Tag: Treats

Adventures in Sconing

Happy belated Easter to you all! I hope you were all blessed with as beautiful an Easter Day in your home towns as we were in Charlotte. Simply gorgeous!

To celebrate this joyous day we joined some friends for an after church outdoor brunch. It was potluck. After last week’s potluck fiasco resulting in me showing up to a cookout with store-bought potato salad (gasp!), I knew I had to redeem myself. My foodie/cook reputation could be hanging in the balance…

So, I thought long and hard about what my contribution to this brunch would be and the answer was clear – SCONES!!  I ask you, what is more “spring brunchy” than SCONES?!?

Once again, I turned to The Foster’s Market Cookbook for inspiration.  More specifically, I chose to make Sara Foster’s Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones.

I got up early before church to whip these babies up.  Did I mention that I’ve never made scones before?  So they didn’t exactly “whip up”.  They were a little labor intensive.  Maybe that wasn’t a good idea when I’m trying to redeem myself from a major foodie faux pas!  I was nervous and in a rush after waking up 30 min later than intended.  So I don’t have a lot of pics because 1) I hadn’t had my requisite two cups of coffee (which is dangerous in and of itself) yet while I was making these and 2) these scones were stressing me out.

The recipe called for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients mix with a food processor.  I only have a mini-Cuisinart, not a full sized one.  So it took me several attempts to figure out how I was going to make this work in shifts.  Ultimately I cut little cubes of butter into the large bowl of dry ingredients then transfered it into the mini-Cuisinart for some pulsing in 3/4 cup shifts.  We got through it, but ultimately my kitchen looked like a flour bomb exploded in it.

Once cut and mixed, it was now time for me to add in the wet ingredients…buttermilk with espresso dissolved into it.  The Foster’s Market Cookbook maintains that it is the use of buttermilk, versus the typical heavy cream or half-and-half, yields a “lighter and flakier” scone.

The recipe called for this to be mixed in a large bowl, so I whipped out the largest bowl I have.  It apparently wasn’t large enough as I could really couldn’t stir the ingredients without sloshing it all over my already flour dusted countertop.  So…I dove in with my hands, trying my best to distribute the ingredients evenly.

So as I’m attempting to mix with my hands, thinking “This isn’t going well” to myself, and becoming increasingly aware that I’m running really late, I read the words “Do not overwork the dough” in the recipe. But that’s it.  No further indication of what action would result overworked dough.  Clearly, Sara’s target audience has prior biscuit making experience. I’ve said it before – I cook.  I don’t really bake.  Which, again, makes me think this wasn’t the best idea for today.  Don’t overwork the dough?!?  What does THAT look like?  How would I know?

I finally get frustrated trying to finish mixing the dough by hand in the bowl and just dump it out on the kitchen counter,

wash the espresso-buttermilk goo off my hands, and head back to the recipe.  Well, what do you know.  I was SUPPOSED to dump it out on the counter.  Maybe I have more “baker instincts” than I thought…

Confident in my new baker skills, I commenced rolling.  Gigantor chocolate chip cookie anyone?

Incidentally, the recipe makes two of those so that you end up with 12 total scones.  From here, it’s pretty easy.  You just cut it into six equal triangles, brush them in an egg wash, and bake them up.

The only problem now is, it’s 9:50 a.m. and I have to serve them at 12:30 p.m. – piping hot!  Will they be okay if I put them in the fridge for 3 hours before baking them?  Surely they will right?  That won’t mess up the baking chemistry will it?  AAAAHHHH….now I’m nervous again.  I should have asked somebody about this first.   I really don’t want to mess up my contribution to a friend’s potluck gathering for the second week in a row!

At this point I have no choice.  I’m pretty sure that it’s more “dangerous” to leave the raw sliced dough on greased  baking sheets sitting on my countertop.  So into the fridge they went.  And I rushed home from church an popped them into the oven before heading over to brunch…holding my breath along the way.

Well, they look like proper scones to me…

Okay, so we were 20 min late, but we showed up with fresh-from-the-oven, piping hot scones as everyone was sitting down on the lawn to eat.  Half of them were gone before I could get them to the buffet.

