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Monthly Archives: September 2011

This is the second night this week I’ve made this hot chocolate and paired it with a side of Sean Connery – Monday it was Goldfinger, tonight it’s Dr. No. Seriously, how much more can a girl need in life?

Why so much Sean Connery? Why so much chocolate? Well I’m having one helluva week. The one where I seem to spill every coffee I make. That stack of papers I was carrying across the office? Oops they’re on the floor. And I forgot to button one of the middle buttons on my blouse. Right before a corporate meeting. Great. I totally feel like this.

Gifkings.comBut after one of these:

Now this hot chocolate comes with a warning. It belongs in one of those glass boxes that says “use only in case of emergency.” Because it is rich – double syllable riiii-iiich. I can’t emphasize this enough. We’re basically going to be just making milk chocolate.

Ingredients:

9 T mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/8 C granulated sugar

1/2 C milk (whole, skim, whichever you please)

The long complicated way:

1. Pour 1/2 C milk into a small saucepan – heat on low to medium low. Stir occasionally so the milk does not stick to the bottom of pan or burn.

2. Create a double boiler using another saucepan and small heatproof bowl. To do this, put about 1 1/2-2 inches of water in a saucepan, then fit a small bowl on top of this. Turn the heat to medium-medium high – make sure that the bowl does not touch the water in the saucepan. (If you don’t want to do this, you can microwave the chocolate but you have to be oh so careful with this. Chocolate burns so easily in a microwave and it staanks up your house.)

3. Put the 9 T chocolate chips in the heatproof bowl of the double boiler, and heat until the chocolate is smooth and soft. You will need to stir this occasionally as well using a small spoon.

4. When the milk is semi-hot and the chocolate is all melted, drop the chocolate into the milk using a spatula. If the milk is still too cool, the chocolate may clump up but don’t worry about this.

5. Turn the milk heat up more towards medium, and keep stirring. The chocolate is going to keep melting and incorporate into the milk. You should see it transform from tiny bits of chocolate in the milk, to everything being a smooth silky and solid chocolate color.

6. At this point dump the 1/8 C sugar in and keep stirring until this is all incorporated. Try a taste, and if it isn’t sweet enough put some more sugar in bit by bit.

7. Pour into cups! I did this in the sink since I tend to be a bit clumsy with this part.

The easy, but not so pretty way:

1. Put a handful of chocolate chips in a coffee mug, 2 T sugar, and just cover both with milk.

2. Heat in microwave until you see the milk start to bubble up to the top.

3. Remove and whisk FAST with a fork or tiny tiny whisk. Add a little more milk, and heat again. Keep repeating this until you have the desired volume and taste.

With this method, you can still get a rich and delicious hot chocolate but the consistency is not going to be smooth. After every sip or stir, there are going to be quite a few chocolate bits that gather at the top. But just keep stirring, and you won’t even notice they’re there.

 

Ahh everything is okay again. And if it isnt’? Well that’s what the rest of the James Bond movies are for.

 

 

 

Here’s what went down this weekend…

I got to see my awesome friends Eric & Molly and their fantastic, adorable, and amazing 10 day old baby. He’s the best. By far the coolest 10 day old I’ve met in my short lifetime. A weekend around great people, two nights in the most heavenly bed (down blankets mmm), a run on beautiful streets, and this guy:

I was also spoiled and found a Punkin Ale (hallelujah!)

And went to my first brewfest: it was modest (it was in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh) but still had some great local breweries show up.

Here are some of the things I learned for future brewfests:

1. Those tiny glasses are deceiving

2. Pace oneself. See above. It was so tempting to down several half-size glasses right as we arrived. I resisted, but it’s not easy when there are just so many great brews to try.

3. Keep track of what you’re having-I should have used my phone and pretended I was texting or something. I had so many good beers, but I can’t remember what they were or from which breweries they came for the life of me. [P.S. I have to give a shout out to Pittsburgh East End Brewing‘s Pedal Pale Ale. THAT I definitely remember. Oh so good.]

4. If you are the brewfest coordinator, please please have more than 2 (count ’em 2) Porta Johns. I mean come on. This is simple. Brews = need for bathrooms. Brewfest = need for lots of bathrooms.


