Happy (slightly early) Halloween!

Holy cats, there are so many great Halloween-inspired recipes out there, but I finally couldn’t resist this one (I really, really want to make this one, but managed to refrain…for now).

I found the brain mold here, the candy melts from Jo-Ann’s, and used good old Martha’s red velvet cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipes. Also, I’m a little ashamed to say, I did not actually make my own caramel sauce (I bought it). Shh!

This was my first time working with a candy mold and, I have to say, it was actually pretty easy! I haven’t actually tasted a cupcake yet (the brains are sweet but kind of bland) because I only have the exact right number to share with people tomorrow – hopefully they’re tasty…

*Apologies for the worse-than-usual photos – my mom has jetted off on a cruise, leaving my dad and me to entertain each other with Wii evenings and Godfather marathons, and also took her camera, leaving me to take photos with Edward (I love you, Edward, but you don’t do close-ups well). Go and look at the originals again, they’re much better.

The dreaded ‘C’ word…

CASSEROLE!

Casseroles are not usually my thing – a bunch of mushy things baked together so that they become even more mushy and topped with those fried onion things or whatever they are? Not my idea of tasty. But this?

Is tasty.

I’ve been on a fall foods kick lately – you should see the bookmarks I have, they are full of apples and pumpkins and squash and cinnamon. Lovely, warm, and comforting foods. When I saw this Butternut Squash Casserole on Ezra Pound Cake, I was hooked! And I’m glad I managed to overcome my prejudice against casseroles because this is super duper. (Fair enough, put anything with enough cheese and it becomes delicious by association.)

I did halve the recipe because there is only one of me and I don’t need to try and feed 8 to 10 people (or myself for 8 to 10 days) and it worked out well in my 8×8 baking dish. I also forgot to add the spinach (well, arugula because I had some to get rid of), so I decided to just serve it on a bed of arugula instead. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the pumpkin seeds – it could be because I used store bought ones – they got very chewy after being baked for an hour and, frankly, it’s hard work, especially when compared to the amount of chewing required for the rest of the casserole.

TV recap and updates!

Well, now that all the fall shows have officially started up (Chuck! Better Off Ted! Mysterious fate of Scrubs! Why are you making me wait until January?!), I thought I’d recap who I thought was off to a good start and who I’d given up on:

And the winners are:

  1. 30 Rock
  2. The Office
  3. Cougar Town
  4. Glee
  5. Modern Family
  6. The Big Bang Theory
  7. HIMYM (They’re only this low on the list because Lily and Marshall are still stuck as stereotypes of themselves and we need to get over the novelty of Robin and Barney.)
  8. Community (They stumbled a bit after a strong premiere episode, but the last couple have been getting better again.)
  9. Smallville (Oh, my god, how is this show so boring?! I miss Lana, Lex, Lionel, Smallville, and the Kents and I HATE Oliver Queen when they try to give him an entire episode and I wish someone would kill off Tess already and why is Clark wearing black (stop angsting and get over yourself)?! Also Zod is a lot less cool than I imagined him to be. Even Chloe seems to be less awesome this season which I didn’t think possible – because Chloe is super awesome – but I’m still not ready to give up on it yet.)

The Losers

  1. The Vampire Diaries (I know quite a few people like this show, but it’s one I’d have to get a hold of later on and it didn’t intrigue me enough to make it worth the effort.)
  2. Heroes (It was so bad last season – and the one before that – that I didn’t even try.)
  3. The Simpsons (It makes me sad to see how far they’ve fallen – I gave up halfway through last season and couldn’t bring myself to try again.)

p.s. – I forgot House! House should be in the winners category, but I still have the second half of the fifth season to watch and it’s up against HIMYM so I have to watch it later anyway. But once I catch up, I’m sure it’ll be on the winners list.

A last minute, cobbled together dessert…

So the other night, after I’d finished dinner, I decided that I wanted something sweet and realised that I didn’t have any more Oreos in the house (my chocolate experiment is only going kind of well and, for the most part, it’s okay if it doesn’t, but I will definitely miss Oreos if I go off it again). What I did have was leftover maple cream cheese frosting from the pumpkin whoopie pies I made a while ago and the beginnings of the batter for Amish cinnamon bread (I even had the required Jello vanilla pudding packet) in the freezer.

I put the two together and got this:

It’s very good (how could it not be, really?). The main problem was that, even though the cake has three layers, I only baked two cakes. I cut off the top of one of them to make a level surface for stacking which left me with an extra top of a cake to eat (which is the best part with the crunchy cinnamon sugar topping).

