hot chocolate blogging x 2

Last week’s marshmallows (black cherry whisky! rum!) have been joined by Rumchata marshmallows and they all scream for hot cocoa. Because it’s been a busy week with lots of food prep leading up to a presentation, I’m plumb (or plum?) tuckered and will fall back on work already done for this week’s post.

Hot cocoa made an appearance over at this month’s Funny Names in Food Post. Hoping you’ll click over for a read about San Fransisco’s most famous (and funnily-named) chocolatier, even if just because I use the word “dude” in the title.

The hot cocoa bell was also rung for this month’s Minnesota Soybean post, where I feature a recipe for a DIY chocolate syrup that was written up here over a year ago. Love the stuff so much that I’m never without a jar in my refrigerator and I’d strongly recommend you make yourself a batch as well. Too simple not to.

Speaking of Minnesota Soybean, these are the folks that had me cooking and baking crazy-like for a presentation I did at their annual growers’ meeting. In the interest of offering healthy foods to balance out all the sweets we’ve been enjoying of late, I’ll bring my soyfoods stories–and recipes–next week. For now, here’s a picture of the spread.

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

Would love to see you back here next week for more on tofu “egg” salad, green onions scones, pumpkin soynut granola, green tea edamame, and edamame chile hummus. Just writing that sentence made me feel healthy. Imagine how awesome we’ll feel once the recipes are out there. Until then, let’s add a few more ‘mallows to our hot chocolates and enjoy!

crabapple hooch

My neighborhood isn’t tight in the way some are. No block parties and outside of the casual, “hi, how’s it going,” folks tend to stick to their own business. That said, there are a few neighbors we’ve connected with and built relationships with. And it is to them that I dedicate this post.

treesTwo years ago, I was invited by neighbors across the street to help myself to the beautiful and rosy red crabapples hanging from their tree.

Never one to turn down free food, I filled a large bucket and considered my options. This being so long ago, I don’t remember exactly why I thought “liqueur,” but I did and after a quick google search, I had my recipe.

apples picked

apples picked

quartered and cored

quartered and cored

My husband and I settled in to watch a movie that night and I started in on the crabapple prep. Had I known that coring these tiny little apples would take upwards of six hours, I would have started much earlier.

mixed with sugar and vodka

mixed with sugar and vodka

Eventually, though, I was ready to mix the quartered crabapples with vodka and sugar. And when I climbed into bed at 2 a.m., I was comforted in knowing that my crabapple vodka would be ready for unveiling in 16 short days.

a bit cloudy at first--sugar crystals will dissolve in a few weeks and the resulting liqueur will be ruby red and crystal clear

a bit cloudy at first

16 days later

16 days later

high-tech filtration system

high-tech filtration system

isn't it lovely?

isn’t it lovely?

They didn’t disappoint. What a lovely batch of liqueur: brilliant red, sweet but tart, almost syrupy. I treasured my supply and whittled it down ever so slowly.

For botanical reasons of which I know not, this crabapple tree bears fruit every other year. Last year, then, offered no harvest. But this year I hit the jackpot and was invited again by our neighbors to pick.

This go-round, I’m tackling the project in smaller segments–no more all-nighters for me–and am once again comforted and thrilled to have crabapple hooch “brewing” to sip, savor, and share.

on the tree

on the tree

Many thanks to neighbors who are willing to share their harvest. I also raise a glass of this lovely spirit to Jessica, a neighbor and friend who is relatively new to the street and, sadly, soon to leave. We’ve shared a few toasts over the years, and I thank you for your friendship. You will be missed!

cheers to Jessica :-)

cheers to Jessica 🙂

pop! goes the cocktail

Last week’s food for fun post brought you ice cream to beat the heat. Seeing as how this week is hotter than last–at least here in St. Paul–I’m still searching out foods to cool me down. Which is why the following headline caught my eye: “Cocktails-on-a-stick look like kid’s food, but boozy treats are for adults.” A bit wordy, perhaps, but I was all over the concept. Cocktails on a stick? Sign me up!

