Pecan Pie

I spent Thanksgiving with new friends this year: one of my classmate’s parents were in town and she invited me and another friend over for the feast. It was such a lovely afternoon: her mom cooked a delicious meal and it warmed my heart to know that I have met such kind people since I’ve been here and that Thanksgiving didn’t have to be spent alone (with a bowl of oatmeal).

To contribue, I decided to whip up that ubiquitous Southern Thanksgiving staple: Pecan Pie. I felt the need to represent the South in some way, so even though I’d never made the pie before, it had to happen. I turned to Martha for the recipe, but I’ve included the changes I think would send this puppy over the top.

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Pecan Pie

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 1 9-inch pie

pie crust

(I used Martha’s basic pie dough but it didn’t quite meet my expectations. I’m still searching for the best pie dough recipe but there are plenty of good ones out there. Or you can always buy one, if crust making isn’t your thang. No judgment.)

4 eggs

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 granulated sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups pecans, chopped

***

Start by getting that pie crust together if you’re making it. roll it into a 9 inch pie dish and stick it in the fridge. From the somewhat severe/painful burn I suffered dealing with aluminum pie tins and a very hot jelly roll pan, I would suggest using a real pie dish for this recipe since the pie is pretty heavy.

could my crust look anymore homemade? Its all part of the charm…right?

preheat oven to 350F

For your filling:

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, both sugars, vanilla, butter, and salt until smooth and creamy.

Fold in the chopped pecans–they don’t need to be chopped, but I found the pecan halves a big unwieldy during serving.

Pour your filling into the pie crust–you may have a little left over.

Place your pie on a jelly roll plate in case of an overflow, and bake for about 30 minutes.

Check on your crust–if its getting golden and done, cover the edges of the pie with foil (careful not to burn yourself!) and stick it back in for another 20-30 minutes (maybe longer, depending on your oven), until the middle is slightly jiggly.

Cool for as long as you can before serving, and enjoy with big dollops of whipped cream.

(1.5 cups heavy cream + 4 tbsp powdered sugar + 1 tsp vanilla = my standard and delicious whipped cream recipe. You better believe I got every last bit off those beaters as a pre-thanksgiving feast treat)

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Its been a little (ok, a lot) quiet over here these last few months. I wish I could say its because I’ve been having a grand old time living life away from my computer, buts its actually the total opposite: I’ve been chained to this stupid machine for weeks on end, memorizing and studying, typing, and learning. Missing out on fall. Missing out on fun. I have stacks of Cooking Light, Glamour, and Kinfolk sitting in my room, their spines waiting to be cracked. My recipe to-do list is overflowing but all I ever have time for these days are salads and oatmeal. I stayed in town for Thanksgiving break instead of going home to my family so that I can prepare for final exams. It most certainly has not been the most fun time of my life, but its approaching its end. Finals may kill me, as will the anxiety of waiting for grades, and the inevitable crushing disappointment I will feel when those grades don’t meet my expectations. But its approaching its end.

I won’t be neglecting this space that much anymore though. The happiness I get from writing and posting and sharing is worth the study time it steals. I have some fun recipes lined up, holiday gift guides, and a whole lot of Nashville to share in these upcoming weeks.

In honor of Thanksgiving, today my heart is full of:

My family

There is no way I would have gotten through…well, anything, without them. They’re the funniest, kindest, and most amazing people I know. Their encouragement and support is unyielding and I’m so thankful for each of them.

My soulmates.

We may be in three different states this year, but keeping in touch with them and hearing about their lives is always a highlight of my week. I miss everything about this picture, but I’m so proud of them both for working hard and achieving so much. I hope they do realize though that I’m kidnapping them and dragging them to Nashville next time I see them. I think 6 months apart has been plenty.

School.

Yes. I’m even thankful for school. I’m thankful I have the opportunity to keep educating myself, and building up for my future. This is a privilege. I forget that a lot, but its worth reminding myself that this is special, and not to be wasted.

The miscellaneous things:

Mumford & Sons

I dont want to think about where my life would be if this hadn’t been playing on repeat since it came out.

Greek Yogurt

Coffee. And all caffeine, generally.

And finally, My absurd collection of fuzzy socks. For keeping me warm.

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I hope you all have the happiest of Thanksgivings!

what I wish I could spend my sundays doing. these days are spent cooped up in the library, poring over cases and aggravating my already sore wrists with more typing. carpal tunnel is going to own me by the time I graduate.

