Happy Hour: Blue Cheese Bacon Bread

Ah my darlings, Friday is nearly complete. The work week is done and soon the feet will be clad in fuzzy socks and propped up on the footstool. My baby and I will finally have the chance to sit down together and unwind.

Getting back to work after the holidays was especially hard this year as the bad weather hit just as we were starting to get back to the normal daily grind. Even though it was January, we were previously having 70 degree days so ice storms and snow fall took everyone by surprise. It also delayed projects, rescheduled appointments and a host of other things. For both of us this week was all about catching up and getting things back on track. We both had a lot of late nights this week.

Which makes the Friday wind down extra special. Tonight’s treat is Blue Cheese Bacon Bread. Each week I make a loaf of regular bread to be used for sandwiches throughout the week. This week I doubled the recipe used one half to make the regular loaf and the other to make the blue cheese bacon one. The recipe list is the single one with the ingredients for one loaf. This bread does freeze really well though. Just let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and then add a layer of tin foil and it will keep well in the freezer. when you want to use it take it out and let it thaw completely before using. We tend to take the loaves out in the morning before work and then they are ready by dinnertime.

What I like about the recipe is that it is easy to do when working from home. There is about ten minutes of activity, then a forty five minute waiting period. Then another five minutes of activity, with another forty five minute rest followed by a forty five minute bake. I like to use it to focus on activities. For example i had a couple of tasks I was putting off so I took one forty five minute wait and one task and tried to finish it before I had to go back to the kitchen. Then when I returned I took down another task I’d been putting off. It is kind of a nice way to clear off things i’d been putting off doing. Plus I get a delicious treat at the end of it.

pulling away from the sides in the mixer

Ingredients

3 cups AP flour + pinch

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 Tablespoon yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup milk, room temp (I like to put it in the microwave for 15 seconds to take the fridge chill off rather than leaving it out)

1/2 tsp sugar + pinch

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Table spoon salt

half a cup of cooked bacon crumbled (you can use store bought bacon bits if you don’ want to cook bacon, just get the ones that look like real pieces of bacon (mostly for texture)

half a cup of blue cheese crumbles

Steps:

piled in the center before folding in.
  • stir the yeast together with the 3/4 cup of water and add the pinch of sugar and pinch of salt to the mix (to feed the yeast) Set it in a warm place until it is foamy (10-15 min)
  • If using a stand mixer, using the dough hook: Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. When the yeast is foamy add the entire bowl of yeast mix to the flour, then add the milk, melted butter and honey. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed for 3 minutes while the dry and wet ingredients come together. When it no longer looks like flour will fly everywhere, increase the speed just a little bit (for mind it is no higher than three lines and well below medium speed. You are bringing your dough together not beating it into submission). When it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides, turn the mixer off.
  • If mixing by hand, once your yeast is foamy combine everything except the blue cheese and the bacon into a bowl and bring it together to form a ball.
  • If your dough ball is sticky, regardless of mixer or no mixer mixing, dust it with a little bit of flour and knead it just until it comes together to form a smooth ball.
  • Lightly grease a bowl (I tend to just use a spray bottle of oil on the bowl from my stand mixer) and put the dough in the bowl. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 min, come back, take your ball of dough out of the mixer (If making regular bread with no flavorings (i.e. bacon and blue cheese) then just put the dough into a well greased bread pan, cover and let sit for 45 min.) For the blue cheese and bacon bread. put the risen dough on a floured work surface and stretch it out as though you were making a pizza (don’t throw it in the air, just stretch on the table and try not to press too much air out. put the blue cheese and bacon crumbles in the center. fold the sides over the fillings, covering them completely. Knead the dough a few times to work the blue cheese and bacon into the dough. Then you can either put it in a loaf pan or make a free formed size on a greased sheet pan. Cover and let sit for 45 min.
  • Just before the 45 min rest is over, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
  • When the 45 minute rest is done, put the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When it sounds hollow as out tap it with a knife, it is ready to be removed.
all rolled up, slashes in the top so it looks nice when it comes out

Without fillings, this makes a really good white sandwich bread. The fillings are of course your own choice. Try to go for fillings that don’t have a lot of moisture in them and you can’t go wrong. we often turn this loaf into cheddar and jalapeno bread or walnut and fig. It also makes great cinnamon and raisin bread. If you are going to start adding wet ingredients, reduce the amount of water you use with the yeast to keep it from getting soggy or cook out some of the moisturize from the ingredients. When I use this bread recipe for a mushroom, sage and onion bread, I cook both the mushrooms and onions ahead of time to reduce the moisture so that i can leave the recipe as it is.

