Golden Week (part I)

This is a long one but wanted to catch everyone up – there’s a lot going on here and I’ve been bad at updates!

There was an EARTHQUAKE this morning! Around 5:15 am, I was already awake and laying in bed, and things just started shaking. At first I thought it was just a big truck going by but then things continued shaking for about 30 seconds. It was all so strange and freaky. I was already feeling disoriented since I wasn’t wearing my glasses yet, so throw in some shaking and creaking and it really throws you off. It turns out it was about a 6.2 magnitude quake with the epicenter off the coast of Tokyo. It measured about a 4 on the Japanese seismic scale. In other words, it was strong but nothing detrimental and there was no tsunami warning and no damage. Everyone just went on with their day as if nothing happened. I guess that’s what it’s like to live in a country on a whole bunch of tectonic plates.

Anyways…..

This week is Golden Week and that means I have both today and Tuesday off. With the extended weekend, I decided to take a few day trips and to spend more time exploring Tokyo. I’ve been logging about 7-10+ miles a day walking (according to my Fitbit) and my feet will be ready for the work week to start back up again. #firstworldproblems

Saturday I spent the day (and I mean a very full day from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm) traveling to and around Nikko. It was my first time out of Tokyo and into the country side and man, it is beautiful! The sun was shining and it was just a gorgeous day to be out.

A few things from my Nikko experience.

1)   The first time the language barrier was REAL obvious. I had to switch trains to get to Nikko but wasn’t really informed of that until we were stopped for a few minutes longer than normal and everyone got off. A very kind woman said (or I think she was trying to indicate, it was in Japanese) that both trains went to the Nikko station but it just didn’t feel right. She even got off the train with me to ask someone where to go and described it all to me, but again… it was all in Japanese. I ended up figuring it all out by looking at the handy train map but phew! it was a little more stress than I like.

Nature Path along the Lake, did I mention what a beautiful day it was?

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2)   As I walked to the Kegon Waterfall, I passed some Japanese girls singing TLC’s Waterfalls. That kind of quality music breaks all the culture barriers. It was a little piece of home and put a smile on my face.

View of Kegon falls and Lake Chuzenji, it reminded me a little of Cinque Terre, from a distance.

_DSC0604Kegon Falls from the bottom, about 100 meters down in an elevator to this viewing platform.

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3)   You drive up to the lake and down from the lake on two different roads. On the way down, the bus system announces (in English) to hold onto your things as there will be tight turns as we descend and the “bus may sway greatly.” The path down looked like a racecourse with the tight turns, it was crazy doing it in a huge tour bus but the driver maneuvered it beautifully. Bonus: on the way down, a MONKEY crossed the road in front of us!

At the bottom, in the town of Nikko, the Shinkyo Bridge that leads into the Tosho-gu Shrine.

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4) At the end of all this, I will be a master of the “selfie”. Thank goodness that iPhone camera flips right around. How else would I know I was there if not for a picture of myself in that place? Memories, schmemories. The real trick is finding the right angle so that my most prominent facial feature (i.e.: my nose) looks juuuuust right. Mind you, a nice ray of sunshine on it generally thrwarts my attempts (exhibit A below).

#doesthismakemynoselookfat?

IMG_18675) In my opinion, Ryuzu Falls (Dragon’s Head Falls) was just as beautiful as the Kegon waterfall. There were three-ish sections, the photo below being the middle. Can you imagine this with the vibrant fall foliage??? Just a few months too early, darn it!

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I’m going to Kamakura tomorrow. Initially I had planned to go today but with a 60% chance of rain today and only a 20% chance tomorrow, I decided to wait. So instead I spent the day shopping and went to the last of the major Tokyo temples/shrines that I hadn’t seen yet. I’m going to try to put that all together to post tomorrow night maybe. It won’t be nearly as long, I promise.

 

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Some Tuesday Thoughts….

Some random thoughts for this Tuesday, as well as some pictures from all over Tokyo so far.

