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.

Creatives to Promote Hint Still

The Daily: November 22nd, 2021

Oh my darlings welcome to Monday afternoon. This week I’m afraid there isn’t going to be a lot as far as makeup goes. I am trying to get as much done as possible before leaving town and as I have been asked to bring several delicious treats along with me, there is a lot of cooking and baking going on.

I did get a walk in, but we have a rain storm blowing in this afternoon which may cut off the walking trail tomorrow and Wednesday. But at least I got my walk in this morning. I also managed to make a batch of Rum Balls to take with me. While I won’t be baking the pies until Wednesday, all of the other little treats I am taking down with me will be made ahead of time. The rum balls are from my grandmother’s recipe and have been a part of the family since well before I was born. They are in no way healthy, but they are delicious. Since I’m not listing the daily makeup, I’ll go ahead and list the recipe.

Rum Balls

2 T cacoa

1 Cup white sugar

1/4 cup rum

2 T light corn syrup

2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers

1 cup nuts (sometimes we use pecans sometimes we use walnuts, occasionally peanuts. It just depends on what is in the house at the time)

Powders sugar for dusting.

Traditionally everything gets put in a bowl and it takes a while to mix up, then you form into balls and dust with powdered sugar. This is where my Hamilton Beach Food Processor really shines. I dropped everything except the powdered sugar into the food processor and pulsed (add the corn syrup last). It came together fast and then I just had to make the balls and dust with sugar. It cut the time needed in half.

I know I often wax poetic about my food processor. It is handy all year round but now is the time when it really shines. Over the weekend I broke down the last of this year’s pumpkins (cut up roasted and then pureed so they could be frozen and used as needed) and my food processor got quite the work out. At first I thought it was a bit extra, but once I went ahead and purchased it, I found out how fabulous it was. Need to grate butter for a quick rough puff pastry? Freeze it and send it through the grating blades. Same for cheese and firm tofu actually.

the pumpkin I am planning to use in pumpkin ravioli later this year and it would have taken me forever to get it to the right consistency without the food processor. Now when I am ready to make the ravs, I just need to thaw the purees, spice it accordingly (then mix with goat cheese and other elements- I’ll post the recipe when I make them if you are interested) no muss no fuss as the pumpkins are already processed.

Don’t worry, I won’t go into a true Ode to the Food Processor featuring rhyming couplets. Mostly because I don’t have time to write rhyming couplets. I still have chocolate truffles to make and a pot pie to construct with the left over chicken. The pot pie is actually for dinner tonight not travel. we are trying to use up the last of the chicken and some left over veg before we leave and this is one of the best ways to use it up. Quite tasty too. I just have to watch my portion size. I actually end up making several small ones so that I can more easily do it. when you cut into a large chicken pot pie it is really hard to do because the filling just sort of comes out and I always eat more than I anticipate. So I make the smaller ones and what we don’t eat can be frozen.

If you tuned in for makeup, I’m sorry. This week, there is going to be a lot more food than anything as the Thanksgiving prep work takes over. In a way though, it is a good thing. I just unboxed a couple of subscription boxes and new makeup has arrived. With skipping the makeup this week I have all new products waiting for me to try out when I return. If I opened and started testing them now, then I would be tempted to travel with them and traveling with new products isn’t always the best idea. So tried and true for travel and new and unknown once I return. Sounds like a plan to me.

And now my darlings, I am off to mix up a batch of chocolate truffles. Let’s just hope my babydoll doesn’t eat them before we have to pack up and go. He can not be trusted around chocolate. wish me luck with the chocolate preservation and I’ll be back tomorrow. Have a good rest of the day and I will see you bright and early tomorrow morning.



TWE Generic Christmas 2020

Happy Hour: Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Good afternoon my darlings. I know, you are thinking to yourself that something is out of whack. First the face mask for Friday was skipped and now the Happy Hour post is coming in a little early. Don’t worry, there is no day drinking involved.

the reason for the swap is that we have friends who are driving through town tonight. They are only stopping for a little while, but they are stopping. while the drinks will all be non-alcoholic because of the driving, I am making a special Pumpkin Loaf cake for us all to enjoy.