the final loaf

Tonight I used blue cheese and bacon and I will pair it with a nice crisp hard apple cider. I find it pairs well with the blue cheese and cuts through the fattiness of the bacon. Sometimes I will even serve this bread with crisp slices on granny smith apple on top. It makes a great snack as well as a happy hour treat. Whatever you do tonight, I hope you take some time to rest and regroup and just allow yourself the space to breath. Have a great weekend.

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Happy Hour: Mushroom and Onion Puff Pastry Bites

This week there will be little drinking. My babydoll is still trying to knock out a sinus infection and my allergies are making under eye patches more appealing than cocktails. I generally find that when my allergies are acting up the best thing for them is to drink as much water as possible in an attempt to flush my system.

So tonight’s delightful beverage of choice is from HINT water. While I adore the blackberry, tonight I went with pomegranate and I rather like it. It has a hint of sweet, a hint of tart and is quite refreshing. I also poured it into a stemless champagne flute (Rachel Zoe Collection from TJMAXX if you are interested). It makes any drink feel fancy.

And to be honest our Friday night Happy Hour is more about resting and regrouping together at the end of the work week than it is about having a cocktail. The cocktail is just a nice way to celebrate and slow down. But quite honestly, the Pomegranate Hint Water in my pretty glass is plenty fine for me to sip tonight.

And I get to pair it with a super simple treat that always feels like I spent way more effort on it than I actually did. This is a super easy treat that is just plain yummy. The ingredients list is short.

Ingredients:

One red onion, diced

8 ounces of button mushrooms, diced

1 Tablespoon of fresh sage leaves, minced

1-2 Tablespoons of butter (i use unsalted butter)

1 sheet of puff pastry

salt to taste

Okay are you ready for the cook? First dice and chop all of your ingredients. The melt one tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Use medium heat and cook until they are soft. You can go all the way to caramelized if you want, but I generally find red onions to be sweet enough without caramelizing. If I use a yellow onion I take the onions to a caramelized state.

If the pan is dry add another table spoon of butter and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the are brown and have released the juices.

You may notice that I have used two pans. You don’t need to do this. The onions take longer but you can add the mushrooms in once the onions start to look translucent. I just started my onions in a non-stick skillet by accident. Mushrooms won’t brown in a non-stick skillet. They will cook, but they won’t brown. That is the only reason that i cooked them separately.

Once the mushrooms are almost done, add in the sage leaves. You want them in the pan just long enough to release their oils. If you start them with the mushrooms then by the end they get a little sour and overly medicinal. So just toss them in towards the end and let them just release the oils.

Take out your onion mushroom and sage mix out of the pan and let cool. I put my mix in a strainer so that any excess liquid comes out but really there isn’t much liquid that remains. It is mostly so it cools faster.

Once cooled, cut your puff pastry into squares (or circles or stars or whatever shape you want). Place a spoon of your mix on the pastry and seal it up into a little triangle, or make it like a ravioli, or a dumpling. The shape is up to you, just make sure it is sealed. Then place the parcels on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden brown and crispy.

my puff pastry got a little warm so my squares are a bit wonky. They may not look perfect, but they taste lovely

While this is a basic recipe, feel free to play around with it. Sometimes we add goats cheese to this mix. Sometimes I’ll make them sweet with a filling of mascarpone and apricot jam. It is one of those super simple tricks that make an easy happy hour treat, or canape for drop by guests. The trick is always to make sure that your filling is not too wet. I also like to use cooked fillings so that all I need in the oven is time to brown the puff pastry.

And actually if you make too many of these, they freeze really well. Just don’t cook the once you plan to freeze. Fill the puff pastry and then freeze them flat. Once full frozen, put them in a bag. Then when you take them out, thaw in the fridge and bake.

Whatever your end of the week looks like, I hope you take a few minutes to just slow down and spend time just to enjoy a few moments of peace.

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Happy Hour: Fun and Fruity

Good afternoon my darlings and welcome to the Friday Happy Hour. And I am certainly ready for it. Today was so crazed I even missed my Friday Face mask. It’s a definite indicator that it is time for a weekend. Last weekend my baby and I over indulged and with little meal planning this week, well we didn’t exactly get back on the healthy train.