Rave reviews all around!  Comments from the peanut gallery went something like “Those are awesome!”  “These are fantastic!”  “Did you make these from scratch?”  I am redeemed…which has more than one meaning for me on this lovely Easter Sunday.

So, I think I can safely say that my foodie reputation in firmly in tact!

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

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Tour de Kitchens

Our friend Ashley

is renovating her kitchen.  When I say “renovating” I mean “gutting”… as in knocking walls down, rewiring, moving the appliance locations, new cabinets – the works!  That means she will not have a working kitchen of her own for a least 8 weeks.  She and her roommate, Lauren, devised a brilliant plan to ensure that they won’t have to live off Ramen noodles and take out for two months.  It’s called the Tour de Kitchens.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Ashley and Lauren threw a big cookout for all their friends before the big kitchen demolition.
  2. While at said cookout, all the friends signed up for a schedule of dates to have the two lovely ladies over for dinner – touring the kitchens of their friends and blogging about it along the way.
  3. Ashley and Lauren throw a big dinner party for all these friends once the kitchen is complete.

In a sense, they feed us twice and we feed them once.  Not a bad deal.  And a super fun idea!  I highly recommend it to any of you planning a major kitchen reno in the future.

Well, Sunday was our turn to host.  I love to entertain and always want to leave my guests wanting more.  So, I always try to make my dinner parties memorable.  However, for this particular dinner party the stakes were especially high. Let me explain…

First, Ashley is a foodie.  A serious foodie.  In fact, she’s been writing a blog called The Charlotte Food Snob since 2006.  It chronicles her adventures in eating out in our fair city.  Secondly, she’s in our church community group which takes turns bringing wine and snacks to various events.  Through our years in this group, I’ve developed a reputation for bringing awesome snacks like this and great bottles of wine such as this and this to our gatherings.  Not to toot my own horn, but people tend to get really excited when they know it’s our week to bring snacks.  I mean REALLY excited.

So, I’m hosting The Charlotte Food Snob herself AND I’ve got a reputation to uphold.  That means, I had to bring my A-Game.  Nothing less would do.

I find that there are three basic elements that will make or break your dinner party, not including the guests.  I call them The Three M’s of  a Successful Dinner party – Music, aMbience, and Menu.

First, the Music.  I keep a playlist on my iPod appropriately titled “Dinner Party.”  It’s a list of nearly 70 songs ranging in artists from Coldplay, to The Beatles, to Diana Krall, to Ben Harper, to Dave Matthews Band.  They are all groovy, but unobtrusive so they play nicely in the background without being “noisy” per se.   I hit shuffle so the songs play randomly and repeat so the whole thing starts over again, should we work all the way through the play list.  I usually start playing it over the speakers in the living/dining area about 30 min before my guests arrive to start setting the mood in my head.

Secondly there’s aMbience…Well, you’ve got to set a lovely table

(dig my new chairs?) and lots of candles always help.

Finally, there’s the menu…Like I said, the stakes were high.  So this menu had to be FABULOUS.  It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

The Menu
Appetizers – Goat Cheese Crostinis with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinagrette
Salad – Baby Spinach with Goat Cheese, Raspberries, and Toasted Walnuts
in Warm Olive Oil and Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar

Entree – Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce and Asparagus a la Plancha
Wine – 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert – Coffee Caramel Creme Brulee

And, yes, the menu was so fabulous that I printed it up on card stock and placed it at each place setting. Like I said, I had to bring my A-Game.  And speaking of my A-Game, here’s my handiwork up close:

Well, most of it anyway.  I didn’t exactly get any pics of it, but I used an old faithful recipe, Goat Cheese Bruschetta, for the appetizer with a couple minor adjustments.  First, I used small crostini bread v. a large artisan loaf.  This gave them perfect bite-sized proportions.  Secondly, I used Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar, rather than plain balsamic, for the vinaigrette.  Like I mentioned before…EPIC!

