Pumpkin French Toast

This morning was the coldest of the year so far. The car thermometer read 28ºF on the way to church. When we got home, James made a fire in the basement family room and I set to work upstairs on my newest creation: Pumpkin French Toast. I had about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree left in the refrigerator after a failed Pinterest attempt from Friday night. I didn’t really want to waste it so I tried this today. It was a little risky since James isn’t a pumpkin fan, but even he liked these. Ingredients: 3 eggs, beaten a few tablespoons of milk (eyeball it) 1/4-1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree 2-3 big pinches of sugar Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves (dash of each, heavier on the cinnamon) 6 slices of bread Wisk together all the ingredients except the bread. Quickly dip the bread in the egg mixture and cook in a skillet or frying pan for  about 2 minutes on each side, medium heat. We ate these with maple syrup, which was great. If we had whipped cream in the fridge, though, that would have been perfect, like pumpkin pie for breakfast.

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Celebrating Family

We have so much to be thankful for this year. We’re finally married, we’re finally together in our perfect little house, and we’re finally living the life we’ve always dreamed of. I never thought life would be this beautiful.

November morning at home

November morning at our home in Maryland

One of the biggest things we are thankful for this November is our enormously huge family. Each of us brought roughly 30 first cousins with us into this marriage, along with dozens of aunts and uncles. We love our new family more than anything. We’re looking forward to celebrating this with our second annual Day-After-Thanksgiving Christmas Movie Night.

Last year, we rounded up the cousins/aunts/uncles. Everyone brought their leftover desserts from Thanksgiving (which was a LOT of food).  I made my mom’s apple cider and my Italian grandmother’s Pastorelli cookies, both of which were a big hit with James’s family. The movie list? We went with family favorites: Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Elf.

It was the most fun I have ever had at a party that I was hosting. It was simple to put together and tons of fun for all involved. We can’t wait to do it again this year!

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes

We’re finally MARRIED!! James and I tied the knot on June 1. After a beautiful wedding and a fabulous honeymoon on St. Thomas, we came home and had our first week in our house together. Pure euphoria is what inspired this breakfast from our first Saturday morning in our new home.

blueberry pancakes

I started with the standard Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe for regular pancakes (not buttermilk). It’s actually a pretty runny recipe on its own. Once you have that batter, add:

1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

zest of 1 lemon

1 pint of blueberries

First mix in the ricotta and lemon, then gently folded in the blueberries. Cook them on a griddle at medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

Zen, yo.

The other night, James and I decided to try the new(ish) Zen Asian Grill and Sushi in Burtonsville. James had been resisting for a while because they market themselves as a sushi joint. He doesn’t do raw.

I looked online, and it turns out they do some standard Chinese American dishes as well. Once future hubby knew he would be able to eat, he agreed to come.

The first thing you see when you walk in the door is a glittering waterfall. Love it. All at once I was whisked away to a mountain pagoda in some nondescript Asian locale.

We were greeted by a host of smiling faces, and quickly seated. The decor was absolutely amazing. Zen all the way. Open, yet warm and cozy. Whoever designed it was a genius. It didn’t feel like Burtonsville. It felt like Georgetown, or Dupont Circle, or Bethesda. It was like going downtown without the traffic.

The menu was fairly large, considering the size of the establishment, but everything looked as though it belonged. I was very hungry when I arrived, so I quickly picked two items off the very long sushi list. Baltimore roll and California roll. Ok, stop laughing at me. They had a lot of lovely looking, more “authentic” choices, but I wasn’t feeling very adventurous, and I was going to have to eat everything myself since James isn’t a sushi sharer. By the way, he ordered sweet and sour chicken along with chicken fried rice.

Dinner was almost over when I remembered to take a picture. I was lost in the moment. :)

Dinner was almost over when I remembered to take a picture. I was lost in the moment. 🙂

Extremely yummy. I mean it was delicious. I’ll have to go sample more of the menu to give you a more comprehensive review, but everything I tasted was delicious. The feel of this place is the real reason to go, however. It’s a great date location, if you’re interested.

The Cheese Log Ratings:
Food: 4.5 cheeses
Atmosphere: 5 cheeses
Service: 5 cheeses
Date-worthyness: 4.5 cheeses
Would I return: DEFINITELY! Can’t wait!!

My Mom’s Hot Apple Cider

For years, my mom has always made the world’s greatest apple cider. I have the recipe myself now, and it has now become a fall tradition for me and James. I thought I’d be nice enough to share it with all of you. Happy Fall!

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon fresh apple cider

2 cups orange juice (no pulp it best)

1/4 cup honey

2 1/2inch cinnamon sticks (basically it’s 1 standard stick broken in half)

5 whole cloves

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Directions: Combine all ingredients into a pot on the stove. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature and simmer for approximately 1 hour.

Cake Decorating 101

Last night was my first cake decorating class.

Our instructor is a wonderful Greek lady named Mata. She’s a professional European pastry chef. One of the first things she said was that this class is not meant to be stressful. “You’re supposed to come here to relax.” Sweet.

The first  thing we learned was the proper technique for using the star tip.  We practiced on some sugar cookies.

It was pretty fun! I’ve never taking a culinary class before, and I’ve always wanted to. Working with icing and cookies, it wasn’t long before all my work stress evaporated.

My mom and I are taking it together. I’m a baker and she’s an artist, so perhaps together we could make some spectacular cakes. That is the goal, anyways. It was my mom’s idea for us to take the class, and I’m very glad she pushed for it. I would never have done it otherwise. I can’t wait to do my homework!

How to Teach a Man to Cook

Before I met him, James’s cooking expertise extended to frozen pizzas and scrambled eggs. Yesterday, I came home to the sweet comforting smell of a whole chicken simmering in the slow cooker. I took a deep breath and thanked God for giving me such an awesome man to marry. He made it all by himself, and it was perfect.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been emailing him 4-step directions for making barbecue chicken thighs, tilapia, and baked salmon. He’s done an awesome job with all of them. A+.

That’s the secret really. Clear and direct directions. Don’t blabber. Tell him where the pans are located. Draw a picture of which way the chicken is supposed to face. And let him do it.

I’m so excited. Either tonight or tomorrow, we’re making chicken soup. And soon, maybe even tonight, I’ll teach him how to sauté. I can’t wait to see him this evening! Amazing how the level of my happiness is directly related to the amount of time I spend in cooking-related activities. It’s going to be an awesome weekend!