Smells Like Spring Spirit!

Well, this week finally did it! Temperatures over 32 degrees! I know in my last post I mentioned in a complainy tone how much I love the cold, but I am not going to fight mother earth on what is simply natural. Spring was bound to show up.

When I think spring, I think of pastel colored eggs, robins and rabbits, and April showers (current Pittsburgh weather) that will bring may flowers AND probably more of those mother fucking, gross ass stink bugs. The arrival of spring makes me want to paint my toenails because I will finally get to see my feet on a regular basis. It also makes me want to buy every seersucker sundress Modcloth has to offer.

The only problem with Spring, besides the bugs, is that my wardrobe has to do a complete 180 from my regular all black everything. I love wearing all black. It’s sooo Park Slope, not to mention easy! And I normally go monochromatic for work. So I think for now, I will slowly add in color in, just like mother nature. A pastel accessory here, a sunhat there, maybe even some mellow yellow..While it may seem like it at times, Spring doesn’t just happen overnight.

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My sister and I really enjoyed the abundance of sunshine this week. It made for perfect outdoor photography weather! We even captured some real life light leaks!

I hope this weather is here to stay!

Smoothie Tuesday!

Some days of the week I am just so tired after working that I don’t feel like cooking. I really just want to drink my dinner…………but want to save the harder stuff for later in the week. My sister and I started Smoothie Tuesday last week as a means to accomplish this. The Blumers do Salad Mondays, and I think having a certain night of the week with a themed dinner takes away the stress of menu planning- thanks for the inspo, SheShe!

 

5 ingredients and less than 5 minutes make for a faster and healthier meal than some gross microwave dinner! This week’s red and green dinner reminded me a little bit of Christmas. I can’t wait to get more creative as we flip through the calendar!

Smoothie Tuesday #1

2 frozen bananas

1 pint strawberries, sliced

1-2 cups baby spinach

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

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Now to make myself watch HIMYM. Cheers to a great beginning of April and hopefully lasting Spring weather! ImageImage

 

Constant Cooldown

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer” 

Whatever, Albert Camus! Up until this winter (my first real winter), my entire life has been an invincible summer. Being from the lone star state. my 25 years of existence could even be compared to an endless summer, just more tacos and less hanging ten. In the depth of this year’s polar vortex winter that just won’t quit, I have learned  that I honestly and truly love the cold.

Maybe my strong Texas spirit is equivalent to my inner invincible summer or maybe I’m still just cooling off.

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***While I truly love the cold, I have no qualms about Spring getting here and staying for good.

 

Around My Hood

I spent about two and a half months secretly planning my quiet exit from Texas life. I had dreams of row houses and brick laden streets while still maintaining a sense of frugality. Because I was moving to an urban setting, I immediately associated square footage with cost/money/breaking the bank. The original plan was to find small studio to share with my sister and my dog. Oh how glad I am that plans do not always go accordingly!

I now call Bloomfield home. Pittsburgh’s ‘Little Italy’.Instead of that tiny closet apartment, we have a three story abode, SEPARATE bedrooms, a front yard, and lots of character all around. We also live 2 minutes away from good friends- friends who are now more like family.

I have lived in Pittsburgh a little under four months yet have only explored a small fraction of my neighborhood and this amazing city. Thus the beginning of a new blog segment:Image

Currently, my favorite things about Bloomfield: hintings of Spring, buildings with potential, and the manliest of men- my neighborhood butcher. I look forward to sharing my ever-expanding list with you!

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(The ‘C’ is Silent) Challah Bread!

I love to bake fresh bread and usually opt for the single rise, no-knead, bake in a cast iron skillet versions. Everything else seems to take forever when you do not own a bread machine. As winter storm Ivan rolled on through Pittsburgh yesterday, I found myself bored after brunch. I had the entire day to dedicate to creating something delicious. Why not bake a loaf(ves) of bread?

For this baking adventure, I found inspiration after a quick flip through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook at Williams-Sonoma coupled with too much time spent in Squirrel Hill. I had been wanting to bake Challah after learning how to properly pronounce the name (last week). The ‘c’ is silent, in case you did not know! Upon researching various recipes and braiding methods, I discovered that this bread has a historical/biblical significance besides being a traditional Jewish bread. Traditionally, a double loaf is baked out of one batch of dough. Each loaf has 6 strands, totaling 12 & representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Thanks, Wikipedia!

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Reverting back to the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, my attention was grabbed by a beautiful loaf of fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah. I decided to move up 5 steps on the bread baking pyramid and attempt something of this delicious magnitude. Adapted from here.

