Fall is my favorite season (if you couldn't tell by that last post) - every year it brings a welcome reprieve from the oppressive heat of summer. Fall and winter were the main reasons I couldn't make it in Florida; I don't do well in heat. Especially not Florida heat, which is humid but which also never really leaves. The joke is that there are two seasons in Florida - hurricane season and not.

Besides the cooler weather, though, fall has the added benefit of being the season wherein many of my favorite activities take place. Mostly I mean Halloween, which is hands down my favorite holiday. Even lackluster Halloweens are still great - the time two years ago when it was on a Wednesday and my dear roommate Becca and I dressed up to go to Buddhist meditation stands out. (Though really, any time you get to dress up and go out in public is a-okay by me.)

It's also the season of pumpkins - which means the season of my favorite beer (pumpkin ale) and my favorite pie (pumpkin, obviously). I honestly did not realize I liked pumpkin so much until this year, actually. Apparently I'm really into it. You can probably guess what this recipe is going to involve.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was because I hated my job so much. There were no real upsides to that job, other than that it did pay me. It slowly got worse and worse, and then luckily I managed to escape. But it did give me one thing - every month a company newsletter was sent out and every month I read it, not because I really cared what was going on in the company, but because I was so eager for something to do that wasn't work. (Or, because I had nothing to do and needed to look busy, else be sent to the file room. Oh, that wretched file room...) There were, however, also recipes in those newsletters. Most of them weren't great - or not appropriate for a vegetarian - but one grabbed my eye what must have been a year ago.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

That's right. It's like combining my two favorite desserts: pumpkin pie and cheesecake. I'm pretty sure that's a no-fail right there. I was a little surprised at how easy it was to make cheesecake, too. Because of the pumpkin addition, it feels a little healthier to eat than regular cheesecake.

16 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
15 oz. can pumpkin
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp butter, melted

Combine the ingredients for the crust and spread over the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Let chill in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until blended. Mix in pumpkin, spices, and salt. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour over the crust in the springform. Bake for 50 minutes.

Chill for as long as you can stand it (overnight is best).


photo friday: fall

(I know, I know, but I can't help myself when it comes to alliteration.)


den of vipers

I entered college with a pretty firm idea of what I planned to do there: I would major in English and International Studies, and then go into government, making change from the inside. Needless to say, things did not exactly go according to plan.

Within a few days of my first semester, before the first class had even met, I dropped my International Relations course because the book was too expensive. I discovered the Buddhist meditation group, met Eric, and the following semester I took a class he taught called "Oracles, Augury, & Divination." There was no turning back after that: I was a Religious Studies major. It wormed its way into my heart quickly; looking back, it makes perfect sense, since I was the sort of child who read encyclopedia entries on different religions for fun. (True story.)

At the end of every semester, there was a department party. I don't remember a lot of details - like the first one I went to, for instance - but what shines through is a feeling of belonging, of togetherness, of home. I remember attending one at John's house before he retired, driving with two dear friends only a few weeks after I had been dumped. I remember winter parties at Eric's on-campus faculty housing, hot mulled cider ladled out into mugs. I remember being a senior myself and finding myself surprised that I had to make a speech with the other seniors. I remember crying at the end of my speech, and getting blamed later for setting the trend.

However, there was also the baked brie. I can't tell you how popular this stuff was, except to say that when the dish was brought out, we all promptly stopped socializing with each other to shove our faces full of this cheese. Suddenly we would be ravenous.

I made this for one of Josh's potlucks, before this cooking thing really sunk in - though a step up from all the college potlucks I went to, where my offering was usually boxed macaroni and cheese (I know, I know). The technique works well with camembert, too; we used butter and almonds for that one.

Baked Brie á l'Eric

Best served with a crusty bread, a baguette. I'm not sure if this is exactly how it was made for those department parties, but it's still pretty tasty. Also, my pictures are a little deceiving - I didn't quite get all the rind off, because I was in a hurry. It's not a big deal, since the rind is edible, but still. Luckily this - like most everything else I post here - is pretty easy.

wheel of brie
maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Scrape the rind off the top of the brie and cut a cross (or an X, or a T, you get the idea) into it. Pour maple syrup on it. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.


photo friday: farewell

The last photo my dear old Kodak C330 ever took. I've had that camera for almost four years; it traveled across Europe with me, and consequently once got lost in a bar overnight (that was a bad night). It's been a good little camera, but it's high time to replace it. (Because, um, it's broken, mostly.)

So, dear reader: do you have any suggestions for replacements?


first-year friendships

My first year at college I made friends mostly with people who lived in the same place as I did. Our hall, a stretch of ten or twelve doubles, all got along fairly well (with a couple exceptions, obviously). The room I shared became much more than a double - people came and went as they pleased, whether my roommate and I were there or not, often. (We once came back from a concert to a room full of our friends, which was equal parts charming and frustrating.) Doors were rarely locked.

