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Well folks, it’s finally everyone’s favorite season Autumn. So what did I do? I made butternut squash soup, duh! It’s incredibly easy and if you buy that boxed crap at the grocery store you are missing out!

Honestly, I was incredibly surprised when I walked through the covered market here in our new ‘hood (we moved yay!) and saw a huge pile of those funny looking squash! I thought they were an American thing..why, I don’t know? So I grabbed one and got the soup gears a’ turnin’. Soup is one of favorite things to make because it’s usually cheap, easy, and completely customizable.

I’ve been a recipe junkie as of late. I just can’t get enough great recipes because we now have an amazing kitchen complete with an oven! Our earlier apartment had a hot plate and a microwave..you get the picture. I missed cooking proper meals. So when I came across a tutorial for making your own ricotta cheese I knew that yesterday was the day. I was going to be a cheese maker! Victoria, the cheese maker. I like it…anywho.. Ricotta’s my favorite cheese and the recipe said it was “easy” and “foolproof”-great my kind of recipe..one you can’t screw up.

So here are my recipes for homemade ricotta and butternut squash soup!

By the way..if you like specific measurements for recipes..well..sorry. I just kinda made it and it was good. So I don’t have exact amounts, but feel free to customize yours! It’s just a guideline of sorts. Okay.. On y va! Let’s go.

DSC_0362Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1/2 of an onion diced
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (you can use chicken stock if you wanna)
  • heavy cream
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • blender, food processor, or emulsifier

Preheat your oven to 400F. Our oven here is Celcius and I put it on 200, which is precisely 392F, but I think 400F will do just fine.

The hardest part of making butternut squash soup is cutting the butternut. They have really thick skins and require a bit of arm strength to cut through, but PUHLEASE be careful. Do not chop off your digits. You need those. Also you need a proper knife. One that has a somewhat thick blade that will not bend. This squash is a tough cookie!

To cut through my squash I cut off both the ends so that I have a flat surface to work with later. Then I cut it in half horizontally (that’s hamburger style for those of you who still don’t know, or short ways). So now you have two halves. Now lay them on their flat ends that you cut earlier. Now cut vertically (hotdog style or longways). So now you have four quarters-YOU DID IT. You have now cut a butternut.

Cover your quarters with olive oil and sprinkle some salt over those badboys! Now put them in the oven and roast until you poke the flesh with a fork and it’s nice and squishy. Make sure it’s cooked all the way through-not just on the edges.

When you’re thinking the squash almost done cook the onions in a bit of olive oil in the soup pot over medium heat. Make sure you don’t burn the onions. We’re creating art here, you can’t rush art. Cook until translucent. Now crumble the bouillon cube over the onions and cook for a few minutes until it’s smelly good. (If not using a bouillon cube just ignore that part).

You’re squash is done now? Great..take out of the oven and with a spoon scoop out the flesh into a bowl. If you put it straight in the pot it might get burnt. Toss out the seeds! Those are no good in the soup. Dump out the squash into the soup pot and add about a cup of water. If using chicken stock add it now. Stir it all around. Now add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Throw some salt and pepper in there and some dashes of paprika.

Now get out your blender appliance. If you want a thinner, more consistent consistency (see what I did there?) then throw all of the soup into your appliance and blend it until you like it. If it’s still a bit thick add water, or cream, or even left over chicken stock. But add it in small parts!!! You can always add to it, but you can’t take something out. If you like a thicker soup and want some bits of onion and squash in it, don’t blend all your soup.

Here’s the best tip of all-taste your soup often. If it needs a bit of this or a dash of that, add it. You’re a chef, remember?

Dish up your soup in some cute bowls and if you wanna be artsy fartsy dabble some heavy cream on top and dash some paprika! You just made butternut squash. Easy. DSC_0383IMG_1057

Still with me? I know, I’m the worst at recipes. But this is how I cook. Either I read lots of recipes for the same dish and add the parts I like, so that it’s one conglomerate recipe, or I just totally freestyle.

