Loving. Learning. Engineering. Life.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving & Ancho Chile Pumpkin Pie

This year has been interesting, as I've transitioned from student to professional, twenty-something to adult......girlfriend to future wife.  I am so thankful for the people in my life who have made me the person I am today.  I just re-watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, and you know what...Peppermint Patty had it all wrong.  Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey or the mashed potatoes.  It's about enjoying the bounty in your life--whether that bounty is family, friends, your successes...etc.  Things may not always be the way you want them, but if you've worked hard, then there is every reason the be happy for what you have.  Now if only I could get Holmesy-dog to whip up a roasted turkey the way Snoopy does.  I really do have so much to be thankful for!
I predict a win by My Raiders over the Cowboys tomorrow afternoon, and you can bet I'll be showing up at my hunnie's parents' wearing my silver and black.  I wont, however be showing up with this pie, which I made last weekend.  It was promptly eaten at me and my hunnie's pre-Thanksgiving dinner party, and it was a big hit.  Don't be scared by the idea of chile pepper in a pumpkin pie--the pepper adds a smokiness (not a spiciness) and actually enhances the flavor of the cinnamon and nutmeg. 
Happy Thanksgiving and Go Raiders!

Ancho Chile Pumpkin Pie
1 homemade pie crust
1 1/2 cup pumpkin
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon New Mexico (or similar) chile powder
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake homemade pie crust for 8-10 minutes.  In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, yogurt, and cream.  Mix in eggs, on at a time until well combined.  Then whisk in brown sugar, granulated sugar, chile powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until smooth.  Remove pie crust from oven and pour in pie filling.  Return to oven and bake approximately 45 minutes, until a knife poked in the center comes out clean.  Serve cold or at room temperature. Pin It

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dutch Oven Pear Cake

I'm back in the desert, back at my the office, and my hunnie and I are falling back into our normal routine.  It feels great to come home after a long days work and cook a nice, mostly Paleo dinner.  It feels even better to have spare time on the weekends again to just catch up and enjoy the company of my hunnie and our two silly, smiley dogs.  Last weekend, I dragged my hunnie to Market on the Move and the local grocery store to stock up the kitchen with fresh veggies and fruit galore.  (I'll admit we also stocked up the liquor cabinet, but hey, that's just us getting ready for the holidays!)  We came home with, among other things, a big basket of pears, which I proceeded to drop on the tile in our kitchen only two days later.  This in turn left us with a kitchen full of fresh veggies, fruit, and bruised pears!  I instantly went into Betty Crocker-mode, and starting skimming through my cookbooks and favorite food blogs to try and figure out what to do with all those bruised pears.  While I could have done Pear Sauce (Applesauce w/ pears) or a Pear Cobbler, I wanted to really challenge myself to get creative, and make something potentially serve-able for the pre-Thanksgiving dinner me and my hunnie are hosting this weekend.  I decided to take an Apple Cider Cake recipe I found, and alter it a bit for the pears.  Did I mention that I don't own a cake pan?  So...I altered the recipe even more by baking the cake in my dutch oven.  While I'm not much for taking risks, boy do I love accomplishing unfathomable feats in the kitchen! 

While this cake is made with wheat flour, the pear puree keeps it moist and light.  This Dutch Oven Pear Cake was great, not only because it was rustic, sweet, and seasonal, but also because it made me feel like the REAL Betty, aceing a new recipe in the kitchen, impressing the friends with a beautiful cake, and winning a kiss from a very impressed hunnie.

Dutch Oven Pear Cake
for the Pears...
4-5 bruised (or perfect) Bartlett Pears, sliced (seeds and stems removed)
1 cup Apple Cider
1/4 cup honey
for the Cake...
1 1/2 cups wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove  
7 tablespoons butter + more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Use butter to grease the sides and bottom of the dutch oven (or cake pan).  In a metal pot (no cast iron), bring cider and honey to a simmer.  Add sliced pears and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  Once pears are cool, scoop out about 8-10 pear slices, and using a fork or potato masher, mash the fruit until it is half chunky/half pureed (think chunky applesauce). 

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and clove.  In another bowl, cream the softened butter and brown sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.  Then add the chunky pear puree, and mix thoroughly.  Add 1 cup of dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir.  Repeat until all dry ingredients are combined with wet ingredients.  Mixture should be somewhat thick (similar to a quick bread).

Scoop mixture into the center of the dutch oven and use the spoon to spread the batter evenly.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the remaining sliced pears, one at a time and distribute over the top of the cake in any pattern you wish.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick pushed in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cake cool before removing from dutch oven.

*It's likely you will have cider left in the pan after using all the pears in the cake.  You can certainly enjoy it as is, or do like we did and warm it up to make an Apple Hot Toddy.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Your Thursday Space Update

Colorado, New York, Colorado, California, Colorado...this is basically what my last month has looked like.  I'm happy to say the travel and long work days have been totally worth while, as my team successfully completed our Engineering Peer Review yesterday.  This is an exciting time for OSIRIS-REx, as we kick off our Critical Design Review season, and in a few weeks, start the 1000 day countdown to launch.  This is also an exciting time for space exploration.  Our sister project, MAVEN, is set to launch next week and begin its journey to Mars, while India's Mars Orbiter Mission is already completing orbit maneuvers around the Earth to build up enough momentum to "launch" itself toward the red planet.  To many people, these space missions seem like a "waste" of taxpayer money, but these missions increase our knowledge about the inner workings of the universe and tell us the story of the creation of our very own solar system.  Not to mention these missions can tell us a lot about our own life on Earth.
 The image you see above was released by NASA back in July.  You are looking at a real image of Saturn, taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.  This image was created by sewing together thousands of tiny "thumbnail" size pictures taken over a period of 4 hours.  At the point this image was taken, Saturn was positioned right in front of the Sun, while the spacecraft was on the opposite side of the planet.  It's like a lunar eclipse, where the moon is positioned in between the Earth and the Sun, but instead Saturn is positioned in between the Sun and the spacecraft.  The importance of having Saturn backlit by the Sun means that less solar light reached Cassini's cameras and Cassini was able to capture brighter images of Saturn's rings (and otherwise faint stars and planets).  The image on the below right is a scaled-in (zoomed-in) version of the same image you see above.  You see that arrow pointing to a tiny white dot?  That tiny white dot is the Earth & Moon.  Yep, Cassini captured an image of the Earth from a distance of 100 million miles away.  The image on the right is the raw thumbnail image take by Cassini that captured the Earth and the Moon.  Pretty amazing to think what human knowledge can accomplish thanks to the Space industry.  Somewhere on that little gleam of white light you were probably busy cooking dinner, filling your gas tank, or enjoying a glass of wine.  Ever hear the saying a picture tells a thousand words??? 

Images courtesy of:  http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov  

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