Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie {Snow Day}

For the second time in a week, we're holed in because of snow.  We got about 9 inches on top of what was left over from last Thursday--in some parts of the yard, it comes up to my knees!

Anyway, since I just happened to have peanut butter, chocolate, heavy cream, and a pie crust lying around (all essentials during a winter storm, bread and milk be damned), I decided I needed to make a pie. Yes, it was a need. Don't question it.  Shoveling snow is hard work, and since I've done plenty of it lately, I need sustenance in the form of decadent dessert.  I might waste away otherwise.

I was inspired by a recent diddle in Saveur Magazine that highlighted a pie made in Topeka, KS.  I made some changes, though, based on what I had on hand.  This is not a one step pie, but the labor was worth it to me.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
adapted  from Saveur Magazine

1 frozen pie crust
2 cups heavy cream
Sugar to taste (start with 2 T)
4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter*
8 oz chocolate, chopped finely**
1 cup brown sugar***
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
2 cups milk or cream
2 T butter, cubed

1. Bake pie crust as directed on package.  Let it cool.
2. Whip together 2 cups heavy cream, sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
3. Put peanut butter and chocolate into separate large bowls.
4. Bring sugar, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and milk to a simmer in a saucepan (whisking).  Cook until it's thickened into a custard.  Take off the heat and add the butter and remaining vanilla. Stir until the butter is melted.
5. Run the custard through a sieve and divide it equally between peanut butter and chocolate bowls.  Stir each mixture until smooth.  Add half the whipped cream to the peanut butter and fold in.  
6. Put the peanut butter mousse into the pie crust.  Chill for half an hour.  Spread the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter, and chill an hour.  Top with whipped cream.  Eat the whole thing in one sitting.

*The recipe calls for creamy PB.  I used crunchy that was unsweetened, so I did add a little sugar to mine.
**Semisweet would be best, but I used about half semisweet and half white chocolate because that's what I had.
***I didn't have quite enough brown sugar, so I added some white sugar.  Don't fuss too much about perfection.

Dig in.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Little Boy's Bedroom {Before}

My little Drew baby is growing up.

He loves his crib, but he's starting to climb out of it, so it's time to upgrade to a larger bed.

His sweet crib has served him well.  And now it will be passed on to another baby.

You might notice that the walls are bare, and that everything's pretty plain.  I'm not keen on too much baby decoration--it's often expensive, and not to my taste.  Also, I didn't want to go hog wild only to have to redo it all once he was out of the baby stage (FTR, he says he's a "big baby" and not a "big boy".  I told him that big babies usually don't speak so clearly.  He told me that I'm silly and have stinky butt).

But I think this bed (pictured below) is tad too bare, no?

The sheet is on merely to protect the mattress until I've made a purchase of new sheets.

We have a matching footboard we're hoping to get on there.  It'll take some improvisation, though.

The headboard was my grandmother's, and I'm so happy to pass it along to Drew.  We already had a bed frame, so our only major purchase was the mattress (purchased at Macy's on close-out.  It's the nicest mattress in the house, but cost the least).

This beautiful blanket will be the base of departure for the room.  My mother and I bought it in Portugal when I was in high school, and I love the bold colors.  It's very heavy--I'm not sure how we even got it home on the plane--made of a thick and strong material.

I'm not sure, though, what else we'll do in here. I know I won't be adding lots of "neutral" since the walls are already a gray blue.  If I added anything too light, it would be lost in the sea of pale.  And anyway, I have one light room in the house. That's enough for me.

Any ideas?  I need some sheets, a bed skirt, and something else to pack some punch, just not sure what.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Egg Salad and Weight Loss: An Unlikely Pair

I've eaten egg salad every day this week because I had leftovers from the Mardi Gras party.

That means I've probably been kind of stinky.  And perhaps burned out from so much ovum consumption.

But let me share a new sandwich I developed.  First, though, I'll tell you that eating this every day, I've dropped two pounds.  And I credit this combination of gooey white bread, mayo, and boiled eggs (even if it doesn't deserve it).

I had leftover chili-powder roasted pecans (soak in sugar water for 10 minutes, then add chili powder, toss to coat, and roast for 10-20 minutes at 350 degrees).  These things are so delicious on their own, but I figured they could jazz up a sandwich. And man was I right (per usual).

 So I plopped some egg salad onto some good old fashioned white bread.

And then placed pecans on top and finished it off with another slice of bread.

I took a lot of photos, and honestly, egg salad ain't that pretty.  This doesn't do the sandwich justice.
You might have a religious experience with these.  Enjoy.

