Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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The Pantry

Wednesday
Oct012014

Falling for Good TV

We are full swing into fall and I'm rounding up my favorite show picks for the season!


 

Always first on the list: Sons of Anarchy! It's the final season and though it's been hard to watch (Jax, WWTT?), I'm savoring every last moment, especially those featuring a shirtless Charlie Hunnam and a soundtrack that just keeps getting better and better. I'm not quite sure where this season is going, but I'm happy to go along for the ride.


Favorite new show:
How to Get Away With Murder. I knew that any Shonda Rimes show deserved at least a look and I'm so glad we tuned in for this one. There was a lot set up in this first ep and I can't wait to see where it goes. Bonus surprise appearance by the always exciting Billy Brown, AKA Mike from Dexter and Sons' August March.

The Mindy Project: I'm late to the party on this one but this is one of my new favorite shows. So funny, so sweet and features fun guest appearances by Always Sunny alum.

New Girl: I've watched since the beginning and while this one struggles for me at times, the addition of Daman Wayans, Jr. breathed some new life into the show. It's clear he got some of those stellar comedic genes and destined for a long and hilarious career.

Parenthood: Always one of my favorite shows and kind of a sleeper hit in that I always forget how great this show is until I sit down to watch it. It's the final season and I'm sure extra tissues will be needed for these last 13 eps.

Orange is the New Black: It's not new, but we are still getting through it. The second season just isn't as gripping for me as the freshman offering, but I'm still excited to watch the rest.

Jeopardy: Our nightly staple. Is it weird that I was positively giddy when new eps began airing and we could stop tuning in to Tournament of the Decades reruns?

The Walking Dead: Season 5 premieres on Oct 12, and I'm counting down the days. Last season really upped its game (look at the flowers. Lizzie! gah!), and left us wondering...what is Terminus? is cannibalism now a thing? am I crazy or was there something happening between Beth & Darryl? Where is Beth?! These are the questions I need answered.

 

So that's what I'm loving on TV lately.

What are your favorite shows this Fall?


Tuesday
Sep302014

When is it time to take the bottle away?

In August, Penelope had her 18 month check up. Among autism screenings and a lengthy dialogue regarding Penelope's vocabulary {we really need to build that up by her 24 month appointment!}, I slipped in the question about bottles and pacifiers. I have a strong willed daughter who is adamant about both, something that doesn't concern me, I was just curious to get her stance.

The doctor told me to 'just take them away, cold turkey'. It will just get harder as she's older. Kids need to move on to the next stage. She is getting big for a bottle.



Is that true? At 18 months, and now as we approach the 20 month mark in a couple of days, Penelope is somewhere between a baby and a big girl. She wants to run with the big kids down the hall at school. She wants to climb things and discover things on her own without our lead or our help.

But, she is still a baby. She over exerts herself and gets tired quickly, which spirals into crying fits and tantrums. She still finds comfort in our evening snuggles on the couch, with a bottle in her mouth and a pacifier in her hand. When she is worked up and running around like a maniac, there is nothing sweeter than her finding calm and solace in a bottle. Her face lights up when the microwave dings signaling it's ready. She rests on the couch and guzzles it down so excitedly while we watch yet another episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Maybe I'm crazy but I'm not ready to give these things up. Maybe that makes me a bad mom? One who is stuck on her baby staying a baby? Or maybe we are trying to make our babies grow up too fast, a product of our generation and the movement toward getting to the next thing or stage quickly and efficiently.

But maybe...Maybe babies should be babies while they can be.

Look I'm not trying to be the mom whose child is still in diapers and taking a pacifier at 5 years old. But at the same time, what's the rush? It's not like she isn't developing. She's a happy, very smart little girl {perhaps a little too smart for my liking} who listens, cooperates and is interested in anything and everything she sees. So is a bottle at bedtime or a pacifier at naptime the worst thing?

I hope not.



I held onto my pacifier until I was 3 and had to be bribed with a swing set to get rid of it. I turned out ok. And I have perfectly straight teeth to show for it.

I plan to start weaning her off of these things after her second birthday...but we will see how that goes! I might be back here in four months saying that I need another four...



So what do you think? When did you or when do you plan to wean your bean off the bottle and/or pacifier?



Please note: all opinions are welcome but this is a judgement free zone! Please be respectful to all commenters!

Monday
Sep292014

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

How was your weekend?

Ours was really nice. Saturday we visited our friends and their brand new baby boy. I forgot what it felt like to hold a baby who weighs practically nothing and it was glorious. We both fell asleep pretty early on Saturday night, but were up early Sunday morning for music class and my brother-in-law's birthday celebration. Sunday ended later than I wanted, as always. I made these bars for Steve's birthday party. It felt really good to get creative and baking in the kitchen again. 

I always love apple desserts. Is it me, or is there just no better smell than apples mingling with cinnamon and sugar? I need to bottle that and carry it around with me. Our whole apartment smelled unbelievable on Saturday evening. While Shaun watched college football, and Penelope snoozed, I worked on finishing these bars with a glass of wine in hand. It felt like old times. Windows cracked with a cool breeze, candles burning, decadent smells permeating the house and everyone feeling sleepy on a Saturday night. It's one of my favorite feelings...all of us home, cozy and taken care of.

I used a bunch of recipes that finally led to my inspiration for these bars. I love bars so much. They are perfect for sampling and snacks, and really perfect for taking to a birthday celebration. They require no cutting once at the party. Instead, they can just be grabbed and eaten, with sticky fingers and cake crumbles tumbling down. I added kosher salt to the tops of these. It melted right into the caramel topping, but make no mistake, the saltiness was the perfect balance to these super sweet bars.

As for the caramel topping? Though you can use caramel from a jar, I really recommend this topping. The key here is that it sets, so you don't have to worry about the caramel running once you cut into them. It's an easy topping and I really think it's worth it. I could just eat it all with a spoon.

 

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:

1 box yellow cake mix, minus 1 cup

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 egg

For the apple cheesecake filling:

2 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1/2 C + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 baking apples, peeled, cored & chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

For the salted caramel topping:

1/2 C butter

1/2 C brown sugar

3 Tbsp evaporated milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 C confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp coarse salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix (removing 1 C of the plain cake mix; set it aside, pack it away. we won't be needing that 1 C here), oil and egg with a wooden spoon. Once incorporated, press into the bottom of the pan. 

Peel, core and chop up the apples. I used Granny Smith. In a bowl, mix them with 1 Tbsp sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese, 1/2 C sugar, vanilla and eggs with a hand mixer until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Fold in the apple mixture.

Pour apple cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Mine had a few crumbs on it and I took it out to continue cooking in the hot pan while it cooled.

Once cool, make the caramel.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and evaporated milk and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and confectioners sugar until smooth. Pour over the tray of bars and let set. Sprinkle immediately with salt.

Once cool and before cutting them, refrigerate the tray for 30 min to 1 hour, or overnight. Use a sharp knife and cut carefully. Since the bars are now cold, they should cut nicely and cleanly. 

Sprinkle extra salt before serving if needed.

I hope you like these bars. I had a lot of fun creating and baking them! I think they were a hit at the party. Too bad I'm starting back hardcore on Dukan today, or I'd be having one of these babies tonight. Instead, I'll live vicariously through my weekend self, when I devoured many!

How was your weekend? 

What is your favorite apple dessert?

 

Also: chocolate caramel apple bars, apple upside down cake, apple cupcakes + cinnamon frosting, apple cranberry strudel, caramel apple cider shake