I also spent a chunk of this afternoon doing an emergency company clean so that’s why the face mask zen time was cut. it’s not that the house was a complete wreck, but it wasn’t company clean.

Now it is.

And the Pumpkin cake is on it’s way.

adding the paper to the bottom lets you easily lift it out of the pan to cool

My babydoll calls this pumpkin bread as it is baked in a bread pan, but the truth is, it is really a cake and calling it bread is really is kind of a misnomer. It is baked in a bread pan and it is delicious. There are a lot of ingredients but it is super simple to actually make up. The longest part of this is the baking time though as it does take 80-90 minutes in the oven.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of AP flour

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz) pureed pumpkin

2 Tblsp freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 cups sugar = a tsp more for dusting the top of the batter

1 cup olive oil

Okay I’m going to break this down nice and easy.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees

  • Take a small bowl and put your flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cloves into the bowl. mix them together so the spies are blended throughout the flour.
  • Take a large mixing bowl and put your pumpkin, grated ginger, and eggs into the bowl. Mix it up.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the pumpkin mix and blend it in really well.
  • With your mixer running drizzle in your olive oil until it is all incorporated and there are no separated oily spots.
  • At this point, put the mixer away and use a spoon or silicone spatula to mix.
  • Fold in half of your dry ingredients from your small bowl into your wet pumpkin mix.
  • Once they are incorporated, fold in the other half. Only mix until you don’t see any more dry bits. Try not to over mix it or it will become stodgy.
  • Take your bread tin and spray it with nonstick spray. Then put in strips of parchment paper so that you can easily lift it out of the pan. It is really helpful. the cooking spray will help the cake release, but the paper to grab hold of and just lift means you get to keep the lovely domed top in tact.
  • Once the paper is in, pour the batter into the pan. smooth over the top with your spatula and then sprinkle the sugar on top. This gives it a great carnalized crunch. You really only need about a tablespoon. However my baby doll came home as I was getting ready to sprinkle and put it in the oven and he decided to add extra. So we now have extra sugar on top.
  • Put your pan into the oven and bake at 325 for 80-90 minutes. Our oven takes 90 but you are going to want to bake it until a knife can be inserted into the center and pulled out cleanly. if any batter sticks to it, leave it in a few minutes more. Don’t forget to rotate your pan midway through the bake so that everything backs evenly.
  • when it comes out, use the paper strips to lift it out and then let it cool on a wire rack until it is cool enough to cut without collapsing.

The waiting is the hardest part. I personally love this recipe. we like the extra spices but if you like things a little less spice filled you can lower the amounts if you want. Or if you don’t have enough nutmeg and cinnamon, add more. This is just the mix we prefer. sometimes I’ll even put a little cardamom into the mix. Once you have the basics, the spices are yours to play with. But now my darlings I must leave you. Company is coming. Have a great weekend, whatever you choose to do.



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: Shrimp Ceviche and Cherry Ginger

Tonight is an interesting take on happy hour.  In our house we long ago realized that if I made ceviche as an appetizer for our happy hour, that we would reach the end of the appetizer portion and not really want a regular meal, but instead want more ceviche. 

So as a consequence when I make Shrimp ceviche, I tend to make a dinner time sized portion and we have ceviche with crackers or chips for the main meal.  It is a light summertime meal.  On occasion I will also make some corn tortillas and we will just use it as a taco filling.  Tonight however we went with tortilla chips.

There is a local Mexican restaurant that sells them by the bag full, but only Thursdays. I think during lock down they sold them twice a week.  Either way, we were lucky to get a bag of the chips yesterday so we can use them tonight.  Actually if they just sold their tortillas I would never bother making my own again, but alas, they only sell the chips. 

