Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton- Review & Commentary

If you recognize this commercial, we grew up together.

I remember the expectation this perpetuated for women- you can work a full time job, make dinner for your family every night and be a sex goddess with energy to spare. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

I just finished Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. It is a memoir that chronicles her journey with food. What really struck me and kept me reading, was the honesty. She pulled no punches about how difficult the restaurant business is for a woman, and doubly so for one with a family. There is a scene where she is at a panel where she is meant to talk to young women entering the restaurant industry about what it is like for a woman in food. She goes in thinking the panelists will be honest about the heaviness of the work, but instead is shocked by the whitewashed vision the other panelists portray for the young women. It reminded me of the archaic personas we embrace about women. Restaurant work is messy. You unplug toilets. You clean grease traps. You butcher and truss animals. You work 18 hour days, every day. It is not romantic.

You know what else is not romantic? Motherhood. And Hamilton paints that picture as well. There is the nightmare of finding care. The days of childhood sickness. The days of teething, whining, and general neediness. The inconvenience of breastfeeding, especially in public where stigma is so rampant. Not romantic. Fulfilling, like “killing the line” on a busy night, but not romantic.

The thing that I liked best about this book is how it made me think about women’s roles in society and how bullshit our expectations are in respect to that gender, which is really a societal construct anyway.

Hamilton’s style is laden with description. Her tone is unapologetic. Her experience is relatable. This read made me appreciate my dogeared copy of Prune and Hamilton’s meticulous cooking even more.

Easy Chocolate Lava Cake

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I love a cake that is only a few ingredients and cooks all in one pan…and is decadently chocolate. I have ordered Molten Lava Cakes out at restaurants, but since I am not going to restaurants right now, what better time to try one at home. I saw this one on Williams Sonoma Instagram and made a few adjustments.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted…plus more for dusting
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly butter six ramekins and dust with cocoa powder. Set the ramekins on a small baking sheet.
  • In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the pan over but not touching barely simmering water in the bottom pan and melt the chocolate and butter, then whisk until the mixture is glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer with whisk attachment, or a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, 3 Tbs. of the sugar, and cocoa powder on medium-high speed until thick. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and beat until well blended. The mixture will be thick and somewhat grainy looking. Detach bowl from stand mixer if using, set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, using clean mixer whisk or beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they are very foamy and thick. Sprinkle in the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar and increase the speed to high. Continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form. You can tell they are ready when you detach whisk, turn upside down and peaks stay firm.
  • Spoon half of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture and fold in just blended. Add the remaining whites and fold gently until just blended. Spoon into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.
  • Bake the cakes until they are puffed and the tops are cracked, about 25-30 minutes. The inside of the cracks will look very wet. Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the ramekins.

    **I had some leftover cakes and refrigerated. They were delicious the next day after just 30 seconds in the microwave.

Tip: If you want something perfect to accompany this, I served it with a scoop of Helados La Neta, a handcrafted ice cream inspired by flavors of Mexico. I served the Horchata flavor, and just wow!

Low Carb Stuffed Peppers

Still at this remake recipes into a healthier version initiative. I love stuffed peppers- the roasted, smoky taste of the pepper filled with a bounty of seasonal veggies diced small, hearty ground lamb, homemade tomato sauce all topped with a crispy layer of melty cheese on top. Delicious. But, not the most healthy option for dinner. This week I took one of my fave versions of stuffed peppers (inspired by Food52), and made some swap-outs to make it less carby and fatty.

As with any of my recipes, you could sub whatever protein you like- tofu, ground beef, ground chicken- whatever suits you. The big game changer is swapping out the orzo for cauliflower rice. I am not here to say cauliflower rice is the tastiest thing in the world, but like other foodstuffs, it adopts the flavors you pair it with. Really it just becomes another veggie that serves to bulk up your dish. Also, I use halloumi cheese (highly rec if you have not tried), but an easy switch is bulb mozzarella. This recipe makes 3 full peppers.

