Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Extra-Crumb Coffee Cake



Ok, ok, I have food to talk about.

Later.

Let's talk "House of Cards". Does anyone else watch that? Who am I kidding? Tons of people watch it. You can add the hubby and I to that list. I'm utterly fascinated with the show. Love, love, love it! For those of you not familiar with the show, it's a highly fictionalized look at the inner workings of Congress and the Presidential Administration. It stars Kevin Spacey as the House Majority Whip who weasels himself into the Vice-Presidency with majorly manipulative plans to take on the presidency. The writing is superb, the characters are complex and full of nuance, and honestly, I can't stop binging on it. The hubby and I will soon be done with Season 2. If not today, then soon. Kevin Spacey is quickly working his way to my shortlist with his take on this character. I've never watched a show where I'm so acutely aware of how much I loathe the main character. Yet, I'm rooting for him. All the way. It's a full on love-hate relationship. I love to hate the guy. My brain realizes that this guy is seriously twisted, yet my heart says, "Wow, he's good!". I find myself secretly hoping the "good guys" lose. Who am I kidding? There are no good guys on this show. There's only the seriously corrupt and the sort-of corrupt. It really does make you wonder if the government is really like that. I'm sure it really is. The name of the show is so appro. A "House of Cards" built on [male cow poop] that could come tumbling down at any moment. Take one card from the wrong spot, and the whole sham collapses. "Breaking Bad" may have some competition on my list of best show and character development of all time.

Ok, now we can talk about Coffee Cake :)

This was made by special request for my mother-in-law. She was having her pastor and his wife over for coffee, and wanted to serve a cake. We finally settled on coffee cake. Coffee cake, forever and always, will remind me of Christmas. There wasn't a childhood Christmas morning to be had without a freshly baked coffee cake. Indeed, the smell wafting throughout the house as I baked this had me pining for eggnog and candy canes. Alas, it's not Christmas yet, it's not even close to Halloween! Oh brother. Coffee cake is similar to regular cake, in that I creamed the butter and sugar, mixed in eggs, mixed in dry ingredients and milk, etc. The difference is I creamed a lot less butter and sugar than I normally would. Waaaaay less. One of the biggest reasons I hear people say they hate coffee cake is because it's dry and flavorless. Here's the thing- it can be. Coffee cake is one of those baked goods where it's super-duper important not to over-bake the cake. Over-baking will leave you with dry, humdrum cake. Pull the cake at the right time though, and you will be rewarded. Therefore, it's very important to keep a vigilant eye on the cake when baking. 


I made sure to pick a recipe with plenty of crumb. The crumb is one of the best parts. I received a call late the afternoon that my MIL was serving this- the cake had been a hit. Not only did the pastor's wife proclaim it delicious and ask for the recipe, but their son ate 2 big pieces! I was pleased since coffee cake rarely makes any kids list of favorite baked goods. In fact, my MIL confessed to sneaking a couple of pieces before her guests arrived. Coffee cake success, if you ask me!


Now for some bad news. I'm going to be hit-and-miss here on the blog for the next couple of weeks. The hubby and I are headed to Minnesota at 4 am tomorrow, and as I mentioned before, we will be returning from Minnesota with my parents in tow. They'll be staying with us until the 23rd, so I imagine I won't be around the computer much until after then. That's just how the cookie crumbles, folks. 

Or maybe how the coffee cake crumbles. Oh, how I crack myself up! :)

Have a great week friends!


Ingredients (serves 9):

Cake-
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Topping-
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 cup butter, cold

Icing-
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp vanilla coffee creamer

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly coat a 9 x 9 square pan with cooking spray.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour through salt. Whisk to combine.
3. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Mix in egg. Mix in vanilla. 
4. Add half of flour mixture to bowl, and mix. Mix in half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk. Spread the batter into prepared pan.
5. In a small bowl, make the topping. Combine flour through butter. Cut into mixture with a fork or pastry cutter. Continue to mix until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Spread topping evenly over the cake.
6. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. I started checking my cake at 15 minutes, and pulled it at 18. Prepare icing- whisk powdered sugar and creamer together. Add more creamer to get desired consistency. Drizzle over coffee cake. Cool, then slice into 9 squares. Serve immediately. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from Sweet Anna's

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Baked Jalapeño Poppers with Raspberry Dipping Sauce



I have two things to discuss with you today- jalapeños and football.