So tonight we went a little bit easy on the end of the week treats. While we both like the little Friday indulgences, it is more about sitting back and taking some time to breath after a long week. So today is a very lite happy hour. The first is the drink. I went non-alcoholic this week. My drink was simply a splash of Sour Cherry Syrup into a glass (8 oz glass) topped with a mini- Canada Dry Ginger ale. If you put the sour cherry syrup in the bottom and then pour the ginger ale over it you get this really neat ombre effect with the dark red at the bottom fading to pink and then finally to gold at the top.

The effect doesn’t last as the bubbles cause everything to mix. The mixing makes it taste good but you loose the pretty look. It still looks nice, especially if you put it in a pretty glass. I went with one of the stemless champagne flutes from the Rachel Zoe Collection.

If you wanted to make this an alcoholic drink you could easily just add something like vodka to it. Personally I really like the ginger mixing with the sour cherry so I would probably go with some sort of ginger flavored alcohol. I don’t know how many of you have every tried the Ginger liquor called The King’s Ginger, but a little of that and then a topping of carbonated water would be nice and refreshing as well. Although the King’s Ginger is great on it’s own. If you are a fan of ginger, I highly recommend checking them out. Today, I am happy with the cherry syrup and ginger ale.

To pair with it, we went for home dried apple slices. I like to slice what apples we have on hand and then sprinkle them with seasonings before putting them in the dehydrator to dry. The spice dusting changes depending on the mood. Today I went with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and a touch of nutmeg. the apples we had on hand were very sweet and drying them just made them sweeter. After they were out, my babydoll added a pinch of cayenne to his to make them a little spicy. I wanted the ginger to shine through more than I wanted heat so I declined the addition.

All told it was a nice light way to kick back and enjoy the evening and unwind a little. while it wasn’t as indulgent as some of the treats I make for Happy Hour, this week, it felt decident because of all of the warm spices and the pretty glass. I’ll admit, the ombre effect didn’t hurt.

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Happy Hour: Salami and Sour Cherries

Once again the week has ended and the office clothes have been exchanged for comfortable pajama pants and comfortably worn t-shirts.  And today, I had no real control over our happy hour.  It was all my babydoll’s doing. 

He has been brewing again as he wanted to get several batches put up before the summer sun started affecting his brewing work space.  So he brewed more in one sitting than usual.  As a result he needed more bottles.  Usually he orders his brewing supplies on-line, but the need for bottles was kind of immediate, so he went in search of a homebrew supply locale.  He found one and secured his bottles.  Tonight he will be a bottling fiend and I am banished from the kitchen while he does so.

However when he found the homebrew store he found out there is an Eastern European Deli in the same shopping complex. 

He went a little bananas.

And so tonight for Happy Hour we are having a Hungarian Salami sliced into thin rounds and accompanied by a pickles from the same company and some pepperoncini’s.  It is a really good mix.  The salami is spiced but not hotly spiced and it has a good fat content for the sausage.  This salty fatty spicy meat pairs really well with the slightly sweet and sour pickled flavor of the Hungarian gherkins.  They have a fairly mild flavor.  Personally I prefer them room temperature rather than fridge cold so that more of the flavor comes out of them.  They also seem to be less astringent when they are room temperature. The Pepperoncini’s are  both astringent and provide the element of heat to the offerings.  They have a slight sweetness too which matches well with the pickles.

 They are not an overpoweringly hot pepper.  They are however full of pickling liquid.  It is why we have them in a bowl instead of laid out neatly on a plate.  When we eat them, we pull out the stem.  I like the heat so I tend to leave the seeds.  You can take them out if you want them milder.  But either way you have to squeeze them over the bowl so you don’t dripple and squirt the peppers all over everything.  It always amazes me how much liquid they can gather inside them.

As for drinks, to be honest I wasn’t feeling like alcohol tonight.  Luckily my baby picked up a bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup while at the deli.  The sourness helps balance the sickly sweet almost cough syrup like taste that regular cherry syrup can have. 

I added a measure to a glass of carbonated water (courtesy of my Soda Stream) and then added just a drop of lemon juice to the mix.  There you have a super simple non-alcoholic beverage to sip along side the platter, or just sitting on the back porch as the heat of the day fades.  It is easy enough to make this alcoholic if you want, I would suggest sticking to your clear liquors though.  Citrus flavored vodkas are especially nice with this. 

