puppies, not ponies: time for another birthday cake

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My youngest daughter, she of last year’s pony birthday cake, is set to turn a year older. Which means I have an excuse to go all out with another cake. Her chosen party theme for turning 8 is “puppies,” so … Continue reading

gate-crashing a Sicilian cocktail party

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Liz: Well, hello. Welcome to a Special Travel Edition here at food for fun. I hope you brought your passport, as we’re going International today. First, you’ll want to meet my friend Saucy of Saucy Gander. She puts my simple … Continue reading

soy brownies and rum?

Spring break is so over. A week of r& r at the in-laws–complete with far more DIY marshmallows consumed than recommended–was lovely, but this week it’s back to that real world and all its ensuing insanity. Cue the crazy.

Which put me at the intersection of Nothing Prepared and No New Ideas when time came to write this week’s post. So I’ll fall back on a now time-honored tradition of repeating myself, visiting my work elsewhere in the blogsphere.

Another month, another post at Minnesota Soyfoods Real Story Blog: Brownies anyone? (no worries–neither tofu nor actual soybeans were used)

We also play a game here at food for fun called “Find a Cocktail Recipe.” Enter part deux of this post…

Immediately upon opening the liquor cabinet, out fell a small paperback volume I don’t remember seeing before.

vintage 1940

vintage 1970

Famous Rum Drinks of the Virgin Islands is all of 32 pages and was penned by a Ms Dea Murray as a collection of drinks from “famous hotels, restaurants & bars.” Drowning in red, brown, gold, and harvest orange glory, it could only be a garage sale find. Yet its appearance rang no bells.

That said, it fell out of my liquor cabinet–reason enough to thumb through. Bluebeard’s Wench called for blue curaco, which is not on my shelf. Same story Hurricane Buster. Old Fashioned Voodoo would be mine if only I had guava juice. Swashbuckler called for Champagne and Coco Loco requires the purchase of coconut cream. Clearly I need a better pantry for this book.

wpid-mntsdcardPhoto-Editor2014-03-19-20.32.06.jpg.jpgFortunately, Rum Swizzle met me where I was at. Out came the rum, sweet vermouth, lemon, bitters, and fresh nutmeg. Though not a big fan of rum, I like what it stands for: warm sand and sun, island breezes, tropical tunes.

The resulting sipper was bracingly tart and could’ve stood a bit more sweet, but it won me over by being both assertive and classy. A newly purchased thrift-store cocktail glass made the project even more fun.

sS what if it's only 33°F outside? I have rum in my cocktail.

So what if it’s only 33°F outside? I have rum in my cocktail.

Our winter may not be over quite yet, but the mercury climbs slowly and surely a tropical rum cocktail can help push things in the right direction. So here’s to seeing the backside of winter. Here’s to garage sale finds–remembered or no. And here’s to the busy-ness of life. May it all be great fun as often as it can. Cheers!

spring break special ed. or there really is such thing as too many marshmallows

Spring break means sunshine, beaches, and tropical beverages. Especially after Coldest Winter Ever, trips to warmer climes seem mandatory. But our family had other plans. We would visit my husband’s parents in a small town 200+ miles north of where we live.

While this vacation locale won’t bring us any beach days, it does offer opportunity for rest and relaxation. With grandparents on-site to mind the kids, I can sleep in, work out, and tackle projects that haven’t been moving forward back home. One project in particular–remember Marshmallow Madness?–kept me busy today.

Since that last January marshmallow post, I’ve been drawing up outlines, testing recipes, dreaming up marshmallow flavors and uses (popcorn balls, anyone?), and researching what’s already out there in hopes of advancing my own spin on DIY ‘mallows.

To that end, I bought bottles of sweet red wine and sherry, intending to try these wines in marshmallows. Weeks went by, the bottles collecting dust on the shelf (save the sherry, which I enjoy sipping come evening) and I wondered when my schedule would allow me a few hours in the kitchen to try these new marshmallow flavors.

Knowing I’d have plenty of time at my in-laws, I packed it all up and set out to turn my mother-in-law’s kitchen into a marshmallow test kitchen.

And how. After making three different kinds of marshmallows–sherry, sweet red wine, and root beer–I can say without reservation that there IS such a thing as marshmallow overload. Tasting along the way, many spoonfuls of sugary fluff were consumed. Add to that the many marshmallows “tested” after project completion, and I write this in the throes of a sugar coma. That said, here’s a review.

The sherry and red wine flavors were riffs on Alton Brown’s recipe, subbing alcohol for part of the water (1/2 cup for the sherry and 2/3 cup for the red wine). Red wine won for appearance as it started out deep purple, then faded to light pinkish lavender after whipping. Sherry won flavor, if only because I prefer sherry over red wine.

sherry marshmallows-to-be

sherry marshmallows-to-be

boiling the wine syrup

boiling the wine syrup

whipping the wine fluff

whipping the wine fluff

Wanting to make a ‘mallow for the kids, I turned to Marshmallow Madness (Shauna Sever beat me to this book title!) for its Root Beer Float marshmallow. Sever’s recipes had different proportions of corn syrup, sugar, and liquid compared to other recipes I’ve tried, though she knows what she’s doing as her marshmallows were fluffiest and the “batter” easiest to work with. I’ll be turning to Sever’s book again.

gelatin "blooming" in root beer

gelatin “blooming” in root beer

I wasn’t overly crazy about any of these flavors, though that’s more about my being sick of marshmallows than it is marshmallow quality. My best bet is to step back from marshmallow making, though I’ll need to hit it again soon as I’ve signed on to teach a marshmallow class at a local cooking school. The madness must continue. I’ll also be reporting back here, eventually offering up the root beer float marshmallow recipe as well*. Please stay tuned!