To go on these chips, we make the Shrimp ceviche:

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into a suitable size for your method of serving (if we make tacos I don’t cut them)

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed

1 serrano chili, diced

1 red onion, diced small

1 cup fresh cilantro chopped

The juice of six limes (apx ¾ cup)

The juice of three lemons (apx. ¾ cup)

1 avocado

Salt to taste (I use about 1 tbsp for this)

Pinch of sugar

The hardest part of this recipe is breaking down all of your veg.  There will be a lot of chopping.  The bonus is that once you chop, it is all basic assembly and resting time.

Juice your limes and lemons putting the juice in a bowl.  Add your prepared shrimp.  While the juice of each fruit varies, you want enough juice to submerge the shrimp and post of the veg in juice. You also want about equal parts lemon and lime.

Leave the shrimp in the acid until they start to turn white on the outside.  (you want to give them a little bit of a head start before adding the veg – maybe ten minutes).  Then add the salt, cucumber, serrano, and onion. Mix it up a bit with your hands and then transfer it to the fridge.  Leave it sit for about an hour or until the acid has cooked the shrimp enough for your taste.  If you leave it too long, it will get slightly rubbery so check them after an hour and then if you still need more time check every ten minutes until you are happy.

When everything looks ready, slice your avocado into cubes and add the cilantro and the avocado to the ceviche. After mixing it up, taste the mix.  If it is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to mellow it out.  If it needs salt, add it now and then stir it up.  this is very much a by the taste recipe. Serve cold with chips, crackers, or tortillas. 

I really like this mix.  It is pretty basic so it can be used in a variety of different ways.  It is easy to adjust to taste as well as being fresh and light on a hot summer’s evening.  If you don’t have shrimp you can use fish.  If you don’t eat seafood, try tofu. Go with the firm kind if you are doing that.  Often what I will do if I do substitute tofu is that I will cube it, add a little fish sauce to it and then do a quick pan fry to add some texture to the cubes.  Then I let them cool and then add them to the mix.  If you don’t use fish sauce then maybe go with a vegan soy sauce before pan frying them.  I just like the little difference in texture that the pan gives, but it isn’t a necessity. You can just cube and add them to the veg mix.

This in general is a fun recipe to play around with. When we are finished, there is always some of the juice left over and we end up slicing a couple of extra cucumbers into it, and maybe adding a bit more onion to it.  Then the next day we have that as a side salad for dinner. So nothing gets wasted.  It is one of my favorite summer time treats.

As a drink tonight I am just going simple.  I have my Sour Cherry Syrup that I am still working my way through.  I really like it, but it is a large bottle that takes up a lot of space in the fridge so once opened I tend to lean on it often until it is used up. 

Today I didn’t really feel like alcohol so I made a non-alcoholic drink with one ounce of the sour cherry syrup topped with ginger ale.  Served in a pretty glass it is a perfectly lovely happy hour drink.  My babydoll added an ounce of lemon vodka to his before topping it off with the ginger ale.

It is a relatively simple happy hour tonight, but as it has been a bit of a crazy week, simple is just fine.  While sometimes I like to use Happy hour as a time to try new recipes and be just a little more adventurous, sometimes simple works better. On a day when the thought of turning on the oven or stove and adding more heat to the house is just not pleasant to contemplate, a no cook happy hour that spills into dinner is just the thing. I hope whatever you do to relax and unwind from the week is exactly what you need to let it all go.  I’ll see you back here on Monday, ready to take on another week.  Have a great weekend.

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Happy Hour: Carrot Cake

I know normally this is where we talk about a delightful cocktail, a bottle of wine or even my babydoll’s home brew.  Then we add in a delightful delectable.  This week however was a bit much on the body, so tonight in a continuing effort to clear out the freezer before the garden starts producing veg that needs to be processed and stocked, we are taking out a container of beef stroganoff (the egg noodles will be fresh) and just having carrot cake and a big glass of milk afterwards.

