i’m back at it guys. i’m cracking open my grandpa’s cookbook again, and continuing to work my way through his soup recipes. if you aren’t familiar with this project of mine, here are some posts to catch you up. fair warning: due to the time of year and the deliciousness of these recipes, you will want to drop everything you’re doing and cook them. and that’s okay, i actually encourage that.
raise your hand if you are super excited for all things fall but still just a little bit sad to say goodbye to the good parts of summer. *raises hand* yea, i hear you. it makes me a little misty to think that i have to go through another long winter before we can take warm walks after dinner, and then sit on the deck under the twinkle lights with my husband and a cocktail after the baby goes to bed. winter is just.so.long.
it’s been a while since i’ve shared a cocktail recipe with you all, but that doesn’t mean that i haven’t been drinking them. no, on the contrary, with all the weddings we’ve had and the fun houseguests and dinners (not to mention those evenings on the deck with Mister Man), i’ve had more than my fair share. i’m excited to start sharing more of the fun concoctions i’ve been throwing together, and even the ones that MM makes…he’s quite the mixologist, that one.
strawberry-lemon vodka soda recipe (makes 2)
- 3/4 C. fresh strawberries (thawed frozen will work too) + more for garnish
- 2 large lemon wedges
- 4 oz. vodka (substitute lemonade for a delicious mocktail!)
- splash of grenadine
- club soda
gently muddle quartered strawberries in two low ball glasses. squeeze one lemon wedge into each glass on top of the strawberries. fill the glasses with ice, then add the vodka and the grenadine (not too much or it will be too sweet, unless you like that sort of thing, then go for it) and stir. make sure to leave a little room in the glass. top it off with club soda, garnish with a strawberry and the squeezed out lemon wedge and enjoy, preferably on a sunny deck while waving goodbye to the last of the summer heat.
note: a standard american shot glass is 1.5 oz., so use a little over one shot for every 2 oz. the recipe calls for.
okay, it’s totally misleading to call this a recipe. because let’s be honest, this is not anything revolutionary in the world of food. this is good, old, traditional, sticky fun, and most people have made caramel apples before. but i wanted to share the way i fancied mine up this year, and if it inspires you to try some of your own combos, all the better! and who couldn’t use more sweetness in their life on halloween?
remember when i told you that my basic heart was breaking because i hadn’t done a lot of fall things this year? and that i set a goal to do one festive thing last week? you’re looking at festive thing #1. fancy caramel apples. i got the idea after spending too much time on pinterest while nursing, and ended up pinning a ridiculous amount of dressed up caramel apples. it occurred to me that with a few ingredients and a tiny bit of luck with nap timing, i might actually be able to do this. the stars aligned last week, and so fancy caramel apple time it was!
i used a bag of caramel pieces, the kind that drive you crazy to unwrap (especially when you’re racing against nap time) and just followed the recipe on the bag…melt the caramel plus two tablespoons of water in a double boiler or bowl over a pot of a water until it’s smooth, then dip the apples in the caramel, place on a buttered plate and refrigerate until set!
the fancy part comes in once you’ve dipped the caramels. it’s your chance to get creative and really bring our your inner martha stewart. for my fancy apples, i decided to do a different ingredient twist on each apple. one i left as a plain caramel apple, with just a bit of sea salt added (not pictured because i ate it before i could take a photo). one i rolled in mini chocolate chips. one i rolled in heath bar pieces. then i got really crazy and made chocolate-dipped caramel apples with the last two by melting baker’s chocolate and dipping the apple once the caramel was a bit set. i rolled one of the chocolate-dipped apples in crushed pretzels and the other in a mix of heath bar and mini chocolate chips. HEAVEN.
here are some ideas of other ingredients to dip your caramel apples in:
- mini chocolate chips
- heath bar pieces
- crushed pretzels
- melted chocolate
- sea salt sprinkled over the caramel
- candy corn
- crushed walnuts
- crushed oreos
i mean, the sky’s the limit with these! i had to give a couple away, otherwise i would (and could) have eaten them all by myself before the week was over. that’s just not a good idea when i’m bound to have all the leftover halloween candy to eat after today.
now i just need to find time to watch hocus pocus tomorrow, and i’ll consider this october successful!
if you ask me what my favorite dessert is, my answer is going to depend on the time of year. in summer, give me all the ice cream. in the fall, it’s my mom’s coffee cake. winter, creme brulee, preferably at a cozy restaurant with my husband. but springtime has me craving anything with fruit. the fresher the better. even if it’s not quite in season yet, i just want all the fruity, baked goodness.
my hands-down, all-time favorite fruity baked dessert is the strawberry cream cheese pie that my mom has made since before i have memories. something about the juicy strawberries, the sweet creamy spread on the bottom, and the homemade glace holding it all together gets me every time. it reminds me of eating dinner on the porch when the weather finally gets warm enough, and of family dinners on sunday nights.
did i mention that it’s also gorgeous?
make this and serve it to people you love. they’ll be able to taste the love when they take a bite.
