The Blizzard Missed Us

winter afternoon sun with tree branches
Winter afternoon sun

The blizzard that was forecast missed us. We got about six inches of snow, and the power didn’t even so much as flicker. I’m feeling thankful about that.

snow, rooftop, grey sky
So much grey

Rewind to the Part With the Squash

blue hubbard, red kuri, acorn, cheese pumpkin squash
Bins and bins and bins of squash!

I wish I could go back to October and get some of these delicious squash. I know just what I would do with each one of them.

Starting in the front, blue hubbard. Someone at the farm told me that they work well in place of pumpkin in a pie. I planned to try that, but never got around to buying one and doing it. Now I’ll have to wait a few months.

Next in line is my new favorite, red kuri. The dense and creamy flesh holds up to sauteing and worked wonders in livening up my stir fry dinners. I even saw a recipe online that suggested frying up slices for breakfast to replace the meat in a steak and eggs dish. Never got around to trying that either. I would also be interested in baking with the red kuri because of its sweetness.

Next is acorn squash. Not as new and exotic as some others, but always good for a roast with some butter and salt and pepper. Thankfully I can get them in the grocery store along with butternut squash. The two staples when it comes to squash.

I wish I had more cheese pumpkins so I could have a constant pumpkin pie in my fridge.

kabocha and delicata squash in bins
I miss you, kabocha and delicata

Kabocha, I would roast you or turn you into soup. You would take the winter chill away in an instant.

And delicata, I would saute you with some onions until everything was nice and caramelized.

Terraria Made Me Stack The Brownies

brownies stacked like blocks in Terraria
All day I dream about stacking

Yes, I think that constantly playing Terraria is affecting my daily life.

I made some brownies for a recent playdate. I cut them, arranged them on the tray, and it was only when I was almost finished with my task that I noticed I had meticulously cut and stacked them into little blocks.

So I guess in this instance, all that time playing the game helped me to make a cute brownie tray. However, there is also an unfortunate correlation between the state of my trunks in Terraria and the state of things in my home 😛 Hoping to turn that around. Really the only drawback of the game is that the item management is such a pain in the ass.

Otherwise, super fun. I’m still enjoying it!

White Verbena

white verbena ring
The fairies grew white rings in my garden

Here are some white verbena flowers that I had in my “balcony garden” this past summer. I loved the little rings they made.

The flowers didn’t have a fragrance, which was surprising because it seems to be a popular scent in lotions, etc. Or maybe it’s just a popular marketing word for use in lotions, etc.

I do like winter, but I’m starting to miss flowers and things growing outside.

white verbena, blue sky
White verbena, blue sky

Coconut Oil Pie Crust (Recipe Review)

This should have been posted in October, when I started the draft for this post. Let’s pretend it’s October 29, 2014, and we’ll just call this a backdated blog post.

I made a pumpkin pie in October because I just couldn’t wait another month until Thanksgiving. I also wanted to try making the pie crust with coconut oil instead of shortening or butter. Using this recipe from Baking Bites, I got to work. The result was a beautiful and flaky crust that added a warm coconut aroma to the pie (and kitchen).

Coconut oil is very healthy and I felt great about using it, however, it is difficult to work with. The oil gets extremely hard in the fridge and does take time to come up to a workable temperature. And it also will separate at about 73 degrees, so it can’t be too warm in the kitchen when you’re working with it. I do plan to use it again, but will remember to give myself extra time and patience to work with the oil.

Apricot preserves pie crust roll up cookies
Apricot roll-up cookies made with coconut oil pie crust

The scraps that I trimmed off of the pie crust made some yummy little roll up cookies with apricot preserves. I would like to make a batch of the crust solely to use for jam-filled cookies.

Nutella Brioche Snowflake Bread

Nutella Brioche Flower bread, snowflake shape
It’s a Christmas miracle!

This bread is soooo good that it’s simply impossible to take a good photo of it. Or, possibly, I had made this for Christmas brunch and was in a hurry and did an extra-poor job snapping a pic. So imagine this bread sprinkled with powdered sugar and given a proper photo shoot.

I mentioned in my post about challah that my new hero is Titli Nihaan of The Bread Kitchen site and videos. After learning about braiding techniques in October, I saw her recipe for a Nutella Brioche Flower and decided to try to make it at Christmas. She calls hers a “flower” but I went with “snowflake” to be a little more festive.

It’s delicious, and like she says, similar to a cinnamon roll in texture. The flavor and aroma of the nutella and the lemon zest are out of this world.

It looks impressive but isn’t very difficult. The hardest part for me was rolling out each of the four layers. I discovered two little glitches. One, that people with a lot of experience, such as Titli, can roll out a perfect circle if they desire, and I cannot. I ended up with wonky shapes, but figured I could trim them to make a circle at the end, so no big deal.

The only thing that seemed to be a problem was that my circles started to shrink a bit as they waited around for me to finish the flower/snowflake. I noticed when I was layering them that the bottom circle was getting smaller. I tried to roll out the remaining layers as quickly as possible, but I’m not that good with the rolling pin. So when it was time to make the 16 cuts and twist the pieces together, I struggled a little and tried to stretch the bottom layer to get it to do what I needed.

I don’t know why that happened. Perhaps I was taking too long to roll out the remaining layers. Or maybe the dough wasn’t quite ready to be worked with yet. I’ll do some research and hopefully won’t have that problem next time.