Rosemary, Apple, Walnut Challah with Goat Cheese (+1 Regular Challah)

3 3/4 tsp dry active yeast

1 tbs + 1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup olive oil

5 large eggs

1 tbs salt

8-8 1/2 cups flour

filling: 4 oz goat cheese, 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts, juice of 1/4 lemon, 2 small granny smith apples (peeled, cored, cubed), 2 tsp rosemary, pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp sugar

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tbs sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. Whisk in olive oil, then, one at a time, beat in 4 eggs. Beat in the remaining sugar and salt. ImageImageImage
  3. Gradually add in flour, cup by cup. If using a mixer, the dough hook attachment will save you quite the arm workout. Sadly enough, my hand mixer croaked in the midst, even with the dough hook attachment.
  4. This is my favorite part! KNEAD dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Return to your rinsed and greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for one hour.  ****************************The rest of this recipe involves a lot of waiting around*****************************2 episodes of Mad Men to be exact****************************** ImageImageImageImage
  5. By this point, your dough should have doubled in size. Using a pastry cutter, divide the dough in 2. Double loaves! For regular challah: punch down the dough, set in another greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set aside for 30 more minutes of rising. For stuffed challah: flatten into an oblong shape with your hands, cover half with filling, fold over, and repeat a few times. Form into a ball shape and set aide for 30 more minutes of rising.
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  6. Divide each ball further into 4 parts. Roll each part into a rope.
  7. BRAIDING. Lay your 4 ropes perpendicular to each other, forming a #hashtag. Weave them so that one rope is over and the other is under (see photos below). The rest of the weaving is not too tricky, though I honestly had no idea what I was doing. As long as you keep with the under and over weaving pattern and tuck the awkward ends underneath the loaf it should come out fine. ImageImageImageImageImageImage
  8. In a small cup, beat your last remaining egg. Brush each loaf generously with egg wash and allow to rise for 30 more minutes.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Before baking your bread, brush generously one last time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway mark. Your loves should be a nice golden brown color and your kitchen should smell amazing. ImageImageImageImage

I brought the stuffed loaf over to my friends Lauren & Chase’s house for our family dinner. I thought there was going to be a lot leftover, but the three of us easily consumed half of this loaf. I love the way you can just pull this bread apart. It is lightly sweetened and makes a great breakfast companion, too!

I think I can say I am no longer intimidated by bread making. I actually find the entire process to be more therapeutic than brain frazzling. The process is long and drawn out, rather lazy and perfect for a lazy, snowed in weekend. ImageImage

For the Love of Lattice

It is no secret that I absolutely love to bake. Let it also be known that pies are my favorite thing to make. For such a proficient pie slinger, it pains me to admit that I had not made a lattice crusted pie until recently- in the last year to be exact! Since making my relationship with baking official, I’ve recently put a lot of thought into why this was so. I love to braid hair, and this is basically the same thing if not a million times easier.

These days I get urges to lattice. I want to do it to everything! Fortunately enough, the opportunity presents itself on the regular.

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Over the weekend, we celebrated the birthday of one of my good friends. To no one’s surprise, a whole bunch of baking was involved, including a birthday pie!

The pie crust i decided to go with is probably obvious after reading this posting’s title and further along ramblings. I used the same dough recipe from Hoosier Mama, blogged here. I changed things up by using lavender infused salt rather than the regular kosher.

Blackberries have been cheap at my local supermarket, so of course this was my go-to filling. Cherries or blueberries would work just as well. The following recipe is as easy as pie!

Blackberry Pie

4 cups fresh blackberries 

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tbs corn starch

1 tsp tapioca starch

pinch lavender infused (or regular ol’) kosher salt

2 tbs butter cut into tiny pieces

1 tsp flour + 1 tsp sugar for crust dusting

1 egg + 1 tbs water for crust washing

coarse grain sugar for sprinkling (pre-bake) OR powdered sugar for dusting (post-bake)

  1. In a large bowl, combine blackberries, lemon juice, and vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, gently mix the dry ingredients into the larger bowl with the berries.
  4. Dust a prepared pie shell with crust dust, then add the pie filling. The flour and sugar combo actually helps to thicken out all the berry juice upon cooling!
  5. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, knife, or anything sharp, cut out dough strips for your lattice. Thick or thin. Thick and thin. Over-under. Under-over. There is no real right way to weave your lattice crust. Be creative! I have a problem with cutting straight lines, so I went with bigger and fewer strips.
  6. Once finished with your weave, roll and crimp your edges and brush with pie wash.
  7. Sprinkle or dust with your chosen sugar before or after baking. Or not at all! This last step is for aesthetic purposes only.

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I urge you to go ahead and try latticing something! Then go braid your hair!

Happy baking.

