Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Salted Caramel Pie

Thanksgiving was special this year. For the first time in a very long time, my stepbrother and his family drove down to my parents' house. Also, a very close family friend and her two sons joined us. We had a total of 13 people. This is the kind of meal preparation that would make some lesser folk cringe, but for my mom cooking for a large crowd is a dream come true.

She would have gladly shouldered the entire burden, but we are genetically bound and I love cooking for a crowd too. I wanted to help. Mom would only allow me to do so much, so I offered to bring a pie and the salad.

Now, this pie offer was for a few reasons: 1) I'm not a fan of traditional Thanksgiving pie flavors, 2) I can probably count on two fingers the pies I've baked in my life, and 3) I had an interestingly yummy looking recipe from my newest Food & Wine magazine.

Salted Caramel Pie

See? Yummy, huh?

For those of you who follow this blog (Two of you!!!! Thank you!!!!) you know that I often forget to photograph my projects.

This would be another instance of that. Fortunately, Food & Wine and The Constant Hunger had a few images I lifted from their websites.

(from Food &Wine)

I'll let your mouth stop watering.

And the cool thing is that it is way easier than it should be.

There are almost no ingredients.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 5 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar
Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
Fleur de sel
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

A pie, a crust and the whipped topping in seven ingredients? Perfect for a pie novice like me.

I won't give all of the step by step directions, because you can find them here.

I will tell you that baking condensed milk smells oddly like macaroni and cheese. I had my doubts about how it would all come together. I actually wondered if I was going to have to scrap the whole thing and pick up a pre-made pie on the way north. Fear not, the mac and cheese scent does not affect the taste at all. Not one tiny bit.

It is, in fact, deliciously caramel-y and not cheesy.

(From The Constant Hunger)

There was an abundance of desserts at Thanksgiving dinner, and all of them were delicious. I do have to say, though, that this one was pretty popular.

I'll be making this pie again and again, I'm sure. Aside from taking hours to make the caramel, it was really easy. (But please don't tell anyone how easy it was. I don't want mom to think I got off easy for turkey day.)

So, what was the best part of your Thanksgiving?  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Crew from Fantasy Land

I love it when I get home from a long day at work and the mailbox is stuffed to the brim with magazines and catalogues. Obviously that means the papers that found their way home with me can be pushed to the side and I can enter Fantasy Land. Aaaah. One of my favorite places.

Tonight I opted for the new J. Crew catalogue over InStyle. Here's why:

The combined cost of these items is approximately a gazillion dollars, which is why I generally only do this kind of shopping when I am in Fantasy Land. The mall there is fan-tastic. 

If you had a gazillion dollars how would you spend it?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guilt and Manipulation

I've mentioned before that my dear friend Cyndi and I share a Kindle account. Sometimes she accuses my tastes in literature of being a bit morbid. Or dark. Or depressing. Whatever.

When I purchased this month's book club book (The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East) I warned her that it might will be one of those sadly poignant books that she doesn't necessarily love to read. (Though I think this one might not be as dark and depressing as others I have recommended to her.)

For the record, this book was not my choice. I hadn't even heard of it. Any morbidity, darkness or depression is purely coincidental. (Geesh, C, that stuff sells.)

A few days later Cyndi had her own book recommendation for me. She even downloaded the sample.

Well, I started reading and had to purchase the book as soon as I finished the teaser that Kindle provides. Elizabeth Beckwith is funny. Funny in a way that I can really relate to. (Read= weird and quirky.)

I'm only about halfway done with it, but so far I recommend it to anyone who has a sense of humor. And since you read this blog I can only assume that you appreciate funny. Or those who think they are funny.

So if you had to choose between a snarky book about how parents can use guilt and manipulation to raise nerdy, neurotic (but innocent and not slutty) kids or a serious and moving text about religious strife in the Middle East, which would you turn to first?

I'll let you know how The Lemon Tree is right after I finish my mindless, light read.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tile Makes Me Smile

It has been a very long time since I've written about the kitchen. Ok, so it has been a long time since I've written anything. Sorry about that. It is much easier to keep this little blog updated when I have all the free time in the world. I'm in the process of convincing beau that I need to quit my job and blog full time. Unfortunately for you, my five readers, beau is not entirely swayed. I'll keep working on it, you keep reading.