Next, there was a beautiful salad

The basis was a recipe for Baby Spinach with Warm Olive Oil and Toasted Walnuts that I saved from Martha Stewart Living months ago.  But, I wanted to add a little something extra to it.  Hence, the goat cheese and raspberries.  The recipe calls for white wine vinegar, but…I just happened to have this delicious Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar from Mountain Town Olive Oil Co. in Park City.  So why go with white wine vinegar when I’ve got a bottle of that within reach?  Much more interesting!

I have to give a shout out to my colleague, Sam, who gave me a head’s up on the entree recipe from Epicurious.  Ladies and gentlemen, Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce

Sorry that the pic is kind of dark.  I was ready to dig in and did not have the patience for the subtleties of fine photography.   Nevertheless, it was as delicious and as it was easy to prepare, despite how fancy it sounds. However, in an effort to deliver the courses in a timely manner, I made the grits before our salad course and they weren’t quite as warm as I would have liked, despite keeping them in the “warming zone” of my range.  The grits cooked up very quickly.  Next time, I’ll just let the salad settle while I cook up both the grits AND the salmon.

Oh, I almost forgot about the asparagus.  It’s now one of my staples from my Spain cookbook.  So fresh!  So easy!  So YUMMY! (And it sounds super fancy if you are, I don’t know, say…printing it up on menu cards for your guests.  Just a thought…)  You basically drizzle a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice on some beautiful asparagus, salt & pepper them, then grill them up for 2-3 min on each side.  You can use an actual grill or a grill pan.  I, personally, like to use my Cuisinart Griddler.

Of course, no dinner party is complete without The Wine.  Ashley and Lauren brought a bottle of 2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

We sipped on that during apps and salads.  Epicurious especially recommended the 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc to accompany my chosen entree.

Plus, there was a little bit of it in the Caper Cream Sauce.  It was a perfect pairing.  Needless to say, both bottles were empty before the evening was over.   And for the Piece de Resistance (drum roll please…)

Homemade Caramel Coffee Creme Brulee!

Yes, to make this dish at home did require the purchase of a small blow torch.

What?  There’s a rumor going around that this whole Tour de Kitchens thing is a competition.  So, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  And if that means buying a blow torch…

then so be it! Seriously, though.  We had a blast hosting these ladies.

To hear their take on the evening, hop on over the The Charlotte Food Snob!  We’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of their Tour pans out.  And if this IS a competition, then I think we might just have this one in the bag! 😉

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up To No Good

There’s just something about staying up past midnight baking when your husband is out of town that makes it sound like you are up to no good, right?

When talking about working in the kitchen I usually say “I cook.  I don’t bake.”  I guess that’s because I don’t really have a sweet tooth.  But this week I’ve broken my mantra.  This week…I baked!

To fully appreciate this post you should know that the Beer Guy and I are HUGE Harry Potter fans. Just so you know exactly how serious we are about this, the last book was 700+ pages long, we only got one copy, and we both finished it within 48 hrs…and we did not read it simultaneously! Now that’s dedication, don’t you think?  We always went to the midnight book releases and Thursday night (Friday morning) we went to the midnight release of the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I accompanied by our friends Matt, Jen, and Carrie.  Yeah, that’s right.  We’re hard core!  In celebration of this event, I simply could not pass up this recipe for Butterbeer Cupcakes!

(If you don’t know what butterbeer is, stop reading this right now and go start the Harry Potter series.  You’ll thank me later.)

There are three parts to this recipe – cupcakes, ganache, and buttercream icing.

The ingredients for the cupcake batter are pretty standard for baking, except for two key ingredients that are essential to the buttery goodness of this recipe – creme soda and butter flavoring.

To get started on the batter you have to cream your butter then add in your sugars and eggs.  Just to illustrate how little baking I do, I had to borrow this mixer from a friend because I only have a handheld mixer myself.

(I used this task to finish part of my photography class homework assignment – shooting motion with a purpose.  Using a 1/5 sec shutter speed and a tripod allowed me to capture the motion of the mixer without making the rest of the shot blurry.)

Next you add in the vanilla and all important butter flavoring.