The only issue is that it is a big bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup and once opened it needs to be refrigerated. I suspect that because it is kind of taking up prime real estate in the fridge we will be using it often in the next few weeks.  I will have some of my non-alcoholic versions throughout the week and possibly be using it in some of my upcoming cocktail recipes. 

But for now it is a very low key home happy hour and a non- alcoholic beverage to go with it as my baby and I sit back and unwind from the week.  I hope whatever you do to unwind lets you relax and let all the stress of the work week go.  Because you deserve it.

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Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Good evening my darlings and welcome once again to the Friday night Happy Hour.  While last week I dealt with the ramifications of having the second vaccine shot, this week it was my babydoll’s turn.  While mine was a condensed 24 hours of misery, his was less intense but spread out over a couple of days.  As a result, he spent the week with little appetite.  Now he is feeling better and quite hungry.

For us happy hour is about taking some time together to sit and unwind from the week.  Even before 2020 we tended towards quiet Friday nights and went out on Saturday instead.  That way we could always recoup from the week.  Usually, we take the opportunity to experiment with a new cocktail recipe and try out a delectable little treat. 

This week we are giving the alcohol a pass. It doesn’t mean that I am not having a pretty little drink though. This week I poured seltzer water into a stemless champagne flute and added a dash of grenadine.  We just got new tanks in for our Soda Stream so there are plenty of festive looking bubbles and the color is fun.  It may not be a traditional cocktail, but it is a fun drink to sip nonetheless and quite frankly I can drink almost anything out of these glasses and it feels special.

My babydoll won’t touch them  because he is worried that he will knock them over.  So he has taken one of my Blackberry Hint waters (the sparkling kind) and poured it into a very chunky looking goblet.  I have no idea how or when the goblet got into out cabinets but there it was when he reached for it, and he seems happy with his beverage choice.

We also tweaked the happy hour treat.  Technically speaking I believe this is meant to be a shared appetizer, at least when we had a version of this at a restaurant, that is how it was labeled. As an appetizer you need about six people to eat it and after that I would still suggest a light meal.

When I make this Choriqueso I make the full batch and we tend to use it as both happy hour delight and the main meal of the evening.  We certainly aren’t eating anything after this. When we do this we typically only eat about half, let it cool and put the other half away.  It reheats well in the oven and it does freeze well.  It is one of those dishes that I find easier to make in the full batch because of the size of the pan I am cooking it in and the measurements.  Plus it is something I know won’t go to waste even if we do end up freezing half.  It was also what my babydoll requested for his post pseudo flu hunger pangs.  How much will be left over is anyone’s guess. I suspect some might make it to the fridge overnight, but I doubt we will be freezing anything.

Although it seems like a bit much once you get everything together it comes together in a snap.  The only thing to remember is that you need to rehydrate your ancho chiles about half an hour or so before you begin cooking.  The only extra equipment other than a stove and oven with a broiler that you will need is a blender.  It really is the best tool for the job. If you don’t have one, you could try chopping the ancho pepper really finely and then whisking it and the other ingredients in a bowl but you won’t get the same smooth paste. It will still taste fantastic but it won’t be as smooth a paste. A food processor helps for quick cheese shredding, but it is optional.

To rehydrate the dried anchos put the chillies in a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave them to soak until they are plumped and soft. Drain, remove any seeds and use the chilies as directed. 

Ingredients

2 ancho chilies, seeded and rehydrated (see above note for rehydration)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup water

Half of a medium sized yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp Mexican oregano (if you can’t find Mexican regular oregano will do)