I finished it easily in about two days, eating a third of it standing in the kitchen, a third of it for dessert that evening, and the rest the following morning for breakfast. D:

I don’t really have a recipe for you, but if you do some Googling, you can find recipes for the bread and for the starter. Some of the starter recipes have yeast in the starter and some of them are just milk, flour, and sugar. The batter keeps well in the freezer, just make sure you go through the whole 10-day ritual with the last one so you’ll have more to tuck away for later.

New TV: Thursday!

30 Rock (8:30 CST, NBC)

I forgot to post this on Thursday, mostly because I trust you are all faithful followers of 30 Rock and didn’t need reminding, but… It’s back! Now my Thursdays are finally complete.

My rating: I’d put down my meth for this show any day. Thanks, Meat Cat!

There aren’t enough old-timey exclamations for this recipe!

Jeepers! Zounds! Crikey! Jinkies! (Okay, we’re wandering into Scooby-Doo territory, so I’ll stop now…) But this salad is GOOD!

And I don’t even like salad.

It’s Burnt Carrots with Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Crispy Garlic Chips from Ezra Pound Cake and it’s amazing. Amazing! All the different flavors just blend together so well – the tartness of the vinaigrette, the sweetness of the carrots, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and the crisp garlic. Amazing! And fairly easy. Quite a lot of smoke was generated when I was charring the carrots – I’m sure my neighbors were thrilled – but other than that, it was pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, I ate it first instead of starting with my main course, Roasted Tomatoes and Cippolini Onions from Smitten Kitchen.

This is a recipe that I’ve been longing to make ever since she posted it over on her blog, but it took me a while to actually find the cippolini onions. I’ll be honest and admit that I did forget to add the basil once everything was finished and put together, but compared to the burnt carrot salad, this dish tasted a little…well, bland. I think if I were eating it by itself on a cold, winter’s night, maybe it would taste better, but all I could think was ‘You know what this needs? Goat cheese! And some burnt carrots. Ooh! And garlic chips, too!’

ETA: Ah, leftovers. On Day 2 of the roasted tomatoes and cippolini onions, I remembered to rub garlic on the hot toast and to add the basil and it has made all the difference in the world – super yummy and flavorful now!

Guess what Wednesday night was!

IT WAS KYLIE NIGHT!

The venue was much smaller than where we saw her in Sydney – I guess she’s just not famous enough in the States to play the United Center (although she should be – she is a fabulous entertainer and I have no idea why she’s not more famous here!) and the smaller space kind of limited her show. It was still full of lights and lasers and dancers, but she couldn’t do things she likes to do like fly herself in on a giant sparkly crescent moon or drop dancers from the ceiling (though she did still manage to make her entrance atop a giant, silver skull [no, I don’t get it either, but if Kylie wants a giant, silver skull, Kylie can have a giant, silver skull!]).

She still put on an amazing show and the crowd was super-enthusiastic – I hope we’ve convinced her to come back again and not make us wait another 20 years before she does! It was basically a highlights tour of the best numbers from the Showgirl tour and the Kylie X tour – she did cabaret Locomotion and the shower version of Red-Blooded Woman (and opened with Light Years – yay!) along with the newer songs from X.

She sang for two hours straight and even gave us an impromptu, a capella version of Your Disco Needs You (and even took it to the opera all on her lonesome – Kylie, you rock! Whoo!) when there was a short break for technical difficulties with her bassist’s guitar. Very impressive!

We had a great time (we are very blurry there, just pretend we are dancing – I am woefully out of practice with my Edward self-portraits) and both agreed – and I’m not even going to put it in small font this time – that she put on a better show than Madonna.

Don’t stay away so long next time, Kylie!

Oh, the carnage!

I decided to risk it and tried to make the Golden Egg recipe from Gesine Bullock-Prado’s book Confections of a Closet Master Baker (which I caved and bought, along with a couple others).

It did not go well.

Actually, it did go well until I tried to remove them from the pans. The recipe called for cooking spray, but I don’t like cooking spray because it gloms itself onto your pans and never lets go, so instead I used butter. Which did not work. At all.

The doughnuts in the background there along with one cupcake were all I was able to salvage and by that time, I was too frustrated to dunk them in butter and cinnamon sugar and just ate them as is. They were very tasty, but I imagine the cinnamon sugar makes them even better.

Very similar to these, but a little eggier and nutmeggier, too.

Do you like Shaun of the Dead?

Then I think you will like Zombieland. It’s funny and scary and a little gross (there are zombies, after all!) and a little sad (there are zombies, after all!). The characters are likable, the action (and the dialogue) is snappy and witty. Very good all around!

I wish this had come out during the summer, it would have definitely gone toward getting me back my Lost Three Hours.

My rating: Highly recommended!

Fiction

Imposture by Benjamin Markovits

I…think I may have been reading YA for too long. Well, not too long, but long enough to erode my English degree. Okay, I’m digging myself into a hole here – I don’t mean to say that YA is not “literature” or is a lesser genre, it just doesn’t usually require quite the close reading skills that grown-up books do. Like this one.

