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I dedicate this post to: Cheese… yes I have stooped to this level

What would be your death row meal? That’s an odd question for me to ask you because I imagine you’re quite a lovely person… and don’t kill people… BUT, let’s pretend you do…okay back to my point. If you were a bad person, what would you want your last meal to be?

I find myself drawn to thinking these things, not because I’m weird (okay, maybe I’m a little weird), as a way to procrastinate, which I’m quite good at if you haven’t noticed yet. Its kind of fun to think about all the different options you could choose from, like steak or lobster or something cool like that. However, I’m not sure why but I’m pretty sure mine would consist of a bowl of macaroni loaded with oozy, melted, cheesy goodness.

I honestly never ate or liked cheese as a kid. A: my dad was allergic, and B: the only cheese my mom would ever eat was foul smelling blue cheese (YUCK!) So you see how, naturally, I was skeptical.

Despite the fact that I looked at cheese with disgust, and wouldn’t even touch it, if someone put a bowl of mac and cheese in front of me, I would easily find room in my stomach to eat at least 2 of 3 bowls… I now realize why I was a chubster.

Kraft mac and cheese was my favorite. Since I had no real knowledge about any other cheese: one time my grandma made me homemade pasta and cheese and, as I’ve been repeatedly told by family members, as soon as she put it in front of me, I refused to eat it because it was white and not orange… I’m horrible, I know. But, what can I say… I loved that fake, processed, orange stuff.

My ways have since changed and I’ve moved on from that blue box, but macaroni and cheese will forever be one of the greatest comfort foods EVER. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 50, this creamy and cheesy dish will always put a smile on your face, or put you in a food coma… either way I’m happy.7268414266_6ec8e93925_z

I’ve had many different recipes, but let me just tell you something: Panera Bread’s macaroni and cheese is thick, creamy and loaded with white cheddar and American cheese, making it the best thing I’ve seriously ever had (I could add more words to that, but I’m just not sure I can describe how awesomely amazing it is, you just have to try it for yourself). That mixed with the open shell pasta they use, which captures the cheese within it so that each bite is full of yummy amazingness.

I think I’ve used the word cheese wayyy too many times… so I’m just going to stop here.

It’s a Cooking Kind of Day

Even though its almost time for finals and I have way more on my plate than I can handle, I decided today was a great day to cook. It calms me down and overall just puts me in a great mood. The sun is shining through my windows and it’s finally getting cold in Austin… thank gosh. My birthday was this past weekend, on December 1st, and normally it always snows in Chicago. But I have to remind myself, of course, that I am 1,300 miles south of Chicago, where the weather is pretty much up in the air all the time.

Since it is slightly chilly outside, I thought I would embrace this fall/winter(ish)-like weather and make use of the butternut squash that has been in my fridge since right before Thanksgiving. I’ve always wanted to try to make ravioli from scratch and I love butternut squash… see where I’m going here?… so obviously put two and two together and decided to make butternut squash ravioli. Now considering the fact that I’ve never actually made pasta dough before I remember I had a recipe for it in my “recipe folder” on my desktop… which by the way has over 100 recipes in it that I’ve collected over the past few years and have recently came to the conclusion that I will not repeat a recipe on there until I have tried all of them.

Anyways, back to my point. I decided to make eggless pasta, since I figured that was the easiest choice, but am now feeling shameful because my Italian ancestors are probably rolling in their graves right about now.

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So I mixed 2 1/2 cups of flour in a small mixing bowl and originally put in 1 cup of warm water. After mixing it with my hands, I decided that it needed a little more water, so ended up gradually putting about another cup into the mixture until it was fully absorbed and felt like a dough(ish) substance.

After that I wrapped it tightly in saran wrap and set it aside in the fridge for about an hour. While that was sitting aside, I cut my butternut squash in half, scraping out the inside and keeping the seeds for later on. I set the oven for 375, sprinkled some brown sugar, salt and pepper in and around the squash and put it in the oven for about an hour, or until soft… this is currently where I’m at right now, so I will keep updating my progress as the day goes on!

Thanksgiving…

 

 

America, what a great country. Honestly we have so many great traditions and holidays and what could be more symbolic of our culture than millions of people coming together with their families for one day to stuff their bloated faces and stomachs with greasy flesh torn from the bones of innocent turkeys to feed greedy Americans… okay maybe that’s going a little too far. But Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where we spend hours cooking and for what? To cook the turkey until its dry, burn something or heck, I dunno, even drop a whole dish on the ground. Thanksgiving madness, its totally a thing.

My family takes the preparation of it way too seriously when we know that at the end of the night we are just going to pour a ton of gravy over everything… that’s what its there for though right? Thanksgiving is supposed to involve family, lots of wine, laughs, WAY too many cooks in the kitchen… and an occasional turkey hat purchased last minute from Target.

A Feast Fit For A Roman Emperor

Imagine being in a rustic, Tuscan-style home, barefoot in some sort of old(ish), wrinkled-yet completely chic-long, linen dress, in a kitchen with no air conditioning that’s older than my great grandmother, and you’re there cooking under the guidance of a sweet Italian old woman you can barely communicate with.

Regardless of the fact that this explains my great grandmother more so than my actual grandmother, I still like to imagine that this is how and where I learned to cook. It’s really not far off, though. Simply replace the Tuscan-style home with a one-story house in the countryside of upstate New York and it’s basically the same situation.