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cayenne

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ lbs ground pork

1 lbs Monterey jack cheese shredded

Warm tortillas for serving

  • Do all of your prep work first.  This is one of those recipes that comes together quickly so dice, shred and measure ahead of time to save yourself some stress. As all the spices go in at once you can just put them all in the same bowl as you measure.
  • Put the anchos, vinegar and water into a blender. Blend until smooth then add the onion garlic, salt, and all of your spices (cumin, paprika, oregano, cinnamon and cayenne).
  • Again blend to a smooth paste.  If it is too thick then add a little water a tablespoon at a time. Don’t make it too liquid though.  You want it just loose enough so that everything blends into a homogeneous mix with no straggling chunky bits (think heavy romesco).
  • Place a large, broiler safe skillet  on the stove.
  • Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and turn on medium heat. When  it is warm pour the chili mix from the blender into the skillet.  Heat for about 1 minute to wake up the spices. 
  • Then add the ground pork to the skillet. Mix it in with the sauce until the meat is covered.
  • Cook the pork (medium heat) about 10 minutes or until no pink is showing, stirring occasionally.
  • While the pork cooks, move the oven rack about six inches below the broiler and let the broiler come up to temperature. 
  • Once the pork is cooked, check the seasonings and adjust the spice level if desired, then layer the shredded Monterey jack cheese over the meat mixture covering it completely. 
  • Shift the skillet from the stove top to place it under the broiler.  Keep it there until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (approximately 2-3 minutes)
  • Serve it hot in the pan with the tortillas (we just spoon it onto the tortillas and eat that way, you can, eat it with tortilla chips if you wanted to make it more of a dip than a meal)
adding the cheese to the top

A couple helpful hints.  If you want to shred cheese in a hurry with your food processor you can put the block of Monterrey jack in the freezer for about five minutes (no longer).  It will firm up enough for the machine to shred, but not do any damage to the blades or the cheese. 

My Hamilton Beach Food Processor has the plate that allowed for easy shredding (and makes me love the machine so very very much), just make sure your cheese is cut into pieces that can fit into the feeder tube on the machine before you freeze it.  My block needed to be divided into three sections.

I personally like glass carafe blenders as they don’t stain and don’t retain any odors from previous blending, but that is a personal choice.

With the ancho spice mix, the dish tastes like it took hours to prepare even though it took almost no time at all.  We occasionally like to use this mix on pasta in place of traditional red sauce or just as something to smear on a baguette.  It is a great and super easy burst of flavor.  Just don’t forget your minute on the heat with it because that is what really wakes up and melds the flavors. 

It is a great sauce to have in your flavor arsenal. And until you add the pork to the skillet and top with cheese, the ancho spice mix is actually vegan. When we have vegan, vegetarian or even just lactose intolerant friends over, the spice mix comes in really handy used in ways without the pork or cheese of course.

The one thing we have to watch is the spice level.  There are several places to control it.  You can leave in or take out the ancho seeds.  You can also adjust the cayenne.  In our house, since we grow paprika peppers and dry and grind our own paprika each fall, our paprika is what we have to watch.  It is really hot in the fall but towards the spring it mellows out a bit. It still has more of a kick than most store bought paprika though.  I used the spring paprika measurements for this dish, you might find you want a little more heat depending on what paprika you are using so don’t forget to taste and adjust.

So tonight our happy hour is rolling into dinner and out cocktails are non-alcoholic just to be on the vaccine reactions safe side. Still with a pretty glass filled with cheery bubbling liquid and an absolutely delicious choriqueso on hand, it is in no way a hardship. In fact, it feels quite luxurious and like the perfect way to unwind after a rough week. Happy Friday my darlings and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.



Happy Hour: Allergy Edition

This week allergies hit hard at our house. While my babydoll has issues throughout the spring, I generally only suffer a little bit when the trees decide it is time to fling pollen into the air and give everything a nice yellowish coat.

In case you are wondering, that time is now.

I feel a little guilty complaining about it since so many people, including my babydoll, suffer much more than I do. Still this has been a week of clogged noses and dulled taste buds.

When we looked at putting together cocktails and a happy hour snack, neither of us were too enthused. We have a very nice cheese that we wanted to try, but as scent plays a big role in taste, I think it would be unfair to judge it now. Besides when I asked, my babydoll grunted and took a couple of pieces of salami out of the lunchmeat bag in the fridge and called it ‘snack meat’ before shuffling off to the living room to find a movie for us to watch tonight. I believe I heard ‘This is fine for me’ drifting back as he shuffled away.

Yup, it is going to be a quiet evening at home for us my darlings.

So I am making my favorite ‘I just want to breathe again,’ mug and I will curl up with my babydoll on the couch. I’m sure at some point there will be food, but for the most part I will be content with my beverage of choice. Many, many cups of my beverage of choice.

That’s right, it is time for Twinings Lemon and Ginger Herbal Tea.

I know it is in pretty much every grocery store in the country. (Incidentally, I get nothing from the link, it is not an affiliate link in any way, it is just the Twining’s website, you know, in case you can’t get to the grocery store). It is also relatively inexpensively priced.