The article appeared in a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press, but was originally written by Jill Wendholt Silva for the Kansas City Star. It introduced me to Laura Fyfe’s Poptail and though I’d seen a version of this frozen treat at Attempts in Domesticity, I’d not yet realized it was a trend in the making.

Silva mentioned that “plenty of folks are getting on the poptail bandwagon,” talked of the poptail’s popularity on Pinterest, and cited Food & Wine‘s July issue’s Mojito-Watermelon pops. Clearly poptails are the next cupcake and it’s a trend I couldn’t wait to follow. Setting my sights on the Gin Zing, I made a batch tonight.

1 1/4 cups chopped baby cucumbers

1 1/4 cups chopped baby cucumbers

Pureeing 1 1/4 cups diced cucumber and 1/2 cup St. Germain with a stick blender (though the recipe suggests a food processor), I then strained it through a fine-mesh sieve.cucumber puree

Half of the solids left behind were stirred back into the strained liquid and 1/4 cup gin was stirred into that.Straining

I had cut the recipe in half, so was set up to make three poptails (oh, how I love that word), but I used shot glasses and was able to fill six and still have enough left over for a chef’s sample. (It was way too sweet unfrozen.)

ready to freeze

ready to freeze

I popped the poptails into the freezer and checked back an hour or so later, when the mixture was frozen just enough to hold the (half) popsicle stick upright. Another hour and they were frozen enough to unmold. The recipe called for a seven-hour freeze, though I wasn’t patient enough to let it go that long.

single serving

single serving

They were pretty little things and also quite tasty and refreshing. Sweet was the first hit on the taste buds, but booze was a close second as was the fresh green flavor of the cucumber. Next time (because there most certainly will be a next time), I’ll stir in a few grindings of black pepper or a teaspoon or so of freshly grated gingerroot for extra kick. But even as-is, these simple poptails are the bee’s knees.

Gin Zing poptails

Gin Zing poptails

Which brings me to Silva’s other flavors: Bee’s Knees (!) containing honey, whiskey, and ginger beer and The Jaliscito with lime zest and juice, watermelon, tequila, and Grand Marnier–both must-makes in my book.

Silva recommends using wooden craft sticks instead of plastic popsicle mold sticks as wood grips the softer ice mixture better than slippery plastic. She also cautions against using too much alcohol lest the mixture fail to freeze completely. Though should that happen? Silva notes that these poptails easily morph into an adult snow cone or slush. And I won’t argue with that, especially in this heat.

special ed. with pink mushroom cake, vodka gummy bears, and a bourbon ball

Summer crazies have temporarily stalled out food for fun, but I’m back tonight with a special edition highlighting three unrelated tales of fun food and drink:

Tale 1 First, a look back at last post’s Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate Ice Cream. I had lamented that this Humphry Slocombe recipe seemed a lot of work and though it was tasty, wondered if it had been worth the effort. The ice cream accompanied a birthday cake for my oldest daughter and what with those summer crazies, I made yet another cake soon after for another birthday party.

now that's a cupcake

now that’s a cupcake

I used a much-loved cake pan, which when sprayed well enough with baking spray makes two cake layers that come together to make one big cupcake. (When not sprayed well, it makes a big mess.)

All went as planned until it came time to frost. Many a poorly decorated cake has been featured at food for fun (here and here, just for starters), so it should come as no surprise that this one got out of hand as well. Instead of the sweet “cupcake” I’d planned, it looked more like a big pink mushroom. (Or where Smurfette calls home per deLizious facebook post.)

again, best-laid plans

again, best-laid plans

As with my other decorating disasters, the cake tasted far better than it looked. The big surprise, though, was how amazing the HS chocolate ice cream was served alongside. Whether it had aged a bit in the freezer, mellowing its flavors, or was simply a better match for white cake than it was chocolate trifle, I know not. But that ice cream really dazzled here.chocicecream

A word about the cake: Mr. Wonderful White Cake recipe was found in Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook. Corny name aside, it’s one of the best white cakes I’ve had.

do you like the cake saw?

do you like the cake saw?