Until I decided to make this I did not know that stuff existed.  The recipe then calls for alternating into the butter mixture the dry ingredients, buttermilk, and 1/2 cup of creme soda.  You may wonder, though, what are you supposed to do with the rest of the creme soda since you’ve got a whole bottle and only need 1/2 cup?

Polish it off yourself, of course.

That pretty much completes the batter.  So from here you fill the cupcake tin, get them to baking….

and get to working on the ganache!  That’s right.  I said ganache.  Butterscotch ganache to be exact.  The ingredients for this are simply heavy cream and butterscotch chips.

You basically put the ingredients in a double boiler and melt them down into creamy, butterscotchy goodness like so…

And, yes, I was so serious about this recipe that, even though I do not bake regularly, I went out and bought a double boiler just so I could make this ganache. Surely a double boiler has other uses besides ganache making…

After the ganache has cooled you must poor it into some sort of squirting mechanism.  I used this one from Crate & Barrel.

Is it just me, or does this remind anyone else of puff paint from the 80’s? I’m sure there is some sort of technical baker’s name for it, but I have decided to call it my Ganache Squirter, since it is unlikely that I will use it for any other task.

With the cupcakes cooled and the Ganache Squirter filled, now comes the REALLY fun part.  You inject the ganache into the cupcakes by inserting the Ganache Squirter about half-way into the cupcake and squeezing until you notice a little ganache oozing out the top of the cupcake.

I also noticed that the cupcake would sort of swell in my hand when it was full.  This is the first of the three uses for the ganache in this recipe.  The second is for the Butterscotch/Buttercream Frosting to top off the cupcakes.

I was so engrossed with what I was doing at this point that I forgot to take pictures until I had finished the frosting and iced half my cupcakes with it.  But basically, you mix 1/3 cup of the butterscotch ganache with butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt together until it looks like this

Next you slather that buttery goodness all over the tops of your cupcakes and enlist the services of your ganache for the third time by drizzling it across the tops of the now iced cupcakes.  Amy, the author of this recipe from Amy Bites, suggests that you pipe the frosting on the tops.  But, I assure you, if you don’t have a pipette/cake decorating bag and your squirter is otherwise occupied with ganache, slathering works and tastes just as well.

Voila!  Butterbeer Cupcakes!

Please feel free to drool over the finished product.

The process took me just under 3 hours to complete.  I’m sure it would have gone much faster had I not been stopping for photo ops along the way.  It was worth every minute!  (I took some to my colleague, Sam, for her birthday since she is also a big Harry Potter fan and I’m cool like that.  The rest I packed up and took to the theater so my wizarding friends and I could munch on them while waiting to be let into the movie just before midnight.  They were a huge hit all around.)

Whew!  That’s the hardest I’ve worked in a LONG time.  Momma needs a glass of wine…

For now, though…Mischief managed!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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Remember when…

it was a treat to get popcorn at home?  Or are those of you who read this so young as to not remember a world where microwave popcorn always existed?

So I know that BG and I are like the last two people on the planet to get on this train, but we started watching Season 1 of Mad Men last night.  It’s in our Netflix queue, but I just HAD to start watching it this weekend.  So, for the first time in 2 yrs, we went to Blockbuster.

It’s been forever since I made popcorn for movie night at home, but something about actually going IN a video store made me want popcorn while we watched our DVDs.  I’d like to think it was the nostalgia of the situation that made me want the popcorn.  The act of going to the video store and standing in line there gave me flashbacks of doing the same thing on a lazy Saturday night with my family growing up… and we always had a big bowl of popcorn amongst us as we watched our chosen flick.  In reality, I’m quite sure that the plethora of popcorn, candy, and ice cream treats that surrounded us while in line at Blockbuster had considerable influence on my sudden craving.  But, the idea of wistful reminiscence just sounds so much better though…

While I munched on my popcorn and got drawn into the retro world of Mad Men I got to thinking – “Remember when popcorn was a treat?”  I don’t know about you, but I have vague memories of my mother heating the oil in the bottom of the popper and pouring the kernels into the 1970’s orange globe, then waiting for what seemed like an eternity for all the kernels to burst into the fluffy snack.  I also remember being at friends house and watching her mom cook the Jiffy Pop on the stovetop.  Because it took more than 2 minutes and required a couple ingredients and some equipment it was a treat reserved for semi-special occasions.