And here’s my favorite-DSC_0392Homemade Ricotta Cheese

If you cook often then there is a good chance that you’ll have these ingredients on hand already! Making ricotta is easy, cheap, and way more delicious than the store bought stuff! I got my tutorial here. I really like the lady in the video-she seems pretty sassy. You do need a candy (or deep fry) thermometer for this recipe. Cheese making is art AND science. You will also need cheese cloth or linen cloth. I read that someone didn’t have any so she just used a linen napkin. It took a lot longer, but it worked. They sell cheesecloth at the grocery store usually. Make sure to make this in a non reactive pot. No aluminum or copper (unless lined with tin)! It’ll make your cheese taste weird.

  • 1 gallon of whole milk-yes WHOLE milk
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1/2 cup of FRESH lemon juice
  • a colander
  • large bowl
  • cheesecloth
  • candy thermometer
  • ladle or large spoon

Here in Paris they don’t sell milk by the gallon. It’s sold by liters so I had to downsize and do some guestimating. This yields alotta cheese, so this is perfect if you’re having a party. Either serve it in a bowl fresh with some bread, crackers, or veg, or make some sort of h’or devour (pronounced “or derv”..ah now it makes sense :p).

To start off set up your cheese draining area. Put your colander over your large bowl. Layer your cheese cloth 3-4 times (I did three) over the colander. Done.

My cheese making station:DSC_0332In a pot heat the milk and heavy cream SLOWLY (I added the salt at this point even though it said to wait…I like to live dangerously) until it reaches 185F or 84C on your thermometer. It’s better to heat it on low and it take forever than to scorch your dairy. It’s very easy to do and is no fun-trust me. Stir it occasionally to prevent scorching.

Your dairy is getting frothy and smells like buttered popcorn (I think so anyways)? Good! You’re getting close. Keep checking that thermometer. Meanwhile juice your fresh lemons. I can not stress enough-do NOT use bottled lemon juice. It will not work.DSC_0333DSC_0337Once the dairy reaches the correct temperature take it off the heat (take it completely off the burner) and slowly add the lemon juice. With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula gently stir the pot to encourage curd development. Do this for a few minutes. Now you’re ready to drain your cheese!DSC_0339Slowly and gently ladle your cheese curds and whey (the clearish liquid left in the bottom of the pot) into the colander covered with cheese cloth. Do not dump it into the colander! It’ll squish the curds. Do this until all is in the cheesecloth. Depending on how firm you want the ricotta will correlate to draining time. I wanted mine a bit firm so I let mine drain for about an hour, but I think next time I’ll do less just to mix it up. Whatever you want. It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple days in a tupperware. If it gets a bit dry just add a tiny bit of milk.DSC_0343DSC_0347DSC_0349DSC_0357If you want you can also tie up the cheese cloth and hang it to drain from the kitchen faucet. It’s very rustic looking if you want to believe for a minute you live on a beautiful farm in the French countryside.

Voilá! You have now made your very own cheese.

Ricotta ideas-

Drizzle honey over the top and serve with fresh fruit and chopped almonds for a nice breakfast.

Serve over toasted bread with tomatoes and basil (what I did-tasted like a margherita pizza).

Mix into your next pasta for a creamy texture.DSC_0402DSC_0400DSC_0398

It was a wonderful and colorful dinner! Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you survived that post. Have a glass of wine!DSC_0377

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New York City has finally gotten into Spring mode. I mean, it was still rainy and cold as the Arctic Tundra yesterday, but today is nothing but sunshine and chirpy birds. I’ve created a little knitting nook in my room near the window, which I keep open as much as possible these days. Want to know one of my favorite smells in the entire Universe? The smell of sun. Sunshine definitely has a smell. You know during those warmer days when you open the window and “that” smell comes through the pane? The smell of fresh air, sunshine, and just general outsideness? THAT is one of my favorite smells. Though, it’s not as strong here in the city, sitting in my little nook i can still get a few wiffs. If I close my eyes it’s almost as if I’m home.

