October Top 5

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  1. Quincy’s Halloween costume. Enough said.
  2. Soup. A year ago, I would have refused to eat soup for dinner. But then last winter when I was interviewing all over the country, I craved soup. And I haven’t stopped since. So lately I have had tomato soup (& grilled cheese), gumbo, split pea soup, wonton soup, and more.
  3. Seasonal decorations. For the past several years I have tried to hold back on buying decorations since I am not living anywhere permanently. Couldn’t resist this year, so I am really looking forward to Christmas decorations!
  4. I went to the Renaissance fair here this month and had lots of fun seeing all the people be really into it. Also had my obligatory turkey leg and got stung by a bee for the first time in my life.
  5. Target’s call has been hard to resist lately, so I’ve been doing a little more shopping there than needed probably. But who can resist Targets stuff!?
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Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille Gumbo

 

When cooking there are a few dishes that I am convinced can’t be made as good in my kitchen as in restaurants. Or I’ve tried to make a dish and failed every time.

Gumbo was always one of those dishes. I was just convinced that it would be 1) too much work with making a roux and 2) just not taste as good despite my efforts. Well, one day something convinced me to try a Gumbo recipe. It was from Cook’s Illustrated, which is my one recipe source that can gives me hope that it will turn out. But then it was a lightened up/healthier gumbo, so I was skeptical all over again. Anyone who knows gumbo is that “light” is not typically a word you read to describe it.

Well, don’t be skeptical about this recipe. This is not a traditional roux in any sense, but it is so much easier and the taste is spot on. I have adapted a few things based on what ingredients I have had around

 

A Halloween Treat

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I always have big visions of making some super creative and cute snacks. I pin them all. When I read the how-to, it seems so easy.

Yet something always seems to not quite work (see: my “mummy” pigs in a blanket that looked like cocktail sausages with bread on them). This Halloween-themed dip is super easy and looks more impressive than it took to make.

All you need to do is de-seed  small pumpkin, carve a vomit face, and put some guacamole on a plate and coming out of your pumpkin’s mouth. Simple.

Happy Halloween!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn

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I am loving my first fall in the midwest. I have been cooking a lot more soups and cold-weather dishes when the temps are cooling off (and then heating up, and then cooling off again).

October is a snack and sweet month with Halloween, and this popcorn is a great sweet snack. You pop your own popcorn, and coat one half in a jelly sauce and the other in a PB or any other nut butter sauce. It’s a nice sweet snack with good crunch. Perfect for eating while watching a movie while ti’s cold outside.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY POPCORN
Barely Adapted from Something Swanky

INGREDIENTS

6 cups popped popcorn
1 cup white chocolate chips, divided
2 tablespoons jelly
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Salt

DIRECTIONS

Divide popped popcorn into two separate bowls (3 cups in each bowl).

Using the microwave or a double broiler, melt 1/2 cup white chocolate. When chocolate is almost melted completely, stir in jelly and a pinch of salt. Pour on top of one bowl of popcorn and stir to mix. Spread popcorn into a single layer on a baking sheet and let sit until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Using the microwave or a double broiler, melt the remaining 1/2 cup of white chocolate. When chocolate is almost melted completely, stir in peanut butter and a pinch of salt. Pour on top of the remaining bowl of popcorn and stir to mix. Spread popcorn in a single layer on a baking sheet and let sit until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Break popcorn into pieces and mix together.

September Top 5

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  1. Back to the grind with work starting. Feels good to wear something other than yoga pants and shorts all week long.
  2. FALL IS HERE. Well, pretty much is except that there is record breaking heat in Missouri. Cue my eyes rolling. I am so ready for my first real fall (falls in Texas often consist of temps only going to 60 and trees’ leaves dying rather than changing colors).
  3. Podcasts are a lifesaver for my commute to work. Right now my favorite is definitely Real Crime Profile.
  4. Hard apple cider. I haven’t been feeling beer as much lately, but hard apple cider has definitely been hitting the spot.
  5. As a beer noob, I only recently discovered what a growler is. Makes me laugh every time. We have been able to enjoy the St. Louis craft beer scene with our new growler (hard apple cider for me).