As I wandered back from memory lane, I became keenly aware of the film that the fake powdered butter on my popcorn was leaving on the roof of my mouth.  I don’t ever remember having that problem with popcorn from a popper.  So with popcorn, as with all foods, freshly made is always better and making it the way our mothers and grandmothers did is too. That’s just a little food for thought that “popped” in my brain.

Cheers, y’all!
Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: https://kitchendoesnttravel.com/archives/481

Control Issues?

Last night was the final night of a Bible study I was doing this summer.  Our host asked if some of us could bring snacks for our final session since she was going to have a terribly busy day and no real time to get a snack organized.  Well, I totally forgot…until it was time to leave.  So I did what anyone would do in that situation.  I ran in the grocery store on my way out and grabbed the first easy thing that crossed my line of sight.  (I know, I know.  I have just committed a cardinal foodie sin.) While racing through the grocery store at warped speed I came across these little beauties in the frozen section. (Sorry for the fuzzy pic.)

I had them a someone’s house earlier this summer, so I knew they were good.  The directions on the back say “allow to thaw a room temperature for 30 minutes and serve.”  I know they are yummy.  Takes 30 min to thaw.  Takes 30 min to get to my Bible study.  SOLD!

We only ate about a third of them at Bible study because other snacks were also available, so I was able to surprise BG with leftovers of the decadent little treat once I got home.  It’s a treat because we DO NOT keep stuff like this in our house.  I had to be dramatic about the presence of such a treat, so when I arrived home I made him close his eyes and hold out his hand into which I placed a single Mini-Eclair.  I prompted him to open his eyes.  Upon recognizing the petite pastry his eyes widened and he popped it in his mouth and moaned in approving delight while he nearly swallowed it whole.  This was followed by a hurried “Where did THAT come from?”  I showed him the box, he immediately grabbed three more then looked at me very sternly and said “Take it away.” Ok… so downstairs I went and put the leftovers in the fridge.

I got home from work a little early today and after settling in went straight to the fridge to get myself a bite-sized bit of yumminess and THIS is what I found

He’s been on a conference call for the last hour and 15 min that I’ve been home so I haven’t been able to ask him about it.  I’m guessing he was having a little trouble staying away today…

Yeah, I’d say so.  The box was about half full when I put it away last night.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I did eat two myself before I got the idea to take pics and make a post out of this little episode. And in HIS defense they are delicious and addictive.)

He’s still on the conference call.  He’ll probably flip when he realizes that I posted this!  It’s all in good fun, though.  Right, babe?

Cheers, y’all!
Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: https://kitchendoesnttravel.com/archives/291

Guilty Pleasures

For some reason I’ve been craving a lot of these lately:

I’m generally not a “sweets” eater.  I’d like to claim that is completely in an effort to be healthy.  But the truth is that I really just don’t have a sweet tooth. On the other hand, I’ve never met a plate of cheese fries I didn’t like.  So, don’t go handing me a medal of honor just yet.  Please don’t misunderstand me, though.  I rarely let myself indulge in something THAT sinful.  I’m just saying if I have to choose between a brownie (sweet) and fries (salty), I’m going for the fries every time.

But sometimes there is just nothing better than some warm cookies and an ice cold glass of milk. Since I only get a “cookies and milk” craving about twice a year, I generally roll with it when it comes.  A girl’s got to live a little, right?

My warm cookie of choice is the Nestle Ultimate with chocolate chunks and mini peanut butter cups.  (I’m a firm believer that the chocolate and peanut butter combo was sent to us directly from heaven.) Couple that with a glass of Horizon Organic Fat Free milk and I’m good for about 10 minutes of sheer bliss!

You wouldn’t know it from most of my posts lately, but I really do try to eat healthily most of the time.  But every now and then you need a little treat, right?  So now that you know my secret, what about you?  What’s your guilty pleasure?

Cheers, y’all!
Wine Girl

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