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

*Can’t wait for the recipe? Let me know in comments or on deLizious facebook and I’ll send it your way.

food geek chocolate cake

The hardest part of monthly guest posts at Blog of Funny Names is coming up with that funny name. Committing to a food-related name helps narrow the field, but I’m never sure where to look for a name that is fun, fresh, interesting, relevant, and unique enough to be considered “funny.”

Googling always saves the day, but I still need a direction in which to head. This month I got that direction from a small inner voice whispering, “molecular gastronomy.” [While hearing small voices might qualify me for professional help, your reading this might qualify you for the same so we’re in this together. Stay with me? Please?]

So. Searching “molecular gastronomy” was exactly what I needed to do and we all benefit because 1) I found an amazing man named Hervé This, whom I now admire greatly and 2) I thought I’d try a bit of kitcheny science over here as well.

Those kitcheny science results are as laughable as they are delicious and we’ll move on to them as soon as I can convince you to hop over and learn a bit more about Hervé. Click here, then please return for a doozy of a chocolate cake experiment.

***

Back for cake? Very good, then. Learning about Monsieur This inspired me to find a recipe I remembered seeing on Foodography, a favorite Cooking Channel show. Self-proclaimed food nerd Jeff Potter demonstrated a microwave chocolate cake leavened only by N2O gasses in the cream whipper that dispensed the batter.

Long a cream whipper fan, I’ve used mine only to whip cream and branching out sounded like fun. A cake leavened with nitrous oxide instead of chemicals–kitchen science indeed.

ready to rock

ready to rock

Though the recipe threw me a bit: Four ounces chocolate, four eggs, plus smaller amounts of flour and sugar. This sounded like multiple servings, but best I could understand, it all went into one glass. Mention of only filling the “pan” two-thirds full should have been my clue, but after studying the recipe closely, I saw no mention of anything more than one serving. I filled that mug to the top. (also added a dollop of marshmallow fluff after half-filling with batter per recipe suggestion)

batter in place

batter in place

halfway

halfway

fluff!

fluff!

ready for the microwave

ready for the microwave

The first 30 seconds in the microwave didn’t “bake” the batter through, so I added four more 30-second intervals. And by the first minute, the batter was up and over the side of the mug. For sure this recipe is meant to serve four and shame on me for not getting that.

no words for this

no words for this

Just the same, this offers opportunity to turn disaster into triumph. (It’s a game I often play called, “I meant to do it this way.”) The cake turned out nicely on a platter, a bit of gooeyness on the top (now the bottom) adding to its charm. Dusting with powdered sugar, as advised, crowned it in glory and it was happily ever after.

A side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it's restaurant worthy.

Add a side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it’s restaurant worthy.

No question the batter was meant to be divided evenly among four glasses. Though the numbers divide in half easily enough, making two servings an option as well.

While this was fun, and meeting Hervé was worth any amount of kitchen mess, my next microwave cake will be of the chemically leavened mug variety. Fortunately, another Liz–of Tip Top Shape–has me covered with her funfetti version.

I raise my future mug of Liz’s Funfetti Mug Cake to you all for spending time with me here and over at Blog of Funny Names. I look forward already to our next food adventure.

British (cake) invasion

Anyone who writes, reads, comments on blogs would attest to the power of online communication for building relationships. Ditto for facebook, twitter, etc. We’ve all made friends we’d never have imagined meeting outside of online connections.

Today’s story is about such a connection, though it goes back 12 years, before blogs, facebook Likes, or tweets. Remember the chat room?

With little to do at the end of my first pregnancy (I had stopped accepting new projects in anticipation of first-time motherhood and the nursery was ready and waiting), I found myself newly addicted to a television show I’d enjoyed in the ’80s. Discovering its virtual chat room linked me to others following this cult favorite. Thus my bonding with Scarecrow & Mrs. King fans began.

It’s with some embarrassment that I ‘fess up to having been into this show (admitting to a trip to LA for SMK’s 20th anniversary reunion doesn’t help my street cred either), though I will forever be grateful as it formed a friendship I still hold today.

Di–watching SMK in Great Britain–was brilliantly funny and we soon moved on to emails and exchanging packages (though she’s much better at sending than I am). We’ve met up in LA, Vegas, Boston, D.C., and DisneyWorld and I’ve hosted her in my home as well.

(You can meet Di yourself, through TourGuide Ted, her well-traveled stuffed bear who has his own website, twitter account, and vacation property.)

Though Di would never call herself a “cook,” her bear, Ted, has posted the occasional culinary delight. Most recently, he showed up on his Twitter feed with a piña colada cake. And when Di sent me the recipe, I was on it like a maraschino cherry on a pineapple ring.

TourGuide Ted's cake is much prettier than mine.

TourGuide Ted’s cake is much prettier than mine.

What’s surprising here is that I don’t like pineapple. I especially don’t like pineapple in baked goods. (My theory that raisins don’t belong in baked goods easily extends to all fruit, excepting apple pie and crumble of course.) But a seemingly endless string of sub-zero temperature days broke me and I wanted nothing more than a slice of piña colada cake.

Luckily I have a kitchen scale and working knowledge of google as I needed to weigh ingredients and translate British cooking terms such as sandwich tins, caster sugar, and Gas Mark 3.

