Wine Wishes & Cupcake Dreams

If you don’t remember watching that show, I feel vaguely sorry for you.

Nearly every Tuesday night, I can be found at the same place with the same assortment of friends. As I told Marc, the capable bartender at this establishment, I think it says a lot about the group of people and the libations he serves up that the night I look forward to most in my week isn’t Friday or Saturday, but Tuesday. It’s almost a reward for making it through Monday and Second Monday (because, let’s be honest, that’s all Tuesday really is).

The people that gather here every week are the brothers and sisters I never had, and the sense of family and comfort and assurance that you’re accepted as yourself at all times is strong and encouraging. As is the wine.

The cupcakes, on the other hand, are just divine.

Continue reading Wine Wishes & Cupcake Dreams

Bacon Chocolate-Chip Cookies: The New Frontier

Bacon can do many things; breakfast things, lunch things, dinner things, salad things, appetizer things, entree things…you name it.

But can bacon conquer the world beyond savory food?  Can bacon conquer dessert?

Dan Phillips says “yes.”  Behold his latest creation: the Bacon Chocolate-Chip Cookie with Maple-Cinnamon Glaze.

Will this cookie’s popularity destroy the demand for other cookies?  Will Snickerdoodles go the way of the dodo?  Or is this simply a delicious yet passing fad?

If you can’t decide, the fine folks over at Fark will certainly try and sway your opinion, with hilarious results.

What do you say?  Bacon cookies are go?

3.14159265 Day Is Coming!

Fellow food blogger and all-around cool cat Krysta over at Evil Chef Mom has come up with what is guaranteed to become a food blogging tradition in years to come: 3.14 Day, also known as Pie Day, which will take place on — of course — March 14th (3.14, if you still aren’t getting it…).

Participants in Pie Day will bake their favorite pie, post the recipe and post pictures of their pie creations.  I’m no baker, but I do make a mean Chess Pie, which will be my contribution to Pie Day.  Also, I’m of the mind that more people need to be introduced to the wonder and glory that is Chess Pie (a.k.a. Vinegar Pie, but only if you’re about 85 years old).

I have no idea why it’s called Chess Pie; I don’t care to speculate on the etymology of its name, as there are probably hundreds of possible origins for its strange moniker.  All I know is that it’s delicious and comforting and unlike any other pie out there.

I’m not going to elaborate too much on the Chess Pie right now; that will be saved for 3.14 Day.  But if you’d like to participate in 3.14 Day yourself, head on over to Krysta’s page and let her know.  Sadly, there will be no mass sharing of the pies, which somewhat deflates the fun, so you’ll just have to imagine how that Buttermilk Pie or Rhubarb Pie actually tastes.

Or…you could make it yourself, which is kind of the point.

Until then…happy pie-ing!

I Won’t Quit My Day Job…

Remember how I told you about that eggnog pound cake mix that I received for Christmas from my Day Job boss, along with a cute little Santa cake pan? People around here seem to have entirely too much confidence in my baking abilities for some reason. But I appreciate the thought.

And as sure as eggs is eggs, I managed to utterly screw up the beautiful eggnog pound cake that I attempted to make this weekend. And it was a mix, people! A mix! I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong. All I know is that the pound cake ended up tasting and feeling more like eggnog-flavored angel food cake, which — surprisingly — does not taste very good at all.

More disconcertingly, the entire ridiculous concoction stuck hard and fast to the adorable mini-pound cake pan which my mother loaned me for the specific purpose of making tiny birthday cakes for my father’s birthday. Instead of a lovely mini-cake with confectioner’s sugar and a twee candle for his birthday, however, I gave him a spoon and told him to dig in. Happy birthday, indeed.

This is what I get for making eggnog-flavored anything past December 31st, I suppose.

Boo.

Beer-Cheese Bread

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe since I wrote about it last month and, well, I’m scatterbrained.  But a few lovely readers have taken advantage of the shiny, new EMAIL ME! feature to the right to remind me.  Thank you, readers!

So without further ado, I present:

Beer-Cheese Bread
Serves: 6

1 bottle of beer (12 oz)
3 cups self-rising flour (King Arthur makes the best…)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter (melted, divided into two portions)
1 cup grated or shredded cheese (optional)
 
Mix together all ingredients until well-blended, including the first half of the melted butter.  No kneading necessary, but I do mix it with my hands a bit towards the end.  It will be nice and sticky when mixed together.

Pour/scrape into a lightly-greased loaf pan (2 small loaf pans or one large) and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Halfway through baking, take the bread out of the oven and pour the rest of the melted butter on top.  You’ll know the bread is done when the top is golden with a bit of brown.  Remove from oven and serve warm.

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To me, the best part of this recipe is the fact that the bread is incredibly versatile.  You don’t have to knead it, you don’t have to let it rise and you can either make a sweet, breakfast bread by leaving out the cheese or a dusky, savory bread by using a darker beer (say, Shiner Bock or St. Arnold’s Amber) and an adventurous cheese.

Lately, I’ve been using finely grated sheep’s milk romano, which of course pairs nicely with the hearty bean and vegetable soups that I’ve been making to accompany the bread.  The romano is sharp and salty, which contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the sugar and the yeasty taste of the beer.  All in all, I’m quite a big fan of the romano cheese in the bread.

But there are also the good standbys: mild Cheddar and finely diced chives (about half a cup) make a delicious appetizer-style bread.  And Monterey Jack or Colby Jack with minced jalapeños makes a great Mexican-inspired bread, especially if you use Dos Equis or Tecate for the beer.  And you can always leave the jalapeño seeds out if you’re seeking flavor instead of fire.