Are you sad that the summer is fading quickly? ‘Cause I am a little blue about it, and frankly got myself in quite a funk today. It’s similar to when I haven’t had enough sleep, or am hungry – I don’t know what I want to do, where I want to go, etc. I basically turn into a cranky three year old. Attractive, I know. But no worries, don’t pay attention to me. Look at this Chocolate Raspberry Sacher Torte – it’s downright delicious.

So if you catch me in that mood, let’s start with some…

chocolate.

chocolate + butter

chocolate + butter + sugar

chocolate + butter + sugar + a Vanilla Porter

I’m telling you my friend, when you don’t feel like getting out of bed, or when you feel like going back to bed, whip up this extremely easy and decadent desert. I won’t promise that you’ll be light, skippy, and start bouncing when you stroll, but this is the best medicine to get you on the way there.

Bake & Brew

The Vanilla Porter & the Sacher Torte are good together, but I wouldn’t call it a perfect match.

(A) The Vanilla Porter brings out a velvety rich flavor (thank you vanilla extract) in the torte. Nothing beats a cold glass of milk with chocolate, but I would have this again with the torte if I wanted to pair a beer with this dessert.

(B) The chocolate & raspberry torte washes out the vanilla flavor in this porter, which is really too bad. I personally think the vanilla in the Breckenridge is a great addition, and it doesn’t taste fake or bring out an alcohol aroma in the porter. I would think it’s because this is brewed with real vanilla bean, rather that adding or using vanilla extract. Extract smells ahhhmazing, but have you ever tried tasting it alone? Please don’t. Bleggh. Anyways, I would not choose the torte again as a desert to pair with the Vanilla Porter.

Brew:

All in all…the torte really did wash out the flavor, which I am really disappointed about, so unfortunately I can’t in good conscious comment or rave about this. However, I will say that this has been a good go-to Porter in the past when I was making my way toward darker beers.

From Breckenridge “Who would have thought deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Madagascar grew the perfect ingredient to build an extraordinary Porter in Colorado? An ale that has all the chocolate and roasted nut flavor of a classic Porter, with an enigmatic surprise thrown in for good measure, real vanilla bean. Breckenridge Brewery’s Vanilla Porter. A vanilla kiss in a rich, dark sea.”

Vanilla kiss? That is genuinely adorable.

Recommend to a friend? Yes

Safe for lightweights? 4.7%


Bake:

And the recipe to start solving your problems? It’s thick, dark chocolatey, tarte from the raspberry, and really, really hard to stop eating.

Chocolate Raspberry Sacher Torte

adapted from recipe by Tuxedo

prep time: about fifteen minutes

3/4 C butter (unsweetened)

3 oz unsweetened chocolate

1 1/2 C sugar

3 eggs @ room temperature

2 t vanilla extract

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour

1/4-1/3 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Melt butter & chocolate. Cut the cooking chocolate up into cubes, and cube butter as well. Put it all in a microwave safe bowl, and melt for about 1 minute, or until most of the butter is melted. Stir when you remove from microwave until the chocolate is all melted as well. You may have to put the chocolate back in for a few seconds.

2. Mix in sugar, then eggs & vanilla extract. Then mix in flour.

3. Cut parchment paper in circles, and put in the bottom of two cake pans (8 or 9 inches in diameter). Pour the batter into the two cake pans. Bake 325 degrees for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

4. Remove from oven, take a knife and run it around the edges of the pan so that the cake doesn’t stick. Let cool for about five minutes in the pan.

5. Put a cooling rack on the top of the cake pan, hold both sides and flip them over so that the cake rests on the cooling pan.

6. Spread 6 oz of raspberry jam/preserves onto the top of one of the cakes. Put the second one on top, and spread that as well.

7. Pour the chocolate chips into a ziploc baggie (sandwich size) and spread out in the lower half. Place on a place with the bag unlocked, and microwave ten seconds at a time until the chips are soft enough to move around.

8. Spread the chocolate chips to one corner and twist the bag toward the top, until you can hold it with one hand to pipe onto the torte. Cut a tiny portion of the chocolate corner off, until you have the desired thickness of chocolate to pipe. Decorate however you like!

Let me say, thank goodness for this ale. And new mountain bike & road shoes. I dealt with my fair share of crazy…cough cough…spirited customers today and although I got my frustrations out through a run, it really is relaxing to sit down in front of a good movie (Batman Begins was on tonight, huzzah!) and have a tasty beer.