Egg Salad and Pecan Sandwiches
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled and grated*
2/3 c mayonnaise
1 rib celery, chopped (optional)
green onion, chopped (as much as your heart desires)
lots of fresh tarragon, chopped
1/2 tsp seasoned salt**
pepper to taste
roasted pecans
gooey white bread

1. Mix up the first 7 ingredients.
2. Plop some (quarter cup maybe?  you decide) onto the gooey white bread and layer pecans on top. Add other slice of bread.
3. Enjoy as breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Marvel at its greatness.

*Grating eggs is kind of hard.  Maybe you could try the food processor, but I just used a hand grater until the egg fell apart too much and crushed the rest with a fork.  I love the texture.

**Paul Prudhomme's line of seasonings has a No-MSG version of seasoned salt. It's very tasty.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Greatest Gift of All

Guys and Gals, prepare to be amazed. You will be Pinning this romantic Valentine's Day gift because it is *that* good.

Can you see it?

Let me give you a hint.

The stump remains as a symbol of our love. Or maybe because the grinder couldn't get through our fence gate.
Yeah, for Valentine's Day, Ryan and I gave each other a powerful gift.  We cut down a tree.

 Here it was before.  Too close to the house.

Frightening young children.

The one on the left.
Looming high over us, limbs cracked and split in too many places to count, having already dropped a huge limb last summer.

So we saved ourselves from danger.

If that isn't romantic, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy Mardi Gras! {Cucumber and Strawberry Finger Sandwiches}

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!  We had our lovely Lundi Gras brunch yesterday, and it was a riot.  We had about 25 moms and kids (not including my own clan), and it was loud, boisterous, and downright fun.

The king cake, despite having been baked Friday (by Frances' Bakery) and shipped overnight to us (by Yiayia), was delicious.

Nutella and Strawberry Jam.

Finger sandwiches hit the spot.  And I definitely hurt my fingers making 'em--I made about 120 right before the party.

Katie got buried in blocks, wrapped in beads, examined by physicians, and instigated lots of other pretend games, which may or may not have included "roasting" one of her classmates--we noticed the kids basting her. 


What a spread!*  Makes me want to invent time travel so that I can go back to the beginning  of the day to start again.

I made a crab salad that was fantastic (despite a few bites of shell and cartilage-that stuff is sneaky!), and the biggest hit of the party was the cucumber and strawberry sandwiches (pictured above in the lower left-hand corner).  Delicious.  Finger-lickin' good.

Cucumber and Strawberry Finger Sandwiches
adapted from Southern Living
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 c mayonnaise
At least 1/2 cup chopped cucumber (peeled and seeded)
1/4 c chopped green onion or red onion
lots of basil, chopped finely
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
sliced strawberries

1. Mix the cream cheese and mayonnaise together.  I mash it all with a spoon.
2. Add in the cucumber, onion, basil, salt, and pepper.  Mix it up.
3. Take your bread (I used white as well as pumpernickel and rye swirl bread) and put a light glaze of mayo on one slice.  On the other, spread some of the cucumber mixture.
4. Top the cucumber mixture with the strawberries and place the other piece of bread on top.
5. Smoosh the bread slices together.  Really smoosh it. Except don't crush the strawberries. It's really a nuanced smoosh. But you need the sandwich to be a unit so that the filling doesn't go flying across the room when you start cutting.  I might be speaking from experience.
6. Slice off the crusts and cut the sandwich into 3 or 4 strips.  Be quick and deliberate with the biggest knife you own. Don't dilly dally or be timid.  Own that sandwich! Show it who's boss!

*For those who are wondering where the jambalaya or red beans & rice is, just know that not every meal in New Orleans includes those dishes. Nor do we all say things like "I gay-ron-tee" while drinking loads of hot sauce, although I have seen plenty of locals drinking beer while doing things such as mowing lawns, cutting down trees with chain saws on sticks, and juggling bowling balls.  Anyway,  I served foods I'm used to seeing at Mardi Gras (although my finger sandwiches were a little unorthodox).   I also served champagne, but I think I was the only one who partook.  Protestant restraint?  Who knows.  The devil made me do it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Finishing the Living Room

 Lookie what we're up to:

And by "we", I mean Ryan.  It's his reward for kicking ass on the GRE recently (yes, he kicked some serious ass).  I'm so generous with my man.

No, we're not practicing a new form of furniture staging that involves shoving everything to the middle of the room.  We're tackling the leftovers from my wild "let's get these ugly ceiling tiles down" frenzy. That may or may not have happened recently.  Or maybe I mean during the Olympics last summer.  Yes, last summer.  

We've only gotten away with it because the few friends and family who've come by more than once are very forgiving, and the rest of our visitors have been one and done (it's easy to tell a workman we're in the "middle of a renovation").  

There are holes to be filled and then sanded, beams to be painted, uh, what else?  Whatever, Ryan'll take care of it. Just in time for our Mardi Gras party on Monday.  Can't wait to share our first completed room.

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