Even though I have a mountain of work and studying to do in preparation for finals, I’m looking forward to my Thanksgiving break, which begins promptly at 12:05 this Friday afternoon. I won’t be going home this year because of the school work that needs to be accomplished, but I’m hoping to balance the studying with some quality time exploring Nashville. Just 5 more days.

Reproductive Rights

I’m not secretive about my feminism–in fact, I LOVE to talk about feminism, about the role of women in our world, about societal expectations of women, about slut-shaming, and most importantly, about the power of women.

I firmly believe that empowering women is an essential element of progress. Its easy for us as western women to feel disconnected from the struggles women face elsewhere–I’m not subject to genital mutilation. I can freely pursue my education. I have an avenue, however flawed it may be, to punish those who violate my body. Despite these options, there is still a lot that I don’t have. Our bodies are stil legislated over, with decisions being made for us by governmental bodies which fail to represent us. Women’s bodies are objectified, chopped, represented crudely, and are generally treated as the property of society as a whole; as topics available for conversation and judgment and scorn.

The rights I have over my body, my reproductive rights, matter to me. I think they matter for us all. I encourage you to keep standing up for them in whatever way you feel is right. If you’re interested in taking an affirmative action, head on over here: http://www.drawtheline.org and sign your name. Its an issue that affects all women and all men who care about the women in their lives.

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Nashville at 6mph

I run. Not competitively, not particularly enthusiastically, and not very well, but I run. Its been a necessity these days for getting through the stress and tension that seems to build over the week: lacing up my sneakers and pounding the pavement with my ipod blasting is the perfect vacation from the library and lately, I’ve loved running as the sun is slowly setting and that little fall breeze is blowing past me at the end of the day.

I tend to be pretty adventurous in my paths. I like to spontaneously turn down streets and go every which way I please and see what I discover. Since I run with my iphone which has those convenient maps/gps features built in, I manage to find my way home eventually, and its been such a lovely way to get to know this awesome little city and see some fun sights.

{church towers as you’re coming into downtown}

{I’m a sucker for sparkly skylines. However, This late night jog got me next to a very seedy little club called Showgirls. Needless to say, I turned right back around and hustled my way home.}

{gorgeous Gothic architecture on Broadway.}

{the back of the Bridgestone Arena. Far less impressive than the front, but I did get to see a gorgeous and tattooed band member/crew member/whatever I decided to impose on him in the moment guy walk out. Its the little things, right?}

{pops of color after one of those thunderous house shaking southern storms. During this jog, I also slipped on a wet leaf and face planted on the pavement. The damage I did to my shins/hands can’t even compare to the damage that tumble did to my ego :)}

{the lovely Frist Museum. I’m obsessed with those giant flowers in the front, complete with giant critters crawling on the petals.}

Hi There.

Its been a little silent over here for the last 3 weeks. I’ve moved to a new state, unpacked a whole new apartment, started a new grad school, made new friends, and I am slowly making my home here in Nashville.

School has been a rollercoaster of every emotion under the sun. Its been wonderful meeting all these new amazing people (who are so smart. so smart. and kind.) and the school itself is fantastic. My classes are challenging in a way that makes me feel like my brain is growing everyday but that also makes me nervous and intimidated and that makes me doubt my abilities. Sometimes I start falling down a rabbit hole of overwhelming emotion, but then I have to stop and remind myself that its only been two weeks. It feels like a lifetime, but 10 days of real school is all I have under my belt, so I try to stay patient. I also miss my family and friends more than I can articulate. Its been growing pains to the extreme, ya’ll.

Here are a bunch of snapshots of my new life. Other than my school anxieties, its been a pretty fantastic three weeks.

{the mellow mushroom pizza outside of my building makes me feel at home.}

{the view from my bedroom window. Taylor Swift lives up in the corner penthouse and there are rumors of Kings of Leon residing in there as well. I’ve yet to spot them, but as an avid people watcher, its a fun way to procrastinate.}

{some of my new best friends.}

{the essentials: caffeine, chocolate, eye drops, charged up computer, private study carrel in my secret campus study spot (that law library is stress central), and some quality time with my Torts book.}

{we threw an impromptu rooftop party at our building last weekend. it was sparkly and i laughed all night long.}