In the end, my cake baked up flatter (didn’t have 7-inch cake pans, so used 9-inch) and was less pretty (bought two cans of pineapple tidbits instead of one each rings and tidbits–oops) than what Ted had whipped up, but it couldn’t have been any less delicious. Moist, sweet, a little bit boozy, the cake offered texture contrast with moist pineapple pieces and shredded coconut. I put away three (not huge, honest) slices before I could stop eating.

Kept going back for more.

kept going back for more

slice of heaven

slice of heaven

In the spirit of the recent Winter Olympic games, food for fun salutes all its readers–international and domestic–with a cake that is good enough to bring about World Peace. And hopefully a spring thaw for those in northern climes.

Piña Colada Cake as told to an American food editor

  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple rings
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 6 ounces butter, softened
  • 6 ounces caster sugar (used granulated)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons coconut rum (used twice that and Ted claims to have tripled the amount)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dessicated coconut (used shredded)
  • 6 ounces self-rising flour (used 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple pieces, drained and well-chopped (used canned tidbits)

Filling and Frosting

  • 525 grams icing (powdered) sugar
  • 225 grams butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • Coconut rum
  • Pineapple juice (reserved from canned pineapple)
  • 2 to 4 ounces dessicated coconut (Ted says toasted, though I did not)

Set oven to Gas Mark 3 (325ºF). Line 7-inch sandwich tins (with removable bottom). [I coated two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray.] Sprinkle bottom of one pan evenly with brown sugar. Top decoratively with pineapple rings and cherries.

In mixing bowl, beat together 6 ounces butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, rum, and vanilla until blended. Fold in coconut, flour, baking powder, and pineapple pieces. Add more rum if mixture is too thick to pour. Divide batter between pans. Bake on same oven rack 35 to 45 minutes or until cakes pull away from sides of pans and wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool (pineapple-side-up for pan with rings) on wire rack.

To make filling and frosting, sift icing sugar into large bowl. Add 1/2 cup butter and small amount of liquids; mix until smooth. Add liquids to taste until mixture is smooth and spreadable. (Here Ted mentions that it is important to keep tasting, though he is speaking specifically about the rum at this point.)

When cake layers are cool, place bottom half (without pineapple rings) on serving plate. Spread with about half of frosting; top with remaining cake layer, pineapple-side-up. Spread remaining frosting around side of cake. Top with coconut as desired.

deLizious leftovers

What with all the sweet potato dishes cooked up here last week and the oatmeal cookies the week before that, I’ve burned myself out a bit in the kitchen. My husband has made more than a few of our weeknight meals and we have so many cookies (double dosing this cookie season with two Girl Scouts in the house), cakes, and the like that there’s no need to make any new sweet treats.

OK, I did make this cake for Valentine's Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

OK, I did make a cake for Valentine’s Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

So I’ll do what other cooked-out cooks do and serve leftovers this week. For starters, here’s a recent Blog of Funny Names post. Give it a click (Do it! It’s not like you’ll be tested on it 😉 ) and learn more about the folks behind your favorite cold-weather foods.

Minnesota Soybean’s Real Story blog also gave me opportunity to bake up tasty cornbread, containing not one, not two, but three soyfoods. You need cornbread if you have chili on the menu, so give it a read here.

Because food for fun’s goal is to send you away with more than enough, I’ll also offer you the recipe for husband’s killer oven-baked Crunchy Chicken. Served with creamed spinach (A pinch-and-dash puree of spinach and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then mixed with fat-free half-and-half and neufchâtel cheese. Sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, it made a lovely side.) and reheated stuffing from a soon-to-be-posted clams casino recipe (spoilers!), the chicken was a hit.

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Would love to see you back here next week and while I don’t yet know what we’ll be serving up, I promise it’ll be fun eats.

Crunchy Chicken

My husband plays it fast-and-loose with seasonings, so there’s no guarantee his results can be recreated exactly, though this is the recipe he used. Also note that he used only drumsticks and chicken breast tenders.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, and/or drumsticks), trimmed
  • 3 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 2/3 cup coarse breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To marinate chicken, in large plastic resealable food-storage bag, whisk together buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the hot sauce. Add chicken; seal bag. Turn to coat. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; heat oven 400ºF. Set wire rack on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Coat rack with cooking spray.

To make coating, in shallow dish, combine cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs; toss until well coated.

Working with 1 piece chicken at a time, remove from marinade. Dredge in crumb mixture, firmly pressing crumbs onto all sides. Place chicken on wire rack, leaving 1/2 inch between pieces. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until coating is deep golden brown and thickest part of chicken thigh registers 175°F and thickest part of breast registers 165ºF.

more momofuku insanity

I’ll admit to not being on top of the blogging game this week. My posting day arrived, but still no sense of what to write up. While my week was full of the usual food-related projects along with a handful of meals out, nothing had struck me as blog-worthy. And truth be told, sometimes I just get lazy. Having to track details, take pictures, etc for a post can (sometimes, not always) suck fun from a food adventure.

So today’s “inspiration” was forced and also a bit lazy. I grabbed Momofuku Milk Bar, Christina Tosi’s amazing cookbook, from the shelf and flipped through until I found a recipe that looked tasty, used minimal ingredients, and took little time to throw together. And boy howdy, did I strike gold.