All in all…Pumpkin spiced pie. Downright pumpkin all that is good and holy thick, rich pie. Delicious creamy pie, nutmeg, and heaps of cloves cloves so many cloves, and is it Thanksgiving yet? Call me crazy but the aftertaste reminds me of Poppa Skull. Maybe I’ve just been craving that too much lately. That is beside the point; this is top notch. With rumors of bottling problems at Buffalo Bill’s (please confirm this isn’t true) and Dogfish Punkin’ Ale a state away now (saaaddd so sad), this is going to move its way to the top of the list for Pumpkins.

Recommend to a friend? You bet good sir

Safe for lightweights? 8% I split mine with my brother (1) because I wanted him to have the change to have such a great pumpkin ale (2) because an 8% beer post-run isn’t always the best idea

When and where? Can we pretty-please go camping now? Though it may be better to have a lower percentage beer so we can enjoy more than a few around the fire.

Plus one? For the taste, yes. With that ABV, no.

Cheers my dear!

Labor day means…

Going out for a run in weather inappropriate clothes. (Shorts and tank top weren’t a good idea for 55 degrees)

Banana walnut pancakes-see below.

Parks & Recreation marathon…I normally have one productive day and one lazy day during the weekend, but even though I’m partially productive I still feel guilty for lazing around the next day. Having two productive & one lazy day is acceptable to me. More than acceptable. Today has been downright luxurious.

Sassing & prancing around to Amy Winehouse & Adele.

Hanging out in a fuzzy yellow and blue ducky robe. I promise I wear grown-up clothes to sleep, but I’m never giving up this badass & comfortable robe.

Labor day also means…

Founders Breakfast Stout is here

The pancakes and the Founders didn’t go well together. Fail. The walnut & stout bring out an alcohol flavor in both-blegh. Oh well, so it goes. You try things – some work, others don’t. The good news is they are both phenomenal by themselves.

All in all…Mmmm I just want to curl up in a fuzzy robe in a big squishy chair with one of these. Oh wait, I did that. It was lovely. This is one of the few beers when after every sip, I have to put it down, and think to myself (or say out loud) “heavens that was good.”

From Founders: “The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this stout has an intense fresh roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.”

How decadent does that sound? And this lives up to expectations: the roasted coffee and dark dark bitter chocolate blends in with this so smoothly and seamlessly. The coffee scent comes right up to you at first and circles right back around as an aftertaste, and bookends the chocolate quite nicely.

Recommend to a friend? Oui oui!

Safe for lightweights? 8.3% Better have some hearty pancakes in your belly before having one of these.

When and where? See the aforementioned cozy robe and chair. Get a fireplace and book involved and will be just picture perfect.

Plus one? I’ll take a nap afterward.

I’m trying to think of a rating system a little more original than just A-F, 1-5, etc. Suggestions?

Ever wanted to make the perfect, easy, and delicious breakfast after a sleepover? Well make these and you’ll be crowned Breakfast Queen. I promise that they take under five minutes to prepare, minimal ingredients, and only ten minutes to finish up on the stove. Plus, you can refrigerate them in a Ziploc and grab them as an out-the-door snack.

Banana Walnut Pancakes

adapted from recipe by Carol Perry

1 3/4 C flour

2 T sugar

2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 1/2 C milk

3 T cooking oil – I use vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

1 over ripe & speckled banana

dash of cinnamon

one tiny itsy bitsy dash of nutmeg

a few handfuls of walnuts, pecans, or any other nut of choice – this is optional

JIF crunchy peanut butter

1. Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl.

2. Mix egg, milk, cooking oil in small bowl.

3. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and mix well until there are very few lumps. Add cinnamon and nutmeg.

4. In another small bowl, mash the banana until there aren’t many lumps there either.

5. Add vanilla in pancake batter, then whisk in mashed banana and nuts.

6. Scoop 1/4 C batter onto skillet warmed on medium heat, when the sides start to get matte and there are bubbles regularly popping on the top, flip over. It takes a while to get the feeling for when pancakes are done, but if you’re in doubt, poke a knife in the center to see if the batter is done yet.

If you really want to be spectacular, top pancakes with some butter then crunchy peanut butter, then maple syrup. It’s one of our proudest family traditions, and scrumptuous.