I can tell you what happened, but I’m not sure I can tell you why it happened. It’s about John Polidori, Lord Byron’s personal doctor for a short time and a real person, who, at the famous gothic storytelling party, actually wrote a story of his own called The Vampyre (the first English vampire story). Well, Polidori looks just like Lord Byron and is mistaken for him by Eliza, a naive young woman, who develops an infatuations and a kind of strange (and entirely unhealthy) relationship with him.

It starts out promising – it’s a story within a story – and there are doppelgangers aplenty (which I’m sure means something – here’s where my degree is deserting me), but I really didn’t connect with either of the characters. Not that I think that’s the point of the book, but it does make it hard to become engrossed. I got through the first three quarters or so of the book fairly quickly and then ground to a screeching halt for the last remaining pages (only the thought of Leviathan tomorrow – thank you, Jillian! – spurred me on to get through the end of it).

My rating: C

Slowly but surely!

Given my recent loss of kitchen mojo, I was a little reluctant to try again, but, you know, getting back on the horse, so…

That’s Alton Brown’s Stovetop Mac ‘n’ Cheese and the Pear, Rocket (minus the rocket – I didn’t see any in Schnuck’s, but I’ll have to have another look), Parmesan, and Pine Nut Salad from the failed dinner party. And they are super-yummy!

I had to make a few, minor alterations to each:

  1. Instead of using evaporated milk, I used cream (because teh intarwebs said I can). I did actually have a can of evaporated milk, but it expired October 31…2006…so I thought it best to not use it. I have to say, though, that I have recently successfully made blueberry muffins from a mix (yes, a mix!) that was two years old.
  2. Instead of just using cheddar cheese, I took the opportunity to clear out my cheese shelf and used a mixture of everything that I had left – mostly cheddar, some fontina, a mystery cheese that I think may have been parmegiano reggiano, and some of the Mexican mix cheese. It all combined to be very tasty!
  3. I added corn and…those Japanese soybeans whose name I can’t think of at the moment at the melting-the-cheese stage, and some cherry tomatoes after it was cooked.
  4. In the vinaigrette for the salad, despite having red wine vinegar, white vinegar, rice vinegar, and apple cider vinegar, I do not seem to have white wine vinegar, so I used the apple cider vinegar instead. Still very tasty, though!

ETA: Edamame! That’s it what I added.

Oh, for crying out loud!

I just realised that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and, at the pace this year has gone, it will be here in no time. I have always wanted to do it, but have never actually done it or even tried.

Anyone up for a go with me? (Janis, I’m looking at you!)

It might just be the key to getting over my enormous (i.e., 3-year-long) case of writer’s block…

A few things…

  1. I have lost my kitchen mojo. Not cool! Remember I said that I was planning a dinner party for my parents? The only things that turned out to be edible were the soup (which my dad didn’t even like – and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t crazy about it either) and the salad (Jillian, I think you found rocket in this town – where did you find it?!). The main course, an apple, onion, and gruyere tart, was not anywhere near being done inside (it looked great on the top) and the rustic pear tart just completely fell apart. Honestly, it was so far past rustic that we were nearing primitive. Like, pre-invention-of-the-wheel.
  2. Since finishing Smallville, and recovering from a Stressful Event, I have been rewatching Gilmore Girls. Which has made me really miss Gilmore Girls. And I’m totally jealous of Rory’s Yale Fringe. I really wish my center part wasn’t  so enthusiastic. And the ranking of Rory’s boyfriends goes JESS!, Logan, Marty (I know, but he should have been), Tristan, and then, if there were no men left on the planet, Dean. I really should stop watching – it makes me want to move to a small town on the east coast.
  3. Speaking of Smallville, it’s on in 20 minutes – yay!
  4. I have a new addition to my household – a 32″ flat sceen TV! I was thinking it would be too big for my living room, but I love it, so much s0 that I’m considering widening my running-away-with-appliances list (except that now I have to relearn the weird HD channels [WB is 23.1 instead of 12?!]). And…
  5. A WII! Post-Stressful Event, I decided some retail therapy was in order and felt I was deserving of my heart’s desire. I love it. It is as fun as it looks and more so. I thought my mom would like it, but it turns out my dad has been harboring a secret video game system desire. (Mostly I think the strides technology has made since Pong fascinates him – and my mom is too competitive. Since she hasn’t managed to win Mario Kart, she’s holding a grudge.)
  6. El Grito (which has sponsored this post) – It starts out strong, but gets better the further you get through the glass. Also good? An inverted El Grito (2 oz. of the apple brandy, 1 oz. tequila, 1/2 oz. vermouth).