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Eclecticisms: September 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ginger Pie

It's no secret that my favorite movie is Harold and Maude. Not only has this movie influenced my life, but my diet as well. Maude serves two things to Harold that I'd never heard of and wanted to try, oat straw tea and ginger pie. (Two things perfect for this fall weather, as a matter of fact.)

"Maude: Here we are. Oat straw tea and ginger pie. Excuse the mismatched saucers.

Harold: This is definitely a new experience for me.

Maude: Oh, wonderful. Try something new each day.
After all, we're given life to find it out. It doesn't last forever."

So many of life's joys are shared over a good meal or good cup of tea (or coffee). I ran across oat straw tea in a health food store years ago and immediately put it in my basket. It didn't strike me to give ginger pie a shot until earlier this year, and imagine my surprise when I saw there were pretty much no recipes out there for it! Luckily, a much more experienced and imaginative baker than myself who has a blog Rowley's Whiskey Forge had already run into this problem and solved it. His delicious solution to this problem (after what sounds like a lot of searching and many attempts at getting it just right) was a ginger custard pie. As with so many other recipes I find, I didn't make this right away and I'm glad I finally have. Please click on the link above, as his blog post describes this pie better than I ever could. Here's my experience with making this ginger pie, inspired by no other than Dame Marjorie Chardin.


Unbaked pie crust
1/4-1/3 cup minced young ginger
2.5 oz aged (white) rum
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 Tbl unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 1/2 Tbl all purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest

In a small bowl combine peeled/minced ginger and the rum. Set aside and make the pie crust. (Or if you've already made the crust, allow the ginger and rum to sit for at least an hour).

Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined (about a minute on med/high). Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Mix in all remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture into your unbaked pie crust and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes. The top will become a warm golden color and the middle should be a bit jiggly (but not raw). Use a toothpick to check it if you aren't sure.

The flavor of the ginger gives this pie a warmth even when it isn't directly out of the oven, though that's a great way to enjoy it, too. I kept my fresh slice small- this is a pretty rich pie.

Serve to friends and family, and bring some to your grandparents as I did, so they can enjoy the comfort food too!

Happy eating!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

Why do I do these "Tickled Tuesday" posts? To cheer me up... to cheer you up, hopefully. I read a quote today that sums it up better than I ever could.

"Much of our failure to understand human nature arises from neglect of this need to have our faculties excited and our lives thereby enhanced. The human animal cannot be itself without this exciting enhancement. Excitement is not merely good, it is indispensable to a proper human life."

-Lancelot Law Whyte, Scottish Psysicist

The last line of that quote pretty much sums it up. Excitement is vital, even when you're in a state of rest and relaxation. When practicing yoga, I find I benefit most from it when I am relaxed and completely involved with my body and spirit as one. The excitement of this allows me to continue to learn how to fully experience sensations and emotions.

Excitement? It keeps us engaged. It keeps us happy. It's the stuff life should be made of.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Cat's are way smarter than we think, and an endless source of entertainment. I love those furry guys, and here's an example of why. What a sneaky bastard!

Happy Tuesday!

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies

I've been missing the smells of chocolate, berries, batter and vanilla wafting through my house and knew it was time to get back to baking. What better way to jump back into it than to make some pumpkin cookies! I got this recipe from Joy of Baking and added cranberries for even more of a "fall" feel. These cookies are almost like muffins or scones in a way, as they are scrumptious, fluffy and soft. The cream cheese frosting adds the perfect "oomph" to them, but they are fantastic on their own as well.

*Note: I think I over beat the batter a bit and made the cookies larger than they should have been.If you make sure to not over beat the batter and aim for smaller cookies than me, you'd probably end up with a more traditional cookie texture.


2 cups all purpose flour 
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups  light brown sugar (I used regular brown)
1/2 cup  canola oil or corn oil (I used safflower oil, which is healthier)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup  pumpkin puree (about 1 can, if you don't have fresh)
1/3 Cup dried cranberries (not in the original recipe)


4 ounces  (1/2 brick) room temperature cream cheese (I used low fat)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together all dry ingredient and set aside.

Using your mixer,beat together eggs, brown sugar, oil, vanilla and pumpkin.

Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. (This is the part I over did it a bit... oops!)

Using a 1/4 Cup or large spoon, pour batter into large dollops onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make sure to space them about 2". Also, the cookies don't flatten out when they bake like many other do, so you might end up with them lumpy if you are sloppy during this step.

Have lumpy cookies? Never fear! Use your frosting to make them into something fun, like this angry man cookie. Think of them as clouds... we'll all see something different.

Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centers of the cookies.

While they bake, make your frosting! Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth, or about 2-3 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix well until your frosting is a good consistency.Use a piping bag for fun, or just spread it on evenly. Make sure cookies are thoroughly cooled before icing them.

My brother decorated this one. I'm not even going to tell you what it's supposed to be.

Frost, eat and enjoy!
Happy Baking!

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Basil Pesto

How bitter sweet the days of September are. The joy of the upcoming cooler weather and watching the earth transform itself yet again in such beautiful arrays of colors and scents makes watching my garden fade all the more bearable.This weekend I finally harvested my basil which had gone for too long. I still got quite a bit (and will get a bit more before the season is out) but lost many leaves to the sun.

Has anyone grown basil indoors? Did it work? I'm going to miss fresh basil.

Basil loses much of its flavor and scent when dried, so I decided not to dry any in my dehydrator this year. Instead, I made pesto! I made one batch with cheese and one without. Cheese doesn't freeze well, so when I'm ready to use that batch down the line, I'll either eat it as is or throw it back in the food processor after it's thawed. We'll see.