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Lately I’ve been missing North Carolina more and more. Probably due to the nice weather. I long for watching thunderstorms on the porch with my dad, sitting in the yard hearing a distant lawnmower, and driving with the windows down. North Carolina, how I miss you. I can’t wait to buy a little homestead in the middle of the country someday.

I’ve been feverishly knitting away on socks for birthdays, past christmases, just because..I’m definitely loving it, but getting a bit drained. I’m not great with deadlines..at all, so creating things in a certain amount of time just spells doom for me. Oh well, at least the people who know and love me expect this. HA!

Perusing at my near and dear yarn shop Downtown Yarns I found the most amazing, beautiful, colorful sock yarn. It’s Colinette, Jitterbug sock yarn in Red Parrot color way. I’m obsessed. The more I knit the more excited I am to see the colors come together. What color’s next? How will those two look next to each other? I love it! Knitting is very, “live on the edge” as you can see.

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My camera was out on loan for about a week, so these first photos were taken with my phone, as I couldn’t wait to capture the wonderfulness that is this yarn.Image

I mean look at that beautiful cuff!!!!! a;lkdja;fldfa;ldkfImage

I even got some knitting done in Central Park yesterday. I worked through the finger numbness!!!

And here is my day today in the nook:

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I made some chia pudding today! It’s dessert AND healthy. HELLLOOOOO I needed this in my life. It’s so tasty. I added 1/3 cup ofchia seeds to about a cup of almond milk, a couple squeezes of honey, and a dash of cinnamon. I love sweet cinnamon things.

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I’ve also been working on the green tweed socks for my friend Giorgia. LIke I’ve mentioned before these are my first “toe up, two circs” socks. I like the method, however, I think since I’m making them for a friend I need to just do them cuff down. It’s hard when the pattern says, “when the sock reaches the front of your ankle start your increases”. Well that ankle I need isn’t here right now and we don’t have the same size feet. So I think I will start over doing cuff down.

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This week was also baking-heavy. I made two pies: one original pecan, and the other coconut pecan. The original was for a friend, so I didn’t get to try it, but man, oh man, was that coconut pecan pie GEWD.

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I highly recommend adding coconut to your pecan pies, people! Image

I also got dreads at a shoot this week for Paper magazine. Just wanted to share because when the heck am I ever going to have dreads again?!!!! I think it’s a pretty good look for me, personally. My boyfriend wasn’t so convinced. HA! I’ve been working quite a lot lately. I’m going to Paris and maybe even Germany soon! I’m so excited. I’ll be sure to visit lots of oversea yarn shops. I can’t wait!!!!!!!! I haven’t traveled in a while. I’m going to LA for shoot next week also. It’ll be nice to be around some serious sun.

I hope everyone gets outside and enjoys the weather!!!

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Love and snuggles!

 

Join me on instagram for my yarn, bakey goodness!!! @themenagerie

 

Hello all! Lately I have been so deep within the world of knitting that I haven’t done ANY crochet. I know..crazy. But I was flat out determined to learn how to knit. I’m not done with my wonky scarf yet, but I have finished my matching hat. I don’t have any pictures of the final project yet, but it’s a comin!

Yesterday I actually got around to working on my Strawberry Patch blanket again. It’s so wonderful working with bright happy colors again.

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The weather has been insanely beautiful as of late, so the last week or two I’ve been into lots of outdoor knitting. Luckily I live in sortof an apartment complex-type thing here in the city, so we have a huuuuge lawn to frolick on. What does that mean? It means I drag my boyfriend outside to sit on wet grass (that he’s allergic to by the way), in the hot sun, to lay uncomfortably on a gross blanket we found. AND I LOVE IT! a;ldkfja;ldf so much happiness!

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Swooon, my guy on a picnic blanket, studying. This is what’s sexy people, not swag. Just saying.