strawberry cream cheese pie, makes one pie, serves 8 with big slices
- pie crust
- 1 1/2 qts. fresh strawberries
- 4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature (use neufchatel cheese for a lower fat option)
- 1/2 C. powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- splash of milk (to moisten cream cheese mixture)
- 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 3/4-1 C. white sugar
- 1/2 C. water
for the pie: make your pie crust (or use a pre-made one like i mostly do, pillsbury works great!) and lay it in a 9-inch pie pan. bake according to the directions, making sure to poke the bottom with a fork before baking so it doesn’t puff up. let the pie crust cool.
mix together cream cheese, powdered sugar, almond extract and the splash of milk until smooth. the consistency should be somewhat firm and not runny, as you will be spreading this in the bottom of the pie crust. add more powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency. spread in the bottom of the crust and refrigerate until set, around a half hour.
while crust and spread are setting up, quarter the strawberries, reserving 1 C. of them aside for the glace. fill the pie crust with the strawberries. the strawberries should be slightly rounded at the middle of the pie.
for the glace: in a small saucepan, mix together the cornstarch and white sugar. mash the 1 C. of reserved strawberries with the water. mash well so there are no large chunks. add to the sugar and cornstarch. heat over medium heat until it thickens, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. boil for one minute, then remove from heat and cool for about five minutes. pour the glace over the top of the strawberries, covering well. refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
the nesting has begun with a vengeance. to the point that my husband keeps acting all surprised when he comes home to the dishes done, the laundry clean and the entire first floor vacuumed. does that mean that i wasn’t cleaning enough before now? don’t answer that.
i’m obviously chalking it up to the baby making me insane, because that’s my excuse for everything these days. forgot to send that email? pregnancy brain. dumped whole coffee beans into the ground coffee canister? pregnancy brain. fall asleep watching youtube videos in bed before Mister Man gets home from hockey? that’s just real life.
there is some good coming out of all this, besides the obvious clean house factor. i’ve been tapping into my inner laura ingalls even more than usual lately, which means making crazy decisions like not buying sliced bread at the grocery store anymore. simplifying life has become a pattern for me these last few weeks. i’ve been incredibly inspired by jenna over at eat, live, run and her preparations for her fast-approaching baby boy. but while her main projects have been freezer meals and preserves, i’m being pulled to replace some staples with scratch-made items. i’m starting with bread, and i think i might even have the husband on board for this change.
my mom sent me this recipe, so i don’t know where it came from, but it is most definitely not my own. i cant lie, it has been a bit of trial and error with the first batch. but please try it. it sounds so scary to bake your own bread, but i don’t think there is anything more satisfying than taking that loaf out of the oven, perfectly browned, and knowing you made it with four ingredients and your own two hands.
i think that bread can be temperamental, and so it’s a lot of learning and guessing and just trusting your gut when you learn how to bake it. i like to think of it as my meditation for becoming a mom. some people have mantras, i have yeast and flour and a loaf pan.
homemade sandwich bread (boule dough), makes 3-4 loaves
3 C. lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher or coarse salt
6 1/2 C. all purpose white flour (or bread flour)
warm the water, it should feel just a little warmer than body temperature (100 degrees). add the yeast and salt to the water in a 5 quart bowl, or if you have one, a resealable, lidded food container or bucket. don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.
mix in the flour, adding all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry ingredient measuring cups. mix with a wooden spoon, or your mixer fitted with the dough hook, until uniform in texture. the dough will be wet, slightly “shaggy”, and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container you’re using.
allow the dough to rise. cover with a lid that fits well to the container you’re using. don’t use a lid that is totally airtight. for example, i used my kitchen aid mixing bowl to mix the dough, and covered it with saran wrap, which was plenty. allow the mixture to rise in a warm place until it begins to collapse, or flatten on top, about 2 hours. then refrigerate the dough for up to 2 weeks. you can use a portion of the dough any time after this rising period, so you can bake it right away, but It is easier to work with, though, after it has been refrigerated for a while.
dust the top surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a cantaloupe sized piece. dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides rotating the ball a quarter at a time as you go. lightly grease a 9x4x3 inch nonstick loaf pan (if it’s not non-stick make sure you grease it well so you will be able to get the bread out of the pan).
elongate the ball into an oval and drop it into the prepared pan. you want to fill the pan slightly more than half full. the first loaf i made only filled the pan about halfway, and so the loaf wasn’t quite tall enough for sandwich bread.
allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). lightly dust with flour and slash the top of the loaf with the tip of a serrated knife. this allows the top of the loaf to puff up.
20 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with an empty broiler tray (or jelly roll pan) on the bottom shelf. the reason you do this is to heat up the oven and the tray to a nice hot temperature before putting the loaf in the oven. when ready to bake, place the loaf pan on a rack near the center of the oven. pour 1 C. of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. bake for about 35 minutes, or until brown and firm.
remove the loaf from the pan immediately and allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing or eating. enjoy with sandwiches or toast at breakfast, my favorite way so far is avocado toast…it’s the perfect combo!