As many of the teas I typically favor aren’t in grocery stores and tend to be on the higher end, I know you may be surprised. I know I really like ordering special teas from places like The Art of Tea. They are quite delicious and it seems like everytime I am on their site I find another one I want to try.

However, sometimes you just need lemon and ginger. Twinings is really good with this combination. And to be honest, lemon and ginger are my go to flavors when I don’t feel well. Head cold? Sinus infection? Stomach ache? Headache? Feeling a chill? General malaise? Well just hit that with a little lemon ginger and you’ll be fine.

I’m not sure when it became my go to comfort/cure all, but at some point it did. With this I generally add a slice of lemon to bump up the lemon flavor and I always sweeten it with local honey. Especially if it is allergy season.

I read somewhere once that locally produced honey can help build up your tolerance for local allergens. While I haven’t done any true study of it, I have moved around a lot and I do like honey, and supporting local producers. I have noticed that my allergies are always more severe when i move to a new area and then after about a year, less so. Throughout I consume local honey. It may just be my body adjusting to a new environment, but the honey may also play a role. Either way, I use my local honey to sweeten my Twinings.

And of course, to make myself feel better I use my Frankenstein mug. It makes me smile. My babydoll may remind me that it isn’t Halloween, but I don’t really care. And yes the mug does tell me “You’re the Ghouliest” with every sip. And that makes me happy. When I feel better, the Twinings will go back in the cupboard and the fancier teas will return. But for now, it is Lemon and Ginger all the way.

And if you are looking for something fun to watch, Peppa Pig and Sponge Bob are both now on Paramount+


Happy Hour:Oven baked Jalapeno Poppers and Cream Ale

the poppers

Welcome once again to the weekly happy hour.  Here for a short while we can unwind, relax from the stress of the work week and take a moment or two to just enjoy ourselves.  And since it is happy hour at home we can do so wearing comfy clothes instead of anything fit for the general public.  Some days, the benefit of sipping a drink and nibbling an appetizer while wearing fuzzy socks cannot be underestimated.

As you may have noticed from the title the drink this week was a repeat one.  My babydoll makes a lovely cream ale and so we almost always have a stock pile of it on hand. And no I haven’t run out of cocktail recipes, tonight’s happy hour was a request.

My babydoll wanted jalapeno poppers and beer for this week’s happy hour.

As he’s had a bit of a rough week, I went along with it. Especially since usually when it comes to our Friday happy Hour treats he is usually just willing to go along with whatever I decide I want to make.  Although it isn’t really a hardship.  I like the cream ale and I am not going to say no to cheesy jalapeno goodness.

While the Cream Ale is from a kit and brewed by my babydoll, I did make the poppers. When all is said and done, they are ridiculously easy to make.

Ingredients

12 whole Jalapenos

½ cup Cream cheese

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Six strips of bacon (we went with the smokiest we can find since we are roasting them in the oven instead of over a grill)

You will also need a sheet pan, a piece of tin foil and an oven.

That’s it.

To make the poppers:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

slice

Step 1: Slice the jalapenos in half and take out the seeds and pith.  If you like them spicier you can leave in a little of the pith since that is where the heat is, just leave a little room for the cheese.

empty

Step 2: In a bowl mix together the cream cheese and cheddar until it is blended (I like to use a fork for this.

Step 3: line your sheet pan with tin foil.  No matter how well you prepare these some cheese will leak out and trust me that tin foil will make your life a lot easier.

cheese mix

Step 4:  spoon the cheese mix into the hollow jalapeno halves and then put the halves back together to make a whole pepper again (although this time it has cheese inside.)

Step 5: Wrap each pepper with a strip of bacon and place on tin foil covered baking sheet.

fill

Step 6: Bake for 15 minutes or until bacon is brown and crispy. For ours since our jalapenos were enormous and out bacon wasn’t getting as crisp as I like, I baked for 15 minutes and then moved it under the broiler for another five minutes just to crisp up the bacon.  If you do this, keep an eye on it as that broiler can take it from crisp to charcoal.

wrap and bake

When the bacon is as crispy as you want it, remove from the over, place on a plate and enjoy.

Our jalapenos ended up being more or less the size of poblanos so we decided that this “appetizer” would be followed with a dinner salad instead of a larger meal.

