Pumpkin Carving! Again!

Today Rachel and I hosted pumpkin carving at our house. After yesterday’s pumpkin debacle we had resigned ourselves to carving tiny pumpkins. But the pumpkin fairies had visited Whole Foods in the night and delivered JUMBO CARVING PUMPKINS. I was so excited.

We had so much pumpkin in our cart…

Rachel Geistfeld came over to carve a pumpkin with us. She enjoyed it.

We put down a tablecloth (aka drop cloth) and the carving commenced.

 I made a mummy! Here’s the finished product.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Carving!

Last night Rachel and I went to a pumpkin carving party at an acquaintance’s house. We went to three stores looking for pumpkins and couldn’t find any! We finally found a few tiny “pumpkin pie” pumpkins at Whole Foods as well as a selection of seasonal squashes. We each selected a miniature gourd to carve and took them to the party. It was a lot of fun! There was an impromtu dance party at the end.

 These were our pumpkins! They’re friends!

Yes, Rachel’s squash has eyebrows…

Halloween Costume Sneak Peak

We are making me a Halloween costume and Rachel is teaching me to sew. Since the clock is ticking now this sort of translates into Rachel-does-all-the-hard-stuff-and-I-pin-fabric-togeter (and sew on patches). But I did manage to use the sewing machine to make a seam in one of the sleeves tonight!

Below is a partially assembled version of the costume. I’m not telling what it is yet, but I dare you to guess…

Fall Morning

This morning when I awoke the light outside was fascinating. The tree across the street from my building always turns yellow during the fall, but this morning something about the way the sunlight permeated through the dense cloud cover made all the yellows and reds really stand out. I’m not sure if this picture does it justice, but I tried to capture what it looked like.

Tonight’s Dessert Creation

Tonight we made a beautiful dinner (which we forgot to photograph). We made balsamic-marinated chicken breasts, pumpkin dumplings (which turned out a little more like pumpkin gnocchi but which were still delicious), roasted asparagus and Brussels sprouts, and saffron rice.

For dessert I made Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes. They are quite good, but the Cinnamon-Nutmeg Cream-Cheese Frosting was the event.

Here is the recipe I used:

For cake
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 3/4 ounces or 218 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 13 ounces or 365 grams) unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (about 1 3/4 ounces or 50 grams) walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped

For frosting
5 ounces (142 grams) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 42 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. I had no trouble getting my cake out of a nonstick pan by just buttering it, but if you don’t have a nonstick cake pan or are a little nervous, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter that too.

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using). The batter will look a little curdly and uneven but don’t worry, it will all bake up perfectly in the end.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely. You can speed this up, as I always do, in the fridge. OR recipe makes about 16-18 cupcakes. Cooking time approximately 20 minutes.

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

A Very Theatrical Weekend

This weekend I went with Rachel to see Second City (a famous sketch comedy and improve group based in Chicago) at Northwestern. The name of their show, in honor of our mascot was, “Wildcat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

The show was actually much funnier than I was expecting. However, we found that to satirize Northwestern they didn’t actually have to exaggerate much. For example, one of their sketches was about an incoming freshman who planned to triple-major in engineering, music, and economics… that’s a combination I’m actually pretty sure I’ve heard before…

They also sang us a song called, “We’re Big 10 (But We’re Also Ivy League).” And as we lost our Homecoming game this weekend, one of the more telling (and shortest) sketches went like this:

A girl and boy sit on two chairs, cuddling
Girl: You know, I’ve never been to the stadium on game day before.
Boy: (nuzzling her hair) I just wanted to come somewhere where we could be alone…
End Scene

Then, the next night, I went down to the city and met Jackie at Navy Pier, where we saw Murder for Two a musical comedy at the Chicago Shakespeare Center. 
All I knew about the show was that it was popular enough its run had been extended four times and it was billed as follows, “A two man show: both men play the piano and one man plays all 13 suspects!” 
How could you go wrong? It was indeed quite funny. Both men were very talented pianists and performers. It was not high art by any means, but it was quite a good time. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who needs a laugh!

Catching Up on the Recent Happenings at College

One of the consequences of the quarter system is you feel like you’ve just gotten back in the swing of things and suddenly the quarter is half over! So to go back a bit…

Fall in Evanston this year has been particularly lovely. The leaves were just gorgeous at the beginning of October! We eventually did get some gale-force rain, but up until a couple of days ago things have been really nice.

We’ve also been doing a lot of cooking in 802. Charlotte has been coming over every Tuesday to whip up some delicious deserts. We’ve had apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate-chip cinnamon cookies, and snickerdoodles so far. Rachel and I have also been experimenting with some new things, including lentil bread (the substance all over Rachel’s fingers).

And then Rachel turned 21! We celebrated by going out for drinks at the Rhythm Room at midnight. It took the poor bartender several moments to realize what the date was. Rachel’s drink was also free!

The day of her actual birthday we went to teapot painting class at Norris with Jackie and made cute little teapots (hers is the blue one, mine’s the purple elephant).

That night we had friends over for fondue (don’t ask how many blocks of cheese went into the fondu) and Rachel’s famous spice cake with marzipan topping.

 It’s been a busy couple of weeks! And we haven’t even gotten to Halloween yet…

Pumpkin Pie

Let me begin this post by saying that I do not like pumpkin pie. Except apparently pumpkin pie made by my friend Charlotte. THIS WAS THE BEST PIE I’VE EVER TASTED!

The filling recipe went something like this:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can Pure Pumpkin
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can Sweetened Condenced Milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Some cinnamon,  nutmeg, vanilla, and garam masala.

The crust recipe:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mix. Gradually add evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
  3. Cut up pecan pieces into very small chunks and sprinkle them on top of the filling.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes and reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 45-50 minutes.
  5. Cool for 15 minutes. 
  6. Enjoy heartily. 

I might gain 20 pounds this quarter but I will enjoy it heartily.