LIVE BLOGGING: Homemade Pumpkin Puree Part One PLUS MUFFINS

Whew! It’s been a long time! WE’LL GET TO THAT LATER.

Two years ago, I live-blogged the creation of a butternut squash souffle, to much, uh, success, or what have you.

Now that it’s fall two years later, I’M LIVE BLOGGING THE CREATION OF HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PUREE AND MUFFINS.

FOLLOW ALONG FOR ALL YOUR FUN TODAY.

3:30ish p.m.: ACQUIRED: One 15-pound, oblong, pale pumpkin, a.k.a. “Pink Banana” from local farm/pumpkin-selling establishment.

4:19 p.m.: The Smashing Pumpkins’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” starts playing on Songza playlist. THINGS ARE GETTING HOT.

4:22 p.m.: Jamie successfully cracks open The Pink Banana. The real excitement begins!

4:39 p.m.: Jamie says, “Come over here and clamp my pumpkin!” Thusly, the Pink Banana is slaughtered.

4:53 p.m.: While romanticizing the idea of turning our apartment into a production house for pumpkin products/tomatoes/tomato sauce/body lotion/beer, Jamie said we would need to make a really dark brew and name it after Vincent. “Vincent… Porter Cat.” OMG. >^..^<

4:57 p.m: Kyle’s Smashing Pumpkins playlist ends. 😦

4:58 p.m.: Northern Motown Dance Party time! 😀

5:05 p.m.: Hey, guys – Jamie here. What Brittany forgot to mention was that we split our pumpkin slices into little quarters and put the first batch in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees, if you’re interested to know) about 20 minutes ago. LET THE GREAT PUMPKIN ROAST BEGIN.

5:19 p.m.: Cleaned pumpkin seeds while waiting for Pink Banana to roast. Tossed in olive oil, spread on foil, awaiting next oven cycle. Note to self: INVEST IN A COOKIE SHEET ALREADY.

5:23 p.m.: Jumping around to The Esquire’s “Get On Up” — when did it change from getting up to getting down? Or worse yet, getting LOW? ALSO IN THE TIME IT TOOK TO TYPE THIS, THE FIRST PINK BANANA CYCLE IS DONE GET READY YA’LL.

5:31 p.m.: …The Pink Banana needed a little more time. So.

5:41 p.m.: Trying this again. Flipped the pumpkin pieces to allow the flesh nearest the skin to become more tender, since I’m stupid and haven’t yet invested in a cookie sheet in the last… 20 minutes. I think the sides of the pan have kept the lower portions of pumpkin from cooking as thoroughly as their, um, northern brothers? This is coming out ALL wrong.

5:47 p.m.: Word up! The flipping technique was a slam dunk! Batch No. 2 is in! Blender is assembled! THINGS ARE GETTING REAL.

5:54 p.m.: SEEDS ARE IN FOR TOASTING.

6:30 p.m.: The first batch of puree is pureed! It looks like Nickelodeon created its first line of baby food (Which omg, why don’t they do?) but I think that’s a good sign. Onward!

7:09 p.m.: Whenever Chrissie Hynde sings, “Gonna use my fingers,” I always think she’s gonna say “Gonna use my toes,” next. Which would be weird, but not uncalled for, right?

7:41 p.m.: There are already nine-going-on-ten cups of pureed Pink Banana in our kitchen, and another pan of raw pumpkin is about to go into the oven. Holy fall foods, Batman!

7:43 p.m.: VINCENT P. CAT IS BACK IN THE BUILDING. He’s really excited about the porter idea! We’ll be nailing out the details shortly.

7:50 p.m.: Vincent said he would definitely pose for the bottle label, but he thinks that a cartoon rendering might be a little more whimsical. If we did that, would we go for, like, an angry Vincent? Or a playful one? What kind of feeling SHOULD my cat’s pretend future beer convey? These are questions that will keep me up at night.

7:52 p.m.: Oh, and all three of us agree that it should be a seasonal autumnal selection. Catoberfest. Oktobermeow. Autumeownal. These are all solid ideas.

8:40 p.m.: 12 cups of puree pureed. Final Pink Banana batch out of oven. Muffin production set to begin in T-whenever the dishes are done.