Momofuku has been featured here before and for those who haven’t heard of this crazy little New York sweet shop, know that it’s famous for Crack Pie™ as well as crunches, crumbs, cereal milk, brittles, and the like. Tosi has an imagination like no other along with a willingness to think waaaaaaay outside the pastry box. She’s the proverbial kid in a candy store except that she’s in charge of the candy store.

What caught my eye this go-round was her Liquid Cheesecake. A dessert in itself, it’s also an ingredient in ice cream, sorbet, layer cakes (both apple and carrot), and truffles. Tosi is an excellent communicator and only her words will do her thought process justice:

…I’m kind of a fan of the gooey, just-barely-baked approach to making something delicious. There’s just something so naughty and fulfilling about the texture… Once I’d settled into my role as pastry chef at Momofuku, I knew I had every right to eat magically thickened cheesecake filling in the confines of my new home…so began my search for my voice in the form of cheesecake. It was short journey: my heart beats for one and only one kind of cheesecake–the underbaked, messy kind. And so, my signature cheesecake is liquid cheesecake.

Now doesn’t that sound lovely?

Should you share Tosi’s obsession for ooey-gooey goodness, I suggest you find yourself a copy of her book. It’s a fun read and a great kickstart for crazy-good dessert ideas. But if you can’t wait to make liquid cheesecake, here’s what I did:

Heat oven to 300°F. In mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat 8 ounces softened cream cheese on low speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Scrape down side of bowl with spatula. Add 3/4 cup sugar; beat 1 to 2 minutes or until completely incorporated. Scrape down side of bowl.

In small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt; whisk in 2 tablespoons milk. (I used almond milk.) Whisk in 1 large egg. Beat cornstarch slurry into cream cheese mixture on medium-low speed 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth and loose. Scrape down side of bowl. Stir in 2 or so cups chopped chocolate, miniature candy bars, and cut-up marshmallows.batterScrape mixture into 9-inch graham cracker crust. Bake 15 minutes; gently shake pan. Remove from oven if cheesecake is firm in center and jiggly around edge. If mixture is jiggly all over, bake 5 minutes more. Add another 5 minutes if needed, but, in Tosi’s experience, “it shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes to underbake a cheesecake.” Cool cheesecake completely, allowing to set. Store in airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Note that the candy stir-ins and graham cracker crust were my spins. Tosi bakes in a 6-inch square pan lined with plastic wrap and describes the final “cheesecake” as “pipeable and pliable enough to easily spread or smear, while still having body and volume.”

I’ll close with a warning: This cheesecake is deadly addictive. As expected, it’s creamy and rich, but the chopped candy makes it über-sweet as well. What starts out as one spoonful easily leads to two, then three, etc. And before you know it, you’re regretting those last bites. (or so I’ve been told 😉 ) This is a sweet treat meant to be enjoyed in small portions.

Liquid Cheesecake Pie, not for the feint of heart!

Liquid Cheesecake Pie, not for the faint of heart!

If the description and picture didn’t sell it, I offer one more reason to love liquid cheesecake:

not a fail!

not a fail

so not what I was going for

so not what I was going for

It’s supposed to look like this! I’ve had similar baking experiences that were considered fails (see pink squirrel pie at right) and it seems the same result is a major success here.

Hats off, then, to Christina Tosi for her envelope-pushing sweet treats. I love how she thinks and am ever grateful for her inspirations.

in-laws, outlaw marshmallows, plus a pan of bars

The blogosphere has been abuzz with end-of-year posts and kicking-off-the-new-year posts and year-end reports. And while I’d like to consider myself capable of looking within and learning from the past 365 days in hopes of improving my next round, I find that mostly I just move forward. I go and I do.

Balancing professional and personal ambitions with mommyhood leaves precious little time to just Be. And while that’s a bit disturbing, it’s where I–along with a lot of other mommies–am right now. Forward march with the task-driven mentality. (Though should you need a good look inward, I’ll send you over to meet Kaela. She’s fun!)

So to kick off 2014, food for fun offers you its most recent Adventures in Marshmallows. (If you were reading food for fun last winter, you know that I went through a bit of ‘mallow madness back then as well.)

Another blogging friend and I have been trading cocktail recipes and found we share a love for bourbon. Her use of cherry-flavored bourbon piqued my interest and I did a bit of “research” when visiting my in-laws over the holidays. Their small town boasts one liquor store and it’s little more than ten or so shelves on one wall, plus a few bottles behind the counter. I figured my chances of finding cherry bourbon were small, and it was indeed a wash.

Yet I knew from reading Drink More Whiskey (best. birthday. gift. ever. Thanks, dear husband!) that on some level whiskey is whiskey–whether bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, etc–and a bottle of black cherry Canadian had to share some common ground with cherry-flavored bourbon. I bought said bottle and returned to my in-law’s.

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

But I didn’t plan to drink it. Instead, I was subbing it in for bourbon in a cheeky recipe I’d found at The Tart Tart. The resulting marshmallows were amazing and lovely–the cherry sweetness came through as the spirited booze flavors flew just below the radar.

whitedogmallows

I bet Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law helped me lick the beaters (and spatula and bowl) clean upon project completion. It was then that s-i-l made a game-changing comment:

“I need rice krispies with this. And butter.”

My universe shifted a bit at her words. Boozy rice krispy bars. Sheer brilliance! A few rice krispies were stirred into the fluff left in the bowl and we enjoyed  a taste.