Stuffed Pep 1

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • medium white onion, diced
  • (14.5-oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 10 ounces riced cauliflower
  • 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 bell peppers (I used yellow)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup roughly chopped parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 8 ounces halloumi cheese, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  • Add the canola oil to a large skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the ground turkey and season with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let the turkey cook undisturbed for about 30 seconds to develop some caramelization, then break the meat into small crumbles.
  • Add the onion and another ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook the onion and turkey together for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly. When the onion begin caramelize, add the garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the tomatoes (including their juice) and another ¼ teaspoon of salt, and the riced cauliflower. The water content from the content will cook off as you continue to saute. Once liquid has reduced and riced cauliflower is combined with mixture, turn off heat.
  • Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife or spoon to remove all seeds, and trim white pith inside the pepper. Arrange the peppers cut-side up on a rimmed sheet pan lined with foil. Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and season each one with a pinch of salt. Roast for 25 minutes.
  • While those are in the oven, roughly chop the parsley and add to the turkey mixture, along with the halloumi and lemon juice. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust with more salt as necessary.
  • Remove the peppers from the oven after they have roasted for 25 minutes. Evenly divide the filling between the roasted peppers. Return the sheet pan to the oven, and cook for 15 minutes, until the peppers look slightly charred and the cheese is melty.

Stuffed Pep 2

I had a fair amount of filling left. I put it in some tupperware and for the next two days heated up the filling and cooked an over easy egg to put on top. It made the perfect breakfast, and I think the runny yolk added even more dimension to an already delicious dish!

Check out some of my other healthy dinner remakes:

Cauliflower Pizza

Zucchini Rollatini

Cauliflower Pizza Smackdown: Green Giant vs. Caulipower

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I know we are in the midst of possible food shortages, and thinking about healthier choices is probably the last thing on people’s mind, but I just had my annual wellness visit complete with blood panels, and my cholesterol is a little worrisome. I have this amazing P.A. who explained to me it is not necessarily fat in our diet that is the culprit with cholesterol…it is the dreaded carbs. What is a baker, and wine drinker to do? He gave me three months to “fix” things. I am taking it seriously. One of our go-to meals is pizza. We love ordering pizza from our favorite local spot, and we also love to make it at home. Enter cauliflower crust.

I will say it was a little difficult to acquire both kinds, but I wanted to see and taste the difference before we committed to this change in our menu. The contenders? Green Giant and Caulipower. I bought the boxes that came with two crusts just in case they were too small. Nutrition-wise, they are pretty fungable. From straight numbers on the box it does not look like that, but you have to look at serving size.

Speaking of serving size, the Green Giant was significantly smaller. The crusts also came wrapped together rather than separately like the Caulipower. I like that you still have a crust in the cache that is protected from freezer burn. Caulipower wins for size and storability.

On the topic of texture, it is hard to say. This will be an individual choice. The Green Giant is softer and slightly more porous when baked. The Caulipower is crispy out of the oven- almost like a cracker crust. For me, it was the Caulipower. It absorbed less moisture from toppings and I could eat with my hands whereas the Green Giant I needed a fork.

Cook time and oven temperature are exactly the same. This one’s a draw.

Neither one tasted like homemade pizza dough, but I did not expect that. Overall, it is an easy swap out to help us be healthier. Now, if I could just stop baking 🙂

The Ingredients for Greek Pizza Night:

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That stuff in the tupperware is left over chickpea shawarma…use what is in your fridge, you won’t regret it!

 

 

Cooking in Quarantine: Sheet Pan Mojo Meatballs & the Ultimate Tostones

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Sheet pan dinners are super easy, but they can get boring if we are always roasting up chicken and vegetables. This week I went on a Cuban-inspired cooking spree. My family loves Cuban food. We mourned when our only Cuban restaurant in Roanoke shuttered its doors a few years ago. It was one of those places you could go enjoy tasty dishes like ropa vieja, cassava, and cilantro-forward black beans and rice. Miss that place. I blogged about my love of it in a previous post, Hot Time in Roanoke.

For this spin on sheet pan dinner, I went with mojo meatballs. A post from Bon Appetit inspired this meal. I didn’t stop there though- I made some scratch Tostones, and black beans and rice like Havana Cafe used to make. It was a little more labor-intensive than the usual sheet pan dinner, but so worth it! It does require some specialty items for the store, but you can help yourself by buying a bottled Mojo sauce- I like Badia.