(Below: the 5 story pagoda at Senso-ji)

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Thought 1: Today (that is Tuesday, 4/29) started the first holiday of Golden Week and therefore, I had the day off and started the morning with a jog around the Imperial Palace. Can I just take a minute to say how crazy that sounds?! A week and a half ago I was running the Elliot Bay trail, now I’m running around a palace, that an emperor actually lives in. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem real. 

Speaking of the emperor, I forgot to mention, that I actually saw him (within 20 feet or so)! There were about 30 ish people that had all lined up and I was a little confused by what was going on (in a sunshine haze). Then a car drove by with the window down (!) with this cute little old man waving and smiling. Everyone was so excited about it but in a very polite and respectful way. When I got back to my apartment I googled him and confirmed that it was in fact the emperor! Kind of a big deal.

I can only think what would have happened if that had been in America and it was Obama or any other president or public figure.

(Below: wisteria at Gotokuji temple)

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Thought 2: After lunch in Omotesando on Sunday, we were walking and my fellow trekker from Dallas was going to take me to the start of the main drag on Omotesando. We were chatting along the way when we were stopped by two teenage girls that asked to take a picture. Instinctively, we thought they wanted us to take a picture of them BUT really they wanted a picture with us, two American girls. Naturally, the teenage girls directed the conversation to Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.

Teenager 1: “Do you know Taylor Swift?”

Me: “Oh yeah!”

Teenager 1&2: “Oooooooo. That’s so cool”

Me: “Well I should clarify that I don’t know her personally, I just know her music.”

I didn’t want to lead them to believe I had superstar connections. Turns out one of them had actually met Justin Bieber in the Narita airport and showed us the photo to prove it. Teenagers are the best and I know full well, I used to be just like that.

(Below: our office building in Tokyo)

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Thought 3: I’ve been going to a lot of Temples and Shrines. I enjoy going to them because the grounds/gardens are generally beautiful and well maintained and the ones that aren’t on the ‘if you don’t see it while you are in Tokyo then what did you come here for’ list are quite peaceful. The architecture is also something to be admired, especially when considered how old most of them are even considering any reconstruction. However, the spiritual aspect of it all is very confusing to me. Oftentimes, I find myself praying to God and thanking him for always being available no matter where I am. He knows my thoughts, wishes and dreams already, I don’t need a 100 yen coin to have them come true or give me luck. God’s got it all under control, and thank goodness for that…. or I would have been broke a long time ago.

(Below: railing at the Imperial Palace)

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Thought 4: My mom is coming!!! I tried to be “level-headed, reasonable, big girl Ally” and told my parents it wasn’t a big deal if they couldn’t make the trip, because it’s far and suuuper expensive.  But I am SO happy that I get to see at least one them in just under a month! It’s going to be the perfect break between getting here, one of my best friends coming, and heading home.

(Below: Bamboo at the East Garden)

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Final Thought: Also, if you’re on instagram, I’ve been posting some different things there every so often. I should mention, I only ‘accept’ people I know. No creepers allowed.

Starting to Settle In

The weather here has been out of this world awesome. 70 and Sunny. Pretty much my perfection. I know come early June, it gets quite humid so I am soaking up this spring time sunshine while I can. That being said, I have tried to be outside as much as possible this weekend. I’d say it was a success.

Saturday, I walked to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. It ended up being a little further than I had expected but with the sun shining, I couldn’t have been happier, although by the end of the day, my feet probably would have said otherwise!

The palace is amongst the high rises and skyscrapers. It’s quite the vivid dichotomy of the past and present.

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I spent an hour or so just laying on the lawn of the East Garden. It was glorious.

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The trees and plants here are such a vibrant shade of green, it almost doesn’t seem real.

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Really, ALL the plants and flowers have the most vibrant, saturated colors.  I should note although it may be obvious, I don’t really edit my photos because that would require a skill set I don’t have, so these colors aren’t enhanced. What you see here is pretty darn close to reality and it’s amazing.

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The walls of the palace are massive and quite a feat of engineering and architecture as they have been standing since the 1600’s.