Fast forward a few days and I was back in my own kitchen using TTT’s recipe again, this time replacing the bourbon with rum.

there's rum in these 'mallows

there’s rum in these ‘mallows

After the marshmallows had cooled and been cut, I measured up 10 ounces and made a batch of Hot Buttered Rum Rice Krispy Bars. Oh divine.

hot. buttered. rum.

hot. buttered. rum.

The possibilities seem endless–adult rk treats in flavors of margarita, mudslide, etc. I sense that 2014 has taken on a new purpose for me. My resolution seems clear: Make More Marshmallows. (Which oddly enough is not too far off from my 11-year-old’s “eat more gummy bears” resolve.)

So please stick around (marshmallow pun–get it? 😉 ) and help me meet my ‘mallow-y goal. A fellow blogger (you’ve met amb here before) and I have joked about Marshmallow Mondays and while I’m not sure yet exactly how this will play out, I see it as a good start for a new year of sweet and fluffy fun.

Introspection will always be welcome here and maybe even occasionally offered outright. But it’s mostly about the food and the fun that accompanies. Marshmallows, then, seem a good way to kick off the new year. Wishing you all a mountain of marshmallows in 2014!

let the good times roll–part deux

A recent conversation with fellow bloggers got me thinking rumballs. More specifically, it got me thinking that I will need rumballs to survive upcoming holiday travels.

But instead of rumballs, I recalled another candied ball of booze. A few years back, my husband and I traveled to Kentucky and it was there that I fell in love with bourbon. And Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls. These sweet Kentucky gems have a great back story (Which I’ve featured at Blog of Funny Names–read about it here. There’s a video of a fellow RR bourbon ball fan making a batch, too.) and are one-of-a-kind in the bourbon ball world. (The more traditional bourbon balls were featured at food for fun nearly two years ago–these of course were the part un.)

A recent purchase of more chocolate than anyone really needs (thank you, Trader Joe’s!) made the decision for me and Rebecca Ruth’s chocolate-dipped bourbon balls were my project for the night.

Chowhound’s recipe caught my eye as it was as simple as 1/2 cup butter, 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and 5 tablespoons bourbon. The amount of chocolate was vague, but I melted 14 ounces of dark chocolate and ended up with just a bit left over.

The process wasn’t overly long nor was it too messy. Best part: I now have 40 or so bourbon balls that should keep for a long while, powering me through the Christmas holidays and quite possibly taking me into the new year. Though I plan to share, so they may not make it that long.

shiny!

shiny!

Speaking of sharing, I wish I could give everyone here a Rebecca Ruth Kentucky-style bourbon ball as a token of my gratitude. I appreciate you reading and wish you a blessed and wonderful holiday season. Food for fun is off for the next week or so, but already looking forward to coming back in 2014 with fun new food finds. Until then, enjoy the crazy delicious that is life.

so sweet

so sweet

other people’s recipes

Food for fun is taking it easy this week. After the excitement of last Thursday’s crazy Halloween bash, it’s time to take it down a notch. Instead of offering original fare, I’m paying it forward by sharing experiences with recipes found elsewhere.

If you’re looking for recipes and photos that make you drool, a trip to Cottage Grove House should do the trick. Last August, a post for Cherry Yogurt Cake stopped me in my tracks. I was struck by the recipe’s simplicity. What would one need to make this pretty little cake? Only butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, yogurt, and cherries. Last week brought time to make the cake and it was everything I hoped it would be: spectacular in its simplicity.

Of course there were changes, though none made deliberately. About halfway through slicing through the bag of cherries I’d frozen last summer, I realized there were no pits (can you say “autopilot”?) and upon closer inspection saw that the cherries were red grapes. Huh. Well, why not, thought I and went ahead with my newly named Grape Yogurt Cake. I also neglected to use vanilla yogurt and didn’t add vanilla to the plain yogurt I did use. But in the end it was a stunner. As much as I love fancy-pants desserts, there’s something so lovely about a simple white cake.

PB&J Cake

PB&J Cake

The grapes had me thinking peanut butter, so I added a spoonful of two of chunky-style to warm caramel sauce and served it alongside, christening it PB&J Cake. I’m certain the cake would be smashing made with only cherries as well. Three cheers for Cottage Grove House!

Moving on: I’m always thrilled when others take me up on my invitation to post their fun food finds at deLizious facebook. Amb, of Words Become Superfluous fame, thrilled me over the weekend by posting her bananarrific muffins. They looked most festive propped with a Christmas-themed plate and topped with Halloween candy. (It’s a must-see you haven’t already. Follow my deLizious link above and look for 11/3’s post.) She also credited the original recipe, and it was drool-at-first sight. These muffins looked tender, moist, and so very banana-y. (And we all know food for fun loves a good overripe banana recipe.)

Glad for yet another excuse to bake, I set out to make the muffins. A note on the recipe mentioned the option of turning it into banana bread–even better. The loaf still got a generous topping of chopped Snicker’s and peanut butter cups per amb’s photo. Glorious and amazing, this quickbread makes breakfast and snack time very bright. Thanks, amb!

candy-topped banana bread

candy-topped banana bread

all sliced up

all sliced up

Finally, I’ll share a healthier recipe, with which I was also enamored. True to form, it took me a while to get around to making a Weary Chef soup that caught my eye back in February. My daughters love Panera’s chicken wild rice soup, and this seemed a healthier but equally lovely version. I went totally DIY with this one, starting with a large kettle of water and a whole chicken. After making stock, I proceeded with WC’s recipe and ended up with a pot of mmmm-good soup. After two large bowls, I was full and warm and happy. My girls enjoyed theirs as well, and I liked that it was chock-full of veggies, whole grain, and lean protein. Weary Chef is about much more than her Happy Hour, people!

