to 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick and press into pie plate, crimping the edge when finished.  Refrigerate 15 minutes or until firm.

Now you are going to “blind bake” your pie crust.  To do this, you will want to prick holes in the bottom with a fork, then line the inside of the crust with foil.  Fill the foil with pie weights of your choice (I used coins, because I don’t own real pie weights.  That would just be silly since I don’t even own a pie plate!  If you feel silly filling your pie with pennies, you can use pie weights or uncooked beans or rice).  Bake crust on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights, rotate plate and bake 5 to 10 more minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.  Remove plate and baking sheet from oven.

While pie shell is baking, whisk half and half, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes.  Continue to simmer, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’re not satisfied with your mashing abilities (as I was not) feel free to puree your pumpkin mixture with a blender stick.  I don’t care if it’s cheating, I still couldn’t smoosh it through my stupid sieve, so good luck if you’re relying on your “mashing” abilities.

I know this recipe has been “perfected”, but I don’t ever stir anything with raw eggs directly into something hot.  So I first whisked a cup or so of the heated pumpkin into the egg/cream mixture, and then poured all of that back into the pumpkin pan and whisked until fully incorporated.  Strain mixture through fine(OR MEDIUM)-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, using the back of a ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer.

Re-whisk mixture and transfer to your warm pre-baked pie shell.  Return pie plate (now filled with custard) still on the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges are set 20 to 35 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees.  Transfer pie to wire rack and cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.  The pie will finish cooking with resident heat, so be sure to cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.  Once cooled, you can transfer it to the refrigerator.

NOTE:  I would recommend a medium-mesh sieve, as I think my “fine-mesh” was a bit too fine, and my arm cramped up trying to press the mixture through.  Also, I assume due to my tiny foil pie plate, only half of the filling fit into the pie crust, which means that TECHNICALLY you could get two pumpkin pies out of this recipe, or you could use a deep dish pie plate for a nice custardy pumpkin pie. 

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Whip cream with cold bowl and cold beaters until it gets bubbly. Add powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and continue beating to desired consistency, voila.  (If you want to whip your cream even faster, make it with an immersion blender.  You’ll never go back to whisks again)

[ Pie recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen whose cookbook recently debuted ]