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Today, I went around with a fellow trekker, who had just ended her rotation, to Gotokuji Temple, also known as the “cat temple.” It was obvious that I had to go. While it’s known for all the cat statues (see below), the grounds are equally impressive, so serene and expansive.

_DSC0564This cat, “Maneki Neko,” is said to bring luck. Really, I just think its cute.

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CATS! CATS! CATS!
_DSC0574From there we grabbed lunch in Omotesando with a beautiful view.

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The main street of Omotesando is often referred to as the Champ d’Elysees of Tokyo. This was the first time I felt crowded and slightly overwhelmed by the amount of people that live here. There were so. many. people.

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I ended today in Harajuku and walked down Yakeshita Street, also very crowded. It’s where a lot of the “eclectic” people shop BUT they have shops that only sell socks and for that, I’ll be going back.

IMG_1801I have a lot more to share but I’ve reached the limit of most attention spans with this long one so, I’ll try to share more tomorrow or Tuesday.

Tokyo Time!

As most of you know by now, I have just started a 3 month rotation to work out of our Tokyo office. It’s a program called “Tax Trek” and it sounds so nerdy but accountant folks think it sounds cool and adventurous and now we are all on the same page if I ever refer to this trip as a “trek.”

So here I am in Tokyo. Jet lag has been pretty exhausting, I thought I was doing pretty well after have a full first day, but now it’s 5:30 PM Monday as a I write this and I really want to go to bed now.

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to have one of my good friends from Seattle vacationing in Tokyo and we were able to spend the day together. It was so nice to see a familiar face on my first day out and about in Tokyo. We spent much of the day in the Ueno district and surrounding areas.

Yushima-Tenjin Shrine is located near the University of Tokyo. This is where many hopeful students go to write a prayer/wish that they will get into the university.

Yushima-Tenjin Shrine

You can make your prayer known through writing it on a wooden block that gets tied outside the shrine.

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I am amazed by the attention and exactness to every detail, even the light fixtures.

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Unbeknownst to me, the Japanese climate can grow outrageously beautiful and HUGE peonies. This one in particular is outside the Iwasaki’s (Mitsubishi’s founder) former residence.

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Akihabara is the electronics mecca with multiple stores at least 7 stories high and packed full. And of course, Anime.

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Today I ventured out on my own, after having a sushi lunch with a fellow ‘trekker’ and co-worker from the Tokyo office, I spent some time in Shinjuku, specifically the Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens that was once a Feudal Lord’s residence, transferred to the Imperial family in the early 1900’s, destroyed during WWII and rebuilt as a public park.

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The last of the cherry blossoms in the park. I wish I could have caught them in full bloom but was glad to have been able to experience them at least a little bit.

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First day in the office tomorrow, wish me luck!

Baked ‘Fried’ Okra

Justin Timberlake came out with a new song. It’s the first thing since 2006 when he brought sexy back.

I have been a fan of JT since his NSYNC days, of which I will proudly and openly admit my JC Chasez crush. Sorry Justin. I switched to a JT fan once his first solo album came out  … and JC struggled as a ‘judge’ on some dance show. (I know Justin’s married now but we obviously had a chance together, especially when he got to his suit wearing years.)

There’s a point to this. Promise.

You see, JT and I are a lot alike. Sometimes we just need a little break to perfect our crafts, or just work overtime. And in the blogging world… 2+ months = roughly 7 years.

Well…I’m back. And it’s time… so let me show you a few things, including this baked ‘fried’ okra.

'Fried' Okra

Being from Texas I know there are only two ways to ever eat okra. 1) Pickled and 2) Deep Fried (surprise!).

Having grown up and lived in the Evergreen state I’ve learned that 1) Okra isn’t nearly as popular and 2) Neither is fried food.

Side note: okra is slimy and a little weird. You’ve got to move past it because it’s so dang good.