8:43 p.m.: OMG. Now Vincent is REFUSING to pose for the beer bottle label because he thinks he looks “fat” in that picture we posted. I tried to tell him it’s just his cold weather fur coming in, but now he’s just moping around and refusing to look me in the eyes. UGH. #divacat

9:36 p.m.: Moist Pink Banana a.k.a. Pumpkin Spice Muffins are IN. THE. OVEN. How long has it been?  HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN ASLEEP?

9:39 p.m.: Just texted my mom to tell her to read my blog tomorrow so she could find out about these stinking muffins. This is a test. Did you read this far, Mom? If so, Jamie said, “There’s pumpkin EVERYWHERE.”

9:52 p.m.: Pioneer Woman. Why did you do this to me. Ree Drummond. I love you.

10:07 p.m.: THEY ARE OUT AND THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL HOLD ON JAMIE’S GONNA POST A PICKT-CHA.

 

11:27 p.m.: It’s been eight hours, 15 pounds of pumpkin, 16 cups of puree and more than two dozen pumpkin muffins, but it is finally time to close the book on this adventure. Check ’em out:

 

Half of the muffins have a to-die-for cream cheese frosting dollop on them, and half just have a crunchy cinnamon-sugar hat. We doubled the recipe, and ended up with 24 regular-sized muffins and eight mini muffins, Jamie says, on account of our “watery yield.” From the pumpkin puree. But don’t let that ruin your appetite.

Eight hours ago, we were just driving back from a hike when we made a U-turn for an adorable road-side pumpkin farm. For just $6, we picked up that giant Pink Banana, and made it our lady. Our delicious, delicious lady.

I say, if you’re ready for it, this is an adventure worth tackling. Goodnight!

BBJBZB Budget Weekend!!

This weekend, Jamie and I had Budget Weekend. Sometimes, we like to things we do collectively as a “BBJBZB [Thing],” so I’m calling this Brittany Budget Jamie Budget Zany Bangin’ Budget Weekend.

How does one go about having a BBJBZB Budget Weekend, you ask? It’s pretty simple. The goal is to still have a good time, while not spending the normal amount of money you would by going out to the bars. Look, we all love supporting our local economy, but a girl’s gotta eat, ya know?

Every good Budget Weekend should start off with a bang, but not one that’s gonna blow your head off. That last B is for Bangin’, after all. Jamie and I rationalized poorly that our budget weekend should start by going out to eat. Because we would probably go out for at least one meal in a given weekend, so if we’re not drinking, this should be fine.

We WALKED (saving gas) to Sumisu, the local sushi restaurant, where our eyes were a little bigger than our wallets. We calculated in the end that between my sushi and Jamie’s panko-crusted pork, we should have been paying at least $35 for this meal. BUT WAIT. Sumisu wasn’t doing so hot that night, and it literally took 45 minutes for Jamie to get his food. NOT ONLY did our waiter completely comp our meal, but he gave us extra crab rangoons. We decided to tip him nicely, because it wasn’t his fault, so we did pay for the meal, but not with much.

Night Out At A Flustered Restaurant: $10

This was Thursday night (my Friday) and the day that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II was coming to theaters for its midnight premiere. Jamie and I checked the ticket prices, and could find only the 3D showing at our midnight theater, which would have cost us around $35 for both 3D tickets and online processing charges. We opted, instead, for the next day matinee. At just $7 per ticket rather than $15 and early enough in the day for our friends to not try to talk to us about it yet, we thought this was a smart move. Plus, the lines were shorter, and I was awake. The movie experience was completely awesome, but I’ll leave that up to you to see.

Also, not seeing the midnight showing opened our night up to drinking. To save money, we drank at home instead of going out. One Four Loko each was all we needed for a weird, weird night.

Two Four Loko: $5
HPDH2 Matinee: $15

After the matinee, we had a good amount of chill time until hurling practice. Hurling, as I’ve mentioned on here before, is awesome. Also, it’s free. So that is awesome. After that, I had rehearsals for The Comedy Project, the equally awesome Pocatello improv group that Jamie and I both joined. Since both of these activities are free, we spent an entire afternoon doing stuff that is great for absolutely no cost at all. Lesson: Become engaged in your community and save more money!