For us that makes a good balance. If you have more typically sized jalapenos, you can keep them as actual poppers.  Whatever you use, I hope you enjoy your happy hour as much as we enjoy ours.


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Happy Hour: Bramble and Jaffa Cake

The Bramble – or at least my favorite version

This week my baby and I have an interesting Happy Hour planned.  The drink is one that I have made before and absolutely adore.  It is a take on a Bramble.  The original Bramble was created in 1984 even though it sounds like it ought to be from the 1920s.  I’m certain there is an official version of the drink, but in my house we always make it in the exact same way.

1 ½ ounces of gin

½ ounce of Chambord

1 ounce of fresh lemon juice

½ ounce simple syrup

Put all the ingredients into your shaker, add ice and shake the devil out of it.  I like to serve mine in a coupe glass but you can also serve it in a regular glass over ice.

I really like the balance of sweet and tart in this drink.  Normally, my gin of choice is Plymouth, but for this I generally find the mix of botanicals in Plymouth doesn’t work all that well.  For this I generally use Bombay gin. Its particular mix of botanicals lends itself really well to the Bramble concoction. It isn’t too juniper heavy. While Plymouth is my gin of choice it is really a gin for when I want to taste the gin. This drink is more about balance and the Bombay just balances better with these particular ingredients.

The trick is what to serve with it. To be honest I am always happy with this drink as a stand alone, however even though my babydoll was having whiskey instead of joining me in my bramble, he was looking forwards to something to nibble. even if we don’t share the same drink, we both like the appetizer.

This week I went with a homemade Jaffa Cake or at least a pseudo Jaffa Cake.  I did take a few liberties with it so I hope no purists are offended. This was just a super easy way to make it for me that matched my drink choice for this week’s happy hour.

Ingredients

For the cakes:

2 eggs

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ tsp vanilla extract

the cakes

A few drops of Cointreau

½ cup AP flour

Pinch of salt

Pinch of baking powder

For the gel:

One package of instant Orange jello

my jello would not lift up in rounds so I just mounded it up on the cakes.

Zest of one orange

Topping

Bitersweet chocolate chips

For the Gel: Mix the jello according to the pkg directions and add in the zest.  Por onto a flat pan with a lip and put in the fridge to set.

For the cakes: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Don’t use a stand mixer as there isn’t enough batter for it to work properly.  Use a hand mixer or a whisk. When smooth, divide the batter evenly into a twelve muffin tin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8—10 minutes. Let cool

the chocolate

When cool: cut out the jello and place on top of the cakes.

For the topping: put the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl.  Put in microwave for 10 seconds, stir and then heat for another ten seconds.  Repeat until the chocolate is melted.

Give your chocolate a moment to cool down (without setting) because if you pour it when it is too hot it will melt the jello.  Spoon it over the jello covered cakes encapsulating the jello if you can.  Leave to set and then enjoy.  I tend to store the extras in the fridge so the jello doesn’t melt into a liquid.

As you can see in my finished cakes, the chocolate was still a bit too warm when I poured it over the cakes do there are a few small holes where the jello is poking through. Because I heaped it up instead of using small disks of gel (mostly because my disks kept breaking because I made them too thin by using too large a sheet pan to set them in) there was more jello than usual on the cakes which meant they weren’t as neat as possible.

I have to say that while I would like them a little neater, I didn’t mind the extra jello. This particular cake recipe makes twelve very small and sturdy little cakes but they can be a bit dry. The jello adds much needed moisture and made them taste better than usual. I really liked that I bumped up the range flavor with both the zest in the jello and the Cointreau in the batter. the big pitfall is adding too much alcohol into the cake batter.

You really only need a few drops to get the flavor you want. Don’t go overboard with it. while not exactly the traditional Jaffa Cakes, the dark bittersweet chocolate and the orange really worked well as an accompaniment to my Bramble this week. My babydoll said it worked well with his whisky as well. I’m not entirely sure that is an accurate pairing or if his love of orange and chocolate trumped any taste issues. I was enjoying my Bramble too much to do taste test with his whisky so I have to take his word for it.

As for the Bramble, the cakes went really well with it.  The dark chocolate gave the cakes a bitter note to offset the sweet and tangy of the jello and cake as well as the drink.  Personally, I think this is a pretty good combo. And I think it is a fabulous kick off to the weekend. I hope you enjoy unwinding from your work week, however you choose to do so.


The Whisky Exchange