Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

Indian Summer is the only part of summer I can handle- you know that late August morning and night chill. It is a breath of fresh air after two months of immediately sweating like crazy once I’m not in air conditioning. I also like Indian Summer because its that awkward ducking period between my favorite season, Fall.

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For me, Indian Summer is the universe’s way of giving me permission to start eating pumpkin things and to wear scarves every day because Fall is coming. Fall has everything girls like: boots, jeans, pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween, cozy oversized sweaters, knitted hats, hot apple cider, cinnamon sticks. There really isn’t anything to not like. You don’t have to worry about sweating to death from the sun’s hell rays or having your skin destroyed by a swarm of mosquitos or, if you are familiar with the nemesis of the Jersey Shore, green head flies. In the Fall, you can wait in the subway and not keel over from the stench of rotting garbage and subway steam. It’s just a really accommodating time of the year.

DSC_0009 I’m more than happy to wave Summer goodbye. The perfect meal for this time of year is Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs, it is still light, summery, and conscious of your beach body, but it has that hearty, warm your soul feel without making you sweat to death.

DSC_0013 If you’ve never made spaghetti squash before, it will blow your mind. It is just like cooking any other squash, but when it’s done, you let it cool for about ten minutes, take a fork to it, and start to “scratch” it long ways, It will form these long, angel hair pasta-type noodles without all the heavy carbohydrates that leave you sluggish. It does have more of a bite to it than pasta, but the spaghetti squash holds sauces and ingredients just like it’s starchy counterpart.

DSC_0017 As I say my farewells to Summer, I’ll enjoy these Indian Summer nights with a big bowl of Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs until Fall finally arrives.

Spaghetti Squash Ingredients:

1 Spaghetti Squash, equal to 3/4 pound pasta

1 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon pepper

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Turkey Meatball Ingredients

1 1/2- 2 Pounds of ground lean turkey

1 Cup of fresh spinach

1/3 Cup chopped onion

1/2 Cup sodium-free cracker meal, if you can’t find it, any bread crumb type product will be fine.

1 Egg

1/2 Teaspoon ground sage

2 Cloves fresh minced garlic

1 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon pepper

Simple Summer Gravy Ingredients

For all those non-Italians out there, gravy means spaghetti sauce.

4-5 Large tomatoes chopped, about 4 cups

1/2 Cup onion, chopped

2 Cloves minced garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh basil

1/2 Teaspoon salt, more to taste

1/2 Teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions:

For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Saute onions until they start to sweat. Add in minced garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. Chop spinach into small strips. Turn off the heat and add in spinach. The heat will wilt the spinach. Once wilted, let cool to 15 minutes. In a large bowl, add ground turkey, spinach and onion mixture, cracker meal, egg, sage, salt, pepper. Use you hands to incorporate ingredients. If it is too sticky, add more cracker meal. Do not over mix. Form into meatballs. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees fahrenheit.

For the Spaghetti Squash: Cut the squash in half long ways and take out its guts (seeds, etc). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I put the meatballs and the squash on the same pan for easy clean up.

For the Summer Gravy: Chop onions and cook on medium-low heat in a medium sized, greased saute pan until it begins to sweat. Then add in the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Chop 4-5 tomatoes and add this to the pan. Stir occasionally. After ten minutes add basil, salt, and pepper. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 40 minutes until it is reduced.

When the meatballs are done, add them to the gravy to keep them moist while the squash finishes cooking. Once the squash is finished cooking, let rest for 10-15 minutes. Then, using a fork, run the fork down the squash long ways until all the little noodles come out. Keep running the fork through until you hit the Squash’s skin. Then, remove the meatballs from the gravy and add the spaghetti squash into the gravy pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes so it soaks up all the gravy flavor. Then serve the squash with meatballs and fresh basil!

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The Royal Muffin is Fresh From the Oven

It should have been me…

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Now that, that’s out of the way- Oh what Royal excitement! The third Heir to the throne has been born and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s baby North is SO left eating Prince William, Princess Kate, and their baby boy’s Royal dust. Thank. God. Bets on the name? Lil’ James Charles Philip- mark my words.

