At the school where I work, it is tradition to have a chili cook-off on the first teacher grading day of the year. It works a little something like this. You make a chili. You bring the chili to school in a crock-pot. You drop it off and someone gives you a number; that, hopefully, will be the lucky number of the day. You let it simmer all morning. You then wait for the announcement that lunch is served and the blind tasting begins. You taste all the other chilies–the traditional ones, the non-traditional ones. And then you vote for your own chili and pray you win, getting all the glory–and the silly trophy–that comes with it.
Actually, even though this tradition is all fun and games, it was a little more stress than I could handle on a grade day. It’s enough for me to agonize over giving final grades; I can’t agonize on how my chili will be stacked against others.
One of my biggest pet peeves is food going to waste–specifically when I have to open a can of something and the recipe doesn’t require that I use all of it. (Like 1 cup of chicken broth when the can clearly has 2 cups, or 1 T of tomato paste when there is at least 8 T in the smallest can.) So the remainder of the contents sit in my fridge, where I promptly forget about it, only to discover a few weeks later a science experiment growing inside the can.
Now, this recipe requires that you use only 1 cup of canned pumpkin, but with the rest of it I make either pumpkin milkshakes or pumpkin waffles. That way, my leftover pumpkin doesn’t go to waste. For Thanksgiving this year, I wanted to try a different take on the pumpkin pie and when I found this recipe in a stack of old magazines, I thought it was perfect. It has caramel, pecans, and a cool pumpkin-y mousse layer. With each bite you can taste the complexity of all three layers working together. It’s a party for your tongue. (Okay, that analogy was a little lame, but it’s true. You’ll love it!) Continue reading
When I would visit my aunt and uncle in Santa Cruz, one of my favorite places to go was the Boardwalk. And on the Boardwalk, one of my favorite things to get was a caramel apple. Walking into the shop, my eyes would fixate on the beautiful caramel apples in the display case, beckoning me with their different toppings–M&Ms, chopped nuts, white chocolate, dark chocolate. Oh, it was so hard to choose just one!
But today…today I didn’t have to choose just one. I made my own caramel apples and didn’t have to choose. What a wonderful feeling. However, I didn’t make them just by myself, or just for myself. Eric and my mom helped me by peeling the wrappers off the caramel (which was HUGE), and then, once they were hardened, eating them.
To make caramel apples, you first need to melt the caramel squares–either in the microwave or a double boiler. I am not good with the microwave, so I use the double boiler.
While the caramel is melting, take your popsicle sticks and stick them halfway down into the apples, keeping the stick straight. (What I mean by that is, let the apple naturally lie on the counter–none will be perfect, and many will tilt to the side–and then insert the stick.) I like the jumbo craft sticks, but you could use whatever suits your fancy.
You will also need to chop any toppings, if you are using them. Continue reading