Mojo Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅔ cup panko (You could also use any other type of breadcrumbs you have in the pantry)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil,
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated if you have a microplane, otherwise finely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced (deseed if you want to lower spice level)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 vidalia onions, cut into wedges
  • dash of salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 500° and cover a sheet pan with foil
  • In a mixing bowl, combine pork, cilantro, egg, panko, spices, olive oil, grated garlic and minced serranos
  • Using your hands, mix until just coming together- don’t overwork the pork
  • Toss onions with 1 Tbsp. oil on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper
  • Roast in preheated oven until you see some brown charring, about 15 minutes
  • Remove onions from oven and spread to perimeter of pan. Form your meatballs, should be about 8, and place in center of pan
  • Roast until meatballs are firm to touch, about 15 minutes- you can temp if you want and pull at 165 degrees

Meanwhile as the meatballs are roasting, let’s get those tostones going….

Tostones

Ingredients:

  • 5 plantains (I like them pretty green)
  • Canola oil for frying
  • A large plate for smashing

Instructions:

  • Heat oil in a large, deep pan
  • Peel and cut plantains into 1-2 inch chunks

***Tip***To peel a plantain, cut off the ends and make a slit down the center of the peel. Crack that slit open and work your fingers down the body of plantain as skin separates from flesh.

  • Fry plantains in oil for about 3 minutes per side and remove to a paper towel
  • Using a plate, or other item at your disposal, smah down on plantains so they look like weirdly-shaped pancakes and return them to the oil for crisping
  • Flip after about 1 minute and immediately season with salt as you remove them (these are really good the first night, but a little tough the second night- they make a delicious hash)

Black Beans & Rice

I went the easy way on these since the tostones were a little time-consuming.

  • I like Rice Select products, and their Texmati rice is delicious. I made one serving of rice, and followed the directions on the container. You couold also use minute rice, riced cauliflower, or whatever you like best.
  • For the black beans, I am a Goya fan, but again use what you like. I opened a can, threw them in a microwave-safe bowl, and added 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon, dried cilantro, and 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder. I microwaved them for a minute, added salt and pepper and voila, easy black beans!

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make mojo sauce from scratch. I like this recipe. But, if you are not, buy yourself a bottle of Badia Mojo and drizzle over top of meatballs and BBNR…nom, nom!

Cooking in Quarantine: Sheet Pan Dinner

IMG_5762I know personally, I love cooking, but I am tired! Fatigue for me = sheet pan dinners 🙂 Hard to believe, but I have never tried Gochujang paste before. It is a Korean chili paste that is absolutely delicious! This week I tried out a sheet pan dinner with Gochujang as the season base. Luckily, I have some pretty adventurous eaters at home, and they were willing participants in my little experiment. I found inspiration for this in the NYT Quarantine Cooking series. Original recipe by Yawande Komolafe can be found here. I used root vegetables, but you could easily switch this out for brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, or whatever is coming out of all those abundant gardens sprouting up. This will serve 6 people or make a multi-night meal for 3.

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons Gochujang
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (this may be difficult if you do not have a microplane, you can just thinly slice)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces ( the original recipe calls for unpeeled, but I like to peel mine)
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • I bunch scallions, trimmed (I cut the white up until it started getting green to char on top and reserved the green ends for the pickle)
  •  4-6 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts, patted dry

****Generally, I buy 1 full leg per adult, and add a couple of thighs in for the extra hungry

  • 1 bunch radishes, very thinly sliced (much easier with a mandoline, but a steady hand always works)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (this gives it a VERY earthy flavor, it is optional)

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Instructions:

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Combine the gochujang, soy sauce, ginger and 3 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl or resealable bag.
  • Add the squash, turnips and scallion whites, toss to coat with glaze, or seal bag and shake to coat. Lightly season with salt and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Rinse and pat dry chicken. Season the chicken with salt and toss to coat in remainder of the glaze. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up between the vegetables on the sheet.IMG_5760
  • Roast until vegetables are tender, chicken is about 165 degrees, about 50 minutes. Turn on the broiler and crisp the chicken and veg until brown in spots- probably 5-10 minutes.
  • While the chicken cooks, thinly slice the scallion greens. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, cut the radishes into thin rounds. In a small bowl, toss the sliced scallion greens and radishes with the rice vinegar and sesame oil, if using. Season to taste with salt and set aside to lightly pickle.
  • Top the roast chicken and vegetables with the quick-pickled scallion-radish mix and transfer to serving plates.

I used chicken, but I think this would be equally delicious with pork chops. As meat becomes scarcer, you could also try this out with tofu, or maybe even Halloumi. It is a little spicy, but totally tasty!