{I’ve obviously been making my rounds throughout Nashville restaurants and the best stop thus far was Jeni’s Ice Cream.  Being the glutton that I am I couldn’t just pick one flavor so I went with the try three bowl: goat cheese & cherry, sweet corn & blueberry, and dark chocolate. The sweet corn & blueberry was the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Ever.}

{yes, you’re reading correctly: Trailer Resort. Paradise Park is a trailer park themed honky tonk in downtown here and we tend to end up there more often than I am comfortable with. Only in the south…}

{Green Hills Farmers Market made my week. Fresh veggies, local goat cheese, and bluegrass music playing while I browse through each tent. Best Saturday morning activity.}

{market loot.}

{season opener against South Carolina. It wasn’t quite like Athens, but I made it work. Who would have thought I’d miss my dogs that much though?}

{my current cell phone background and the reminder that gets me through those tough days at school followed by long hours at the library}

Sugar Cookies with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

I used to not be a huge fan of cookies (I know. what?). Given the choice between cookies and say, cheesecake, or pie, I would never choose a cookie. All of this changed in England though, when I discovered Ben’s Cookies. They were soft, yet crunchy. Sweet, but kind of salty. I realized I had just been eating sub-par cookies, and after seeing the light, I’ve now embraced the goodness that is a perfectly made chocolate chip cookie.

I’m still struggling to get on the sugar cookie bandwagon though. Sugar cookies are not part of the European/Balkan dessert repertoire and I always felt like they were missing something. I decided to give them another shot though when my sister and I both needed some sweet treats to bring to friends, and I think I’m starting to come around….the addition of cream cheese frosting certainly didn’t hurt things.

* * *

Sugar Cookies

recipe adapted from The Professional Palate ; makes about 3 dozen cookies

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, very soft

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp milk

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

* * *

In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter for a few minutes, until light and fluffy

When combined, add the milk, vanilla & almond extracts, and egg, mix until it all comes together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add it to your wet ingredients in 3 batches, and beat until combined.

Dump your dough onto a lightly floured surface and mush it all together to combine. Its kind of a sticky dough, so just keep the flour coming on your hands and the work surface so that you can combine it all.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and and refrigerate for an hour or so, just so that its easier to roll out and work with. I separated off about 1/4 of my dough and dyed it red with a few splashes or red food coloring. This was because I bought a lobster cookie cutter in New Hampshire and I’ve been itching it put it to work.

Once your dough is nice and chilled, grab your rolling pin and roll your dough out. If you like soft cookies, go for about 1/4 inch thickness, even more if you like. If you like them crunchy, go even thinner. I used powdered sugar to flour my surface so that my dough wouldn’t get tough from additional flour. I also dunked my cookie cutters into the powdered sugar before I used them so that they wouldn’t stick to the dough. The dough gets sticky as it warms up, so try and avoid handling it too much with warm hands so that it will cooperate with you!

Preheat your over to 375

Once your cookies are cut out, put them on cookie sheets with wax paper or no stick spray. Pop the cookie sheets into the freezer for about 5 minutes or so prior to baking. Depending on the thickness of your cookies, they will take about 8 or so minutes to bake. Check on them by sticking a toothpick in the middle to see if it comes out clean. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 10-12 minutes, and let them cool completely on a wire rack prior to frosting.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese

4 tbsp butter

1 or 2 tbsp milk

2-4 cups of powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tsp coconut extract

* * *

In a standing mixer or a bowl with a hand-held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter, 1 tbsp of your milk, and vanilla extract.

Slowly add the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time and mix together. How much powdered sugar you use depends on how sweet you like your frosting. I ended up adding about 2 1/2 cups (I don’t like super sweet frosting), but just add a bit and taste as you go. Add the extra tbsp of milk (or more, if necessary) if your frosting is too thick and you like it runnier. I went with about 1 tbsp.

The coconut extract is also contingent on your taste–I added about 1 1/2 tsp for a great coconut flavor that wasn’t overpowering. My suggestion would be to just add 1 tsp, mix it, and give it a taste. If it needs more, add about 1/2 tsp more at a time until you’re happy with the flavors.

Grab your sprinkles and your cooled cookies, and get to decorating! My sister was kind enough to handle sprinkle/decoration duties while I frosted. I reserved some of the plain frosting prior to adding the coconut, so some had simple vanilla cream cheese frosting, while others had the coconut. My favorite was definitely the coconut frosting.