DIY cream chicken wild rice soup

DIY cream chicken wild rice soup

So that’s the recap. Though I’ll close with a link to my latest Minnesota Soybean project. No need to click over unless you like pumpkin waffles 😉

Wishing you a most excellent and delicious week.

DIY fun-size candy, a surprise guest, and a cocktail

A recent link on a friend’s facebook page combined two favorites: kitchen DIY and candy. Healthier versions of peanut butter cups, milk duds, peanut m&ms, crunch bars, butterfingers (personal fave), tootsie rolls, twix, etc could all be mine if I followed these recipes.

On closer inspection, I saw that some of these recipes didn’t truly resemble what they were supposed to mimic (though they’re probably still delish) and many called for ingredients that might take a bit of hunting down (puffed quinoa? Wasa 7-grain crackers?). My criteria of almost duplicating the original (chocolate-coated chickpeas passing for malted milk balls sounds intriguing, but not for Halloween) and having everything on hand (sadly, the crunch bars were out) narrowed it down to 3 Musketeers bars–my winner.

Though it wasn’t a win, really. My digital thermometer was on the fritz and the two meat thermometers I dug from the bottom of my drawer didn’t read high enough. The outcome was overcooked fluff and undercooked nougat (this makes more sense when you look at the recipe) and bars that just didn’t hold together. It being Halloween and all, I’ll show you the blobs that formed when I tried to coat the base in chocolate.

now THIS is scary

now THIS is scary

at least it won't ooze out of the pan

at least it won’t ooze out of the pan

I know, right? But if you’ve been here before, you know I still went forward. Spreading the fluff/nougat base in a well-greased pan, I then covered it with the melted chocolate.

Freezing it gave best results, though too much time at room temperature makes it overly soft. Flavorwise? Not bad! They come close to the real 3 Musketeers bar. So much so that too large of a piece (or too many small pieces) makes your teeth hurt.

Knowing that, I’ll cut myself a sliver and wait for my little goblins to get home from school and start the Halloween madness. *sits down in a comfy chair, puts her feet up, slowly brings DIY candy up for a bite*

DIY 3 Musketeers bars, sort of

DIY 3 Musketeers bars, sort of

*there’s a REALLY loud knock at the door* Liz !! Liz !!! Knock knock !!!

Liz: Who could that be? It’s a bit early for trick-or-treaters. And the girls won’t be home from school for another hour. But I recognize that voice. It sounds like amb*laughing* Ok, I’ll bite. Who’s there?

amb: Orange!!

Liz: Orange who?

amb: Orange you glad it’s Halloween ?!?!

*amb comes in* Trick or treat Liz !!! Oh my, this is exciting; I haven’t been to your house in ages. Everything looks great. And is that … do I smell … chocolate ?!? Oh my goodness, you spoil me. And all my readers. It’s cool that they’re here too, right? We took our shoes off at the door and everything.

Liz: Give me some time here, amb. I’m still recovering from your knock-knock joke. And you seem especially excited today. Chocolate on your chin–have you been eating candy bars already? *shakes head* But yes, of course, bring your lovely self and your lovely readers in. The more the merrier and I just happen to have this batch of super-sweet, super-indulgent homemade candy. Have some!

amb: We have food and movies! I brought entertainment. I figured it was the least I could do, since you’re providing the goodies. The perfect film to go with our completely over the top, so-bad-for-us-they’re-amazing snacks: the 1993 cult classic “Hocus Pocus”. Before he got Zac Efron to sing in “High School Musical”, Kenny Ortega convinced Bette Midler to wear some really, really bad make up in “Hocus Pocus”. Seriously. It’s so bad. I can’t look directly at Bette’s teeth; they’re terrifying.

eek!

eek!

I purposely picked this movie because I thought I could handle the scare-quotient, and now I’m feeling really nervous here on your couch. Hey, do you think Dave would come over if we called him? To protect me? And be all tall and strong and supportive and … wait, what movie are we watching, again?

Liz: Hocus. Pocus. Remember? That movie where Sarah Jessica Parker plays a witch who enchants boys by batting her eyelashes and … *amb is still all dreamy on the couch* er, never mind. Bad example. Ok. “Hocus Pocus” is that movie where a trio of witches are resurrected from the grave on All Hallow’s Eve and have one night to create the potion that will allow them to suck out children’s souls and stay young and beautiful forever … you ok amb? You’re looking a little pale.

amb: *shivering* Do you ever notice, Liz, how stories that are supposedly for children so often turn out to be completely gruesome? I mean, nobody took “Hocus Pocus” seriously when it came out–they were too distracted by the costumes and the cheesy dialogue and those teeth. But when you think about it, the slaughtering of innocent children just to maintain an outward appearance of youth and vitality is pretty serious stuff. I think it really speaks to the lack of respect that we seem to have, as a society, for our elders, and to the universal fear of becoming irrelevant.

Liz: Your geek glasses have come out, I see. But you’re right amb, when you look past the surface there are some heavy themes in this movie for sure. Maybe too heavy for a Halloween party, don’t you think? Can we focus on one of the lighter elements of the film? Potions? I’ve been toying with the idea of an adult version of a liquid candy bar, so combined a few of my favorite sweet spirits to arrive at this dandy of a cocktail.

sugar overload

sugar overload

amb: Yes, please. Let’s end with the cocktail. More sugar, that’s what I need! And Dave. More sugar, and Dave, and maybe a nice, romantic movie that doesn’t have dark overtones of grimness and death. Can we feature a musical next time, Liz?

