Return to Normal (Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart)

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My last post was in August. August, people. I knew it would be hard for me to blog while I was student teaching, but I had no idea I’d all but abandon the blog during that time. It was next to impossible for me to find any time to cook for myself, let alone take photos, write posts, and publish them for you. My apologies for my absence. I’m back now. And so glad to be here.

Student teaching went well; who knew I’d grow so attached to 121 different 8th graders? I remember myself at that age and I recall it being a really tough time in my life. I’m sure it’s the same for most people, but to be in it every day for three solid months was a wake-up call, for sure. I had some tough days…days when I thought I just wasn’t cut out for teaching, but then those days would wind down and quickly be replaced by really great days in which I felt completely at ease and comfortable in front of the class. Student teaching ended just before Christmas, as well as my graduation. After all this time in school, it’s suddenly over. I feel a bit lost, to be honest, but I’m sure I’ll find my new normal routine again soon.

There are only two short days left in 2014, a year that had some really wonderful ups and some devastating downs for me. What better way to ring in 2015 than with chocolate and caramel, right? This dessert is SWEET. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that my sweet tooth is quite small, but for those of you who love rich and sweet desserts, this one is for you! I used some buttermilk to replace a little of the heavy cream in the caramel, so it has a bit of a sweet and tangy flavor. I quite like it, but if you are not as partial to buttermilk as I am, go ahead and use all heavy cream.
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Lemon Lace Cookies

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So, I pretty much have the biggest crush on Food 52. Have you heard of this amazing site? If not, head over there right this instant and get cooking! It’s like all your best friends and their grandmothers got together in one spot and started exchanging recipes and culinary tips – it has everything, even a lovely shop with all kinds of kitchen-related goodies.

I saw this recipe for their Buttery Lemon Lace Cookies and absolutely had to give them a go – I was looking for a simple, elegant, and light cookie to pair with some vanilla ice cream, and these beauties seemed perfect.

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Little French Fudge Cakes

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I absolutely love (LOVE!) listening to The Splendid Table on NPR. I have been a fan for as long as I can remember and it is a staple in my podcast collection for long plane rides and road trips.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift developed this recipe for their cookbook The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper and I wanted to give it a try in my home kitchen.  Boy, they weren’t kidding when they said, “If you can melt chocolate and stir, you can make these cakes.”  They were so simple – albeit a bit expensive due to the required chocolate – but so worth it!

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Chocolate Sea Salt Ice Cream

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I’m of the opinion, “Why buy something when you can make it?”  There are so many items we eat on a semi-daily basis that can be made in our own kitchens – why are we throwing money away on stabilizers, preservatives, and any number of other icky chemicals that comprise our “food”?  Think of that loaf of bread sitting on your counter; with a little time and practice, you could have a fresh loaf (or two) waiting to be toasted or used for your turkey sandwich!  Your morning bowl of granola from the box?  Yes, that too, can be quickly made, and you’ll recognize each and every ingredient in it!  Jams, jellies, and preserves can be made and jarred, and you can even make your own peanut butter to go with them!  Heck, I even made my own worcestershire sauce once!  I’m not saying you need to go that far, but you could if you wanted.

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Banana Cream Pie

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For the longest time I had been craving a slice of banana cream pie.  I know I could have probably satisfied that craving by heading to the local Village Inn, but why do such a thing when baking my own would much that much more satisfying?  Cream pies are, in my opinion, overlooked in the dessert world.  They’re finicky – what with the custard, and all.  They are time-consuming, as the crust must be pre-baked and totally cooled prior to being filled.  And often, they simply don’t turn out well; they may be too runny, too “stiff”, or the crust might not be hearty enough to stand up to the custard filling.  For whatever reason, I felt like accepting the challenge.  I love bananas and I love pastry cream, so what the heck, right?  Bring it on.

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High-Contrast Cookies

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Yesterday I spent roughly 5 hours babysitting a pot of bolognese slated for dinner that evening.  My friend Pat loves making fresh pasta (as do I) and when I said I was planning to make a bolognese, he offered to provide the pasta.

I’m officially on break from school and loving it.  No papers to write, no projects to complete, no academic reading to do.  Rather, I’m spending my days reading books I want to read (i.e., The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter), writing letters, watching movies, and spending quality time in the kitchen.  That quality time includes laborious dishes like bolognese, but I don’t mind one bit.  Something wonderful happens when a pot of bolognese is allowed to simmer for many hours; deep, silky flavors develop and the entire house benefits from the lazy cooking process.

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The Wine List: Thanksgiving Edition

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I’m a list-maker.  Phew, I said it.  It’s out there.  I feel so much better now.  Yes, I make lists.  I come from a long line of list-makers.  My mother makes lists, my grandmother makes lists, my aunts make them…you get it.  Lists are in our blood.  Before I knew it, I was addicted to the satisfaction I got from crossing a big, fat line through each item on the list.  Each line meant a tiny victory for me.  Some lists are simple and fun, like what is needed at the grocery store.  Other lists, however, might as well be Mount Everest: the endless list of books I want to read, places I want to travel, home improvement projects, general life goals.  You know, lists that remind me of what little progress I’ve made.  Lists that mock me and, in turn, get moved from the top of the stack to the back of a drawer.

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