Hurling: FREE
TCP: FREE

After Comedy Project rehearsals, our group got together for some solid stoop grillin’ at our friend Drew’s house. We contributed rum that we already had and picked up Diet Coke on the way there for just $1. The brats and the replaying of awful redneck stand up were all FREE.

Brats, Rum, Stand up Comedy: FREE
Diet Coke: $1

The next day, we decided we didn’t want to have to compromise our desires for corporate coffee just because we were trying to save money. Thus, the at-home Frappuccino was born. Here are the pictures from our experience, and here’s the recipe you can make yourself!

Jamie making Frapps

Delicious! Cheap!

Homemade Frapps Complete!

We also decided we wanted Take 2 at our romantic dinner out, but we didn’t want to play Restaurant Roulette again and chance them actually bringing our food out on time. Thusly, we made our own homemade lasagna and ate it by candlelight. With martinis. Because we didn’t have wine. Booya.

Lazagna

Homemade Frapps: $0.64
Homemade Lasagna: Not really calculable. Just some grocery money. Definitely <$10.

Add to that weekend more fun-expected things like S’mores at our friend’s Gabby and Sean’s and hitting up the farmer’s market and all in all, I think we had a pretty successful BBJBZB Budget Weekend, while only spending $41.64. Doing the more expensive versions of these things would have cost us at least $100.

America!

PDDD

Because my general disposition lends me to wanting to leap off of a bridge every day, it has become difficult to come up with a good, new post. Exit polls show, Readers are more inclined to enjoy posts about my slow triumph over an especially difficult baked good than my deeply emotional — albeit highly developed — chagrin over looking like Kirstie Alley.

Exhibit Ew

Usually I do spend my days in an un-air-conditioned Jeep/apartment/taco truck overhang looking at Facebook albums of my friends’ digital SL-faRis across Europe while contemplating how miserable I’ll be until I get to fall asleep again, but today, several things happened today that made me say, “Cool.”

Last week I walked in to my local driver’s license center to exchange my PA license for an ID ID, a mere seven months after I was legally required. Not only did I run into the PIO who I’ve worked with the 10 months that I’ve lived here — who curiously eyed my Pennsylvania license — but I was also surprised by the Idaho written driving test, which I did not realize was a requirement to operate a motor vehicle in the land of potato truck spills. Needless to say, I failed it.

Today, however, I walked in after an hour of last minute studying in Jamie’s office, and I had to skip only five of the 40 questions to pass. Some call me brilliant, I call me Brilliantany.

Jamie and I celebrated with celebratory Gyros and curly fries, served to us by our new Greek friend Andrew Katseanes. Did I secretly pretend he was my old (and best) Greek friend Andrew Lericos? Yes I did. And in that way, I got to see an old friend today, who also served me food. Double bonus.

Later, I was driving back to work in a bit of a hurry while trying to decide which lane to be in to best beat out the other six cars on the road. Traffic, oy! I stayed in my lane, which seemed slower at first, when all of the sudden an errant motorcyclist jumped from my lane to the next, breezing me to freedom — sweet freedom! I made my hand into a gun and shot lasers at those dumb slowsters as I flew past.

Laterlater, my live truck operator Dave and I were sitting in our air-conditioned news van and he told me about how teenagers in the Ukraine are randomly murdering innocent people with hammers, just because they want something to remember. I am not in either of those categories of people. Awesome.

Then! While I was getting ready to do my live shot, my producer asked me if I liked liverwurst and mayonnaise sandwiches. I said yes, of course, and we agreed to start an LWM Sandwich Club. Community!

Thenthen! While I was in between live shots, my car-less friend Joe TZ walked across the street from me and said hello. He was difficult to make out at first because during nighttime shots I stare into a very bright camera light that obscures my vision and consequently his face, but I figured it out by his distinguished jawline. It was a fun coincidence AND I got to see ANOTHER friend. That’s two in one day! Can’t beat them apples.

I came home to cheese, chips and salsa and a used magazine mailed to me by my Dad outlining the fun you can have in Park City, UT. Jamie played me “Basic Space” on vinyl and we moved one of the fans into the bedroom.