From Texas to Pittsburgh: Cheers to New Beginnings

I created the Casa Y Cocina blog in 2013 while still residing in Denton, Texas. It has since then sufficed as a creative outlet and medium for sharing original recipes, home and DIY projects, some of my fashion choices, and the undertakings of me and my friends. Shortly after turning 25, I quit my day job, packed my dog and all of my belongings into a u-haul (don’t worry, Gypsy rode shotgun), and moved to Pennsylvania with the help of my twin brother.

November marked the beginning of a 4 month sabbatical. Those four months have been the most beautiful. Moving to a place where you know very few people is tough, but with the help of my good friends Chase & Lauren, my roommate/little sister, her boyfriend and his family, the transition has been more than smooth. Not only did my sister and I get to experience our fist white Christmas, and real winter for that matter, but I also took a position at a local bakery. I have the pleasure of getting to do what I love 40 hours a week and then some.

The above may sound like I finally have it all figured out. How I wish that were true! Though I have taken a few steps in the right direction, I am still far off from being exactly where I want to be. Fortunately I have the above mentioned people as a compass. They really keep me on track, especially my sister.

My journey thus far can easily be summed up by a few Peter, Bjorn and John lyrics:

I laugh more often now.

I cry more often now.

I am more me.

3 cheers

Three cheers to new beginnings!

Life Lately

I could begin this post by apologizing for being the worst blogger ever, but I’m not because, sometimes, life just gets in the way. And, life is something I have really been enjoying as of late.

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The past few weeks, or I suppose this past month, have been full of lovely moments that have quickly morphed into even lovelier memories.

Last weekend I saw The National perform. The front row experience surpassed any Dallas concert I have ever been to. Matt Berninger’s baritone bravado made me swoon all night. I have been listening to copious amounts of The National ever since. Goes well with dreary weather and red wine, don’t you think? Fortunately, my playlists do not reflect my current mood/ state of mind. Instead of brooding, I have been doing a whole lot of planning. I am going to Pittsburgh in 3 days, and am so looking forward to new sights and sounds, old friends, and the small chance of snow on Thursday.

I primarily spent this weekend doing Texan things. Well, maybe more so things people outside of Texas think Texans do all the time. These things included but were not limited to: drinking beer, eating bbq, and riding horses. ImageImageImageImageImage

Maybe I am just trying to get the Texan out of my system before going up north, though I don’t think this is possible. You can’t take the Texas out of the girl, and I will always have a mad love for Shiner Ruby Redbird & Cheer, tacos, and our big blue skies.

 

Wedesday Wishlist 10.02

Now that October has officially gotten its feet on the ground, my palate can make the official transition into autumn. So many seasonal recipes I have been hankering to try call for Dutch oven this and Dutch oven that. Any excuse to make a Le Creuset purchase is a good enough one for me, especially if they are having a sale. Unfortunately, my bank account and I are not seeing eye to eye on this matter.

Just one more item to add to my wishlist!

1. Le Creuset Essential Bakeware Set. At only $224.99 this set is a steal! Well….maybe for individuals other than myself. I love the blue and yellow colors! They remind me of the French countryside that I have only visited in my dreams. Image

Lately I have been up to my elbows in pie crusts and polenta! The other day I made a savory tomato and polenta pie to welcome in October. You can look forward to that recipe soon! As well as many others that do not require the use of a dutch oven haha!

Happy Wednesday!

XOXOXO

Over the Weekend: Beer Me!

I ended up taking Friday off of work. It was nice to spend the entire day baking and not blogging, oops! I know I have been really bad about this as of late, but I have been so busy! I’ll tell ya all about  my reasoning once plans are set into action.

I’m trying to be elusive!

Friday was for baking. Saturday was for beer. Sunday was for recovering from baking and beer (mainly the beer). If you live under a rock or hate German people, you may not have know that Oktoberfest celebrations have been and will continue to be happening all around. I am not a beer fan, really in the least, but I will drink it if the occasion presents itself. Throw in some free sausage and polka music, and I’ll have a good time.

Saturday started of on an innocent foot. Just another morning at the farmers market, followed by a sudden downpour and a few bottles of champagne. After jamming some Shannon and the Clams, we pretty much swam down the street to Fry. My poor suede booties will never be the same! Steins overflowed with fall brews, and soon enough everyone was talking in a German accent. Or maybe it sounded that way to me? Image

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite drinking holidays, coming in second to Cinco de Mayo. Although I am German and Irish, I identify more with tequila. Giving credit my San Antonio blood,  I ended my night with queso and a very large margarita.

Sunday was for recovering. I said that already. I wasn’t just sleeping off a hangover, but I was also prepping myself for the Breaking Bad finale and the start of an incredibly busy week.

Have you guys done any Oktoberfest celebrating? I wish I knew where my lederhosen was hiding!

Happy Monday!