At the end of every summer-for the better part of a month- my older sister and I would leave Chicago and head to a little place called Hillsdale, a town in Columbia County consisting of rolling hills, open farmland and wooden tracts. We did what any normal kid would do during summer break: go fishing, swimming, hiking, tree climbing, and mow the lawn on my grandpa’s tractor, my personal favorite. Aside from that I would always make time to cook with my Grammy (as I like to call her). When I think about cooking I am immediately brought back to her kitchen, and if there is one thing I’ve taken away from her cooking it is that you must put love into every dish you make. 

Today was one of those days where I woke up early, went grocery shopping and spent the better part of six hours cooking. Since it was such a nice day in Austin, and probably one of the last warm days for a while, I decided to turn off the air conditioning, open the door leading out to my deck, and cook barefoot, which has now resulted in my feet turning a disgusting shade of black. TMI, I know, but it was well worth it. I had a whole meal planned out: brussels sprout soup topped with candied pancetta, crispy parmesan biscuits filled with lemon butter, baby arugula and smoked salmon, and dark chocolate cupcakes with matcha green tea frosting.

I know, I know, it’s a lot of food but my friends and I decided we would have a mock thanksgiving, even though none of the food we made resembled anything that would be on a thanksgiving table… that’s beside the point though. What really matters is that overall the dinner was a success, I was surrounded by close friends, and we pretty much had a feast.

Vegetables Aren’t So Bad…

I used to hate vegetables. I was that kid at the dinner table who would put them in their mouth and then spit it back out into the napkin. Yes I was that bad, and despite my hatred for all things green, my mother would continuously prepare them.

There are certain vegetables that are more popular during the winter season, brussels sprouts being the worst of the bunch. Normally these are rarely served during the rest of the year, but that means nothing to my mother. My one wish as a child was that my mother would finally follow the rest of the herd and stop serving those green vegetables that resembled cabbage, however that never happened. Instead of only occurring for a few weeks during the year, I had the joy of having constant nightmares about those foul and horribly disgusting tasting balls of death.

As I got older-and started to cook more for myself-I found that I tried more and more vegetables, which to my surprise actually transformed my initial hatred into love. I also learned that even though steaming vegetables is healthier I have no problem giving into the temptation of adding more calories to vegetables in order to make them taste better. Tonight I came across Eatocracy’s blog and became a little too excited about finding four new ways to prepare brussels sprouts.

The good thing about winter is that you can take all of these earthy vegetables and come up with creative ways to prepare them, especially if you are one of those people who has a hard time grasping the fact that vegetables are truly amazing. Two of my favorite recipes are pumpkin risotto and broccoli cheddar soup. Combining them into a risotto or soup (soup season is the best season) transforms them from initial disgust to a dish loaded with flavors and textures, so that nightmares about vegetables are the least of your worries.

I leave out the scallops in this recipe

Cooking is Fun… I guess

One of my favorite things in this world is food. During the day, I eat… at night, I eat… and when I’m home doing homework, I, of course, have the food network on 24/7. Honestly, how many of you can say that you don’t like eating… I mean unless you just totally hate food… and in that case… well, I’m sorry.

Since I’m a broke college student and all, I don’t have the luxury of going out to eat all the time, so instead I’ve found this love for cooking. That isn’t to say that I’ve never cooked before and that I am completely incapable of doing so, unlike my sister, but every now and then I find a day where I pretend that I’m an amazing chef… I find that I have so many friends on days like these… weird, I know…

Any who… I know I should be studying and all, but sometimes my computer just calls to me… OPEN ME… it’s almost like it has this unnatural power over me where I just can’t seem to say no. So, naturally, I open my laptop where I find myself on other blogging sites, mainly ones that revolve around food.

Two of my favorite sites, that I visit at least once a day… sometimes more, are

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and

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I mean seriously, these things just shouldn’t exist. Once I open these sites, I’m in a complete trance. I can’t seem to close the web browser… I really just have no idea how it happens… it’s truly magical. As soon as you’re there, these pictures pop up, nearly out of the page. Its like, if you put your tongue to the computer screen you can taste the food… almost… not like I do that or anything… maybe…

I was really craving doughnuts today… maybe it was because I live literally right next to Krispy Kreme and can see it outside of my window… but decided I didn’t want to give in and today would be the perfect day to have something homemade. So I have this folder on my desktop with over 100 recipes in it… its kind of bad. Just like some people collect stamps or have these things called hobbies or whatever… well I collect recipes. So naturally, I go to open my folder and I’m scrolling through it and remember I saved this recipe for Cinnamon and Sugar Ricotta Fritters that I told myself I would try sooner or later.

Well let me tell you… it was seriously the best decision I have EVER made… plus it took less than an hour to make, so really you have no excuse to not try it. I know, ricotta in a doughnut you may ask… its weird right? I thought so too… but no… it is the lightest, fluffiest thing I have ever had. So for all of you out there who are too worried to consume any calories… just think of it as eating air… but better.

Here is the recipe that I “stole” from A Cozy Kitchen… I made one batch covered with cinnamon and sugar and the other I covered in powdered sugar… either way its delicious:

Fritters:
Vegetable Oil
3 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Topping:
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
4 tablespoons McCormick ground cinnamon

1. In a cast iron skillet (or saucepan), heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels and set near the saucepan.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla; add the ricotta and beat until smooth. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined.

3. Add sugar and cinnamon to a plate and toss. Place near the stove, as you’re going to want to toss the hot doughnuts in the mixture.

4. Using a small ice cream scoop or 2 teaspoons, slide 8 walnut-size rounds of batter into the hot oil. Fry over moderate heat until golden brown all over and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to the paper towels to drain. Immediately roll them in to the cinnamon and sugar mixture and serve. Continue frying the remaining fritters in batches of 8.

Recipe adapted from Gale Gand

Yields 16 fritters

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