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This was my first attempt at knitting on circular needles, or rather just trying to make anything other than a scarf. I feel like circulars are so intimidating, and double pointed needles are even more so! AHHH. But luckily I’ve managed. Can’t wait to show my finished wonky hat. 🙂

The light was so wonderful as the sun was setting. Being here in the city, the thing I miss the most about home (besides my loved ones of course) is the splendid display of nature that was always around me. Little moments, such as this one, make my days a little brighter.

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Here’s the hat a bit more knit up. I didn’t really follow a pattern. I honestly just started going. I did a few rows of knit 2, purl 2 ribbing and then did the knit stitch from there, which happens to translate to stocknitte stitch in the round, and then I did about 6-7 rows of decrease.

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I absolutely adore stocknitte stitch. I wish it wasn’t so finicky though.

Tis the season so I’ve done some baking as well. In honor of my dearest Autumn, I made some pumpkin spice rice crispies.

Here’s the recipe I adapted mine from:

http://lifesprinkledwithglitter.blogspot.com/2012/10/pumpkin-spice-rice-krispy-treats.html

I’ve seen a billion and one recipes for these, and in the comment section people always say they’re soggy. So using that info I made some alterations. HOWEVER, I did make a first batch that turned out awful and soggy. Why? Because I didn’t read the ingredients properly and added an entire can of pumpkin instead of a 1/4 of a cup. With making the first batch I found the pumpkin literally soaked up all the marshmallowy goodness. Also I didn’t think it had enough “spice”. With my second batch I followed the directions and used 1/4 of a cup “dried up” pumpkin. I also added half a bag more of marshmallow. I don’t think anyone would complain that their rice crispies had too much marshmallow. I also just added more of the spices. I can’t give exact amounts because I just eyeballed it. If the recipe says a tsp then I probably added half a tsp more, just to give an idea.And guess what? They turned out amazing!!

I took them to my bookers at my agency since they always hear of my baking and have never recieved anything. Not cool. Here they are all bagged up, all cute ready to go!

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I’d say it’s been pretty productive around here lately. Sometimes I get a bit discouraged when I see instagrams or blogs of crocheters/knitters and they literally crank out blankets in a day or two or make 5 hats in one day. I wish I could sit down for 3 hours and do that, but I just have to get outside and move around. I love fiber arts, but I guess my attention span just isn’t that great. But I shall not get down, and I shall carry on with my fiber arts!!! 🙂

Have a great week 😀

Instagram: themenagerie

Personal: vicasaurusrex

What I’m listening to: One Direction..I saw the movie and now I’m obsessed with their upbeat love-filled pop songs.

I LOVE PIE. I love making it and eating it and looking at it…sigh… My favorite pie is pecan, and let me tell you, I can make a pretty mean pecan pie.

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There is a restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina called Mama Dip’s that we used to go to before every football game (GO HEELS!) This place is quintessential homecooked, southern comfort food. They have fried chicken, Brunswick stew, pulled pork vinegary bbq, pecan pie, and any other amazing unhealthy food you can think of. Mama Dip has a book of recipes, which my family uses for their pecan pie. This is the recipe I BASE my recipe on. I’ve made some adaptations, but let me tell you, I’ve had the pie at Mama Dips and it is gewd.

 

 I made the pie because it was our friend Zac’s 20th birthday  and he had never had one of my pies before. Pecan is my specialty also. So I made up the pie and 10 minutes before it came out of the oven I had 10 people guys over asking where the pie was. So when it came out of the oven I didn’t have very much time to get pictures, so they’re not the best. My apologies. But even I was itching to get a piece. 🙂

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Okay, so here we go..

 

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

1 cup of white sugar

1/2 cup dark karo

1/2 cup light karo

3 eggs beaten

1 cup of chopped pecans (or more!!!!)

1 unbaked pie shell, whichever recipe you prefer

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a saucepan melt the butter, but be careful not to let it brown.

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Also please note my cute spatula!