Prep Okra

This recipe is simple. No messy goopey battered fingers and easy clean up thanks to freezer ziplock bags. This is a kind of a non-chicken version of shake and bake.
Breaded

Using the bag also helps to get a nice even coating. I’m a fan of thick, crispy coating. (I think it’s a carb thing, like wanting only the cobbler part of fruit cobbler.) The corn meal and egg combo really does the trick. Okra Dipped

So get out there, whip these up and eat the whole batch. I mean, why not? They’re baked!

Baked Fried Okra

12 oz. frozen okra, thawed

3/4 c. corn meal

1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 egg

1/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the thawed okra into a gallon size freezer bag. Beat together egg and milk and pour into the bag with the okra. Mix around to completely coat the okra.

After the okra is coated, scoop the okra out using a slotted spoon (to drain off excess egg/milk mixture) and put it into a clean freezer bag. Pour over the corn meal and spice mixture. Shake around until completely coated. If you don’t drain off the excess, it can be a little gloopy and won’t have the nice separate pieces. If that happens, adding a little more cornmeal can help. Then pour onto a lightly greased baking sheet, in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, then flip and bake an additional 20 minutes. Eat hot, right out of the oven with a side of ketchup.

Oreo Truffles

Oh Christmastime. It is most certainly my favorite time of the year.

Christmas music. Cinnamon spice candles. Candy canes. Cookies. Cheer.

Candy coated Oreo truffles. Yes please.

The first time I was gifted an Oreo truffle was last year when we received one of my favorite cookie trays from my parent’s neighbors. After taking one bite, we immediately added them to our Christmas ‘baking’ repertoire.

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It’s as if you’re eating a fancy chocolate truffle. So smooth and creamy but it tastes like an Oreo. Hallelujah.

…And there are only 3 ingredients. Oreos, cream cheese and candy coating. It’s that simple.

Oreos

I. LOVE. Holiday. Oreos. For three main reasons 1) Double stuffed 2) Festive red filling 3) Wintry designs.

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Not only are there only 3 ingredients, there are really only 3 simple steps. Starting with grinding the Oreos to a fine crumb.

It is very easy to eat the crumbs with a large tablespoon. I’m not at all saying that happened. Just an FYI.

Before adding in the cream cheese, reserve a 1/4 cup of the crumbs for topping the truffles later.

I decided to add the cream cheese in chunks to the food processor. Moments later, I was thisclose to a meltdown, as I thought I burnt out the motor on my food processor. There were some noises that sounded a little like when I describe my car problems to the service man. But KitchenAid came through and we were back in action.

That being said, I tried to be smarter than the recipe. I wasn’t going to use more than one bowl! No. Way. But I think the recipe writers knew what they are talking about. Shocking. Because of the thickness of the cream cheese, its almost a little too much to mix in the processor.

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Nonetheless, once it’s combined, roll the cream cheese and cookie mixture into small balls, not quite a tablespoon size. Stick ’em in the fridge for a few. While those are chilling, melt some white chocolate chips or vanilla candy coating.

Also, take the time to review the weekly grocery store advertisements from the newspaper you ingeniously laid on your counters for while you’re cooking and baking to make clean up a breeze. (My fellow baking friends give the best tips ever.)

After noting to pick up the 99 cent oranges, start the coating process.

Dunking and covering each truffle before placing back on the cookie sheet and sprinkling with the excess crumbs.
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Just a few minutes in the fridge to set up and they are ready to go.

Santa Claus is coming to town pretty soon and I think he’d be pretty impressed with a few of these waiting for him by the tree.

Here’s how to do it:

I didn’t change much (as there isn’t much to change), so I’ll send you right to the source.

Oreo Truffles

Instead of regular chocolate, I used vanilla candy coating and don’t worry about counting 36 Oreos, just dump in a whole package.

Enjoy!

Squash Casserole

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve last posted, almost 2 months!!! I guess I’ve just been too busy living… 🙂

Today it’s a throwback… all the way to the 1960’s when casserole was king.

A fantastic 1966 cookbook that was my nanny’s… I’m sure it would be a top seller these days. And no we aren’t making Poached Salmon in Aspic, but that would be soooo vintage of me. After I figured out was aspic was…

I completely understand why casseroles were such a big deal.