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

Cooking in Quarantine: Easy Chocolate Orange Cake

I never use pre-made mixes…for anything…but in times like these, a girl has got to relent. My daughter loves my Tigerlily Cake- a mashup of orange and chocolate cakes topped with rich chocolate ganache. It is also one of my go-to potluck desserts because well, it’s super yummy!

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Originally I posted about this delicious cake when I made it for my department meeting before I retired. Now that Liv is home from college and sheltering in place with us, an opportunity to dust this one off presented itself. This time my supply pantry was getting a little sparse, and it seems everyone out there is looking for easy, quick desserts. I caved and bought a yellow cake mix and a dark chocolate cake mix.

I used Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix with a couple of hacks.

  • Swap out the liquid for fresh squeezed orange juice- I took me two oranges, and I used the zest in the batter for extra orangeiness.
  • Add one extra egg
  • Switch out melted butter for oil

Mix it up and pour into a nonstick bundt pan you have sprayed or buttered.

Now time for the chocolate cake. I used the Betty Crocker Super Moist Triple Chocolate Fudge mix.

Again, I modded it… a little. Also, I did not even rinse the standmixer bowl so the chocolate cake gets a boost of orange as well.

  • Add one extra egg yolk
  • Switch out melted butter for oil
  • Switch out milk for water

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The super easy, no special equipment method for chocolate ganache. All you need is a good-sized glass measuring cup 🙂 and a few ingredients.

Ingredients:

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz. good chocolate (I like Ghirardelli Dark chips)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (adjust as needed for smooth consistency)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  • Put everything in the measuring cup and microwave. You just want the cream to warm and the chocolate to soften.
  • Stir and pour glaze over finished cake.

Here is the original post with from scratch recipes for when you have more time and supplies.

After a short trip to the store for ingredient acquisition, we donned our aprons and got to work. Tigerlily cake is a blend of two different cake flavors- orange and chocolate. Some people have aversions to this combo, but we love it. We mix up the orange cake first- it is really a fabby yellow cake with fresh squeezed orange juice substituted for the liquid and heaping teaspoons of orange zest. I do this one first because when you assemble, it goes in the pan first and there is the added bonus you can use the same mixing bowl and it will just lend the chocolate a complimentary profile. I adapted the wonderful yellow cake recipe I got from Smitten Kitchen for the orange cake. Liv did all the measuring and mixing while I prepped the pans with butter and preheated the oven. I love the way a kitchen smells when you zest an orange- fresh and reminiscent of walking the groves in Florida.

Ingredients:

Orange Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter one Bundt pan.
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4  teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 stick  unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice of one large orange, fresh squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (zest over batter bowl to capture oils from peel)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I like Homestead Creamery)

Instructions:

  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  • At low speed, beat in buttermilk, orange juice and zest until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  • Once you have that mixed up, pour into your prepared Bundt pan.

The orange cake is lighter and will rise to the top while baking. This will give the cake its flowery appearance with the two cakes colors merging.

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cake

  • 1  cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 stick  unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ( I like roasted Saigon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Instructions:

  • Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt in a separate medium bowl.
  • Using the paddle attachment for your mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl at medium speed until  fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla.
  • At low speed, beat in half the flour mixture. Alternate beating in the sour cream with the flour mixture until all is incorporated.
  • Layer into the Bundt pan by pouring around middle of orange batter. I like to use a chopstick to swirl the batter. The chocolate batter will immediately start to move to the bottom revealing the orange batter.
  • Bake for approximately 40 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine is old and finnicky so I check when we hit the 35 minute mark. You want it to rise so don’t be afraid. It is done when a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  • Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then invert onto your cake carrier to await ganache. After the cake is inverted, I like to squeeze another orange around the top of the cake. This adds that extra level of moistness and infuses more of the orange flavor throughout.

Now it’s time for the ganache. Ganache can be super easy as long as you pay attention to it. You don’t want to breakdown the chocolate so much that it becomes grainy. You want a smooth topping to spread on you luscious cake.

Ingredients:

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz. good chocolate (I like Ghirardelli Dark chips)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (adjust as needed for smooth consistency)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  • Bring water to a boil in a double boiler.
  • Add chocolate to top of double boiler. Stir to ensure chocolate melts but does not seize.
  • Once the chocolate was pretty melty, add the heavy cream and cinnamon. Once it melds, remove from heat and allow to cool a couple minutes before ladling it on the cake.

Needless to say, the cake was enjoyed by all and Liv has one more recipe in her arsenal!

