The baking conundrum & being bad

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It is 9:45 pm, and I am in my underwear surrounded by freshly baked cookies and seven layer bars. I just licked batter off a spoon, and, listening to the familiar lilt of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings, muttered under my breath, “Skinny bitch.”

I am a bad feminist.*

On nights like tonight when I lounge around and embrace my inner domestic goddess, baking and watching trash TV, I let myself be such a bad feminist. But, to let you in on my little secret, more than anything I feel like a bad 24-year-old.

Who else my age opted to stay in tonight to bake and watch a TV show that aired over 15 years ago? Youth is wasted on the young.

Staying in, and in particular staying in to bake, triggers a weird anxiety within me.

There’s a part of me that still feels like I was last dumped because somewhere in the last year the part of my brain that used to think “Friday night, let’s party!” switched over to “Friday night, let’s eat sushi and watch old movies over a nice glass of wine!” (Don’t even get me started on the parallel “I was dumped because my room was messy” track.) As my ex would remind me, if only I could have turned the go out, don’t stop part of my brain back on I might have been making more friends and living the life I claimed I wanted.

Beyond that though, I’m out here trying to make the most of my life. I want adventure and I want to change some tiny portion of the world and I want to fight for silenced voices to be heard and I want to do it all while dancing in a great pair of heels. A lot of the time, I’m pushing myself to do those things. But that gets exhausting. And some nights I just want to bake.

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I have no idea why, but that simple desire makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. Like every minute I spend in the kitchen is feeding into some outdated female stereotype that, to be quite honest, I’m not even sure is a stereotype anymore.

Somewhere I got this absolutely stupid idea that domesticity and badassery were mutually exclusive, because I’m a bad, bad feminist.

So tonight I decided, a couple of glasses of pinot grigio in, that I’m not going to let myself feel like a bad 24-year-old or a bad feminist or a bad world-changer. Instead, when I slip on my twee housewife apron, I’m going to channel some of the most badass women I know: my grandmother Bibby who whipped a farm house and all the people in it into shape like no one’s business, my aunt Mary who I swear to God could solve the world’s problems with her cobbler but instead spent her career teaching science in Auburn, my friend Amanda who is about to graduate Penn law school and could have you crying with her catfish and fried pickles.

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When I hang up my apron I’ll let myself feel badass about my perfect royal icing and the gooey center of my chocolate butter cookies and the perfect layer of toasted coconut on my bars. Because there’s always tomorrow to change the world, and I’ll feel that much better about it with a cookie in my stomach.

[The term “bad feminist,” for those who have been seriously out of the loop, was popularized by Roxane Gay’s 2014 book which details her own experiences grappling with issues of race, gender, sexuality and feminism, often as they appear in pop culture and her own life. It refers to our inabilities to live up to the standards set up by “good feminists” to always be on when it comes to feminism.]

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Attempted Muffin-Tin Biscuit Pizzas and the Tin-less Recipe

Thanks to Pinterest and the array of cooking blogs that I follow, I can safely say that I’ve hopped on the muffin tin bandwagon. What’s that, you ask? Well, there exists a whole subculture of people (okay, everyone on Pinterest..) who like to cook things in muffin tins. They’re individual sized, good for portion control, and well let’s face it they just scream precious. There are muffin tin lasagnas, muffin tin quiche, and even baked quinoa bites made in muffin tins.

There’s only one problem with the Pinduced muffin tin craze. As blogs like Pintester make abudantly clear, not everything that looks good on Pinterest works well in real life. Case in point: muffin tin biscuit pizzas.

Three flavors and a whole lot of biscuit

I saw these babies in a couple of different places, and thought, “Muffin tins? Canned biscuit dough? Everything I’ve ever wanted.” Since I always have cheese and marinara sauce on hand I figured it’d be a super easy recipe. And in order to class it up, I did different toppings on mine, with a set of plain cheese pizzas, a set of broccoli & ham, and a set with caramelized onion, spinach and goat cheese.