Back to the kitchen...

I got home from work the other day and saw this when I approached the kitchen:

What a mess. I wasn't quite sure why my kitchen exploded. Then I noticed that behind that mess was a glorious strip of tile. See it?

I turned to my left and...

Taaa-Daah! Beau had been busy. He was still hard at work, too.

(Isn't he the cutest?)

So, the next night when I got home from work we had a very romantic night of grouting. You know what they say about the couple that grouts together, right? Yep, they go for celebratory sushi after...

After a few days of wiping down tile to get the grout residue off and putting stuff back where it belongs, we have a kitchen that is one giant leap closer to being donezo.

The bullet list of things to do is getting much much shorter.

  • Caulk window and door trim
  • Caulk baseboards
  • Caulk around new tile
  • Extend outlets and replace faceplates
  • Paint accent wall
  • Touch-up paint on other walls
  • Paint trim and baseboards
Had I not been a complete lump this long weekend the kitchen could have been done. But what fun is that? We'd just have to start the next project...

There has been some discussion about putting a bathroom in upstairs. Be still my heart.

Who out there thinks I should be a full time blogger? (Don't be is the time to comment!) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sushi Art

Yesterday at work I was accosted.

By yearbook reps.

They want my business.

And they trapped me in my classroom until 6:15.

School gets out at 2:00.

Yes, they length of my day was made 3/4 longer by yearbook reps trying to get me to switch companies. (By the way, if you are wondering why I would even allow this to happen it is because the rep showed up at my school unannounced two weeks ago. She had two district supervisors with her. They wouldn't leave until I scheduled a session where they could work with my kids and show me how they will "shower me with personalized attention and service." And, if you know me at all you know I am too nice to people. Oh, and she bought pizza for my girls.)

They did, however, leave me with a super cool cup like they have at Starbucks. You know, the clear one with the lids and the green straws. This one says "Yearbook Fuel" across it.

Sadly, I'm really excited about it. REALLY excited.

Don't tell my yearbook rep that I was almost swayed by a plastic cup. I don't want to leave my present company, but the one that is trying to break us up has way better swag. It's like in those Lifetime movies where the sweet girl is dating her nerdy but kind and adoring neighbor who borrows mom's mini van to take her on dates and then the leather jacket wearing, motorcycle (or Camaro) driving bad boy starts to pursue her. She knows the nerdy neighbor boy is the right match for her, but the other guy is so cool and so she entertains the thought.

Yeah, so that's what yesterday was like. Except the chase lasted four hours and it wasn't nearly as fun as being chased by two guys.

But, that's not the point of this tale. The point is that I was at school so much longer than I intended to be. I had high hopes for a lovely homemade dinner. It didn't happen.

I got home and beau was romancing Siri. That took a while. I love it when he gets a new Apple product.

All of a sudden it was 8:00 and I was famished. Beau was told it was time to go for sushi. (He doesn't mind orders like that; sushi is his favorite.)

More times than not we go to this little place right by the university. The sushi is quite good, it is inexpensive, and the staff has gotten accustomed to seeing us there so they are always friendly.

When it is quiet there the sushi chefs do an amazing job creating edible art.

Last night they gave me my favorite flower. Tulips. Beau doesn't even give me flowers...

Pretty, huh?

Beau's was lovely as well. (But I don't think the chefs liked him as much as me. mine is way more intricate.)

His does, though, have a real flower in the center. See it? It is a little rose bud. Maybe they were crushing on him a bit. Can't blame them. He's a cutie.

I really like it when it is quiet at the Sushi place. It makes me happy.

Do you think sushi chefs practice? Do they sit at home watching Real Housewives and sketch sauce designs? Are they art school dropouts? Are they instructors at art school? Is there a course in sushi sauce art? These are things that I wonder when I get to eat there and it is quiet and the artists are out to impress.

So, how dorky would you feel sipping from a cup that is labeled "yearbook fuel?" Do you think sushi chefs are wasting their artistic talent on plates that are just going to be smudged and then washed?