Show Stopping Apple Crisp

Show Stopping Apple Crisp

It’s slowly becoming common knowledge that I make the best apple crisp on earth. Every year I get more and more people on the apple crisp train, and so therefore every year I make more and more apple crisp. Usually I make them at random for functions and whatnot. This year, after a very long month of working I decided I needed to have a fall gathering to remind myself and all the friends I’d been ignoring that I am, in fact, still alive. And what better centerpiece for a fall party than apple crisp?

At first I thought it would be just a small gathering for a few friends…. that quickly turned into 16 people. It’s a wonderful feeling when you invite a bunch of people over and just about all of them show up. I like to think its me and not the apple crisp, but it’s probably 50/50. Sixteen people means two apple crisps. Accompanying the fall show stopped was warm apple cider with a selection of booze, and a new creation of mine: pumpkin pie spice popcorn. All I did was pop a big batch of popcorn on the stovetop in a small stockpot. Just buy any brand of loose popcorn kernels and pop according to the package directions – it is super easy, WAY better than microwave, and WAY cheaper. Once popped I tossed the corn with a stick of melted butter, a few pinches of kosher salt, and mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg, allspice, and clove. Add and toss to taste. It is quite the addictive sweet treat and perfect for accompanying our favorite Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus, starring the Divine Miss M and a very young Sarah Jessica Parker. Hilarious.

And what makes my apple crisp so good? It’s all in the topping. Sugar, oatmeal, flour, salt, and my personal touch, lots of diced pecans. I’ve attached the recipe below – you’re welcome.

What’s your fall favorite?

Show Stopping Apple Crisp – Recipe PDF

 

Liquid Ginger

Organic Ginger Syrup A few years ago while visiting Vermont, I was introduced to the most unexpected and, as it turned out, heavenly concoction known as Organic Ginger Syrup, a product made a company called the Ginger People. Think maple syrup, except ginger and not maple. Crazy, right? I can tell you’re intrigued. I honestly don’t know what caused me to think of this product a few weeks ago…. craving? sense trigger? insatiable lust for ginger? Whatever the case, I needed to have it, so on the internet I went. After several weeks of waiting from backorders and shipping, it finally arrived. Three bottles of it! And just as good as I remember.

Now the next hurdle: what to do with it? This isn’t technically *that* difficult of a question since there is a laundry list of things one can do without much of a stretch, the most obvious being to use it wherever you would use maple syrup or honey: pancakes, waffles, sweetener for ice tea, cakes, cookies, frosting. But, as you know, the starving artist thrives on creativity and thinking at least slightly out of the box. And besides, this is a whole new ingredient I’ve invested in – throwing it on pancakes simply was not enough for me. Photo Aug 04, 6 34 09 PM

So, as I always do, I poked around my kitchen and noticed that I had some fresh cherries and blueberries in my fridge. Combined with the peaches on my counter, I do believe I had a fruit salad.  And what better way to dress a fruit salad than with some ginger syrup? I simply prepped the fruit and tossed it altogether with a generous pour of syrup and a few dashes of ground Cardamom. A divine summer breakfast, or a perfect complement to any barbecue/picnic.

But this is only the beginning. With three bottles of this in my cupboard, you can expect this to special ingredient to be popping up again in the future. And do share any ideas you might have in the comments below.

Warm Cookie Sundae with Nutella Hot Fudge

Warm Cookie Sunday with Nutella Hot FudgeAlright, I admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like huge displays of roses and endless sappy happy facebook posts to remind you that you’re single (I’m not bitter)… But in all seriousness, I am happy for all my friends and loved ones who celebrate their companionship today. Besides, I always manage to find fun in even the most dire of situations. One of my life philosophies is to celebrate – whatever you have, whatever you’re given, celebrate it. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love doing anti-Valentine’s Day things when you’re single? Several years ago I found myself in a theatre in Times Square by myself on Valentine’s Day watching There Will Be Blood. What a love fest that wasn’t – perfect!

Putting aside anti-sentiments for a moment,  for me there are always two good things to celebrate on this day. The first is my parents’ wedding anniversary. That’s right, my mom and stepdad were married 21 years ago today. My lord how time flies. Here’s to 21 more! The other thing to celebrate is whether you’re single, happily married, or anywhere in between, Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to indulge in some chocolate (not that I really need an excuse). I’ve been thinking for the past few days about what could make up a simple yet decadent treat that one could enjoy alone, with friends, or with a special someone. If you’ve read the title of this post, you already know what I came up with. Nothing says both decadence and sexiness to me like Nutella. I envision two people madly in love spreading in on strawberries and feeding them to one another…… sorry I just threw up a little…. but am I right? There’s something about the smooth silkiness that is just… well, sexy. But it’s not enough for the starving artist to spread it on toast and call it a day. How about we up the ante and make it into a warm thick hot fudge topping for a sundae… NOW we’re talkin’.

Here’s the Recipe: 

First, start with your favorite scratch-baked cookie recipe. If you’re in need of an idea, I highly recommend my infamous Dark Chocolate recipe – you’ll never make any other kind. To make the sauce, simply place 1/2 cup of Nutella in a small microwaveable bowl with 1/4 cup of whole milk or heavy cream. Give it a quick stir, then stash it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Grab a small whisk and whisk like crazy until it gets smooth. It will look like hell at first, but just keep stirring – trust me. Once it’s nice and smooth you can decide whether you want to make it thinner by adding more milk and microwaving it some more. I like it on the thicker side. To assemble the sundae, place one or two warm cookies in a bowl or on a small plate. Scoop on your favorite ice cream (I used french vanilla), then drizzle the hot Nutella sauce liberally over everything. Done. You can also add chopped nuts or anything else that tickles your fancy. It’s a perfect little indulgence to have before going out to the local bar for an anti-Valentine cocktail.