I made the pesto batch with cheese  into a cream sauce and it turned out pretty good! I didn't follow a specific recipe (pesto is very versatile and you adjust ingredients to taste), but instead compared about 6 of the ones I found online and improvised. It would be fattier, but next time I might use heavy cream and omit the roux and light cream. It worked well, but I'm always looking to try new variations! (Though sometimes it takes me years to tear myself away from a favorite dish of mine and finally try a substitution.)

Here's my recipe. For a freezable version, just omit the cheese. The great thing about pesto is that you can improvise to your heart's content. Add some mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, parsley- the options are endless! (Let me say that there are many, many other "great" things about pesto. I just don't have that kind of time...)


2.5 Cups (packed) fresh basil
1/3 Cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup pine nuts
4 med. garlic cloves

You can edit, omit, replace or add to this list of ingredients. Let your imagination run wild! Next, I want to make a wild mushroom pesto. If it turns out well, I may just stock up on wild mushrooms and never leave my house again.OK- maybe to get more mushrooms.

In your food processor, blend together basil, garlic and cheese until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until thoroughly combined.

If you can't serve immediately (recommended), make sure to store in an air tight container. If it gets a bit brown, just give it a stir and it will be fine. Add a bit of olive oil to the top to help stop it from browning if you're going to refrigerate it or won't use it right away. (Pesto browns the way an apple or avocado might, but even faster!)

Voila! You're done!

Or you can keep going...

If you make the pesto without cheese, line small containers with ceran wrap and freeze. (Ice cube trays, muffin tins, small bowls, or just about anything that will be OK in the freezer for a day and fits the portion size you're looking to freeze.) Transfer to a freezer bag when it's fully frozen. You'll have fresh, home made pesto in the winter!

More ideas, you ask? How about creamy pesto sauce! I winged this and it turned out pretty damn well. I definitely recommend adding sauteed mushrooms to whatever you serve it with. Their flavors are perfectly complementary.


3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 1/2-2 Cup light cream (half and half)
1 Cup freshly made pesto (See above)
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin with a roux. Melt the butter in a medium sized sauce pan. Once melted, gradually add the flour, whicking constantly over medium heat. Your roux should  be a nice golden color when it's done, about 3-5 minutes.

Once the roux is done, add the cream. Don't add it all at once, as you might want to leave a bit of it out, depending on the consistency you're looking for. Make sure to keep stirring/whisking the sauce so it doesn't start to bubble and keep whisking until it's completely smooth. You don't want lumps! The sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Serve over any dish you'd like. A great appetizer or finger food is italian bread with a thin layer of pesto, fresh juicy tomato and a small chunk of mozzerella. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. I served mine over orchiette tossed with sauteed shitake mushrooms. Talk about delicious!


Happy Eating!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

Hello all! I'm so glad to be back with Tickled Tuesday features! This week is a picture from I laughed pretty damn loud at my desk when I saw it.

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Back from a long hiatus.

Phew. Is it strange for me to say that coming back to my blog is a sensation like catching my breath? I feel as though I've been away and unable to catch up with myself the past month or so. Writing is so therapeutic to me but I didn't realize how much I missed it and really needed it.

I do have a recipe to share but I'm saving that for later in the week. Tomorrow Tickled Tuesday resumes, and as long as I can fend off colds and stomach pains (seriously- I've been a mess!) I'll have more recipes soon. As I'd mentioned in past blogs, the heat this year was really bad and I just didn't want to bake or cook much.  My garden was a bit neglected as well, because of either heat, mosquitoes (see picture below...), a cold, plans/parties, etc.

Today's blog isn't so much for you guys as it is for me. (Sorry!) I do want to share what I've been doing this summer, but I feel like getting some things down, documenting things and events, and just writing in general will help me tremendously. Mentally and spiritually I've been in a funk lately and I'm more than ready to get past it.

Getting past these blues, lethargy and stress should be a lot easier with the fall approaching. Autumn is my favorite season by far. The crisp cool air, warm shades of foliage, the scurry of the squirrels getting ready for winter, the smell of pies and casseroles replacing the smells of BBQ and pools... it all makes me feel a bit nostalgic. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that this time of year always meant school was starting, which was a pretty pivotal point annually for so many years of our lives. I feel more alive in the fall and always get an itch to hit the road and make changes in my life. I find energy begins to return to me as the hot days and many events slowly wind down until we've traded our shorts and flip flops for warm jackets and scarves. Fall may be when the greenery goes into a deep sleep and we hole up in our houses or apartments but it's when I feel most alive and renewed. It's almost as if the life and energy that leaves my surroundings is lent to me (for awhile).
*This feeling lasts through around New Years, and then it's all down hill for a bit, as that time in March comes where it's still snowing and  you're starting to see interest charges on those christmas presents you bought with your credit card, and the trains are always behind blaming the weather, and if you have to shovel the walk one last time you're gonna...   Well, that time in March. That time of March I'm ready for spring and regrowth!

This summer was a fun, busy one. I saw a lot of my family (which means more to me than anything!), my brother got married, I started hula hooping and I've been able to connect with some wonderful people on a deeper level while weeding out some people in my life that just weren't good for me.

Here are some pictures to sum up my summer, and where I've been during my short hiatus. Here's to a fabulous fall and winter of baking, creating and living to the fullest. Kitchen, here I come.

My brother Brian married Sarah!

Here are a few of us in the limo, after the wedding. I have to say, it was the highlight of the night! (If you don't watch the entire scene, at least check out the headbanging part!)

Mr. Bo was as scholarly as ever this summer.

Bo saw me going for his picture... he grabbed my camera cord and pulled with all of his might.

I got some pretty sweet bug bites this summer. I can STILL faintly see them, and this was a month ago!

And last but not least, some garden pictures!


Look at those sun flowers!


I'm SO glad to be back. Thanks for sticking around!

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