1) It’s easy.

2) It’s relatively inexpensive.

3) It’s a complete meal in one dish… veggies, protein, and delicious.

4) You can feed an army… or myself for a week.

This squash casserole comes from Mrs. Judy, my sunday school and pre-school teacher for many years while we lived in Texas. The amount of love she has for everyone is immeasurable. She is true salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-16) She was a champion in the kitchen and she made the best bread-and-butter pickles ever.

One of the most remarkable women I have ever met and likely will ever meet.

The casserole is so filling, creamy, crunchy, and yet another reason to thank Mrs. Judy.

Start with some fresh veggies, including the obvious and necessary Summer Squash. Zucchini can easily be used as a substitute.

And some other, less obvious vegetables.

Saute the onion, bell pepper, celery, and green onion until just softened. Then add in the squash and saute slightly, making sure it is still crisp.

Sausage or “Sausage” is the protein of the dish. These links easily crumbled for incorporation into the casserole. It just needs a quick saute to brown it up.

Non-vegetarians, Jimmy Dean ground sausage is written in the recipe or to lighten it up, a Turkey sausage would work great.

When Mrs. Judy wrote this recipe I doubt there was a such thing as turkey sausage. It’s that vintage.

There aren’t too many step by step photos, why you ask? It’s a casserole! You just throw it all together, pop it in the oven and 20 minutes later… “ding!” Ready to eat!

Stand on your chartreuse shag carpet, in your shift dress, listening to the Beatles, take a trip back in time and whip yourself up some squash casserole.

Here’s How to Do It:

1 lb. Sausage

2 tsp. Olive Oil (if using low-fat sausage or sausage substitute)

1 small Onion, diced

1 Bell Pepper, diced

3-5 Celery stalks, diced

3-4 small to medium Yellow Squash, halved and sliced (about 1 to 2 lbs.)

1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 cup Yogurt (plain) or Sour Cream

1 cup Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix

1 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese

1-2 tbsp. butter, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13 baking dish.

If using real sausage, cook and break up the sausage until browned. Drain off any excess fat, keeping a small amount in the pan for the vegetables. If using vegetarian sausage, break up and brown slightly in a saute pan. Pour into the 9X13 baking dish.

Cook the onion, bell pepper, and celery in olive oil. Cook until almost softened and then add in the squash. Saute 5-7 minutes to cook the squash but it should still be crisp. Pour the cooked veggies into the dish with the sausage.

While the veggies cook down, combine the mushroom soup and yogurt or sour cream in a medium sized bowl. Pour into the 9X13 baking dish and stir the sausage, vegetables, and soup mixture all together to combine.

Combine the stuffing mix, cheese, and melted butter into a small bowl and sprinkle over the casserole to cover.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Monkey Bread in Jars

I’m coming off a high… sugar and altitude related.

For a post busy season de-stresser, I took a long weekend trip down to Denver to visit Becky (you’ve seen her on here before) and her husband Brent.

Becky and I had discussed from the day I purchased my ticket that we would be doin’ some serious work in the kitchen. We made 3 desserts including meringues, marshmallows, and pumpkin cupcakes (many of which you will see shortly here), salmon with miso sauce, and this…

Monkey bread… in a jar. It is to die for.

And all that dark stuff on the bottom??? It is indescribably good. Off the charts. Gooey, cinnamon-y, out of this world.

This was the first time either of us had really experimented with yeast. We had our reservations. But man oh man, we sure did get excited when it started working.

Excitement in the kitchen seems much more normal and less psycho when it isn’t talking to yourself.

On top of not being considered crazy there are so many benefits to having a partner-in-crime in the kitchen.

 Including a dough-kneader.

And someone to help you take and stage the food photography.

Sometimes I get so focused on getting things done in the kitchen I forget to have fun. After this Bake-a-thon weekend, I remembered how much fun being in the kitchen can be.

Yeast in action, part 2. After the yeast activates and is incorporated into the dough and the dough is kneaded, it is set to rise for about 1-1.5 hours or until doubled in size.