Remember how I said I was super-scared for when all my jalapeños were going to come in? Because 2 of my bell pepper plants turned out to be jalapeño plants? 

Well... they're heeeeere. 

Luckily, luckily I came up with a fabulous solution to my problem- jalapeño poppers! I decided to serve them up for our draft party last weekend. I'd put some serious thought into these poppers when I met my friend for lunch at the local cantina last week. She suggested making a raspberry sauce to dip them in. The thought had never crossed my mind. I'd never tried jalapeño poppers with raspberry sauce before, although I vaguely think I'd at least heard of the combination. Never one to turn down the possibility of eating those succulent red berries, I decided to foray ahead. 


The morning of our draft party, I ambled out to the jalapeño plants and proceeded to harvest approximately 20 of them. A word of advice when handling these peppers? Wash your hands afterwards. Immediately. I have on occasion removed all the seeds and membranes, only to forget to wash my hands. This inevitably leads to me touching either my face or the hubby's. You want someone to jump six feet in the air and run down the hall to the bathroom yelling? Put a jalapeño hand on someone's face. That'll do it. Wash your hands my friends, just do it. After the harvest, I stuffed the pepper halves with a mixture of cream cheese and bacon. Dip the poppers in a little panko, place them on the baking sheet, and get them in a nice, hot oven. In 15-20 minutes, you'll have melty, bacon-y peppers with a nice crisp topping. Super simple. 

And the raspberry sauce? Raspberries and sugar. That's all you need. It's the perfect foil to the savory, spicy peppers. 


When I was younger, I avoided any combination of savory and fruit. In fact, I avoided lots of combinations that sounded weird. As I got into my late 20's however, it's almost like my tastebuds became bored. All I wanted was new and different combinations that I'd never tried before. Combinations like strawberry and gorgonzola, chicken and waffles, and smoked duck with pickled blackberries were revelations to me. I know a lot of combinations (or dishes) I post on here are unconventional, but that's what makes life fun. I know it may be tempting to stay in your comfort zone, sticking to "normal" food ideas, but what if, just for today, you tried something you've never tried before? You might just like it. You might just love it. Life is short people, and the world is so very big. Try some raspberry sauce on your creamy, bacon-y jalapeño popper :)


All right, I've talked jalapeños. Let's talk football. The NFL kicked off last night, and with it an ominous foreshadowing of my fantasy year. As I was setting my roster yesterday morning, it occurred to me that this year's strategy of drinking a pitcher of margaritas pre-draft did not a good team make. Let the ribbing begin as I tell all of you that I drafted not only Aaron Rodgers, but Randall Cobb. I'm not necessarily against taking a quarterback with a corresponding wide receiver, in fact, I was most successful with Peyton Manning and Wes Welker last year. But that's Peyton Manning. Man who is more machine than human. Last night's combination of Rodgers/Cobb, well, sucked. The 12th man was in Rodger's head like white on rice. Granted, I always give my fantasy teams a couple of weeks before I start to panic and begin rowing for shore, but anxiety is already setting in this year. After the first game. 

Oh brother.

It's Friday! Does everyone have fun plans for the weekend? The hubby and I have dedicated ourselves to housework this weekend, as we are leaving for Minnesota super-early on Wednesday morning for my aunt's 80th birthday. We'll be bringing my parents home with us from Minnesota, so we need to get stuff done NOW. Hopefully your weekend will be more enjoyable than mine :)



Ingredients (makes 20 jalapeños or 40 halves):

2 (6 oz) packages of fresh raspberries
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese, softened
5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
20 jalapeños, seeds and membranes removed, halved
1 1/2 cups panko

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400º.
2. Prepare the raspberry sauce- in a small saucepan, combine raspberries and sugar over medium-low heat. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until raspberries have broken apart. Remove from heat. Place a sieve over a small bowl and push raspberry mixture throw the sieve. Discard the raspberry seeds caught in the sieve. Set sauce aside to cool.
3. In a medium size bowl, combine cream cheese and bacon. Place panko in a small bowl. Fill a jalapeño half with a tablespoon of cream cheese mixture, then dip jalapeño half in panko. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with all jalapeños.
4. Bake jalapeños in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until panko has browned. Serve immediately with raspberry sauce.