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Since William and Kate were married on my birthday, April 29, obviously we have an unbreakable bond…. (awkward pause over). They exude everything that is timeless and classy, while still setting great marks in history, which is why I absolutely adore everything about them. For example, did you know that little Prince No Name is the first Heir to the Royal Throne  not of full Royal blood? Times they are a changin’!

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When I first heard the news, I jumped out of my chair, looked at one of my coworkers and proceeded to scream repeatedly, IT’S A BOY!  I have literally been waiting for this day for 9 months…. as have million and millions of other people. But why care? Prince No Name was one of thousands of babies born on July 22. I care because it’s happy- it’s as simple as that. You turn on the news and it’s Zimmerman trial, shooting in Northeast Philadelphia, riots in the Middle East, which city is going broke, which country is the poorest, what is Amanda Bynes doing now to destroy my childhood memories – I mean seriously! I love the news, I L-O-V-E Brian Williams, but for the love of God can we just have one good thing to talk about on the 6 o’clock news? And can someone please bring Amanda Bynes circa 2003 back?! Or at least hose her down? Give her a bar of soap?

DSC_0902Moral of the rant, it’s nice to see something happy on the news and it’s fun to get excited about things like this every now and again. It’s nice to see a young happy couple, who are in the constant spotlight, remain, for lack of better words, normal. William drove Kate and the babe back to Kensington Palace. I mean come on that’s adorable! They didn’t have a fancy car or a driver. It was just him, her, and the babe. It was very sweet.

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So to celebrate this newest Royal birthday of Prince No Name, I made blueberry muffins. Blue because it’s a boy- get it? Get it? I should have made scones. That would have been more English of me. Maybe for Royal baby number two.

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Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

3/4 Cup white sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

1/3 Cup vegetable oil

1 Egg

1/3 Cup whole milk

1/2 Teaspoon white vinegar

1 1/4 Cup blueberries

1/4 Teaspoon lemon zest

For the Topping

1/2 Cup white sugar

1/3 Cup all purpose flour

1/4 Cup cold butter, cubed

1 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

For the Muffins: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line a cupcake pan with liners. Whisk whole milk and white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar,  and nutmeg and set aside. In an electric mixer, beat the vegetable oil, lemon zest,  and egg until well combined.  Slowly alternate adding in the milk and dry ingredients, starting with the dry ingredients. Once well combined, mix in the blueberries. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake pan in 3/4 of the way full with the muffin batter. Set aside.

For the Topping: In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and butter using a fork or your hands. It should form small lil’ pea-sized rounds. Sprinkle this on top of the muffins.

Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, or until it comes out tooth-pick clean.

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Just so you know, when I’m baking, THIS is what is going on next to me.

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This Baking B***h is BACK! With a Cheesecake

One year ago today I posted a recipe for a Vanilla Chai Cheesecake- not much stemmed from that for the following 365 days. I am a well-intentioned gal, but unless I’m getting paid I have issues with follow through. Story of my life. However, I’m back, but I won’t promise for how long since we all saw what happened the last time I made promises.

DSC_0530I promised two posts a week and a short story a week… I am so full of shit. The reason why I haven’t posted anything on The Baker in the Rye for an entire year is (drum-roll) because I wanted to watch disgustingly awesome reality TV and do what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to bake and write about food so I didn’t. But here’s the thing- if this blog created recipes inspired by The Real Housewives of New Jersey instead of books, I’d have 0 followers. It was best to take a break.

DSC_0535Baking, blogging, and working at my old friend Starbucks made me one bitter bitch. Like the ULTIMATE crAAzY bitter bitch. So I took a break, stepped back from baking for people’s parties and from writing because it didn’t make me happy anymore. I created this blog because I loved to write, I loved to bake, and I wanted to feel like I was achieving an ounce of any goal I set forth for myself once I graduated college. But after a while, I lost my passion for it and I lost sight of what it is that I wanted to do- until now- kinda.