Because I will definitely make this again!

Terraria (or, Why I’ve Been So Sleepy Lately)

Terraria title screen
Terraria. Keeping me up at night and making me see little blocks when I close my eyes.

Terraria has been keeping me up late for about two weeks now. It’s a sandbox game that involves (if you want to) digging, crafting, fighting monsters, building your house, and lots more. I downloaded it on my phone and was hooked instantly. Several days in, I was worried that I was giving myself carpal tunnel syndrome because my wrist and arm were so sore! The phone is probably the least ergonomically friendly object on which to play games…or do anything really. It’s a flat rectangle. Terrible.

Anyway I love the way Terraria lets you reshape the world. Being a control freak, I think that’s what appeals the most. I can move mountains, pave over oceans, reroute lakes, throw away resources, kill monsters, or box them in so I don’t have to deal with them (or my favorite, box them in and then kill them when I feel like getting around to it), pick flowers, plant flowers, craft stuff, throw it away, anything I feel like doing at that moment.

Terraria monsters
As they try to attack me, I build little boxes around the monsters. Then I can get rid of them one by one.

My husband played the game a while back on the PC so it’s nice to ask him for advice and compare playing styles. He thinks it’s funny that I built platforms in the sky to avoid running on the ground over hills, valleys and endless slimes, but I think it’s equally funny that he took the time in his game to level the surface of the world. To me that’s boring and time consuming. (But I realize that to a lot of people, that’s what this entire game sounds like 😛 )

Terraria, sky bridge, Elfa
And by morning, all clear! The Roman Candle works well for flying monsters. Not too powerful, but you don’t have to be too accurate.

I like that the game can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. If you’re feeling daring, you can summon a boss that will kill you in two seconds (or if you’re tougher than me, you might beat it!).

If you’re feeling artsy, you can make a really fancy house. I have to admit that I haven’t done much at all with mine. I have several shacks set up around the world that contain a few chests and crafting areas, but I haven’t gotten into decorating. Maybe one day I’ll make myself a shining gold-plated castle, but for now I’d rather go exploring.

The most relaxing thing for me is to dig around and explore. The other day I made it down to the lava and Fire Imps (not so relaxing!). I have also found a couple floating islands and I’m looking for more.

There’s so much more to the game, but at the core it’s pretty basic. It’s fun. There’s never anything I have to do, and that’s the best part.

A Very Herby Pain de Provence

pain de provence, sliced loaf
Not the greatest photo, but it somewhat shows the loaf of Pain de Provence that I recently made.

I admit that I hadn’t heard of Pain de Provence before reading this recipe on The Fresh Loaf and deciding that I had to make this bread. I love Herbes de Provence and figured that bread containing them would be delicious. I also thought the addition of orange liqueur to the dough would be a nice complement to those flavors.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed in this recipe because of the overwhelming herb flavor. Maybe my expectations weren’t in line with what Pain de Provence is supposed to be, but it was too much. I read the recipe’s comments before baking and saw that a few other readers questioned the amount of herbs, but were reassured that the bread would turn out great. When I baked mine, I even halved the amount, using 1/4 cup instead of 1/2.

I had wanted to fall in love with the flavors of this bread but it just wasn’t meant to be. I felt like I was eating seasoned stuffing bread. It was simply too concentrated for me. Too many herbs, and I couldn’t taste or smell the orange flavor (which was 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier).

We had this bread with soup, and my guests thought it tasted much better when dipped in the broth. I agreed that it tasted better, but for me that only reinforced the idea that this bread was so packed full of flavor that it needed to be diluted with other foods (like stuffing bread).

The texture of the bread was fantastic. I’m looking forward to trying this again, and only using a couple tablespoons or so of the herbs. I may even add some orange zest to bring out that flavor a bit more.

For those having trouble opening the link, here’s the recipe for Pain de Provence from The Fresh Loaf, as posted by Floydm.

Pain De Provence

Makes 1 large loaf

1 cup bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

All of the poolish
2 cups bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup Herbes de Provence
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup liqueur such as Beauchant, Grand Marnier, or orange Curaçao
1/4-1/2 cup water, as necessary

The night before baking, make the poolish by mixing together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast to make a batter. Cover the container with plastic wrap and set aside for 8 to 16 hours until you are ready to make the final dough.

To make the dough, combine the remaining flour with the remaining yeast, salt, and herbs. Add the poolish, the liqueur, and 1/4 cup of the additional water. Mix the ingredients, and, if necessary, add more water or flour until the proper consistency is reached (tacky but not so sticky that the dough sticks to your hands).

Knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes or in a mixer for 5 to 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well-greased bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes. Remove it from the bowl and gently degas it, then return it to the bowl, cover it, and allow it to double in size again.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball or long loaf. Cover the loaf with a damp towel and allow it to rise again until doubled in size, which takes between 60 and 90 more minutes.

While the loaf is in its final rise, preheat the oven and baking stone, if you are using one, to 450. I also preheat a brownie pan into which I pour a cup of hot water just after placing the loaf in the oven. This creates steam in the oven which increases the crunchiness of the crust.

Just prior to placing the loaf in the oven, score the top of it with a sharp knife or razor blade.

Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 450, then rotate it 180 degrees and reduce the oven temperature to 375 and baked it another 25 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaf should be in the ball park of 200 degrees when you remove it from the oven.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least a half an hour before serving, if you can resist.