Given the post vaccination fever and sickness, I think it is a much safer option than trying a new, untested cocktail variation. I’ll get back to experimenting next week.

Each spring we go through the strange freezer purge.  You see my baby doll has a weakness when it comes to the grocery store’s meat department.  It doesn’t matter what the grocery list says, if he sees a roast or chops or any cut he particularly likes on sale, he will scoop it up to add to the freezer.  He likes having a meat stash.  The problem is that the freezer fills up quickly with large odd shaped packages.  So when it looks like it is getting full I make large batches of dishes.

Like beef stroganoff.  Without the noodles it freezes really well and  because left over portions are in smaller stackable regularly shaped containers, it takes up less space.  (plus we’ve eaten some as well, usually for Friday night but some left overs on Saturday as well).  His massive meat buying tends to be in the fall so we have an assortment of heavy Friday night meat centric meals for the winter.  In the spring and summer we eat lighter so we clear them up.  Plus we need the freezer space for frozen veg. So we are in the clear out phase of the season. Hence the heavier dinner and why I’m not making a happy hour appetizer.  Plus we have a mostly untouched carrot cake to eat.

I love carrot cake, but I didn’t get to eat much of it this week so I will revel in it for my end of the week treat. It is super easy to make so if you are scared of cake baking it is a really easy one to start with. The icing makes exactly enough to give you a thin layer of frosting between the two cakes and then to coat the rest of the cake.  At best there will be maybe a spoonful left.

Carrot Cake

2 cups All Purpose (250 g plain flour – UK) Flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp nutmeg (grate it fresh please)

½ tsp salt

¾ cup vegetable oil (like Canola)

4 large eggs (room temperature)

1 ½ cup packed brown sugar (330 g)

½ cup granulated sugar (100 g caster sugar)

½ cup applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups grated carrots

ICING

1 (8oz) package of plain cream cheese (room temp)

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar (250 g icing sugar)

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (while I weigh certain ingredients like flour and brown sugar when I bake because it is more accurate than a cups measurement so I know the measurements and baking with my Gran gave me the different names for the same ingredients and will happily include them, I don’t know UK oven settings, sorry)
  • spray and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and set aside.
  • Grate your carrots and set aside (how many you need to get three cups depends on the size of your carrots.  Mine were all about eight inches long but varied in width and I needed about five this time)
  • In a bowl mix together: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg,  and salt (make this your larger mixing bowl as you add wet to the dry later)
  • In a separate bowl  whisk together eggs, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, apple sauce and vanilla until combined.  Once they are thoroughly mixed, add your carrots.  (while you can use a mixer to bend the earlier ingredients, when you get to the add the carrots stage, switch to a spoon or spatula.  Trust me it saves a lot of heartache.  Carrot strands can just get twisted around the mixer blades.  Sometimes low tech works best.  While I may use my Hamilton Beach food processor to grate the carrots in an instant, I use a silicone spatula to mix them in.)
  • Once mixed, pout wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ones (the flour mix – see I told you to use the bigger bowl for that one).  Mix them together with a spatula until just combined.   Don’t over mix. (it will make your cake stodgy)
  • Pour batter evenly into the two previously prepared cake pans.
  • Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until the top sets and a toothpick comes out of the center cleanly.
  • Remove from pans and let cool completely on a wire rack before attempting to ice them.

And now To the ICING!

I use a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer for this because I find it comes out better for me.  It you use a stand mixer make sure your cream cheese and butte are really soft and go with a whisk attachment if possible. I have both a stand and a hand mixer but I always use the hand mixer for this frosting because I find it easier to see the butter and cream cheese combining evenly.

  • So into the bowl place the unwrapped cream cheese/  beat until smooth
  • Add the butter and mix until smooth and combined with the cream cheese
  • Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth scraping down the sides as needed.