I don't really keep in touch with a lot of those people anymore; as is the case with many first-year friendships, they shifted and slowly grew apart, and I found myself in a different group of friends. But I still have a lot of fond memories from that first year of college - sitting in the common room waiting for election results to come in (this was 2004, so the results themselves were not pleasant), our first gender-bending Coming Out Ball, middle of the night trips to Steak 'N' Shake, and Christmas.

My roommate (pictured above) and I went all out: we hung mistletoe in our room (though it inspired more laughing than kisses), we got little presents for the four main inhabitants of room 213 (besides us, who were the actual residents of the room), and - most relevant to this blog - we made puppy chow for our male friends in the hall.

We did not do the latter by ourselves; instead, a bunch of us took over our floor kitchen until it resembled a meth lab. (Seriously, check out all that powdered sugar. It was crazy!) I had never heard of puppy chow before then, but quickly became a fiend for it. Aside from making small bags for our friends, we deigned it necessary to have a somewhat larger bag to stash in our room.

(sorry, this stuff is delicious, but not very photogenic)

Granted, it is a little early for Christmas goodies, but you know, Halloween is approaching and perhaps this would be a good treat for the wee tricksters? Okay, okay, mostly I just wanted to have some puppy chow myself and am now making excuses. It is never too early for holiday treats! Yeah!

Puppy Chow

So, this is kind of an approximate recipe. I might use a little less chocolate next time - or maybe not. I forgot how addictive this stuff is. Maybe it is best to wait for the holidays? (Another reason I like cooking for people, and not just me.)

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 box Chex (or similar cereal, I used the Safeway brand)
1 cup powdered sugar

Melt chocolate, peanut butter, and butter together - either in the microwave, or over the stove.
Mix in the vanilla extract. Add cereal and stir to cover all the pieces.
Transfer to a large freezer bag. Add powdered sugar. Toss to mix.


second installment

Part of what I love about baking (or cooking, in general) is sharing what I make with others. This contributes a lot, actually, to why my solo meals are often uncomplicated things like, uh, cheese and crackers and olives. That, and cooking for one person always, always involves reducing recipes. But that's neither here nor there.

But I also like cooking with other people - and, well, Daniel and I make the perfect team because our names are the same. So here comes the second installment of Danielle & Daniel Make Dinner. This time our inspiration was twofold: a pizzeria in Greensboro that made all sorts of delicious pizza variations, and my own focaccia recipe. Throw in my rapidly expanding cookbook collection and it is really just a recipe for greatness.

We had the perfect set-up for making this pizza too - namely, a captive audience. Jo, of course, was there for the first installment of Danielle & Daniel Make Dinner (we are thinking about "daniel(le)" - which we figure is just pretentious enough), but this time Andy decided to join us. About three years ago, Andy's Christmas present to me was a lovely pizza dinner, made from scratch, so I was excited to present my own offering.

And well, Daniel said it best: "Sexy people make sexy pizza." (Which was, of course, followed with: "put that on your blog!" And so I have.)

Because there were four of us, we made two pizzas. The first had a tomato sauce base (Newman's bombolina, which I highly recommend), mozzerella, and sun-dried tomatoes. It was pretty good, but could have benefited from cutting up the sun-dried tomatoes and spreading them out more. Also, dousing them in olive oil before putting them in the oven, since baking made them even chewier.

And then there was our masterpiece.

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

There are different kinds of gorgonzola (which we did not realize until last night) - we used piquante for this, but dolce would work too. Piquante, though, adds a nice variety of taste and stands in contrast to the sweetness of the pear.

For the pizza crust (makes two):
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 package active-dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

For the toppings:
1 pear
gorgonzola (see above)
carmelized onions

Combine the yeast and the water in a bowl, letting it sit while the yeast dissolves, or about five minutes. Mix in the flour, olive oil, salt, and sugar for about a minute with a wooden spoon. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough, flipping it to make sure the whole thing gets oiled. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

While the oven preheats and the dough rises, carmelize onions. To do so, just splash some olive oil into a pan and - on low heat - put the onions in. This is just about it - you'll want to keep an eye on them and move them around to make sure they evenly carmelize. You may want to put a pinch of salt and sugar in there (we did). This is a good time to prepare the other toppings, too!

When the dough has risen, split into two sections and transfer each to a baking sheet. If you have space, you may want to roll them out first, but it can be done by hand once on the sheet. On one, place sliced pears, chunks of gorgonzola, and the carmelized onions, making sure to evenly distribute the flavors. Brush olive oil onto the crusts.

Bake the pizza for about 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!


photo friday

So, dear reader, I've been taking a lot of photos lately. (I've also been using that Jane Eyre "dear reader" bit a lot lately, which is funny, considering how I feel about Jane Eyre.) Because of that, I've decided to introduce a new piece to the jekyllian puzzle: photo Friday. I'm not sure if it'll stick around, but we'll see!

These are for the autumn color week over at poppytalk. Enjoy!

Monday: yellow

Tuesday: green

Wednesday: orange

Thursday: brown

Friday: red