Leave out the cheese entirely for a light, slightly crumbly bread that’s great to serve with jam and butter as a breakfast treat.  And if you use the cheapo beer (like Miller Light, which — normally — blech, but it’s okay here), there’s almost no taste of beer whatsoever — just a light, yeasty taste which is very refreshing and clean tasting.  So no one needs to know that you’re serving beer bread for breakfast!

Have fun, experiment and let me know what you come up with!  I’m always interested to see what concoctions people create out of this simple recipe.

Happy baking!

Santa Cake!

I came into work this morning to find that my awesome Day Job boss had left this on my desk as a Christmas present:

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Not the actual Santa cake, mind you, but the adorable cake pan from Williams-Sonoma that one would theoretically use to create the Santa cake pictured above.  To wit:

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She had also thoughtfully packaged it together with this scrumptious-sounding cake mix:

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Although I prefer baking from scratch — sans mixes — the addition of eggnog (extract? flavoring? tiny eggnog molecules? I have no idea how Williams-Sonoma is defining this) to a poundcake is irresistable.  It should make for a nice, festive dessert on Christmas Eve alongside our leg of lamb and whatever else my mother is whipping up for dinner.

Now, as to the actual decorating of said Santa cake, I fear that with my subpar decorating skills it will turn out less like the lovely cake pictured above and more like this:

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Thank God we don’t have little kids coming to Christmas dinner this year.

Where in dreams I live with a memory…

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As you may or may not have guessed by the headline (…I’m betting on “may not,” unless you’re an old school country music fan), I’m heading to San Antonio for the weekend.  Richard and I have a wedding to attend and — in my down time — I’ll be doing spreadsheet-intensive work for the Day Job.  So that means no updates this weekend.  Hey, at least I’m telling you in advance.

Until I get back, I’ll leave you with photos from this evening’s meal: Hearty Tomato and Bean Soup with Beer-Cheese Bread.

The batter smelled like, well, beer. But in that lovely, cool, fresh yeast-y way. And it smelled even better coming back out of the oven.

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Look at all the happy veggies, swimming around in the velvety tomato sauce together! I basically threw in every vegetable I had in my fridge and freezer; this is one of those great “clear out your fridge” recipes.

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A close-up of a fault line that developed on the bread, barely exposing the sweet, fluffy interior. I don’t care if it isn’t technically called a “fault line.” I just really enjoy saying “fault line.”

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And a final, parting shot of the warm bread.

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Good night and happy eating till I see you on Monday!

Christmas Cookies

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At the Day Job, we’ve adopted a needy family for Christmas and everyone was assigned different presents to bring for either the mother, the father or one of the four children.  Needless to say, we went a bit overboard and bought way more than they asked for on their Christmas list.  Some of us are venting our as-yet-unnecessary maternal hormones on the kids, while others are honing their doting grandparent skills.  And others are merely feeling the Christmas spirit, I suppose.  As for me, I bought a bright pink-and-purple bike with streamers for the seven-year-old girl (not pictured).

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I baked sugar cookies last night to take over to the family today.  And then I realized when I came in this morning that the gift delivery wasn’t until next Friday and therefore the cookies have become moot.  Richard will kill me, as he was playing his typical vulture act out in the kitchen all last night, hoping for a cookie to be thrown his way (I almost said “tossed” his way…heh…tossing cookies…*ahem*…anyway) as I was heavily guarding them from his predatory advances.  I’ll save a few for him, but the rest are going to the department potluck this afternoon.

And how’s Christmas looking around your office?  Assuming you have one, that is…

On Scones, Part Two

It took me a while to post them, but here are the pictures of the scones I promised you in the original On Scones post.

Here’s the dough, before it’s kneaded slightly and put onto a cookie sheet.  I added a bit too much milk by mistake (that’s what I get for not measuring…), and although the dough was moister and stickier than I prefer, the scones still turned out fine.

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Two fresh scones; so happy together!  I sprinkled more sugar on top than usual, because Richard wanted “sweet” scones.  We took it a step further and added some jam later.  Normally, I’d just eat them with a pat of butter and maybe some lightly-drizzled honey.

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A bit of butter and jam, and we’re good to go.

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If I’m going to continue my amateur food photography, I think I may need to invest in a light box and some white plates, because my antique — very lovely, but very aqua — plates just don’t seem to be cutting it.  🙂

Enjoy!

On Scones

One of my favorite things to do on weekend mornings (and one of Richard’s favorite things for me to do) is to bake scones.

Growing up, my mother made fresh buttermilk biscuits on the weekends and sometimes even during the week if we were lucky.  Her biscuits have layer upon delicate layer of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  They are little, delicious dollops of true Southern comfort food baked upon a seasoned iron skillet.  And I remain unconvinced that I’ll ever be able to make anything as perfect.

What I can make, however, are scones.  Richard, being English, prefers this — his own little nook of food-induced comfort on the weekends — so I revel in preparing them on Saturday mornings, before anyone else has gotten up, when I can open the windows and hear nothing but the soft sounds of wind through the pine trees and the chirping of sparrows.

I’ve tried many different scone recipes in the pursuit of something that I’m truly proud to present in the mornings.  Some recipes turn out scones that are too hard; others are too light and crumbly; still others are too cake-like.  One day I found a recipe that called for strawberry yogurt in lieu of milk or eggs, in an attempt to make the scones fruit-based without using any actual fruit.

That sounded rather disgusting to me, and I didn’t have any strawberry yogurt anyway.  But I did (and always do) have a large tub of vanilla yogurt on hand and decided to give it a try with a few modifications.  What emerged from the oven after ten minutes were the best scones that I’ve ever tasted.  What’s better, they were the best scones that Richard had ever tasted.  And if that isn’t a seal of approval, I don’t know what is.

Here’s the recipe:

Continue reading On Scones