DSC_0536Things are gonna change around these parts- let me tell you. For starters, I know how to create all of these recipes and I spend a lot of time making sure they are easy to make and with a lot of detailed instructions. Therefore, do not ask me to bake these things for you. You can do it, I promise its pain-free. I do not cater events.

Secondly, do I hope to post once a week. YEAH! Will I? Probably not because I have proven to be a dirty, dirty liar on the internet just like almost everyone else on the internet. But I will try my best.

Thirdly, the last book I read was in August (of 2012) and it was Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, and though it was hilarious and wonderful and I highly recommend it, I haven’t read a single book since then. Will every recipe be inspired by a book moving forward? No. But will I share with you what I am reading and make occasional recipes inspired by that? Yes. In fact, a friend of mine lent me The Charm School by Nelson DeMille and, though I am in the early pages, it is an exciting, suspenseful read and I’ll most likely make a Russian recipe inspired by the novel, as it takes place in Russia.

Fourthly, moving forward I will not be as salty as this blog post is making me out to be- well I am making me out to be. I mean, I am salty, but usually not to the public.

DSC_0538A lot has changed in the last year and I have learned to celebrate all of my failures instead of wallowing in them. For example, I’ve failed as a blogger for the last year. It’s true. People are more likely to have more failures than successes anyway, and by celebrating them it’s less bad. You feel less like a total emotional dork if you have a glass of wine and think I’ll get ’em next time instead of sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream crying because you failed and didn’t get that $10.00/hr PR position run out of some lady’s living room in Red Bank, NJ…. whaaaaa? Oh, wait- that was just me two years ago.

DSC_0541Today, I am no longer that sad girl crying into an excessively large bowl of double fudge brownie ice cream. In the last year since I blogged, I found a job working for a non-profit in Philadelphia. I finally found a stinkin’ job where I utilized what I learned in college. I was starting to think college was a total waste of my time. I wouldn’t have gotten the job that I’m in now if I didn’t take a break from all this internet nonsense and just focus on me and making myself a happy person again. No one wants to hire a sad, bitter Rachel. But everyone wants to hire a happy, goofy Rachel!

DSC_0551So I left last year with a cheesecake and I begin this year with a cheesecake. How full-circle-of-life of me? It’s been a year, but I still make a mean cheesecake. This time, I made an Almond Amaretto Cheesecake. It’s pretty bad ass. It’s so right its wrong and needs to be slapped- or just eaten in total gluttonous serenity. This cheesecake is the 8th deadliest sin. This cheesecake was also made a year ago before I abandoned the The Baker in the Rye. See, I told you I’m a dirty, dirty liar.

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Almond & Amaretto Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 1/2 Cups crushed amaretti cookies, plus extra for topping

3/4 Cups ground almonds- crush until it looks like flour

5 tablespoons butter

Cheesecake:

4-8 Oz packages of cream cheese

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

3/4 Cup amaretto

3 Eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature

1/3 Cup sour cream

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 Cup ground almonds, ground until it forms a flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

Topping:

1/2 Cup heavy cream

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Almonds for garnish

Instructions:

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Heavily grease a springform pan with butter and sprinkle with flour so the cake will release easily. Crush the armaretti cookies and grind the almonds until it forms a powder. Melt the butter and combine it with the dry ingredients until the mixture just sticks together. Press it to the bottom of the greased springform pan. Wrap the bottom on the springform pan in aluminum foil and place it on a baking sheet to prepare it for its water bath.

For the cheesecake: In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is lump-free. Add the sugar and continue to beat until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Once that is well combined, mix in vanilla extract, sour cream, and amaretto. Once it is well combined, add in the almond flour, which you made form ground almonds, and salt. Beat until it is lump free and creamy. The good thing about cheesecake is that you don’t have to worry about over mixing it. Then, pour this mixture into the springform pan.  Fill the baking sheet up half way with hot water and place the cheesecake in the oven. The reason why I cover the bottom on my springform pan with foil is to prevent the pan from potentially burning the crust. I cook it in a water bath to prevent cracking. 