Disclaimer, we started this process at 9 PM. I would not recommend this, as there are multiple “stop and let the dough rise for 50+ minutes” in the instructions. That being said, we wrapped this bad boy up around 1 AM.

Doin’ work.

Once the yeast doubles, place on a clean surface to roll out.

The original recipe did not state how thick to roll out and a “large rectangle” is not nearly specific enough for 2 CPA’s. So we went with approximately 1/4 inch and it turned out great.

Using a pizza cutter, slice up the dough into small squares, roughly 1-2 inches in size.

Take those darlin’ little squares and dip in melted butter (oh em gee), then a cinnamon-nutmeg-brown sugar mixture (oh yeah) and “plop” into the jars.

Also, this is a highly recommended snack time. Instead of a “plop” into the jars, just “plop” right into your mouth.

The buttery sugary squares need to rise for another 50 minutes but then are ready for the oven. 25 minutes later and you are ready to experience heaven on earth.

Here’s how to do it:

Monkey Bread in a Jar

Ingredients:

12 tbsp butter

1 cup milk, heated to about 110 degrees F

1/3 cup water, heated to about 110 degrees F

1/4 cup sugar

1 (1/4th oz) package dry active yeast

3 cups flour

2 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

Warm the milk and water in the microwave until it feels like warm bath water. Combine the warm milk, water, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Let sit for five minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt and 1/2 tsp cinnamon together in another bowl. After five minutes, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium high speed using a dough hook attachment for about eight minutes, or until dough becomes a smooth ball. If you don’t have a dough hook, you can knead using your hands, just keep kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. (It may still be very slightly sticky as you form the ball but don’t let that scare you, as long as it has a smooth appearance after the ball is formed.)

Spray a bowl with cooking spray and place your dough ball inside. Cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for about an hour. You want the ball to double in size. (This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.5 hours.)

After the initial rise, roll out dough to a large rectangle approximately a 1/4 inch in thickness. Using a pizza cutter, cut one inch squares of dough out of the rectangle.

Melt four tablespoons of the butter and use it to grease eight 8-oz glass jars (OR four 12-oz mason jars or three 16 oz jars).

Melt the remaining butter and pour it into a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Dunk each square of dough in the melted butter and then into the brown sugar. Drop it into a greased glass jar. Fill each jar only half way full then set the jars in a warm spot to rise for another 50 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place jars on a baking sheet two inches apart and bake for 25 minutes, or until dough has cooked through. Serve warm!

Meringues 101… and 201

This all started way back in March… when there was this little thing called March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament, and of course related bracket challenges.

There was one bracket in particular for the bridal party of the wedding I was in this past July. The Best-Man surprised the bride and groom by putting an unknown gift from their registry as the prize.

I usually participate in multiple brackets most of which end in me losing big due to my unfailing hope in the underdog. Not this time. I actually WON the bracket challenge, by picking the favored winner.

What was this prize you ask?!?

That’s right, an egg separator. I was stoked. Yeah yeah, I can use the eggshell to separate but that doesn’t make me nearly as happy.

You know all those books from childhood. If you give a mouse a cookie, if you give a pig a pancake, if you give a moose a muffin. The list goes on and on (and on).

So this? This is what happens when you give a cook a smiley egg separator…

Ok, let me re-phrase…. this is what happens when you give an amateur baker an egg separator and said amateur decides to make meringues for the first time.

When I initially attempted the meringues myself… it failed miserably, as evidenced above. I’ve never felt more of a failure in the kitchen when my meringues didn’t turn out not just once but twice!

So, I knew it would be the perfect thing to try when I was in Denver during our phase 2 of the 1st annual Cook/Bake-a-thon.

With a little hand-holding, guidance from a more experienced meringue maker and a new recipe… IT WORKED!

Oh-so-glossy and ready for the oven.

But, stiff peaks are no easy achievement. It’s a lot of concern and questioning, “Is that stiff peaks?… Well, maybe… let’s give it 2 more minutes….” And then the cycle repeats 2 minutes later.

