Update from Self-Quarantine —lost count what day…

Today, despite suffering from a flare of my TMJ due to concentrating too much this week (I grit my teeth when I am focused on a task), I am in a good mood. The summer term is over for my university teaching and my grading is done. I also received feedback on my dissertation draft and it is not as bad as I thought it would be. I still have to add some information to make it more cohesive, but four out of the five chapters are good. I seem to have gotten out of my slump when it came to being productive (don’t look at the laundry baskets waiting to be folded in the kitchen!).

So when my son asked if I wanted to make something in the kitchen, I thought why not? We experimented with baking a pie with filling from scratch. Sorry no recipe because we used two frozen deep dish pie crusts from Walmart and followed the directions for cook time from that. Everything else was a little of this and a little of that. We used the apples from my Misfits Market order…we had a lot of apples this time. The pie came out actually looking like a pie which I think is a first for us when it is not a Sara Lee frozen pie.

 



My house smells like Fall because of the pie and it has me thinking a lot about what the next couple of months will be like. It is way too humid out right now to enjoy the porch or the deck, so I am looking forward to cooler weather with the leaves changing. It is looking like we will still be social distancing. School will continue to be virtual, but my son will be a freshman…he will actually be driving in a couple of months. Scary!

While I would like to return to a semblance of normal, I don’t think we will ever return to the way things were before. Supermarkets gave me anxiety before the pandemic and now it is even worse. So I am thankful for Instacart and Walmart Grocery pickup. I have even setup some of non perishable things I routinely buy to automatically reorder every month from Amazon Prime.

As you know from reading previous posts, I love the concept of Hygge which is appreciating the joy that comes from life’s moments. I take more naps now, cook more at home, listen to music, play with the dogs, and spend time with my family. This is a time of reset and I appreciate that. Now I am going to grab a slice of pie!

Food Hack: Chinese Five Spice Powder

This is a quick post for today, I just wanted to share one of my absolute favorite spices and two ways I use it: Chinese Five Spice Powder. This spice mix is usually a combination of white pepper, cinnamon, fennel, star anise, and clove. The first time I had it was actually while attending a conference at a Disney resort. They had made truffles and topped it with the spice. The combination with chocolate was so good I have looked for it as a dessert every year at the conference since then. Unfortunately, I have not seen it.

When I first started experimenting with Instant Pot cooking, I tried making Chinese Spareribs. That recipe was an epic failure which has not been attempted again, but one of the ingredients was Chinese Five Spice Powder. I could not find the blend anywhere in stores here in Southern Maryland. I probably could have found it at the Asian grocery, but one night it just popped up as a suggested Amazon purchase (is’t the algorithm scary?!). So now that I had this ingredient and it’s initial purpose was a bust, I needed to find another use for it. I remembered the treat I had at Disney and decided to try something:

We were hosting a dinner party and one of the guests brought yummy brownies from BJs. I decided to try to kick them up a notch. I added the spice blend from my pantry to the brownies and oh my goodness were they good. It reminded me of Mexican Chocolate which has a dash of cinnamon or chili added to it. It was so good, I plan on making other chocolate desserts using the spice. I think cookies will be my next experiment. Maybe something like a snickerdoodle, only chocolate.

I also tried my spice expirament for something more savory. For Thanksgiving, we hosted my in-laws and one of them is keto. Well, guess what spice is keto-friendly? I have been trying to convince my in-laws to the benefit of the Instant Pot. So I made my Instant Pot Acorn Squash recipe (which is my top post on NQSH!) but I made it a little different by adding some Chinese Five Spice Powder to it. My father-in-law can be picky when it comes to food, but he loved it. It smelled like fall and tasted just as yummy.

If you have any other ideas for using this spice (other than the ribs), I would love to hear about them! Post your suggestions in the comments.

Easy-Peasy Sticky Buns

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and wanted to try it. So I included the ingredients in my Walmart Grocery order (*hint* place your order after midnight to grab a time slot during this time of social distancing). There was just one problem…I ordered the wrong frozen product. I got yeast rolls instead of cinnamon rolls…and my pudding was substituted for instant. So I did what I could and hacked it with what I had. Turns out it was pretty yummy!

Materials:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 package Rhodes Frozen Yeast Rolls
  • 1/4 tbs Cinnamon
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 stick salted butter
Procedure: 1. Grease the bottom of your baking dish by rubbing it with your butter stick. 2. Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan.3. Place frozen rolls in pan, they should touch (I added another row after the picture was taken).

4. Sprinkle with pudding mix, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Slice the remaining butter into pats and place around your pan.

5. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm dry spot, and wait 3-5 hours. Yes, hours. Your frozen dough will defrost and begin to rise.

6. Preheat over to 350 and take plastic wrap off your pan. See how the dough is bigger?

7. When oven is ready, bake for 15-20 minutes. Careful that your sugar does not start to burn. Take out and let pan cool. 8. When cooled, place a tray or baking sheet over the top and flip your pan onto the tray. 9. Scrap remaining bits out of pan and sprinkle on top of buns. 10. Enjoy! Thoughts for next time…Add more nutsMake a simple syrup with brown sugar mix to make it stickier…maybe use lemon or orange juice…

Angel Food Cake in the Instant Pot

I have made several cheesecakes in my instant pot. However, once it came to posting pictures here, I always decided not to because while they have tasted very good…I am not a good cake decorator, let’s put it that way. The other night I wanted a quick desert, but already had something taking up the oven. So I wondered if I could make something like a cake in the IP. So I made an angel food cake and my son declared it to be one of the best things he has eaten that I made. Here is what I did…Read More »

Finding My Way Back On Track

If you were to only look at my site stats for November, you would see that I am having one of the best months ever…but I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of October. Most of my traffic is coming from recipe pins on Pinterest which makes sense since this is the type of weather where you just want to curl up with a bowl of soup or stew. In other words, it is Instant Pot weather and I have a lot of recipes for that. So why haven’t I posted anything? Well, it comes down to motivation and I have had a decided lack of it lately.Read More »