Pastina Soup

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For a long time, I was a staunch believer that a soup is not a meal.

But as a lot of my food obsessions go, out of no where I was craving soup one day. So I had some. And then I had some more. The bf didn’t complain when we had lots of soup for dinner, even during sweltering summer, since he had been a soup-lover in a food desert since our relationship started.

So I have made broccoli and cheese, french onion, gumbo, and more. This pastina soup is a soup my bf has talked about in great awe as a food from his family. I was lucky enough to get to travel up and try the soup, and I was hooked in its simplicity. It is an Italian style chicken noodle soup. Made from scratch, it is a perfect dinner as a chill starts to come in the air.

PASTINA SOUP

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken Stock:
Water
1 whole chicken*
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

For the Pastina Soup:
1/2 onion
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup pastina or other small pasta
Chicken from stock, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS

For the Chicken Stock:

Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Put on low heat (the water should bubble occasionally and produce steam only). Cook for at least 2 hours, up to 6 hours. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook for another 2 hours. Strain stock into large bowl.

For the Pastina Soup:

Grate onion, carrot, and celery. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery stalks. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2-4 minutes. Stir in stock and bring to a boil. Stir in pastina and cook for 4-6 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper (will need a significant amount since stock is unseasoned, make sure to taste). Cook until chicken is warmed through. Serve and top with grated parmesan cheese.

From Cinnamon Freud

*You can use any combo of chicken or reserved chicken bones for the stock. I have done this with a whole chicken, with wing tips mixed with old bones, and more. Just make sure to have chicken to put in the soup! Same thing with the veggies, you can use scraps of veggies that you have saved too and can add in other veggies and herbs.

Homemade Pita Bread

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One of the great parts of living near a metropolitan city is the lots of different types of cuisine. Over Labor Day weekend, I went to a Greek festival and chowed down on a lot of good Greek food. The most important component of Greek food for me is the pita. Great pita bread can make a gyro, and bad pita bread will ruin one.

I wanted to be able to recreate good Greek food in my own home, and since I already had the gyro meat and tzatziki ready, I just needed the pita bread. Now I have had a lot of trouble (and some success) with making homemade bread, so I wanted to find a recipe from someone who I trusted would not lead me astray in a yeast-mess.

And here we go! I have made this pita bread several times, and it works. So go forth and have DIY Greek food in your own home!

PITA BREAD

INGREDIENTS

1 cup water
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
One pinch granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Olive oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Heat water to 110 degrees in a large bowl and stir in yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy and dissolved. Stir in flour, salt, and olive oil. Knead dough on a well floured surface for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Coat a bowl with oil and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. Let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and keep covered with towel when not working with them. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Roll out dough to an 8 inch circle. Place in hot pan and cook for approximately 30 seconds to one minute per side until it begins to bible and brown. Keep wrapped in towel to keep warm while making the remaining pita bread.

Serve immediately.

Barely Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

August Top 5

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  1. Work starts Thursday, and I am ready to get started. A month of vacation and work-free days (9 to 5 workdays at least, curse you dissertation) was great, but there is definitely such a thing as having too much free time all at once. Just have to break the news to the pup now…
  2. DIY was big for me this month. One of my new year’s resolutions was to make more of our food from scratch, and I have been doing just that. So far we are using homemade BBQ sauce, enchilada sauce, croissants, bread*, ranch dressing, and granola bars.
  3. Exploring St. Louis has been fun and delicious this month.
  4. Free HBO Go has been a lifesaver being home alone all month. So much binge watching.
  5. Young adult books are another godsend for quick, easy, and enjoyable reading. An Ember in the Ashes was my particular favorite this past month.
  6. Bonus: My mom can up to the Lou (is that how you spell it?) aka STL for a few days to have fun with me before I start work.

*mostly. sometimes a loaf of french bread just speaks to me at the grocery store.  And sometimes my homemade bread just does rise right!