Note to self- get better at taking food photos!

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

 

Cooking in Quarantine: Keto-Friendly Zucchini Rollatini

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Comfort food seems to be a staple during this time of isolation, but too much comfort can lead to a sweatpants-only wardrobe if you aren’t careful 😉 This recipe alleviates some of the carbs without sacrificing the comfort…and it is keto-friendly for all you brave souls trying to maintain this lifestyle while staying at home.

This is an adaptation of Valerie Bertinelli’s rollatini recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large zucchini (could also use summer squash or eggplant)
  • 1 cup ricotta (I like whole milk, but if you are watching calories, opt for skim)
  • 1 tblsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Classico Fire Roasted Pepper and Garlic )
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Trim the ends off of the zucchini and slice lengthwise on a mandoline (If you do not have a mandoline, you can hand slice…just try to approximate thickness of a lasagna noodle). You can quick blanch these if you want them more pliable, but I used them raw.
  • Stir the ricotta, basil, oregano, and 3/4 cup mozzarella together in a bowl with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat in the egg to incorporate.
  • Saute spinach and garlic with olive oil over medium heat until spinach wilts
  • Lay the zucchini slices out on a work surface. Spread a thin layer of ricotta filling on each slice, spoon some of spinach mixture on top of cheese and roll the zucchini up. Meanwhile, pour half of your jar of sauce in a 13×9 baking dish. Arrange zucchini roll-ups seam-side down, over the sauce. Repeat until all zucchini are in pan.IMG_4393
  • Spread rest of sauce over top zucchini and sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan over top. Bake until the center is bubbling and the cheese is golden in spots, 20 to 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Prepare for the ooey-gooey, deliciousness- you won’t even miss the pasta!

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

Baking with Booze

Now that we no longer know what day it is, seems fitting to bring some booze into the recipes. This week I took a family favorite, Clafoutis, and gave it a makeover with a few different types of fruit and alcohol. I know the name sounds fancy, but it is really just a French custard cake made with seven ingredients. I adapted my mother recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

 

Ingredients:IMG_5427

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsps liqueur of choice (I have tried Rum, Frangelico, Amaretto)
  • 2 generous cups fruit of choice (I have tried apples, peaches, blueberries, cherries)

**Tip** DO NOT USE CITRUS FRUIT…it will curdle your batter

**Tip2**Gird your loins if you pick cherries…pitting is not for the faint of heart

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 400. Beat the sugar and eggs together with a whisk or in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, until they lighten in color. Gradually add butter, beating to incorporate.
  • Add the flour and salt all at once and whisk until the batter is combined. Next, slowly pour in the cream. Add the booze of choice, mixing well. The batter should be very smooth and shiny. Detach your bowl if using a stand mixer and move it to the fridge. the batter needs to rest 30 minutes before baking.
  • Meanwhile in a separate bowl, mix your fruit and liqueur together to macerate (fancy word for how the fruit absorbs the liqueur). Depending on fruit I add a few other ingredients to this party. For example, brown sugar and cinnamon for apples. Use your judgement and what you like.
  • Arrange half of your fruit in a buttered glass or earthenware baking dish, cake pan (9 or 10 inches in diameter) or skillet that can go in the oven. (I used a 9-inch cake pan.)
  • Remove your batter from fridge and add the liqueur left in fruit bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour the batter over the fruit. Arrange the rest of fruit on top of batter.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly browned and almost completely set in the middle. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Stay Safe and Bake On!

 

S’mores and Softball

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Cupcakes are a touchy subject with me.

I have actively eschewed them for about four years…about the time all the “Cupcakeries” started sprouting up. There seemed to be a cupcake shop on every corner, in every town I visited. I don’t like to follow the herd in baking matters, so my cupcake liners have laid fallow in their drawer.  Until two weeks ago.

My daughter plays travel softball and it was her coach’s birthday. It was an occasion screaming for cupcakes! Not just any cupcakes though, s’more cupcakes. The kind of cupcake that embraces all the great things about summer- campfires, simple foods, lazy evenings with groups of friends, vacations. The kind of cupcake that brings back all those golden childhood memories. The kind of cupcake that lingers with you not just for the flavor, but also the experience. That was the cupcake we needed.

A little backstory, Liv has been playing travel softball for three years  and much of our summer is spent in the shadow of a backstop with swirls of red field dirt floating around. When your child plays a sport, you want them to have a good coach who they respect and will learn from.