I can’t sleep now, but I’m chalking it up to all of the happiness my heart feels over a pretty damn decent day. PDDD.

Gah-night.

The El Herradero Taco Truck Is Back or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Pull Over For Tacos

Today, a glorious thing happened. I got off the weird highway (I-86, the one that goes east-west and has significantly fewer points of entry than I-15, the obviously superior and much more accessible north-south highway) in Chubbuck. Hungover and craving Taco Bell, I turned right.

It was in that instant that a glint of a sun beam off a buzzing hunk of shining metal leaped into my retina, AND LO! Serendipitous to my craving for Mexican cuisine, there she was: The El Herradero Taco Truck.

Real Latinos Enjoying Real El Herradero

From the depths of the belly of the beast that is Idaho winter, she had triumphantly returned. A beautiful thing I learned to love upon moving to Idaho, the taco truck — much like many other creatures — goes into hibernation for the unforgiving winter months. It is unfortunate, but all the more splendid once they reemerge in the near-spring.

With a firm grip on the wheel, I cut across three lanes of Yellowstone Avenue traffic (so, nothing, but) to slide into the Walgreen’s parking lot. Though my car was still covered in slushy snow crud, the sun was shining and it felt like maybe, just maybe, winter’s brown frown wouldn’t last forever.

I was ushered to the truck by the songs of beautiful, beautiful Mexican angels that must live in the speaker system of that metallic goddess. I ordered my $5 three taco meal, complete with rice, beans, pickled jalapenos and a Diet Coke. I had to get cash from the Walgreens to pay for it, so incidentally I also walked away with a bottle of wine, but that’s more for your entertainment and less of an integral part of the story.

Carnitas tacos, rice, beans, pickled jalaps. And radishes.

I took my Styrofoam treasure chest, sunk into my car, pushed the seat the whole way back and ate alone. But this was no sad occasion mis amigos, oh no. For when I looked to my right, there they were, another car of folks, seats back, bellies expanding with the delicious magical gas created by re-fried beans. And on down the line! Car after car, belly after belly, indulging together. Sure, we were separated by our roll cages, but it didn’t matter, because with the love of an El Herradero taco truck lunch, we ate as one.

I looked on to the side-head of the sunglassed man in the Durango next to me — who was he? Where had he come from? Where would he go? It didn’t matter, for all we really knew is that we had that moment. Maybe that was all we needed.

My eyes fell back out to the vast expanse of the Wal-Mart parking lot in front of me and I wondered how anyone could ever feel alone in America.

Where will the El Herradero truck go? I don’t know, but I intend to follow it.

+++++++++++++++++

[Disclaimer: I know “The El Herradero” reads “The The Herradero” but it sounds better that way and get outta my face.]

It’s After Valentine’s Day And That Means I Can Write About Whatever I Want

All day, I’ve been trying to think of a good post for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to write about relationships, and especially being happy about my own, I didn’t feel like gushing. Sure I could tell you how cute and chivalrous and silly Jamie is, but doesn’t it take away from the legitimacy of all those good qualities when you gush ad nauseam?

Tonight, as I was pulling through the Taco Johns drive-thru, alone and on the phone with my mother, I realized this would be my Valentine’s Day dinner. And then they started blasting Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” through the loudspeaker — just to make me feel bad? Biting into my Stuffed Grilled Taco ©, I questioned the moral code of the employees of Taco Johns and pondered posting about how people go out of their ways to make Valentine’s Day miserable.

But I’m taking the high road (Taco Johns).

This afternoon I had to drive to Burley, ID, about an hour away from where I live, and it was taking FOR.EVER. You know how when you drive somewhere you don’t recognize, it seems longer? Well this was somewhere I didn’t recognize, and there was nothing there TO recognize. It was endless stretches of farmland as far as the eye could see, and while a beautiful abstraction of America’s spacious sky and fruited plain, it wasn’t exactly a “time-passer.”

The nothing

The nothing, under a cloud, from the car window.

But like a simple thing that gets funnier through repetition, the more I saw the nothingness before me, the more I was able to think about something.