Looking for other jalapeño recipes? Try these!







Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Mangling" Margaritas



Maybe I should have saved this post for a Friday? Perhaps :)

This post is brought to you by happy accident. Happy accidents are actually a part of my process. When you are still learning all there is to know about food, mistakes happen. A lot. Sometimes the mistakes are really, really bad- like my incursion into French Onion Soup. The soup wasn't even edible. It literally tasted like feet. But sometimes, sometimes the mistakes are good. Like when I accidentally grabbed mango margarita mix at the grocery store this weekend instead of my go-to original mix. 

You see, we had our fantasy football draft over the weekend. The hubby and I had invited our couple friends over who participate in the league with us. By sheer luck (for Jessica, mwhahaha!), our agreed upon menu had a decidedly Mexican flair. Taco dip with salsa, jalapeño poppers, and sliders. I thought margaritas would go gang-busters with the food. And margaritas are something I have down to a science. In fact, when the hubby and I first started dating (maybe even just before we started dating) he learned just how good at making margaritas I am. Before there was ever an "us", he was rooming with one of my college friends. I just happened to be at my friends house that weekend for "Girl's Night". Aka batches of margaritas and horror movies all night. The hubby was supposed to be out with his friends, when he came home in the middle of our inebriated terror-fest. Always one to be polite, I offered him a margarita. To my shock and horror, he downed it in a couple of gulps. Uh, my marg's are pretty strong. Really strong. You don't mess with a sorority girl and her tequila. Well, that margarita went down the hatch. And then another. And then another. Not long after that, they really caught up with him. He spent the entire night sleeping with his head on the toilet. Lesson learned.


Returning from my tangent, I could make a margarita in my sleep. Lots of tequila, a shot of Cointreau, one lager-style beer, and just enough margarita mix to give some color. And, oh yes, lots of ice and salt. I'm an on-the-rocks girl. So here I am, mixing drinks for our guests, when I do the first taste test. That first spoonful I put in my mouth shocked the hell out of me. Instead of tasting like something I've been making for many years, I was gifted with a sweet, fruity flavor. Once I got over my consternation with the exotic flavor, I realized I liked it. I liked it a lot. A quick read of the bottle I bought solved the conundrum. I bought mango mix. 

If you're like me, you're probably thinking that mango mix and lager beer have no business going together. You would be wrong. If you've never added beer to your margarita, I recommend trying it immediately. Adding a beer really mellows out the overly sweet quality of a margarita mix. Once the sweet is turned down, you can taste the tequila. You can taste the hint of orange from the Cointreau. And more importantly, you can drink more than one without getting a sour stomach. And surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) the beer helped tone down the sugary sweetness of the mango mix. The margarita ended up being sweet, but not sickeningly so. It's precisely that saccharine quality that usually turns me off from mango cocktails. Problem solved! I used Yuengling lager for this batch, but my go-to's for margaritas are anything light. Coors Light, Bud Light, Miller Light, PBR, etc. Obviously a stronger beer will add more flavor to your cocktail, and that's not always what I'm after. 

And speaking of football, the season kicks off tonight! The hubby and I are ready, I'm making pizza and- dare I say? Margaritas! :)

Happy Thursday friends!


Ingredients (makes a 60-oz pitcher):

3 cups ice
2 1/2 cups tequila
4 oz Cointreau
1 1/2 cups mango margarita mix
1 (12 oz) Yuengling lager
lime wedges and coarse salt (garnish)

Directions:

1. Fill a large pitcher with ice. Add tequila, Cointreau, mango mix, and Yuengling. Stir to mix. Taste test, and adjust to taste.
2. Run lime wedge around rim of glass. Dip glass in coarse salt. Fill glass with ice, and pour margarita over ice. Garnish with lime, and serve immediately. 


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