Don’t get me wrong, these were tasty. But they didn’t need to be made in muffin tins. In fact, they would’ve been about a million times better without the muffin tins. Just a baking sheet, biscuits, and pizza-y goodness.

 

The toppings I chose, however, were fabulous and without fault. If you’re a pizza traditionalist I’d say go for just marinara, cheese and some pepperoni for good measure (though without meat they make a great Meatless Monday option). If you’re feelin fancy like me, the caramelized onion and goat cheese pizzas were amazing, although I’d recommend chopping up the onions so that you don’t pull them all off in one bite. Then broccoli and ham? Fail-proof.

Enjoy my awkward reflection in the plate

Instructions? Well they’re sketchy, but they are as follows.

Impromptu Tin-less Biscuit Pizzas

  • 1 can biscuits
  • Pizza sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (or cheese of your choosing)
  • Toppings as desired. Options: pepperoni, broccoli, ham, green peppers, onions, goat cheese, spinach

Oven heated according to the instructions on your biscuits.

Pull apart each biscuit into two, unless you want a crazy thick crust that tastes mostly like biscuit with a tiny bit of cheese. There should be a clear dividing point on the biscuit, at least if you use the Grands biscuits. Put the half biscuits on a baking sheet and bake them for about half the time listed on the biscuits (e.g. if they should be baked for 10 minutes, put them in for 5 here).

Take them out, top them with whatever sauce, cheese and toppings you’re going to use, and pop them back in for the rest of the baking time.

If you make them this way you’ll get a lot less of the intense biscuit taste and bit more of a pizza balance. A fabulously easy snack or lunch for when you’re lazy and hungry.

October Foodie Pen Pal–still to come!!

Because of my chaotic life I didn’t actually manage to get my pen pal package on time this month. Major sadface. It’s totally my fault, ’cause I had a missed package notice, but my schedule just didn’t allow me to get to pick up the package from the post office or find a convenient redeliver time. Check out the package I sent Emily over at Life on Food. And look out for the post about my package this weekend!

Just thought I’d post the rules anyway for anyone interested in getting involved! Foodie Penpals works like this:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re interested in participating for October, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by October 4th as pairings will be emailed on October 5th!

Out to eat: a most dangerous game

I tend to eat out a lot more when I’m in San Francisco, partly because I always feel like I’m in the way in Patrick’s house when I’m cooking and partly because Patrick eats out a lot, and so I wind up doing the same. It’s hazardous to my waistline, and even more troubling for my wallet. However it does mean that I wind up eating a lot of phenomenal food. I have my complaints about this city but a lack of good food is not one of them.

Just last week we went to La Folie for a one-year anniversary/my birthday dinner and it was great. I had to ride the bus there all dressed up and felt totally ridiculous, but it was more than worth an uncomfortable bus ride and some stares. The meal was indulgent and fabulous. Patrick loves tasting menus so we did the chef’s tasting menu, which for once didn’t entail an unfathomable amount of food. Just an unreasonably large amount. With the exception of some rather bland frog’s legs the entire meal was to die for.

What a dapper looking date I had

The standouts for me included the steak which came with a bone marrow custard and a croquette of bearnaise sauce. And then the dessert. Oh, the dessert. I could write a poem about that dessert. On the menu I sort of glanced over it, but when it came it was exactly what I wanted at the end of the meal. We were served olive oil ice cream, a hazelnut sponge cake and some sort of tapioca, all with fresh berries what I, a non-educated food person, can only describe as a fresh-berry cracker? To die for. And while I’m normally a chocolate person I would’ve been way too full for a rich chocolatey dessert.

Post-dessert petit fours

This isn’t the only over-the-top meal we’ve done, and other great places we’ve been include Alexander’s Steakhouse, Gary Danko and, further north, Farmhouse Inn. All delicious, all have left me wanting to die because I ate so much.