Bake the cheesecake for 60-70 minutes- until it jiggles like jell-o when shaken GENTLY. Then, turn the heat off and leave it in the oven for 1-2 hours. Take it out and let it get room temperature before putting it in the fridge overnight. This creates the creamiest cheesecake with no burns, cracks, or any imperfections. Trust me- no one has ever had  a bad work about my cheesecake.

For the topping: Right before serving, make the topping by whipping the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Then add in vanilla and sugar and beat for another 5 seconds. Swirl it on the top of your cheesecake and garnish with crush amaretti cookies and almonds.

DSC_0542And to wrap it up, the last line from my favorite book

Isn’t it pretty to think so? ~ The Sun Also Rises

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Give It A Chai! Vanilla Chai Cheesecake

The “Drink Me” and “Eat Me” scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the most memorable as it is the start to her strange and unforgettable journey. At this point in the novel, Alice had fallen into the rabbit hole, which was lined with cupboards and all sorts of oddities. With a mysterious key in hand, she uncovered a door, which was much too small for her to fit into. Just then, she spotted a bottle marked “DRINK ME,” and Alice did just that.

As she took her last sip, she quickly shrunk. Even though she can now fit through the door’s tiny frame, she realized that she had left the key high above her on a table. After a small fit, she spotted a cake marked “EAT ME” slyly positioned at the table’s base. Alice assumed the cake would turn her back to her true size, but was left disappointed when the cake seemingly did nothing.

Pool of Tears continues with Alice’s struggle with her size as she suddenly grew nine feet tall. Though she can reach the keys on the tabletop, which is now the size of a doll house compared to her giant physique, she can barely see through the door, let alone squeeze through it.

Alice began to cry so hard that a large pool of water formed around her. As she got more confused and frustrated, and began to cry even harder causing more water quickly built up around her. This is until she realized that a fanning motion caused her to shrink. She fanned herself until she shrunk so small that she was swimming in a pool of her own tears. Frightened she asked a mouse for help. When the mouse didn’t understand, she spoke to him in French by reciting a line from her lessons about a cat. This scared the mouse. As Alice’s attempts to befriend the mouse continued to fail, she bargained with the mouse and said she will never speak of cats or dogs if he helps her. The mouse then tells Alice to swim along the shore.

Alice found herself swimming to shore with other animals, including a Dodo, a Duck, a Lori, and an Eaglet. Eventually they reach safety and focus on drying off.

This over the top fantasy scene is symbolic for the identity crisis we all face between that child to adult period. Or in my case, the college vs. post college period. The bottle and cake are symbolic of the big decisions that come with age and with life changing events. In Alice’s case, she had no choice but to give the bottle and the cake a try…. Or in the case of this recipe chai… give it a chai.

With a play on words I captured the “EAT ME” cake and identity crisis in the form of Vanilla Chai Cheesecake. If you’ve been following this blog for some time now, you will have realized that I will try to turn everything into a cheesecake.

Chai is a sweet, spicy, nutty ingredient that can be used in many other ways beyond a cup of tea or Starbucks Chai Latte. Tazo’s chai concentrate can be infused into a lot of recipes by replacing milk with the chai concentrate. Think of the possibilities! Chai cupcakes, chai scones, chai cookies, Chai Chicken… okay, maybe that last one is a work in progress.

So go ahead, give it a chai.

Vanilla Chai Cheesecake


Ingredients

Crust:

2 1/2 Cups crushed vanilla wafers

1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 Cup butter, melted

Cheesecake:

4- 8 oz packages of cream cheese

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

3/4 Cups chai concentrate

3 eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature

1/3 cup sour cream

1 Vanilla bean

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 Cup flour

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger

Topping:

1/2 Cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons Chai concentrate

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 Cup White Sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. To make the crust, mix together crushed vanilla wafers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and melted butter. Press into a buttered springform pan
  3. In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add Chai concentrate, eggs, and egg yolk one at a time. Gradually add in sour cream, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Mix until it is creamy and lump-free.
  4. Pour into a springform pan and bake in a water bath for 60-75 minutes, until the edges are firm and the center wiggles slightly.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but over night is preferable.
  6. For the topping, once the cheesecake chilled and set, whip heavy cream in a cold bowl. When it starts to form firm peaks, whip in chai concentrate, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Continue to whip until it forms firm peaks. Using a piping bag, arrange whipped cream onto cheesecake. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of cake.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” ~ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 

 

Just for fun… This Vanilla Chai Cheesecake is Daisy Approved

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Earl Gray Lemon Cod & A Series of Tea Infused Foods

Tea parties are a regular affair in the life of a young girl. Sometimes there are elaborate hats or flamboyantly dressed dolls in place of human company. To young girls, the doll wearing Victorian style clothing and with a politely placed handkerchief over her waist is not just some hunk of plastic at the end of a table. To her, that doll has a personality, a family, and friends beyond the confines of a childhood bedroom.

There are two tea parties that have gone down in world history: The Boston Tea Party and The Hatter’s tea party from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 nonsensical novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the next few weeks, we will travel a tasty tea-infused  journey through the novel that changed the notion of genre.

As if you don’t already know, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the story of a young girl who falls into a dream world full of characters like the always late White Rabbit, the mysterious Cheshire Cat, and insane Hatter who is stuck constantly stuck in tea time, and the Queen of Hearts, known for her appetite for flamingo croquet and daily executions.

Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland is so interesting because it falls into literature limbo: literary nonsense. Since being labeled literary nonsense upon it’s first publication, it’s drawn more intrigue than anything else. To this day it is one of the most widely read fantasy stories among children.

Like Hatter, I’ve gone a little mad recently when thinking of new recipes. Tea infused foods are the latest food blogger trend and I want in, but not in the way everyone else is in. I want crazy in, out of the box in, how does this recipe make sense in. And I’ve done it.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting recipes that all include a variety of Tazo teas from peppery Earl Gray to the minty Refresh.

Let’s start with my most absurd idea yet: Earl gray tea and lemon marinated cod.

For a week after I was struck with this potentially horrifyingly disgusting idea, I badgered my friends at work constantly. I spent a large part of my shift asking them, “Yeah but is earl gray tea and fish too weird?” They all cringed out a “No, not at all.”

When you think about it, if there’s a tea to make savory, it’s earl gray. It’s peppery and spicy, which allows it to be pared with tangy lemon and sweet honey, both used in the marinade. Cod is a mild flaky fish with a firm body, which allows it to hold up to a more experimental marinade.

That being said, I made this scary idea into a delicious reality.

 Earl Gray Tea & Lemon Cod with Grilled Summer Veggies 

Ingredients:

4 Cod Fillets

6 Cups water, boiled

5 Tazo Earl Gray Tea bags

2 Lemons

3 Tablespoons honey

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

3 Shallots, minted

2 Garlic cloves, minced

Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Seasonal vegetables; Mine included carrots, yellow squash, asparagus & vine tomatoes.

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Steep 5 tea bags and 1 lemon in water for 5 minutes. Then, remove tea bags. Add  in honey, brown sugar, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and  1/2 teaspoon pepper. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cool.
  2. Once the marinade in cooled, add cod and let marinate for 25 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  4. Remove fish, pat dry, and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes, until it is just flaky.
  5. While fish is cooking, rub your veggies with salt, pepper, olive oil, and juice from 1 lemon. Place on a grill and cook until they are tender.

 “The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was ‘Why is a raven like a writing-desk?'” ~Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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Where The Wild Things Are & Mac n’ Cheese

Earlier this month, the literature and illustration community lost a great influence of modern children’s literature. Maruice Sendak, the children’s book author best known for his 1963 book Where The Wild Things Are, passed away at the age of 83.

Most have a fond memories of this book, whether having it read to him or herself self as a child or reading it to his or her own child. Children often wonder what could possibly live beyond their own bedrooms, homes, backyards, etc. Sendak gave children the ability to wonder and image a world beyond anything they could have by allowing them to experience the Wild Things with Max.

