Thursday Things

  1. I’m still flying high from seeing Celine Dion this weekend! Some friends and I had a little girls’ weekend in Milwaukee for the occasion. We got a hotel room, had a nice dinner, and then openly wept as we sat FOUR ROWS AWAY from Celine. It was easily one of the best concerts I have ever been to!
  2. Know what else made me weep? Reading Shauna’s new book – Midwest Made! She hit the nail on the head in every single way. From photos to recipes to prose. It’s all perfection. I can’t wait to meet her and thank her personally next week!
  3. I’ve made some pretty fun videos for Webster’s lately. Like this one on seasoning a cast iron pan. Truly helpful for some upcoming recipes I have planned!
  4. I’m well into planning Thanksgiving (and a little bit of Christmas). Seth got a turkey fryer (brand new for $25!) that we are dying to bust out. Has anyone ever tried frying a turkey? I need success stories, people!
  5. My laptop is currently set up on a little stand to try and ease some neck and shoulder tension. I’ve started seeing a chiropractor in the hopes that it offers some relief. My X-rays and initial examination were enlightening to say the least.
  6. Because of the heavy snow and frigid weather, Seth and I had to move our garage fridge into the house earlier than expected. Now we have a basement fridge and it makes me really happy! I have a place for all my ingredients and “work food.” It may have taken over an hour to move, because our house is basically the Midwestern Winchester Mystery House, but we got it! Thank you, Seth <3
  7. This pillow has totally changed my bubble bath game.
  8. I’ll never not be amazed by Sarah’s photos.

Butternut Squash Cake with Brandy Butterscotch (& growth)

Everyone’s always talking about how much growth happens during the first year of marriage. Adjusting to a new life together, learning how to compromise, figuring out the best communication style to avoid hurt feelings.

Butternut Squash Cake with Brandy Butterscotch

All very real things that Seth and I have dealt with. All things that we’re learning as we grow in life and in love.

There’s also been a much more literal kind of growth in our first year together. We started a garden! We grew tomatoes, peppers, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi – the list goes on! There were rows of sweet corn and piles of green beans. Birds are still eating seeds from sunflowers the size of hubcaps. Then there were the total and complete failures too: radishes so spicy they made our eyes water, Brussels sprouts that never got larger than a marble, one measly little watermelon that was more rind than fruit.

Butternut Squash Cake with Brandy Butterscotch

This last failure I blame on our squash. I don’t know what it is about our soil, but our squash plants went absolutely bonkers. They took over a quarter of the space, crawled over the fence (and pulled it down!), and smothered any and all other plants in their path.

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Pan Roasted Veggies (& ease)

This is one of those “Not-A-Recipe-Recipes.” There’s not a ton of prep involved, it doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s entirely customizable to suit individual tastes!

Pan Roasted Vegetables | Midwest Nice

It’s also one of the most delicious non-recipes ever. It’s my favorite way to get the appropriate serving of veggies in the colder months with the least amount of work possible. What could be better?!

Pan Roasted Vegetables | Midwest Nice
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Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing (& Zack)

I have been very fortunate in my short time on this earth. I married the love of my life, I’m working for myself, my dog is heavily medicated and, thusly, well behaved.

Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing | Midwest Nice

Blessedly, I have never known great loss.

My husband has.

Thankfully, I don’t know what it’s like to have to say goodbye to someone you’ve known your whole life.

My husband does.

Unfortunately, I don’t have memories of Zack.

My husband does.

Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing | Midwest Nice

He has told me about Zack. Relayed stories and shared secrets. There have been tales of snow-covered hay bales, piano practice, and football games. Recollections of tiny hands pushing even tinier tractors around the living room rug. Mentions of cross-country family trips and harrowing encounters with the neighbors’ dog. An anecdote of how he held the steering wheel. A guarantee that we would have butted heads.

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Peach Pavlovas (& a video)

Did you see it?

The trailer I made for The 505 West! It’s an absolutely astounding AirBnb located in Princeton, just 30 minutes from where we live.

See, this whole thing started when I found out Matt had created this gorgeous space above his restaurant, Horseradish. I was already obsessed with the restaurant and became equally as enamored with the rental.

It is really and truly one of my favorite places to eat and spend time in the area. It reminds me of any number of trendy places in Chicago or Greenville, without the “trying so hard” feeling I often got in those cities. There’s just a comfort to be found sitting on a stool in the restaurant, looking into the open kitchen or perusing the shelves near the front door. I spend a decent amount of time there (though not enough, IMO). Seth and I go on dates there, I had my bridal shower there, it’s a lovely place for a quick lunch. Originally, we’d tossed around the idea of doing food photography work, as I’ve been making headway in that department (see here and here). But, truly, Matt doesn’t need me. He takes lovely photos on his own. And on his phone! Much to my frustration.

So, it morphed into this. A night in the suite and a day in the kitchen. All documented and (somewhat) perfected and presented. (Although if I’m being honest about it being perfected – this is the second time I’ve uploaded the video. The first time was missing the audio transition and I was so mortified I took it down!)

Matt was so kind to open his doors to us. He introduced us to his friends, Elsah and Roger, owners of a local catering company. They have experience and advice and stories I gobbled up faster than the food they made. We laughed, drank Jack Rabbits, and made marshmallows. I took video of it all, that you’ll see at a later date.

I also took a ton of pictures. Just like I did of these pavlovas!

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Margarita Pie

This last weekend was marvelous.

I took 1.5 days off (the first time I’ve done that in a LOOOOOONG time), finished a few sewing projects, and baked. for. fun.

Better yet, everything I baked turned out beautifully! Better than things have in quite some time.

Because, for as much as people think baking is all scientific and precise and perfect, I find that it’s also about trusting your instincts, your gut. It’s about believing in yourself. Perhaps, if this last weekend has shown me anything, it’s that I haven’t done that in a LOOOOOONG time either.

It feels good to do that. And it tastes even better.

And this Margarita Pie tastes the best! The crust is a simple press-in of saltine crackers (inspired by Atlantic Beach Pie, something I had never heard of until a bar customer and fellow baker told me about it!). The filling is a riff off of key lime pie – with a healthy splash of tequila. The whipped cream is spiked with Grand Marnier – like a floater on top of any good quality marg. It’s special. It’s sweet. It’s even better than what I’d imagined it could be.

Margarita Pie

Active Time: 35 minutes

Inactive Time: 5 hours – overnight

Total Time: 5 hours & 35 minutes – overnight

Yields: 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 sleeve saltine crackers

4 graham crackers

1 TBSP granulated sugar

½ tsp. salt

8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

3 TBSP lemon juice

14oz. sweetened condensed milk

5 egg yolks

½ tsp. salt

3 TBSP good quality tequila

For the whipped cream:

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

½ cup powdered sugar

1 TBSP Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur

½ tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the crackers until only fine crumbs remain. Add in sugar and salt and pulse to combine. With processor running, stream in butter until mixture resembles wet sand. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 7 – 9 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly. While crust bakes, whisk together the ingredients for the filling until smooth. Pour into prebaked crust and return to oven. Bake for 18 – 22 minutes, or until edges are set and center only slightly jiggles at the touch (it’ll firm up the rest of the way while cooling). Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Transfer to fridge to chill for four hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine all ingredients and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy and soft peaks have formed. Spread onto pie before slicing and serving.