But lest you think my life is all ridiculously large and decadent meals, my waistline/wallet have also suffered from some local indulgences: tacos at Dos Piñas, brunch at Plow, burgers at Chez Maman and of course a double-double animal style from In-N-Out. Oh San Francisco, you will be the death of me.

Any good suggestions for my next indulgent meal in San Francisco?

Butternut Squash Quesadillas

In the smallest state in the country in a small town named Pawtucket (don’t you dare pronounce it PAW-tucket, it’s P’tucket), there’s a small restaurant called Garden Grille. On the menu at Garden Grille there is an inconspicuous looking little item: the butternut squash quesadilla. As anyone who has ever ordered the quesadilla can tell you, that tasty treat will take you as close to heaven as a vegetarian Mexican-inspired menu item can. Crispy tortilla filled with creamy avocado, smooth butternut squash, black beans and, of course, cheesy goodness. About halfway through you have to make an important choice: do you eat yourself into a food coma, savoring the crunchy, creamy quesadilla, or do you take half home to enjoy for lunch the next day. It’s an important choice, and not one to be made lightly.

Having (temporarily?) left the small state of Rhode Island I’ve found myself craving that butternut squash quesadilla like no other. So naturally I set out to recreate the meal I so badly wanted. I feel the need to include the disclaimer that due to limited funds and poor planning I didn’t make them exactly the way the master chefs at Garden Grille do. Jack cheese just isn’t versatile enough for me to buy it for one recipe, so I got a shredded jack and cheddar combo. I forgot to get an avocado, and made do without. In its place I included some red onion since that was pretty much all I had. But alterations aside, it still turned out to be a pretty tasty meal. Plus it put me oh so on trend with the whole “meatless monday” deal, and made me feel very autumnal.

Started out with some butternut squash.

Roasted the butternut squash.

Cried while chopping onions. Put the onions on the stove as punishment for making me cry.

Beans, meet onions. Onions, meet beans. And have you met my friend butternut squash?

It’s not mexican food without tortillas and cheese cheese cheese.

I usually make my quesadillas on the stove, but I put these ones in the oven and I was glad I did since it made much less of a mess (no flipping and trying to keep the squash inside the tortilla while also trying not to burn my fingers).

Sadly, quesadillas aren’t exactly beautiful at the end, and don’t make for great pictures. They are, however, delicious with a little bit of salsa. If you’re a sour cream kind of person, by all means add some of that too. Perhaps some avocado as well. Get wacky.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and now I’m pretty sure I’m going to devote myself to recreating the entirety of the Garden Grille menu. Korean Tacos, I’ve got my eye on you.

Butternut Squash Quesadillas

  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed (all amounts are flexible–add as much or as little as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 6 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, either Mexican blend, cheddar or jack
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place squash on a pan and coat with 1 Tbs of olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Roast the squash 45 mins to an hour, depending on the size of your cubed squash, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and onions, cooking until the onions are cooked, 3-5 minutes. If using red pepper flakes add these as well, to taste. Add the beans & butternut squash, and cook until heated through, stirring.

Brush three of the tortillas with oil and place them on a baking sheet. Top each tortilla with the squash mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese, dividing evenly between them. Top each with another tortilla and brush that with olive oil. Put those babies in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes, until the tortillas are golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Like I said, I didn’t have avocado on hand, but if you want to include it just slice the avocado and add it on to the tortillas just before you sprinkle them with cheese. You’ll probably need to press down on the top tortillas a little to make them into one coherent, stuck-together quesadilla.

Busy Life and Simple Meals

I’ve been shirking my blog duties. They may be self-defined, made up duties, but I’ve been shirking them nonetheless. The reason for the shirkage is that I’ve been feeling weirdly busy the last week or so. I leave tomorrow for San Francisco for an undetermined amount of time, so I’ve been packing, running errands, and doing all those things that never seem important until suddenly you’re leaving town. I’ve also been doing some job-related activity, hanging out with my cats (they’re gonna miss me!) and getting in some last minute cooking and baking.