As I mentioned I like using the hand mixer.  What I like to do with the powdered sugar so less flies up, is to pour it in small doses a little bit at a time. After each addition I use the spatula to put a little of the butter cream cheese mix over it before turning on the hand mixer again.  The mix helps wets the sugar enough that it doesn’t fly up in a dust cloud. Plus if you keep scooping from the bottom with each addition you won’t end up with a sugar pocket in the base of the bowl.

This icing will make a thin layer between the cakes and then ice the top and sides.  There is no left over for decoration.  If you want to use it for decoration, you can make a second batch.  I like to add a little more sugar to the second batch if I am going to do this to make it a little stiffer.  I also add colorings to that as well.  Usually orange and green for carrot designs.  This year it was just us and the sugar already on the cake was more than enough so I didn’t add more with decorations.

This is one of my favorite cakes but I only tend to make it twice a year, One at Easter and once in the fall when the carrots are still coming out of the garden and my taste buds start craving the warming spices that go into this cake.  It is rich so I generally have it with coffee or a big glass of milk. 

Either way it is the treat my babydoll and I will be enjoying after dinner in lieu of a happy hour treat. Don’t worry, next week will feature a new cocktail and something fun to nibble on.


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Happy Hour: Blanketed Pigs and Cold Martinis

Some days the home happy hour is all about compromise.  My baby doll wasn’t feeling like anything fancy and inexplicably had a craving for pigs in a  blanket.  He opened a beer and I made a dirty martini. 

I know a dirty martini is always my fall back when I am not trying a new recipe.  While everyone has their own particular version my mix is:

One part Vermouth (Noily Pratt if possible, I have yet to find anything else that is a suitable replacement)

Two parts gin (my current preference is Plymouth Gin)

Dash of olive juice

A quick stir and add a large ice cube to chill it down. (I tend to keep my gin in the freezer)

Pour and serve with an olive.

It has the alcohol zing, the herbaceous notes from the gin, smoothed out by the vermouth, tempered with cold and perked up with the sharp brine of olive. What more could one ask for?

The glass I use is a small martini glass, circa 1950s I believe.  I use it one, because while I like my Friday Night cocktail I don’t need buckets of gin and two because of temperature.  I generally find that if I use one of the really large martini glasses the martini is warm by the time I get half way through it.  With the smaller glass I can not only have a second if it has been a rather long week without going over the top, but because it is a smaller glass I can have the perfect temperature of drink all the way from the first wipe to the last. 

While size often matters, sometimes bigger isn’t necessarily better and that can easily be seen in the martini.

I would love to get some new martini glasses with a bit of a more modern design as the etched fruit isn’t exactly my taste, but it is always the size that stops me. I just can’t find a modern martini glass that is the appropriate size.  I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested instead of going newer, I go older and try for a 1920s set.  The size would be right and I tend to favor the simple lines and geometrics.  Perhaps I will start looking into those.

Surprisingly the martini went well with the pigs in a blanket. The recipe is quite simple. 

1 sheet of Puff pastry

Grated cheddar cheese

Your favorite hot dogs or sausages

Your measurements will depend on how many little piggies you want. I have to say this is one of those times though that I again love my Hamilton Beach Food Processor.  It has a grating attachment so I stick the cheese in the freezer for about five minutes to firm it up and then send it through the grating attachment.  Voila! Grated cheese in an instant.

The assembly is just as simple as the listed ingredients.

Cut the puff pastry into a size that is the length of your hot dog and can wrap around it about one and a half times.

Lay out the squares of pastry and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.  Place the hot dog on the pastry and roll it up.

Flatten the seams so it doesn’t come undone.

Cut the pastry wrapped hot dog into inch long segments and transfer to a baking sheet.  I like to line my sheet with parchment paper so any cheese spillage is contained.

Bake at 350 until golden brown (10 to 15 minutes). Serve hot with dipping sauce if desired. 

We serve it with spicy mustard or barbeque sauce. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle mustard powder on the cheese for an extra tang and my baby doll likes adding in a bit of our home grown and roasted paprika.  Either way the fatty richness really compliments the sharpness of the martini as well as the hops notes in my baby doll’s beer.  It may sound like a strange combination, but it really does work.