Happy three-day weekend! Weekends mean:

I wake up at 7:30 even though I don’t set my alarm (why does this happen? I mean really, come on)

So many cups of coffee in the morning (I don’t want to admit the number)

A trip to Friendly Package for a four/six pack. Oooh I saw this delicious big boy bottle yesterday at the store – “La Terroir” from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, but I’m saving it to split with someone.

Baking. So much baking. Including this super easy vanilla cupcake with tangy pomegranate frosting. Oh yeah, pomegranate. POM YUM.

But before I list out the recipe…

The lowdown on the brew: Celis White is a lean & plain/nice & white witbier from the Michigan Brewing Company. Can’t really taste any surprise accents or spices. But that can be good! In this case, its clearness is an advantage when pairing it with the pomegranate cupcake. Plus, at 3.9% this is amaaaazingly one of the few beers that I would be able to enjoy more than a few of. You really have no idea how happy I am to have found this. Normally when I go “out” for a beer, I prefer to have something packed with taste and flavor, but a lot flavor usually comes with an increasing ABV. And well since I’m stupidly lightweight that presents a conundrum.

And with the cupcake? A wonderful clean & clear taste to go with the tangy pomegranate frosting.  I didn’t even need a glass of milk with the cupcake since I had the Celis. Go for it!

White Cake (adapted from Better Homes & Gardens)

4 egg whites (left to stand at room temp for 30 minutes)

2 C all-purpose flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/8 t salt

1/2 C butter (at room temp for 30 minutes as well)

1 3/4 C sugar

1 1/2 t vanilla

1 1/3 buttermilk

1. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter until soft and smooth.

3. Add sugar and vanilla, and beat until combined well. Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each one.

4. Add flour and buttermilk mixture alternately (1/3 flour, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 flour, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 flour), and beat on low after each just until flour is incorporated.

5. Tada! Put batter in cupcake tins until about 1/2 full. Bake for 17 minutes @ 350 F.

Pomegranate Frosting

6 T crisco

1 lb confectioners sugar

1 t vanilla extract

about 1/4 C pomegranate juice

1. Cut the crisco into the full pound of confectioners sugar using a mixer until crumbly.

2. Add vanilla extract and 1/4 C pomegranate juice a little bit at the time while mixing.

3. Keep adding more juice and confectioners sugar alternately until you have the desired consistency. *Always end the frosting with at least a spoonful of confectioners sugar. Don’t know why this happens, but if you don’t then it tends to be more soupy than necessary.

“Bell’s Octoberfest Beer is a smooth, highly drinkable lager that opens the door to the coming autumn with a light, dry toasted malt note.” from Bell’s Brewery

Summer isn’t over nooooo! I’m not ready to let go, no no no. September is late summer. So what are all these Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Ales doing in the stores and at the bar? Tempting me. That’s what. I can’t face the fact that fall is coming, but I just can’t resist Oktoberfest and Pumpkins.

I’m pretty sure this is the first time I haven’t been ready for fall since, well since I was a kid. (Okay so I’m still a kid in a lot of ways…cookies for breakfast? totally a kid) Anyways, I think it’s because I haven’t been in school in a while. When classes started back up again every year, we would be walking around in the sweltering August heat from class to class, growing frustrated with every moment at the weather. Arriving at class with crazy hair, wanting just to lay in front of an air conditioner with minimal clothes on, really doesn’t put you in the mood for learning. For over a year now I’ve had a 9-5 job with air conditioning, so…I don’t really have to deal with that. I get to reap the benefits of coming home at 5, and actually enjoying the heat afterwards during a sweaty bike ride, round of golf, or a run later during the warm twilight. I love fall, I really do, but that means months of cold cold weather is coming. Maybe these fall beers will help me be nostalgic for some fall goodness soon.

All in all…I haven’t had enough Oktoberfests to compare this to any others yet, but I’m very much enjoying this and it’s gorgeous copper color. I’m not jumping for joy, but this is going to become a fall staple this year.

Recommend to a friend? I’m looking forward to seeing if there is another Oktoberfest I’d prefer, so we’ll wait and see about this.

Safe for lightweights? 5.8% I had one of these, as well as that Southampton last night and was okay to drive home after an extra hour and several glasses of water.

When and where? An all occasion. Last night and today’s weather was H.O.T.T. but this was still refreshing and light. I cannot…cannot wait to have some fall beers at a park, and over a campfire. (Flashback to a four-pack of Punkin’ ale and camping last fall awmann good times)

Plus one? See above.