Feeling busy in September is particularly weird this year since this is the time of year when I would be busy with school. Except I’m not going back to school, a fact which I was reminded of when I pulled out my planner and noticed that sometime earlier this year I wrote “Not First Day of School” on September 5th. Oh the wit of a younger less-burdened me.

Because I’ve been feeling slightly busy (but let’s not confuse my activity level with that of someone who, say, has a job), I’ve been making some low-key, easy meals. And you better believe I have a whole stockpile of super easy recipes for when I’m feeling less than inspired. In case you should need some back-to-school inspiration in the easy meal department, these are some of my go to options:

  • Crepes: What’s so great about crepes is you can literally put anything in them, and if you make the batter ahead of time they take all of 5 minutes to make. I use a variation of Alton Brown’s recipe (all milk, throw in some cayenne or curry for savory crepes). This weekend I had crepes with chicken, roasted peppers, spinach and goat cheese one day, and used the leftovers for a lunch of ham and gouda crepes. The options for what you put in them are literally endless, and making crepes a great option for using whatever you have on hand.
  • Stir fry: The other go “use whatever’s in the fridge” option is stir fry. I grew up eating chicken & broccoli stir fry pretty much every week or every other week for at least 10 years. It is to this day one of my favorite meals, and even though it’s incredible easy to make (soy sauce, honey, ginger & garlic) I’m still convinced my mom makes it way better than I ever could. Point is this is such an easy dish to make, and great for using the veggies/meat you have on hand. All you need on the side is a little rice.
  • Pizza: Trader Joe’s pizza dough is a dollar, so naturally it became a staple in our house in college. The best part about making your own pizza is it winds up being super cheap, and the leftovers taste just as good cold as they do warm. Plus, again, you can put on any toppings you happen to have (you sense the trend in my cooking, right?). If you don’t know when you’ll use the dough, just buy some, freeze it, and then take it out the morning of the day think you’ll make it.
  • Kitchen-sink pasta salad: For a long time I’d always have pasta on hand so when I was busy and didn’t know what to make it’d be elbows with butter and cheese. Obviously that got old very quickly, so a better way to use that pasta is to make a “pasta salad.” I put it in quotations because I’m not sure what I made ever resembled traditional pasta salad. But all you need is pasta (tortellini works really well for this) and you can throw in frozen veggies (peas, corn), cooked chicken or ham, celery, peppers, nuts, etc. Then just put a little dressing or olive oil on top and it’s good to go. If you’re more of a purist and want a recipe this tortellini salad became one of my favorites this summer.
  • Brunch: Brunch food (eggs, french toast, bacon) has been scientifically proven to be the best easy dinner ever. Just ask the boyf, who is pretty much only able to cook eggs. Obviously this doesn’t always fall into the category of healthy (I like my bacon with a side of bacon). It does, however, fall into the category of lip smacking heavenly goodness.

So just because you’re too busy to catch up on your favorite TV shows (Revenge, September 30th, it’s on), doesn’t mean you should have to eat frozen food. And if you do eat frozen food it should definitely be from Trader Joe’s ’cause man does Joe make a mean channa masala.

In the spirit of not-back-to-school September changes, I took time this weekend to organize the planner that’s been sitting in a box all summer. Nothing makes me quite as happy as a planner, some to-do lists and a set of nice pens. I also dyed my hair from the blonder color I’d been rocking for the past year in favor of a darker shade. Riveting, I know. Now it’s time to tackle some of those slightly bigger life changes. Ya know, job, apartment. Those little things.

August Foodie Pen Pals

It’s officially the end of August which means two things: 1.) I’m crying inside because an entire summer passed and I’m still unemployed and 2.) It’s reveal day for Foodie Pen Pals!