Speaking of anti-Valentine’s…

If you’re in Los Angeles and you’re looking to celebrate your singleness, I found this great article on the LA Weekly Blog that lists six bars/restaurants that are having anti-Valentine’s celebrations. One of them is Birds, which is right here in my neighborhood – yet another reason I love where I live.

So whether you’re single or happily partnered, I hope you all will enjoy celebrating on Valentine’s Day! Be sure to check out my facebook and twitter for more valentine and anti-valentine articles and ideas today.

Blueberries in February…?

Raw Blueberrry JamAm I the only one who has been baffled by the mass quantities of cheap blueberries available in the middle of winter? A little poking around the internet tells me that they are apparently from Chile, which has turned into a mega producer and exporter of the little blue fruit. I suppose I should be suspicious of this new “global market” we’re living in and be cautious of what effect purchasing this product has on our planet… but I really love blueberries…. and they’re so cheap… and sooo goooooddddd……

These days when I am presented with a quantity of cheap blueberries, they wind up in my morning juice. Not only are they sweet and incredibly flavorful, they have more antioxidants than any other food on the planet – what better way to start your day? Still, I can’t help but wonder what other creative applications I can use on these amazing little berries. Being a lover of jam, I was thinking I could make some, but the amount of sugar one has to use to make jam is not really bootcamp-friendly. Besides, it’s so easy to just throw blueberries in a pot with sugar – what about keeping them raw? What about butter??? Ooooo!

So here’s what I did. I took a half-pint of blueberries and a half-pint of blackberries and emptied them into my food processor. I did some digging around my cabinets and found some coconut sugar I got from Whole Foods a month ago – it’s a natural sugar (i.e. not processed), so it’s super good for you. I put a tablespoon in. You can substitute maple sugar or sugar in the raw or just some white sugar if you’re not terribly concerned. I then added in two tablespoons of organic raw agave nectar. Why? Because I had it leftover from when I made fresh ginger ale last week. Honey would be perfectly fine as well. Then, a pinch of salt, a drop of vanilla, and I needed some citrus… hmmm…  oh, I’ll steal one of these fresh oranges from my roommate. I squeezed half of it in. But now we need something to thicken this concoction that is not flour or cornstarch or anything super processed. I did some digging around and came up with the answer: ground chia seed. It’s an incredible natural thickener. And more importantly I had it in my kitchen. 1 tablespoon in the work bowl. Grind it all up in the food processor until smooth, put it in a bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Voila, raw berry jam. Not at thick as a real jam, but the flavor is crazy fresh and intense, and as you can see from the pic, it sits beautifully on toast. Here it is in list form:

  • 1 pint of fresh blueberries (or a mixture of blue and blackberries)
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar (or any raw, unprocessed sugar like maple or stevia)
  • 2 tbsp organic raw agave syrup (or honey)
  • 1 drop vanilla
  • 1 small pinch of salt
  • the juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 2 tbsp ground chia seed

–Process all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Done.

Now you could stop here, but I looove me some compound butter, so I did that too. Take 1/2 stick of room temperature butter and mash in about 2 tablespoons of the jam. Form the mixture either into a ball or a log or whatever you want and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. Now you have this wonderfully colorful butter to spread on toasts, muffins, croissants, your body – whatever you like! If you want to double or triple the recipe, I would recommend using a hand mixer or kitchen aid to whip it together really well.

If you just can’t get enough blueberry,  check out these other fantastic recipes from my blog:

Blueberry Coffeecake Muffins
Blueberry Pie
Mixed Berry Salsa
Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad
Crust Knots (if you decide to make pie)

Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Egg Nog Icing

Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Egg Nog IcingSo I know the holidays are over, but come on, there is still plenty of time for gingerbread. This year I started a new Christmas morning tradition with my parents by baking my favorite gingerbread recipe. Not overly crunchy decorated cookies, not a house, but a warm, spicy, moist, real old fashioned gingerbread. This is a recipe I love to make at the very beginning of a party. As it bakes it fills your house with the most incredible aroma – warm, inviting, unmistakable. It wafts down the hallways and turns heads. My favorite thing is when people enter my hallway in my building and immediately ask (in reference to the aroma), “is that you?” Oh yes, that is me. As long as you’re talking about the gingerbread and not the poorly ventilated trash chute…

This recipe that I speak so highly about is actually not my own, but one I came upon some years ago on a quest for really good gingerbread. Amongst all the recipes I found, it was one from Emeril Lagasse that I decided to try and I certainly picked a winner. What makes it special is the use of Guiness – a whole cup. What more needs to be said? I also love that it calls for Turbinado Sugar (aka raw sugar – the big brown crystals). The combination gives it such a warm and earthy depth. I promise you’ll love it.

Now you’ll notice that Emeril gives instructions for a spiced creme anglaise to serve with the bread. The starving artist says eff that – isn’t it enough that I’m baking a cake? Truth be told, it *does* need something to put on top of it as the cake itself is not that sweet (another reason it’s so fantastic). I came up with a very easy and festive alternative: egg nog icing. Need I say more?

Gingerbread Recipe

Egg Nog Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Egg Nog
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg
2 tsp Brandy (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together. Done. I like the icing to be a little loose for this recipe – if you want it thicker, reduce the amount of egg no.