Liz: Sounds like a great idea to me, amb. Maybe we should get together on a more regular basis for movie-and-snack discussions. You bring the movie, I’ll provide the snacks? We clearly have a winning combination watching Hocus Pocus while chewing our way through these gooey candy bars and sipping our Candy Bar Cocktails. You bring your Words Become Superfluous friends and I’ll invite food for fun folk and we’ll celebrate the silver screen and sensational snacks.

amb: Another yes from me! Let’s get on that–after this spooky-fun Halloween party, of course. When you get back to your kitchen, start looking for recipes while showtunes play in the background to get inspired. Hey, they’re dimming the lights for the movie. Happy Halloween everybody! And thanks for letting us crash, Liz.

Liz: Always happy to have you and your amazing readers over. Come back anytime! To close, will offer the recipe for the wicked candy cocktail we’re serving. A very sugary cheers to all!

Happy Halloween from amb and Liz :-D

Happy Halloween from amb and Liz 😀

Candy Bar Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 ounce dark crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce half-and-half
  • 1/2 ounce white crème de cacao
  • 1/2 ounce Tuaca or vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 ounce brandy
  • Chocolate sprinkles

In shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except for sprinkles. Shake well. Use small amount of cocktail to wet rim of glass; press glass into sprinkles on plate. Strain cocktail into glass.

bourbon chocolate cake, candy corn cocktail, and a few shout-outs

Community: The name of a much-loved television show (which I’ll admit to never having seen–sorry, amb!) and also a support system found in the blogosphere. I’ve mentioned here before how gratifying it’s been to find others who are as crazy for all things food as I am. I’ve also met folks with completely different perspectives (you listening, wdydfae? 😉 ) that I can learn from.

Because I focus on food and drink, my community is mostly (but not entirely, Miss Fannie) made up of food bloggers, and though there are too many to list, you know who you are. You’ve inspired me with your recipes, photos, ingredients, and general celebration of all things culinary.

It’s also been rewarding to see this community extend to deLizious’ facebook page. Started purely for business purposes–potential clients should see that I’m out there trying new foods, restaurants, recipes, right?–it’s also become another point of connection for fellow bloggers.

Which brings me to the first of the two recipes I have for you this week.

Some months back, a blogging friend and facebook contact (hi, Dave!) posted a photo of a bourbon chocolate cake a friend had made for his birthday. The image grabbed my attention and stayed with me. A week or so ago, I mentioned that cake in a comment response on his blog, and he surprised me by starting a facebook conversation with me and the cake’s baker, asking her to share the recipe. And she did. (Hi, Courtney!) I’m giddily grateful to Courtney and Dave for their generosity and willingness to connect.

Enough with the ramble. Here is that cake!

the other half went down easy!

it goes down easy

Easy to make, it’s dense and boozy and chocolatey. We gobbled up half the night it was served and have been working on leftovers since. Letting it sit, I’ve found, is an excellent move as the cake gets boozier and fudgier by the day.

because even a piece of over-the-top boozy chocolate cake needs mounds of whipped cream

because even a piece of over-the-top boozy chocolate cake needs mounds of whipped cream

The cake was dessert at a get-together with friends. That same gathering gave me opportunity to debut another fun bit of party fare. This recipe connection came not from on-line relationships, but a phone call from my mother-in-law. She’d seen a recipe for a candy corn vodka (!) cocktail that had brought me to mind. (Not sure if it is good that my m-i-l thinks of me when she sees a booze recipe.)

I jumped on this candy corn bandwagon quicker than you can say “trick-or-treat,” combining 1/2 cup candy corn and 1 1/4 cups vodka in a mason jar. “Brewing” time is recommended at 4 hours up to overnight, and I gave the jar a good shake often as I wanted the candy corn dissolved in time for our evening party. Picture a kid shaking a snow globe–that’s where I was, watching the candy corn slowly dissolve as the alcohol ate the sugar.

Five hours later, the resulting liquid was day-glo orange and stunningly beautiful.

Candy corn vodka hanging with crabapple liqueur. Come back in a few weeks for the liqueur unveil

Candy corn vodka hanging with crabapple liqueur. Come back in a few weeks for the liqueur unveil.

Combining it with lemon juice and Grand Marnier (subbing for Triple Sec), along with ice as instructed in the recipe left me with a powerful strong beverage, highly drinkable with an extra shot of soda water. (Thank you, soda siphon!) I hadn’t realized until finding the recipe link online that this was a “pucker-tini” and have decided since that I’d use 1 to 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice instead of the 2 next time around.

puckertiniCrazy-good cake and cocktails made for an evening to remember and I owe it all to connections and community–online and off. Many thanks to all of you for your follows and Likes and comments and reads. I’m honored and thrilled to be in your most excellent company. Candy corn cheers to you!

giving you mo’ crunch

Food for fun is celebrating, folks! This was guest-post week over at Blog of Funny Names and, not only was it a crazy-fun post to write, but it connected me directly to my superstar subject.

My funny-name pick is a food-tv host, but also famous for his work in politics, Hollywood, and journalism. (I won’t name this famous gent here, so I strongly recommend you click over for a read.) When I tweeted him the link to my post, he tweeted back with a thanks, kind words, and share of my link. His simple act put me over the moon and I’m honored and humbled to have someone so public read my homage to him.