But you’re asking, Foodie Pen Pals? Is that something you made up to make it seem like you have more friends, Molly? For once, no. It’s a real honest-to-God thing. It was started by Lindsey at The Lean Green Bean and you can find a more thorough explanation here. The basic premise is that you sign up, get assigned a person who also signed up, and you send them a box full of food goodies. Someone else gets assigned to you and sends you a box of food goodies. Then at the end of the month those people with blogs write posts about their delightful food goodies. SO MANY FOOD GOODIES. I’ve included the guidelines at the end of the post.

This was my first month participating and since I love all things food-related I obviously got way too excited. I sent a package to Anna in Boston filled with all sorts of semi-healthy snacks, since she requested things she could snack on at work or on-the-go. Assigned to me was Linda whose business bakeforyou.com ships made to order baked goods! I knew I was in for a treat.

Tingling with anticipation

I got weirdly excited opening my box, it was kind of like my birthday (which luckily will fall right before the September reveal day). ..which probably says something about me and my relationship with food: too close and needy. However the box most certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was about as great a set of foods as I could’ve asked for. I didn’t give Linda any instructions, and yet she gave me a bunch of things I loooved.

A basket of goodies just waiting to be devoured by my inner fat kid

Linda sent the items in a cute little basket, and the Michael’s craft nerd in me just kept thinking why didn’t I thinking of that!?

“Life is short – eat well & enjoy!”

She even included some words to live by, although I don’t think anyone would ever accuse me of not eating well. I’d say every other day Patrick and I text each other something related to food, usually bacon.

All my treats arranged in an orderly manner

As for the actual contents of the basket?

  • Cinnamon cranberry granola: I don’t eat a ton of granola because I always find it too sweet or too similar to rocks and twigs. This, however, was some damn tasty granola. I’ve been having a little in some almond milk with fruit in the morning and it’s pretty much the perfect breakfast.
  • Salad Essentials – Roasted and Spiced Almonds: These I’ve only tried a couple times, once on some salad and the other time on some edamame, but they add a nice crunch to salad. I never think of things like this to add to salad, but I’m usually to broke/lazy to buy enough vegetables to make good salads this would be a good thing to keep around to spice up an otherwise boring pile of leaves and peppers.
  • Cookies from Bake For You: Linda was awesome enough to include some of the cookies from her business,which me and my sweet tooth greatly appreciated.
  • Zorba’s Natural Food sesame lemon rosemary crackers: One hyphenated word: crack-laced. These were so addictive they were gone in about a day. I’ve been eating “healthy” and tracking my food, so I kept having to go back into the app and add more crackers to my daily total, ’cause I’d eat them every few minutes. I know that you’re thinking hey it’s a cracker who cares? But this is not just a cracker, my friends, it’s a lifestyle. Or it’s just a cracker but it’s a damn good one.
  • Torie & Howard candy: I don’t know how I’d never heard of this before, but these little candies quickly became a purse staple. I turned into your great-aunt Mildred who keeps hard candies in her pocket, and I’m not even a little ashamed. I decided they didn’t count as candy and instead were a filler for when I wanted to eat something bad for me and instead I popped a grapefruit sucker in my mouth. Dee-licious.

So if you couldn’t tell I kind of loved everything in my package. Needless to say there is nothing left after two weeks of having had this around (except the salad toppers ’cause, well, that’d be weird if I’d finished a whole bag of that by now). Thanks a million Linda!

Since it’s not only the very bittersweet end of August but also Labor Day Weekend, I’m headed off to Philly to visit some friends. Lucky for me that means another weekend of buses galore, and hopefully this time I’m not next to the seatmate from hell (4 hours of too-loud Mariachi music blasting from her headphones, despite THREE requests that she turn them down ’cause she’s ruining my audiobook experience please and thank you).

Anyway, now for some more details about Foodie Pen Pals. If it sounds like something you’re interested you should definitely get involved, I had a blast this month.*

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re interested in participating for September, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by September 4th as pairings will be emailed on September 5th!

Have a good labor day weekend everyone!

*The fact that I just said “had a blast” indicates that I am slowly but surely turning into my mother and very much need to move out of my home. Immediately.