This recipe was great because it made so many cookies–my sister and I both had enough to take to our friends and have some leftovers. I ended up marbling the rest of the red dough with the white dough for a few pretty ones that I left frosting-less for those people who don’t like frosting. I also ended up having a lobster cookie tragedy–I should have made my dough fatter because they ended up being too brittle and breaking when I took them off the tray (hence the lobster bodies in the bowl). We still ate them though (hence the fact that there is only 1 lobster body in the bowl)–they were too yummy to pass up!

Pinterest Finds

Some current loves found on the rabbit hole known as Pinterest:

A tomato and peach salad for those ripe and delicious summer fruits.

White and fluffy bedsheets in a simple bedroom. Pretty much my ideal deco.

Girl crush worthy Hanneli Mustaparta and this outfit makes me ache for fall.

I’ve been spending a lot of quality time on Netflix watching Felicity. Not only is it the perfect “you’re about to start school again” show (how I wish I was starting undergrad and not grad school though…hello butterflies.), but I adore Kerri Russel and her 90s style–all of my chunky sweaters would have been at home had I gone to college in the 90s.

Hair: please grow so that you can be as beautiful as Diane’s. Thank you.

Adventures to go on.

And a song for Wednesday.

Homemade Baguettes

Warm, golden, crusty bread: the smell, the texture, the way it melts on your tongue. I can hardly think of anything I love more than homemade bread. I love it smothered with honey. I love it with a slice of tangy manchego cheese. I love it with nutella. To me, the bread that comes in those plastic bags at the grocery store is just a sad imitation of the real stuff; its the european in me–a kitchen without good bread is a sad one indeed.

I decided to welcome August with some homemade baguettes. I’m thinking of it as my way of beckoning fall, despite the fact that I was overheating as I turned on my oven. Despite the heat stroke, they came out beautifully, tasted amazing, and they were so easy to make.

* * *

Homemade French Baguettes

From Kelsey Nixon’s show Kelsey’s Essentials

makes 2 baguettes

1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast

2 tablespoons honey

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

* *

In a bowl, mix together the yeast, the honey, and 1/2 cup of warm water. Stir, and let it rest for about 5 minutes or so, until the yeast has bubbled and its doubled in volume.

we’re honey fiends in this family, which is why I had to scrape together 2 tbs from many different containers.

yeast = magical

In a standing mixer with a dough hook attached, mix together the flour and salt. Stir in the yeast mixture and let it combine. Then, with your setting on low, drizzle in 1 cup of warm water just until your dough combines.You may not need the whole cup, and if your dough is wayyy sticky, feel free to add up to another 1/2 cup or so of flour until it comes together.

Flour your counter top and your hands, and plop the dough out for kneading. Knead for a couple of minutes, adding flour whenever it gets sticky, until your dough is elastic.

Put your dough into a big greased bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume.

After an hour or so has passed, grab your dough and punch it down . Take it out of your bowl and onto a floured surface, knead it into a blob [technical term], and cut it into 2 pieces.

Spread each piece into a rectangle and then shape your baguette. The best way to do it is to take top and bottom of your rectangle and fold them towards each other, pinching in the middle (like an envelope). Keep repeating until your baguette is about 1/2 inch thick (smaller if you want it really thin).

Fold the ends just a bit to get rounded tops & bottoms, and place seam side down onto a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.

Take a paring knife and cut slits into both baguettes that go about 2/3 of the way through. Spread them a bit with your fingers so that they don’t disappear during the second rise.

Cover the baguettes once more with a kitchen towel and let them rise–the original recipe calls for 25 minutes, but I let mine rise for another hour, almost two. The longer you let it rise, the longer the bread has to develop–just don’t leave it all day, otherwise your bread will be coarse.

Preheat your oven to 450 F. with an oven-safe pan or sheet on the bottom rack.

When you’re all pre-heated, slide your baguettes into the oven and toss a handful of ice cubes into the pan on the bottom rack. Close the oven door and don’t open it again until they’re done baking. The ice creates steam with keeps your bread moist while getting the outside nice and crisp.

(side note: ice can crack glass dishes or glass oven doors, so don’t drop any ice cubes!)

After 15 minutes of baking, your house will smell like heaven and your baguettes will be ready for munching.

This recipe is a baguette recipe, but if you can’t be bothered with the whole shaping process, no worries. Just split the dough in half and form some sort of bread-type shape– their misshapen-ness will just add to the rustic charm!