 The influence of Where The Wild Things Are, stretch far beyond childhood and into adulthood in the 2009 mirror-titled movie version, as well as 2009 book adaptation titled The Wild Things by David Eggers. As children’s favorite characters came to life on screen, their parents fell under the same charm. Today, more and more platforms for the 1963 classic are emerging every day. It’s clearer than ever before that Where The Wild Things Are is a classic that defies both time and age.

 Max was introduced to the reader as the rambunctious child who was sent to bed without any dinner- a child’s second worst nightmare. The first is getting sent to bed without any dessert. As he drifted off to sleep, an imaginary world of forests grew from his own bedroom. Max sailed across a mysterious sea until he entered the world of Wild Things. The Wild Things are a group of creatures that lived without any rules and without the love of parents. As Max spent more time with the Wild Things, and even became their king, he longed to be where he was loved most of all. When he woke up, he found himself in his room with his supper, still warm.

 My favorite dinner to this day is my mom’s macaroni and cheese, a rarity since my dad hates macaroni and cheese almost as much as he hates mashed potatoes- I know, it’s totally bizarre and makes zero sense. If I were sent to bed- at the age of 23- without my mom’s macaroni and cheese, I couldn’t even imagine the night terrors I would have. It’s too creamy and dreamy to not eat  Funny thing, when I called my mom to ask her how she makes it, she literally had no idea. Apparently, she doesn’t believe in measurements. This made for an interested few hours, not to mention four trips to the supermarket within three hours.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way… and in this case some macaroni and cheese.

Giselle’s Mac N’ Cheese

Ingredients:

1 Pound of macaroni, I used corkscrew shaped pasta called Cavatappi

1/2  Cup butter

1/2 Cup all-purpose flour

3/4 of a pound white American cheese

1  2/3 Cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

1/3 Cup grated parmesan cheese, (plus 1/4 cup extra for topping)

4-5 Cups whole milk

1 Teaspoon salt

1/4 Teaspoon black pepper

1/3 Cup Italian-style bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt and toss your pasta in. For Cavatappi, cook for 7-8 minutes or until barely al-dente. Al-dente is when the pasta is just cooked, but still has a nice bite to it. Pasta will continue to cook when in oven. If the pasta is too soft, it will turn into mush. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 345 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large saucepan, create a roux by melting the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, add the flour and cook until it is a very light brown and forms a paste. This will ensure the flour-like taste is gone. Then, add 4 cups of milk, salt, and pepper on medium-low heat. When it just starts to bubble, add in American cheese, Cheddar cheese, and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix constantly until it melts completely and begins to thicken.
  4. If need be, add more milk if too thick and more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time if it is too thin.
  5. To ensure an extra creamy texture, I put my cheese mixture into a blender and blended it until all the lumps were gone.
  6. In the pasta bowl, smother your noodles with the cheese mixture until all the noodles are evenly coated. Top with grated parmesan cheese and the Italian bread crumbs. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for ten minutes before eating.

 “Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” ~Where The Wild Things Are

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Banana Fosters Bread Pudding, A Dog Bite, & A Lot Of Complaining

It’s been a month since my last post. Literally, one entire month. But in my defense it’s been a crap month full of long work hours, not to mention the return of Starbucks 10 day long Frappachino Happy Hour – a.k.a. Frappy Hour, a.k.a. two hours I’d rather spend getting a root canal than working.

It’s been a month of dog bites, 0 time to bake, and some of the most frustrating customer interactions I’ve ever had in my 7 years of working in customer service.

I’m just going to put this out there because this is my blog and I can complain if I want to… To all Starbucks customers, if the lack of java chips in your Double Chocolaty Chip or Java Chip Frappachino is the worst thing that has happened to you today, then switch lives with me because your life is immediately better than mine. Also, please stop yelling at me when I tell you we are out of java chips. I didn’t eat them all to spite you, though maybe next time I’ll consider that kind of juvenile revenge as you are threatening my life over the lack rectangular chocolate chips in your over priced drink.