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Mix in the sugar and Karo and cook, stirring every so often, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

 

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Take the mixture off the burner and allow to slightly cool just for a few minutes. Stir in the eggs and mix well.

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Then stir in the chopped pecans and stir around making sure the pecans are coated in the mixture. It makes for a crispy top!

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Pour into the pie shell and bake for an hour! I like to cover the edges of my pie crust with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking, otherwise they always burn, so it’s up to you whether or not you want to do that.

 

Another note, I did make my own pie crust, but I’m still working on getting it right and I’m a bit self conscience of it..I feel like I’m not too good at it, so maybe later I’ll post a recipe for that!

But let’s have a moment for the pie crust. ha! 🙂

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Let it stand for 30 min-to an hour so that the center sets up.

 

And here it is..and like I said..I got like two pictures of it before it was devoured.

 

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Yum YUM!

 

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And here is the view from my window this morning at 5 am when I couldn’t sleep!

 

Until next time 🙂

I just wanted to take a few minutes to talk about food, cooking, and to show off my food pictures :).

I love recipes, however, I use them more as guidelines rather than a written in stone recipe. Many times I’ll be perusing recipes and I have MOST of the ingredients..not all of them, in which case I improvise. I love love love improvising. This is where you can get creative with cooking and where I have the most fun. It took me a couple years of adding a dash of this and a dash of that to learn how to improvise, but believe me you, it is the most handy of handy skills in the kitchen. It, for me, is usually what turns a dish from good to great. I highly recommend you start experimenting with spices and herbs and finding out what you like and don’t like and which flavors go together. My mom also told me growing up that the best cooks know how to improvise. My dad always said it was one who was tidy..if that’s the case I’m screwed. :p

Like I’ve said before, my boyfriend, Daniel, and I are trying to eat healthier and with less gluten. So, having that said, I whipped up this meal which was fantastic.

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We had roasted southwestern spaghetti squash boats. Yurrrrrmmmmm. It’s healthy and totally improvised. Yeyuh! I roasted a spaghetti squash in the oven, and meanwhile cooked ground beef with peppers, black beans, corn, garlic, onion, chili powder, cumin, and salt on the stove. then scraped all the sketti out of the squash. I mixed it all together and put it back in the squash, topped with cheese and that was that. This meal is very improvision-friendly. You could add salsa or tomatoes or throw some gauc on top, or skip the beef and make it veggie friendly. I know some of you are like “beef is not healthy, it’s red meat blah blah and you have cheese blah blah”. Red meat, beef included, is high in iron, which most women lack, The heme iron in red meat is easily absorbed by the body. Red meat also has vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly. Some people are freaking saying red meat causes cancer and heart disease but everything is fine in moderation. It’s all about portions people! I love red meat..so I had to stand up for it. And as for the cheese..it’s a sprinkle, so deal.

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Seriously, this meal was so easy to cook up, healthy, and incredibly delicious. I was inspired by all the “stuffed spaghetti squash” dishes, and the ingredients I happened to have, which were all tex-mexy.

And here are some photos from dinner the other night I just wanted to show off. Daniel brought home a flank steak so I ventured out to learn how to cook it. He was also my kitchen helper for the night. 🙂

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Upon googling “how to cook flank steak” this article helped the most. I seasoned it only with salt, pepper, and butter, and I cooked it in a regular non stick pan. So if you don’t have a cast iron skillet have no fear. I cooked the steak less time than the instructions said because I always always ALWAYS manage to overcook steak. I DO NOT like medium, or anything above that, cooked steaks. It’s like chewing on shoe leather as my father says.

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Here’s the finished product. OHHHHHH yum. Butter is not healthy, but we were having steak and that doesn’t happen to often around here so we went all out. Ha! BUTTER FO LIFE!

We also had a ton of veggies.

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And of course even though I cooked it less time than the instructions said, I STILL overcooked it. It was still excellent though, so no complaints!!

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Have fun improvising!!!