So that is our happy hour this week.  It’s nice that allergies have been tamed and health wise all is well.  This week the world went a little wonky and it is nice to sit down with my baby doll, my feet clad in fuzzy socks sipping a martini and eating a few homemade delectable treats.  Tonight, we have the Vincent Price version of The Wax Museum for our viewing pleasure and maple glazed salmon, rice and asparagus for dinner following our happy hour relaxation.  I think it is going to be a pretty good night.


The Place Where Movies Never Get Old

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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Daily Bread

our current loaf

I know I mentioned a while ago that because my darling dearest needed to reduce his sodium intake, I started baking bread. It is amazing how much sodium is in a loaf of store bought bread. Anyway, in our part of the world store bought bread has become a rare commodity with entire store shelves being barren, so even if we wanted to buy bread, we can’t. Also I find baking therapeutic.

So on the off chance you find yourself in a similar situation, I am posting one of my favorite recipes. It came from my Aunt. I have no idea where she got it, but it makes one loaf and is what we have been using. So on the off chance you want to try your hand at this, I’m posting the recipe below. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook the hardest part is waiting. even without, it isn’t that hard. So here we go,

Ingredients:

3 cups/384 g Bread flour (you can use all purpose, but it tends not to get as good a rise), keep a little extra flour for dusting the surface and in case you need to add more to counteract humidity.

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup water (warmed to 120 degrees)

2 tsp honey

2 T butter (unsalted)

1 T sugar

2 tsp yeast

1 tsp salt

Directions:

  • place yeast pinch of flour, and sugar and warm water in a bowl. Set aside until foamy (10-15 minutes)
  • put milk and butter into a bowl and put in the microwave for 30 seconds on high, stir and then do another 30 seconds to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, you can take it out of the microwave. If you don’t have a microwave, put them in a pan on the stove top on medium to heat. If both are taken from the fridge, then when the butter melts, the milk will be warm enough.
  • If using a stand mixer with a dough hook: add three cups/384 g of bread flour to the mixer. Add honey, salt, warmed milk and melted butter and the contents of the foamy yeast bowl (essentially everything goes in). Start the mixer on low so things don’t go flying (abt 1 minute) when they are mixed up a bit set it between two and three on your speed settings and let it go for anywhere from 8-10 minutes or until it forms a ball. It doesn’t need to be a smooth ball just a cohesive dough. If it looks like it is too wet, add a little more flour (by Tablespoons) and continue with the hook until incorporated and it is a still somewhat sticky mass.
  • Then stop the mixer, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and give it a few final kneads until it is a smooth ball of dough.
  • If not using a stand mixer. Put all of the above ingredients into a bowl, blend with a silicone spatula until it is a dough, then turn out onto a flowered work surface and knead until it is a smooth ball of dough.
  • Once smooth, put into a greased bowl, turning once to oil all sides of your dough ball, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, grease a regular sized loaf pan, make sure to get the corners. place the pan next to the bowl and remove the plastic wrap from the bowl (don’t throw away).
  • Lift the risen dough out of the bowl and place it into the greased loaf pan. Shape it so it fills the pan but try not to touch it too much.
  • Cover the loaf pan and dough with the plastic wrap and let sit for another 45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Once dough has its second rise, take the plastic wrap off of the loaf pan and put the loaf pan with dough in the center rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until you hear a hollow sound when you tap the loaf with a knife.
  • turn it out on a rack, making sure it’s right side up, let cool and slice as you want.

I like this recipe because it is super easy and you really don’t have to do much to the dough. You mostly just have to leave it alone. The bread has a good crumb and is substantial enough to support most ingredients. It toasts well and it freezes well. If you freeze it, let it cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap then insert it into a freezer bag for extra security.

I know this post is a little out of the ordinary for me, but hopefully you will find it useful.