baking

November’s End

November’s end is the ultimate I-can’t-believe-the-month-is-over.  Maybe you’re already embroiled in the holiday season and happy to see December, but December means the year is coming to a close.  November’s always been a favorite of mine, and I have a major reason to love this particular November…

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[1] We went to a wedding in Tennessee in October, but I didn’t get my hands on these photos until this month. [2] Matt made these little pumpkin rolls twice.  I hope he realizes he’ll be making them a lot more. [3] I taught myself to weave!  It went okay.  Here’s the first thing I made. [4] Matt sent me these flowers on the day he proposed.  I had no idea they weren’t the end of it. [5] Yes, this is the reason I am sad to see this month go! [6] POKEMON SUN & MOON [7] Celebrating Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday [8] Driving up north and seeing the first signs of snow. [9] And the Christmas tree is up for our first Christmas together!

So, there’s lots of good stuff to come.  Are you looking forward to the holiday season?

Pumpkin Everything

We totally didn’t mean to make only orange foods this weekend… it was just a thing that happened.  Seriously, watch my baking boyfriend make this adorable pumpkin dinner rolls, then comment for the recipe, ’cause I know you want it for your Thanksgiving spread!

June ‘Grams

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Why yes, I am itching for my mini Fourth of July vacation.  I’m off tomorrow, so let’s say goodbye to June.

Highlights include: my first 5K attempt, celebrating Matt’s birthday, the first beach trip of the season, Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, adventuring around JP & the Arnold Arboretum, and a lot of cooking together [here, here, and here].

I’ve got a couple of trips planned for July, but stay tuned.

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

 

Banana Bread + Sweet Peach Palette

Mostly I did two things last weekend– made Smitten Kitchen’s double chocolate banana bread recipe & purchased/tried out Too Faced’s limited edition Sweet Peach Palette.  I was super happy with both.  There was also running shoe-buying and Pokémon shirt-wearing.  Check it out!

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars – Dinner

Oh hey – I took my three day weekend really seriously and this post is super later!  When we last left Top Chef, it was Restaurant Wars part 1.  Lunch service had come and gone; one team’s service may have gone better than the other’s, but in the judges’ eyes, the score was pretty even.

Team District LA– Amar, Jeremy, Kwame, and Phillip– are in the weeds a bit when it’s time to switch to dinner service.  Team Palate– Carl, Isaac, Karen and Marjorie– has a lot of prep to do too.  This time it’s Karen at the front of the house and Carl as executive chef.  Get it, Boston!  Here’s what they make:

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Not pictured above is Marjorie’s appetizer, parmesan parsley garlic bread.  The judges are always impressed with Marjorie’s baking skills and I’m super impressed that she pulled off bread and two dessert courses!  The judges aren’t crazy about her berry soup, and they definitely aren’t keen on Karen’s trout, but overall the meal goes well.  Isaac’s braised lamb is the real winner.

District LA serves:

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This team does an extra amuse, and also (not pictured) an aperitif– Phillip’s Bangkok Dangerous served, awkwardly, right at the hostess stand.  With Amar as executive chef and Phillip at front of the house, the service does not impress the judges.  In the bottom right corner pictured above, Tom and Padma note that Phillip is probably talking about his own LA restaurants, not the one he’s currently running.  Almost none of the food impresses, and the judges have a clear winner when they walk out.

Thankfully, team Palate takes home the win, specifically, Isaac!

Padma asks Phillip to pack his knives and go, and the viewers breath a collective sigh of relief.

What did you all think?!

MasterChef Junior: Season 4 Finale

It only took us four seasons, but we finally saw a girl vs. girl finale (actually– we finally saw a girl in the finale)!  Nine-year-old Avery faced off against nine-year-old Addison for the title.  Personally, I was happy to see both of these amazing girls in the finale and knew I’d be happy to see either of them win the title.

There is only one challenge in the finale: both girls cook an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, present them to Gordon, Christina, and Graham, all while their families and former competitors cheer them on from the balcony.

Here is what they make for their final stand in the MasterChef kitchen:

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Down the left, we have Avery’s appetizer, cream of asparagus soup with smoked oysters, creme fraiche, and a Creole crouton; her entrée, lobster and crawfish etouffee with crispy okra; and dessert, strawberry and rhubarb shortcake with orange chantilly cream.

Down the right, we have Addison’s appetizer, sake marinated shrimp with seaweed and sea bean salad, sour plums, and puffed rice; her entrée, miso black cod with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and coconut ginger broth; and dessert, green tea panna cotta with brûléed plums over crumbled cookie.

It was especially fun to see Christina during her first season of MasterChef Junior– while Gordon and Graham are well-acquainted with what ulta-talented kids can do, I think these girls knocked Christina’s socks off a little.  They always impress me, and I don’t even get to taste their creations!

The moment of truth comes, and it’s Addison for the win!

Congratulations to both girls!  What did you guys think about this season of MasterChef Junior?  I can’t wait to see another crop of kids come through this kitchen!

Top Chef: Eyes, then Hands

You eat with your eyes first, right?  The Quickfire Challenge from this week’s Top Chef was all about #foodporn!  Yes, with the hashtag.  It’s a plating challenge.  The twist?  It’s junk food that they’re plating.  The other twist?  Instagram likes will decide the winner of immunity.

Here’s what the chefs create:

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L to R, top to bottom: Phillip, Carl, Chad, Jeremy, Marjorie, Karen, Kwame, Amar, Isaac

While the Quickfire was all about eating with your eyes, the elimination challenge was all about eating with your hands!  Neal Fraser introduces the concept of beefsteak– a traditional event in which there are no utensils, and no napkins.  Three teams are three are to make a meat dish, a fish dish, and two sides each.