I feel a lot better now that this is all over the Internet.

Also, dog bite? Yes that happened. Remember that post I did about my pooch Daisy? Yeah, well her choppers had one taste of Rachel and she’s been hooked on Rachel meat ever since. Daisy and I may have gotten into an argument over her dietary choices. I think eating vomit is gross, however, she thinks it’s rather satisfying. So when I tried to get her to stop eating her own puke, she responded by gnawing on my arm. Which apparently is just as satisfying to her as her own vomit.

It took a week and a half for the two puncture wounds to heal and now I’m back in the kitchen with a badass scar that kind of looks like a vampire bite. Not that I’m into vampires and Twilight at all. In fact, since it’s on the table and our minds are all going there, YOU WILL NEVER SEE TWILIGHT MENTIONED ON THIS BLOG BEYOND THESE TWO SENTENCES.

So to wrap this up, I’ve been too busy complaining to bake. I’ve been given the nickname Drama.com/RachelYecco for a reason. I’ve been too busy being dramatic over dog bites and frappachinos to make anything delicious!

But I did make Banana Fosters Bread Pudding prior to my dog’s attempt to eat me alive. It’s just the gooiest springtime bread pudding. ß That was very Martha Stewart sounding of me.

 COMING UP: Mac n’ Cheese inspired my the late Maurice Sendak, Jacques Torres infamous Chocolate Chip Cookies inspired by Brittany Spears- bare with me, I’m not in favor of the Diva, but of an article written about her other-worldly behavior- and …uh…. Something else that I haven’t thought of yet, but it will make an appearance.

I’m also attempting to make donuts again, so that will be some fried up fun.

Expect those recipes and a photo dump of my trip Vermont, where I will try to catch dinner on a fly fishing excursion. All this on next week’s post!

As for now, here’s some bread pudding inspired by the lack of a life that I’ve led in the last month.

Cheers!

Banana Fosters Bread Pudding with a Caramel Sauce

Ingredients (For the bread pudding)

1 Large loaf of Challah bread

4 Cups whole milk

1/2 a vanilla bean + hull

1/2 Cup dark rum

1 Cup white sugar

1 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

6 Eggs

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients (for the Banana topping)

(Adapted from Emril Lagasse’s recipe, Banana Fosters Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce)

6 Firm ripe bananas

1/2 Cup dark rum

1/2 Cup butter

1 Cup brown sugar

1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients (For Caramel)

3/4 Cup white sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/2 Cup heavy cream

1/4 Cup whole milk

1/2 Cup walnuts, optional

Vanilla Ice Cream, optional

Directions:

  1. Bread Pudding: preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop Challah bread into 1 inch cubes and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together whole milk, rum, vanilla beans and hull. Let marinate together for 30 minutes in refrigerator. Whisk in white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Whisk in eggs into milk mixture one at a time until it is a uniform mixture.
  5. Grease a 13x 9 inch pan and arrange your challah bread in the dish. Pour milk mixture over the bread and allow to sit for 45 minutes in the refrigerator until the bread has soaked up most of the liquid.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes or until the top of the pudding is light brown in color.
  7. Banana Fosters Topping: Slice bananas into 1/2 inch pieces.
  8. In a large skillet, melt 1/2 Cup of butter. Then, add in the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook until the brown sugar dissolves. This will take 5 minutes. You will know it’s ready when the brown sugar is creamy. Then, arrange bananas flat onto the skillet, cooking bananas on both sides and flipping with they begin to soften. CAREFULLY, add the rum and light the skillet on fire using a match. Move the pan back and forth until the flame dies down. Remove from heat.
  9. Caramel Sauce: Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, turn heat to medium low and let the sugar boil without mixing. Don’t mix no matter how badly you want to. Allow sugars to boil until it forms a light amber color, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, which may splatter. Then add 1/4 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons at a time until it forms the desired consistency.
  10. Assemble: Scoop your bread pudding into a bowl and top with the banana fosters topping and caramel sauce. Add walnuts and vanilla ice cream, optional.

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