Pi Day Hand Pies – Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan

Along with Star Wars Day (May the 4th), Pi day (3.14) is one of the more popular geeky “holidays.” My chemistry teacher in high school preferred Mole Day (10-23) while others are devout observers of Free Comic Book Day (the first Saturday in May), and although my anniversary falls on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, my personal favorites may be Tolkien Reading Day (March 25th – the day the Ring was destroyed) and Hobbit Day (September 22 – Bilbo and Frodo’s shared birthday.) The big perk of Pi Day is, of course, getting to lean into the obvious pun and eat a lot of pie. Perhaps a round pie is more appropriate – you can calculate the circumference of your pie using pi! But this year on Pi Day I happened to make hand pies.

These hand pies are filled with a rich and flavorful mixture. The sweet butternut squash and red onions, earthy sage, nutty Parmesan, and toasty pine nuts all blend together and complement each other. I had this recipe bookmarked for years before I was finally was a confident enough cook to make them, but they are actually quite simple to make! Once I had finally made them, I was sure to make them again, soon. These will be a new favorite at home for me.

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Marie Cooks Skyrim: Juniper Berry Crostata

When looking at the list of foods in Skyrim, Juniper Berry Crostata always seemed like it would be a challenge. Juniper berries are pungent, and an entire dessert made of them would taste overpowering. I spent a while looking up recipes that included juniper to see what flavors might go together… and then one day I saw it. In a listicle of recipes using juniper, I saw a reference to a honey-glazed pear and plumb pie with juniper berries. Perfect, I thought. But the link didn’t work and no matter how much I looked for the recipe online, it was nowhere to be found. So I went and wrote a recipe myself, using 4 or 5 other recipes as guidelines. I sat on it for a while, unsure of myself. Last weekend, however, I finally made it. I was thrilled with how it turned out – the flavors of the pie were perfectly balanced and the juniper came through every so often with a sharp little surprise. My husband (formerly a professional baker for 10 years) said it was one of the best baked goods he ever had and couldn’t stop raving about how good it was. I’m so pleased with how it turned out and so excited to share it with you.

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Marie Cooks Skyrim: “Snowberry Crostata”

One of the challenging things about trying to cook some of the food items from Skyrim is that, well, some of them don’t actually exist. For example, the snowberries. Real snowberries are poisonous, and don’t actually look anything like the bright red berries in the north of Skyrim. Cranberries, however, do bear a resemblance. As I was flipping through cookbooks the other day, I saw a recipe for a cherry and almond galette and thought that was exactly the sort of thing I wanted to try to adapt as a “Snowberry Crostata.” I found a bunch of recipes that looked promising, took the crust from one, the frangipane from another, and improvised a cranberry filling based on one or two more. The result smelled perfectly autumnal (cranberries were easy to find, given that Thanksgiving is coming up!), and tasted tart – similar to a rhubarb pie. Also, now that I have tasted frangipane and know how simple it is to make, I have a feeling I am going to try to find plenty of excuses to use it in recipes going forward!

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Marie Cooks Skyrim: “Apple Dumplings”

It is the time of year when I start craving apple everything: apple cider, apple pie, apple scones… Recently, I decided to continue my project to cook the foods of Skyrim with apple dumplings. Apple dumplings are traditionally made by peeling and coring an apples, wrapping them in dough, placing them in a pan and covering them in a spiced syrup, and baking them before serving – often topped with cream or custard. I wanted something that was smaller and less messy – something the Dragonborn might be able to carry along while hiking through Skyrim, and this perfectly lined up with my desire to make more hand pies.

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Cinnamon Pumpkin Muffins with Bourbon

I’m not usually a baker. I prefer cooking a delicious savory dinner over cakes any day. But the cold autumn weather lately has made me want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with the oven on. Recently, I decided to try making pumpkin muffins with Joe. These muffins have a slightly crunchy cinnamon and sugar topping but the muffins are so good on their own, I don’t even think I would miss the topping if I had these muffins plain. They are very soft and flavorful and I ate many more of them than I probably should have. These are a great autumnal recipe I will definitely make again!

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Lavender Shortbread Cookies

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Foraging is something that has always fascinated me. I was never very dedicated to it, but my sister always knew where to find the best morel mushrooms; she would go through the woods picking all the edible leaves and make salads with dandelion greens. Because of her interest, my parents got her a book about cooking with flowers – it was more about picking blossoms from your flower garden than it was about foraging, but I’ve never forgotten the lavender shortbread recipe that we made. It is floral and sweet and for some reason I cannot stop eating it when we have it around.

Now, I have friends who get excited when ramp season starts, or know when to pick plantain leaves, or the best way to cook fiddleheads or nettles. I’m still way behind on learning to forage, but lately the lavender bushes in everyone’s yards around the neighborhood have been blooming, and I was inspired to pull out this recipe, again. If you don’t have lavender growing around you, many spice stores (such as Penzy’s) will carry it.

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Vanilla Snowballs

The holidays may be over, but it is still cold outside, so I am still in hibernation mode. This means I have relapsed into playing Skyrim, I’ve read three books (a novel, a novella, and a book of essays) in the last couple weeks, and my work out has been limited to 10 push ups and 25 squats every morning instead of actually going to the pool or the gym. It also means I am craving seasonal comfort food to keep me warm. I’m balancing it out with a bunch of salads to keep from getting *too* lethargic, but I have been far more likely to randomly eat a cookie or a piece of chocolate during the day than I normally am…

Vanilla snowballs are a Christmas staple in my family. They are essentially the same thing as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies. They are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, small enough to eat a number of them without guilt, and easy enough to make even on a work night. Continue reading “Vanilla Snowballs”

Two Different Cheddar Scones for Autumn

It is rare that I get into a baking mood: usually, if I want to spend time in the kitchen, I would prefer to be making something hearty for dinner.  Last Sunday however, the bright autumn leaves gave me the urge to bake something full of apples. I picked a sweet apple-cheddar scone and then for good measure a savory cheddar jalapeño scone, as well. I shared them with my bar trivia team (and the bartender, and some people on other teams, as well) and everyone had compliments to give. Today, there is a thick covering of snow and it is continuing to fall fast, but the season is still technically autumn, so I’m happy to share these two recipes! Continue reading “Two Different Cheddar Scones for Autumn”

Lord of the Rings Marathon Part 1 – Honey Cakes and Seed Cake

It is no secret to anyone who knows me even a little that I am a huge Tolkien fan. My love started with the animated Rankin-Bass Hobbit and Return of the King when I was very young and with my dad, sitting on the couch with my sister and me on either side as he read The Hobbit aloud to us. I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 11 (which took me the better part of a year, at that time!) and The Silmarillion at 12 (I didn’t  understand it much then, but I have re-read it a handful of times since, and each time I love it more.)

I’m enough of a nerd (yes *that* kind) that if you get me started, I’ll tell you, in detail, all the things Peter Jackson’s movies did wrong and how he should have corrected them. However, I still enjoy the movies from time to time. Twice I have hosted a party for my friends to come and watch all three extended edition films and provided six Hobbit meals throughout the day. It is a lot of fun – even if it is a lot of work for me! Continue reading “Lord of the Rings Marathon Part 1 – Honey Cakes and Seed Cake”