Enter Vanessa. She is a twenty-something, sassy, former D1 college softball player who took on our group of young ladies- I use the term ladies loosely- this season. She is one of those beautiful souls who tells it like it is, always. She has inspired Liv with her knowledge of the game, passion for playing, and easy-going humor. Vanessa is one of those rare people who come into your life and you hope they will stay.

Vanessa’s birthday happened to fall on a weekend we had a local tournament. She willingly gave up birthday plans to coach our girls. Liv and I decided we needed to do something to celebrate and whenever we decide that, it usually results in baking. We have ten girls on the team plus parents and siblings, so cupcakes were the logical confection. We wanted to do something different though; something you could not just pick up at the local cupcake shop. We talked about flavor profiles and what V. liked, but we were struggling.

As we got on the subject of dinners with Vanessa, it struck me that all of our pre-game rituals involved a Starbucks stop. V. has been on the S’mores Frappucino pretty heavily lately and from that the idea was born. We would bake s’mores cupcakes, bruleed marshmallow and all. With Liv doing the torching…maybe.

My main issue going into this was the frosting. I can make a rockstar, solid-peaked meringue, but how to incorporate marshmallow was the sticky wicket. I thought about melting marshmallows down like I do for Rice Krispie treats, but I worried it would solidify too fast to incorporate. Then a thought from my childhood came to me- Fluff!That gooey, goes best on peanut butter but is good friends with jelly ambrosia of my younger years. I mentioned it to Liv and she gave me the puzzled look. I realized at that moment I had fallen down as a parent. My child had never experienced Fluff. No fluffernutter sandwiches, no banana fluff snackies- how could I have let this happen. Now it could be because she hates peanut butter or that I spent a decade of her life banning all processed foods, who knows but it was getting remedied that afternoon. She was dubious; I was excited.

After our jaunt to the grocery store and the great hunt for Fluff, which by the way is now called “marshmallow cream” and no longer resides in the peanut butter and jelly aisle, we got to work. I gave Liv Nanny’s no-fail chocolate cake recipe and let her have at it. Hard to believe a year ago she barely knew how to make pasta. Now classmates clamber over her cookies and brownies when she brings them to school. They often don’t make it past the bus. Pretty cool!

Ingredients:

Nanny’s No-Fail Chocolate cake (makes one layer cake or 24 cupcakes):
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
Marshmallow Meringue frosting:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 oz. Fluff

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin pans with non-stick spray and line cups with parchment cupcake liners (you can get them anywhere, including Kroger).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the room temperature butter with the sugar until incorporated and fluffy. Add the eggs for the cake one at a time.
  • Add the vanilla extract and on low speed, begin adding the flour mixture. Alternate the addition of the flour mixture with the sour cream.
  • Once combined, grab your ice cream scoop and fill the cups about 3/4 full. Bake for about 18 minutes, depending on how fast your oven cooks. You want a toothpick to come out clean when inserted.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely.

Meanwhile, let’s make the frosting.

  • Using a clean stand mixer bowl (clean is really important for meringue), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. I will say I mistakenly added the sugar prematurely, but everything came out okay so don’t freak out if you make a mistake. Sometimes some of my best recipes come from mistakes!
  • Add in the sugar on high speed until the meringue looks glossy and stiff peaks form. You can judge the peaks by stopping the mixer and lifting the whisk out. If the meringue does not move and holds the peak shape, you are good to go.
  • Time for the Fluff! Fold the Fluff into your meringue. Most people will say you need to be gentle here, and that is preferable, but if you get a little impatient and fold too quickly, just use a hand whisk and bring the meringue back.
  • Once combined, put your frosting in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set.
  • Once cupcakes are completely cool and frosting is set, get out the piping bag and frost the cupcakes.
  • For the brulee, I like a hand torch. They are inexpensive and readily available at most stores. You could also use your oven at high heat. Torch each cupcake to light golden brown color.
  • Insert your mini hershey bars and graham pieces, and voila, S’mores Cupcakes!

IMG_0285

Yes. She did torch the meringue!

After some cooling time, wrangling of the chocolate bars because you know the store did not sell mini hershey bars, and some mangled graham cracker cracking; the cupcakes were frosted and adorned. Of course we tried one because as responsible bakers we could not let things leave our kitchen without a taste test. They were delicious, gooey, and more importantly, Vanessa loved them. Another success for Liv and I!