It went like this: *Look at nothing* I have no blost ideas *look at nothing* I could write about Jamie *look at nothing* Nah, that’s lame *look at nothing* I could write something contrary *look at nothing* Nah, I do that too much *look at nothing* god there’s nothing here *look at nothing* god I remember when I thought I’d move somewhere cool after college…

And then I got it! What I want to say is this (for those of you who like jumping to bold key terms):

For so much of my time on Earth, I thought happiness was a destination you could run to. If I woke up early enough, ran enough miles, studied enough hours and made enough friends, I would arrive at the place I’d always wanted to be.

I thought I set myself up perfectly, but my consistent lack of satisfaction with my current situation has led me to, what some have called, an “existential break.” And that’s probably true. Like Jack Shephard, I found myself grappling with existing somewhere I knew I crashed into, but didn’t believe could exist.

+++++++++++++

At the end of the hour’s drive, I met two families. One lost a son 10 years ago in a car accident. They donated five of his organs to a father from the other family, who was dying of cancer. Today, thanks to that son’s death, that father is still alive, and gracious enough to talk to my TV camera.

Afterward I drove back over the same nothingness, only this time it was dark, and I couldn’t see the same nothing I saw before. I was crunched for time and didn’t have the chance to consider my own mortality, but that wasn’t the point of driving through Nowhere and meeting the Everythings.

The point, I’ll venture, is this: The destinations we dream of don’t really exist. What do exist are just other real places, with more real challenges and more awful alarm clocks. The ones we come from are just as valid, even though we might not think so. There’s no point in self-flagellation because you think you got yourself something you don’t “deserve” — that’s a fallacy. You’re just somewhere you don’t quite recognize, and the more you drive through it, the more you’ll realize why you’re there, and the more contented you’ll be when you leave.

Guy Fieri Is Excited About This Post

If you read this blog, there’s one thing you must know about me: I love chili dogs. No bones about it, they are one of my favorite foods in all the world. People who say hot dogs are gross? Get out. I don’t care about you anymore. Chili dogs are where it’s at.

Growing up, my dad’s favorite place to take us for some classic Dad ‘n Kids time was the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe. It rules there, and as you can see from the website, it’s “Just For You.” Whatever that means.

My dad, my older brother and I would plop down on the red plastic upholstered booth seats, order us up some grub and chow down. Typical fare was the classic everything dog (chili and onions), chili cheese fries (this season’s must-have) and a milkshake in one of their specialty cartoon cups that featured personified hot dogs in precarious situations.

Here is the perfect picture of exactly what I'm talking about. Thank you Internet.

It’s quick, cheap, served up by a lady named Marlene and so damn delicious you feel like you could eat a million of those precious, precious dogs. Whenever I go home, I make it a point to at least swing by the drive-thru, even if I am flying solo. Some people might call that a “problem,” but if you have a problem with happy memories, then you might be Hitler.

Anywho, when I went off to college, I was just pleased as punch to find out that not only did Washington, D.C. have a ridiculously tastytasty chili dog establishment, but it was a historical landmark as well! Some of us believe all chili dog establishments should be so lucky, but some of us just run personal blogs, not the universe.

Ben’s Chili Bowl wasn’t a place I visited until I started going out in the city, but soon its night owl hours and urban charm got the best of me, and I was craving those half-smokes with chili like it was Bill Cosby’s business.

Show up to Ben’s on a Saturday at lunch time and the line will be snaking out the door, somebody will cut you in line and you will invariably forget that Ben does NOT accept your debit card and have to use their rip-off ATM, but it will be well worth it. The food is so filling that you might get the Itis on your Metro ride home and miss your stop. “Not again, Greenbelt!”

Bill Cosby eats there for free. Obama does, too.

 

So now I’m in Idaho, and blame it on all the white people, but there are no decent chili dog shacks to be found! And trust me, the elevation has done NOTHING to quell my cravings. Sonic is one of the only places you can actually find a chili dog on the menu, and fast food will just never stack up to a hometown dog.

I feel, however, that it can’t be impossible to find a decent dog around these parts, and have charged myself with the painful task of FINDING one in southeastern Idaho. So tell your kids, tell your wife, even tell your husband, because I am asking EVERYBODY up in here to tell me where I can find a delicious chili dog.

When I wrangle one, I’ll be sure to post a review, and until then, I’ll be sulking about how much I write about food. Amen!