Then you just have to make the game-time decision and get them on the sheet and ready to bake.

For guidance on what a stiff-peak looks like… I recommend google images or the Kitchn has a great tutorial. Also highly recommended, find someone else who knows what they are doing.

… And then after a little/long time in the oven… it’s magic. Meringue magic and success!

Here’s How to Do It:

Lemon Infused Meringues

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

6 egg whites

1/2 tsp. Lemon Zest

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar

Pinch of Salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 275ºF. Line cookie sheet with heavy brown paper or aluminum foil.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Add in the vanilla and lemon zest and beat to combine.

Drop meringue by 1/3 cupfuls onto cookie sheet. Shape into about 3-inch circles, building up sides. Bake 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave meringues in oven with door closed 1 1/2 hours. Finish cooling at room temperature.

Plum Cobbler

I’m tired…. like eyeballs hurt, huge bags under my eyes, “Ally, you look really tired” tired…

It’s never good when people call you out on it.

The last few weeks at work have been crazy. We’ve got a deadline today and it’s been balls to the walls insane.

But the one thing that always gets me through is a little baking session. Nothing relieves stress better than a little chopping, blending, mixing, and taste testing.

Cobbler is the perfect dessert to transition from summer to fall. It’s warm and comforting but still fresh with fruit of the season.

For this cobbler I used plums. A friend has a tree outside her house and brought me a big bag of them on Friday. I was so excited. Probably too excited for a bag of plums…

I’ve never baked a lot with plums, but really plums are never the star of the show…

It’s always peaches, nectarines, and cherries… well this one goes out to all the plums.

P.S. – Did you know that plum pudding doesn’t have any plums in it?!? I learned that on my google recipe search… so deceiving.

Anyways…. Plum Cobbler actually has plums in it! So start with plums cut into 1 inch pieces. I had smaller plums and just quartered them.

Once the plums are cut, add sugar and a little cornstarch and the filling is done!

While the fruit macerates, start on the biscuit topping. If we are all being honest, the point of a cobbler is the BISCUIT topping.

Start with corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and candied ginger. Pulse together and add in the cubed butter.

FYI – This probably isn’t for the figure watching crowd… there is a lot of buttah (see above). Consequently, it is ridiculously delicious.

After pulsing in the butter, add milk and ta-da! the biscuit dough is ready.

I substituted almond milk for regular milk, as well as adding in some warm spices (cinammon and nutmeg).

Once the dough is ready, pour the plum filling into the baking dish and drop spoonfuls of the dough on top. Easy as that! A sprinkle of turbinado sugar really just sets it over the top.

I went with 4 smaller sized portions, plus a single serving just for me! Taste-testing required.

I love the bright fuschia color of the cooked plums.

The tartness combined with the crunchy sweetness of the biscuit is the most perfect combination.

I’ve got just what I need to get me through today. Now, if only I could find the time to get my fall decorations up…

Here’s How to Do It:

Plum Cobbler 

Slightly Adapted from Huffington Post

Ingredients:

  • 4 pound(s) plums, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup(s) sugar
  • 2 tablespoon(s) cornstarch
  • 2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup(s) cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup(s) sugar
  • 2 tablespoon(s) minced candied ginger
  • 1 tablespoon(s) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
  • 2 stick(s) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup(s) almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  • Make the filling: In a bowl, toss the plums with the sugar and cornstarch and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Make the dough: Preheat the oven to 375°. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the cornmeal, sugar, candied ginger, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the butter and pulse until crumbly. Add the milk and pulse until moistened.
  • Spread the filling into your chosen baking dish (this makes enough for a 9×13). I used 3 mini loafs, a 4X4, and a mini ramekin. Scoop mounds of dough over the filling and sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 minutes to an hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp. I baked my smaller versions for about 40 minutes, you mainly just want to check on it when it gets close and you can start to really smell it.
  • Let cool briefly before serving warm.
  • Recommended serving suggestion: whip cream and/or ice cream would be perfect pairings.