The red team is basically all of my favorites– it’s Kwame and my Boston people, Karen & Carl.  The blue team is Marjorie, Isaac, and Chad.  The green team is Jeremy, Amar, and Phillip.

Here’s what they make:

It was pretty hilarious to see everyone in black tie and eating with their hands.  The best part, however, was that Hugh Acheson (heart-eyes emoji) was there to judge!  He also flung a piece of lamb that Padma had nibbled and hit some guests for the charity event.  Miss you every episode, Hugh!

Karen is announced as the winner of the instagram Quickfire securing herself immunity.

Most of the plates suffered from being too dainty and missing the point of the challenge.  Ultimately, the green team won for being the closest to hitting the mark, and Phillip claims his first win for his on-the-bone lamb.

The blue team ends up being the least favorite.  Luckily for Marjorie, my favorite member of this trio, Tom announces her the best baker Top Chef has seen– seriously, my mouth is watering for that milk bread!  Chad is sent to pack his knives.  Sadly, his instagram was my favorite, but he had trouble switching gears.

Which ‘gram is your favorite?  Seriously, how pretty are they?!

MasterChef Junior: Rise to the Occasion

Can you believe this was the semi-final of MasterChef Junior?!  That means the final showdown is THIS WEEK.  And the news is even better than that… well, we’ll get to that as we recap last week’s episode.

Addison, Amaya, Avery, and Zac are the final four.  Gordon, Graham, and Christina present a table with four cloches under which the find the heads of their parents!  (No, don’t worry, their bodies are under the table.)  Amaya’s mom, Avery’s dad, Zac’s mom, and Addison’s dad each offer them some advice and present them with a gift box of their flavor ingredient for the upcoming challenge: soufflés!  Amaya will make a dark chocolate soufflé, Avery will make strawberry, Zac will make milk chocolate, and Addison will make blackberry.  Gordon makes a little pun about them “rising to the occasion,” and they really do!

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Addison’s impressive rise literally made Christina gasp, and the judges agree that she is the winner of the challenge!  She gets the advantage in the finale Elimination Test.

Addison is presented with 4 cuts of pork and it’s her job to assign them.  She keeps ribs for herself, gives Amaya the loin, assigns Avery pork belly, and gives the tricky pig’s ears to Zac.

Here’s what they make:

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Addison’s fall-off the bone ribs impress, but the plating and presentation don’t impress.  Zac’s pig’s ear salad looks amazing, but the cook in not right on the ears.  Avery’s braised pork belly is the clear winner, cooked to perfection and possibly Christina’s favorite dish she’s eaten in the MasterChef kitchen.  We knew poor Amaya was in trouble when she sliced her pork loin and saw the raw center.  She is able to bring the temperature up with a second cook, but it wasn’t enough.

Avery is awarded the first spot in the finale, and Addison the second!  These are my favorite two little cooks left and I can honestly not wait to see what they do in the finale!  AND HECK YES FOR A GIRL FINALLY WINNING THIS COMPETITION.

Who do you think will take the title?!  Who are you cheering for?!

MasterChef Junior: Devil’s in the Details

Happy Monday, folks!  Now that post-holiday TV schedules are normalizing, so should the blog… err, kinda.  With two new MasterChef Junior episodes last week, you’ll get one recap now and another later this week!  Before the new episode, of course.

The first new episode, “Hatching a Plan,” featured Graham Elliot in a chicken costume to highlight the challenge ingredient: eggs!  It’s a deviled egg challenge, and deviled eggs are one of my absolute favorite things.  Only four of the top 10 get to play, though, and they determine who that is by cracking the eggs in Graham’s basket over his head– two eggs are red (Zac & Kamilly) and two are blue (Kya & Amaya) and their recipients make up the competing teams.

There’s a third team, though, a yellow team of Gordon and Graham.  All teams must make as many deviled eggs as possible.  Gordon and Graham, in their tiny aprons, get half the amount of time as the junior home cooks, though.  If they win, all the cooks must compete in the elimination.  Christina judges and Yellow only gets three perfect eggs!  The winners are Zac & Kamilly with ten, thus they get to sit the challenge out and await the top 8.

The elimination challenge is introduced by Graham, who talks about his first ever cookbook.  The kids have been asked to prepare their cookbooks as well.

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Kya, you little achiever… you are the cutest thing!

The challenge is to cook their signature dish from their future cookbooks.  Here’s what the kids create:

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  • Avery’s étouffée blows the judges away.  She herself is surprised how much it tastes like her dad’s.
  • Kya is a mad genius.  She is firmly of the mindset that French cuisine is the finest in the world and prepares an expert canard a l’orange as proof.
  • Kaitlyn’s black forest cupcake just doesn’t hold a candle to the scale of her competitors’ dishes.
  • Amaya’s shrimp asopao delivers amazing depths of flavor and impresses the judges!
  • JJ’s fettuccine goes over well, but the judges wonder if it’s really him on a plate.
  • Sam’s bacon-wrapped chicken delivers as the young Boston home cook on a plate!
  • Addison over-whipped her first whip cream and, seemingly, under-whipped her second.  Her danish was visually underwhelming.
  • Corey’s jerk chicken looked so good, but it was shockingly raw inside.

Avery & Amaya were at the top of the pack for this challenge!

Kaitlyn, Addison, and Corey found themselves ranking in the bottom.  Addison is typically so impressive, so I’m glad that she got another chance.  Sadly, Kaitlyn and Corey went home.

Stay tuned for the next episode recap later this week!