To celebrate, I made another round of Momofuku Milk Bar‘s “crunch.” If you’ve not seen their book–and if you’ve made peace with processed sugar–you need to give it a read. It’s drawn me in like that proverbial kid in a candy store. Everything in it is so naughty!

Cereal milks, ice cream made from cereal milks, crack pie™ (yes, they ™ed their crack pie), confetti cookies, candy bar pie, cinnamon bun pie, peanut butter nougat, chocolate malt layer cake, graham ice cream, carrot cake truffles, nut brittles–this list goes on. And then there’s the Crunch chapter. Here’s pastry chef Christina Tosi’s take on The Crunch.

The crunch is all about filtering our snacking spells…making crunchy textural elements all our own. Never too far from the familiar cornflake, pretzel, or cracker, we’ll make crunch out of almost anything the supermarket sells and then use it in something as fancy as a plated dessert or as simple as a cookie dough.

Each crunch recipe has a balance of salt and sugar as well as melted butter–the glue–and milk powder, which seasons and helps bind the mixture once baked. The beauty of the crunch, besides the obvious sugar, butter, and snack-attack allure, it the way it’s baked. Slow and low in the oven yields the most amazing tender caramelization in every crunchy snack-ridden handful, cookie, pie crust, or garnish.

If that doesn’t make you want to whip up a batch of Crunch.Right.Now., there’s no need for you to read further. 😉 But for those still with me, here’s how it went down.

First up was the Ritz cracker version, which I then used in Momofuku’s recipe for cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies, subbing in Ritz Crunch for the cornflake version. These cookies were wicked good. Stopping at just one–something I can usually do–was not an option. Adding Crunch to cookie dough–whether Momofuku’s or another favorite recipe–means you may down at least three or four of these crunch-ified cookies in one sitting. You’ve been warned.

pretty? no. irresistible? absolutely.

pretty? no. irresistible? absolutely.

Today’s celebration batch was all about color: Fruity Pebbles Crunch. (Other options include cinnamon toast, pretzel, and cornflake, though Tosi’s point is good: you could use pretty much anything for the “crunch” ingredient.)

haven't had these on my table since I was 7

haven’t had these on my table since I was 7

To avoid too much of a calorie disaster, I made only a half-batch: 1 1/4 cups fruity pebbles, 1/4 cup nonfat dried milk powder, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, pinch coarse salt, and 3 tablespoons melted butter stirred together, then spread out onto a silicone mat-lined baking pan. Baked 20 minutes at 275ºF, then cooled, it can be sprinkled on ice cream, stirred into batter or dough, mixed with yogurt, or eaten in all its rainbow glory as-is.

spread out before baking

spread out before baking

Next time you want to celebrate (heck, this works when you need to console yourself as well), add “make Crunch” to your to-do list. Sure, do a few crunches afterward if it makes you feel better, but you’ll need to get back to the Milk Bar cookbook eventually as there is more celebrating to do.

fruity pebbles Crunch à la momofuku milk bar

fruity pebbles Crunch à la momofuku milk bar

minty muffins? and just two more things

There’s nothing like the thrill of finding something completely new in the food world, though I’m often humbled by how little I know about what’s out there. Take Biscoff: After discovering it here on WordPress, and writing it up myself, I was mildly aghast at having been in the dark about this peanut butter-style spread made out of COOKIES.

Seeing mention of ice cream bread in an electronic newsletter was another wow, though I also wondered why I hadn’t heard of such a thing. Its simplicity–only two ingredients–appealed as did the concept of making bread from ice cream. How could I not give it a go?

Instead of a loaf pan, I used muffin cups (yes, amb, the liners are Valentine’s Day leftovers 🙂 ) and also subbed in 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt for the self-rising flour.

mint chocolate chip ice cream + self-rising flour

mint chocolate chip ice cream + self-rising flour

in the cups

in the cups

cooling it

cooling it

On paper it looks good: leavened flour plus ice cream, which is dairy, fat, sugar, and flavoring. It could work, right? They certainly looked tasty.

they look like cupcakes

they look like cupcakes

But they were meh at best. The texture was borderline gummy, and the flavor fell flat. Perhaps a dash of vanilla extract or even an egg would have helped, but I don’t feel strongly enough about this project to keep working at it. Why throw perfectly amazing ice cream away when it’s so tasty as-is?

But if you’re up for the challenge, I encourage you to give it a go and report back. Can you turn this recipe into something worth making?

As long as we’re here, I also want to give a shout-out to Bandhna and Trace in the Kitchen for their kind nominations. Bandhna, who tossed the Liebster and Versatile awards my way, writes with great enthusiasm and fun about life, travel, food, fashion, and technology. Her Foodie Fridays can’t be missed and even her fashion posts have been known to be almost edible 😉

You’ve met Trace here before and her posts are always worth a read. We share strong opinions about peanut butter as well as a love of all things food. Trace, to you I say: Thanks for the Sunshine, Sunshine 😀

I admit to not playing these awards games very well. While I for sure want to send oodles of thanks and appreciation to Bandhna and Trace, I’ll skip the Q & A part and send you here for further “nominations.” There are so many amazing blogs out there and to narrow it down–as well as find blogs that have yet to receive these awards–continues to stump me.

In the spirit of “just one more thing” (any other Columbo fans out there?), I’ll finish off with another Minnesota Soybean guest blog link. Go ahead and get your cinnamon-roasted soynuts on and circle back next week for more fun in food.