Mr. Wonderful White Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two cake pans or spray with baking spray.

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, butter, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer 3 minutes or until smooth. Add egg whites; beat 2 minutes longer. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cakes directly to wire racks to cool completely. Frost as desired.

Tale 2 Another bit of cocktail news means that Weary Chef can’t be too far away. I found a link through one of her Happy Hour posts for vodka gummy bears and was smitten. With young kids underfoot, there are always gummy bears to be found, and I loved the idea of infusing them (the gummy bears, not the kids) with vodka.

I did exactly as instructed and was unimpressed when unveiling the batch a week later. My cute little sugar bombs had melted into the vodka, leaving me with a thick (albeit colorful) syrup. Anyone who has read food for fun knows that this wouldn’t stop me and I was forging ahead regardless. I mixed some of this goo with carbonated water and loved that it was sweet, fruity, bubbly, and boozy. It went down easy for sure. I’m curious as to why my bears melted down when I Sing in the Kitchen seemed to keep hers intact. Maybe gummy bear brand matters? Regardless, it was a fun cocktail.

the bears make it silly, but it's still a goo cocktail: refreshing and potent

the bears make it silly, but it’s still a fine cocktail–refreshing and potent

Tale 3 You’ll need to hop over to Blog of Funny Names for this tale. A recent guest post highlights another Kentucky favorite: Ruth Hanly Booe and other funnily-named folk who made Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls the internationally known confection they are today.

Many thanks for stopping by during what I know is YOUR crazy-busy life. Your visits here are always appreciated 🙂

banana bash–three dishes you’ll want to make and one you will not

Those who’ve been here before may have read mention of neighbors who bring over a box of food every Sunday. My understanding is that their church has a community food bank, from which they take any leftovers home to share with friends and family.

It’s much like a CSA as I never know what a Sunday will bring. Near-expired dairy products, produce, cookies, bread–it’s been fun to receive this kindness weekly. We offer our thanks each time they bring bounty (though their being from Nigeria and ourselves born and raised Minnesotan means communication can be spotty) and when appropriate, share what we make with their gifts. (They once brought over a 50-pound (!) box of chocolate chips–you’d better believe they got a batch or three of cookies out of me.)

they dared me to use them all

they dared me to use them all

I share this here not so much as a personal anecdote, but rather to set up this post’s reason for being: four bunches of spotted bananas. Not four spotted bananas, no. Four bunches.

What to do? A loaf of banana bread wouldn’t even make a dent. Freezing (peeled or no, both work) would take care of what I couldn’t use, but I was up for a challenge, so put it out there on deLizious facebook that I needed banana recipes stat. And my awesome readers came through. Here’s what I did to use up three of those four bunches. (One went home with friends, so was not my problem.):

My friend Jill wrote about a smoothie her family enjoys on summer nights. Cleverly named Monkey Smoothies blend frozen banana chunks, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, and milk. I cut a few bananas up and froze them overnight, then followed Jill’s instructions the next morning. The shakes were dreamy and tasted much like a peanut butter cup would were it frozen and drinkable. Definitely a winner.

frozen bananas, pbutter, choc sauce, milk--yum!

frozen bananas, pbutter, choc sauce, milk–how could this be anything but extraordinary?

monkey smoothie: drink a candy bar for breakfast

monkey smoothie: drink a candy bar for breakfast

Fellow WordPress blogger Perky Poppy Seed opened new worlds for me with her “recipe.” She suggested slitting unpeeled bananas “banana split-style” and placing on a baking sheet. Next, the slits were filled with small pieces of butter, ground cinnamon, and a splash of rum (or brandy or bourbon) and roasted at 400°F-ish until the skins turn black. Finally, the puree is spooned from the skins and used wherever mashed banana is called for. This was a “wow” for me–any banana bread I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a fair number as I try not to repeat b bread recipes) could be made again with this spiked puree, taking on a slightly different flavor. This I had to try.

not going to win any beauty contest, but they smell heavenly

not going to win beauty contests, but they smell heavenly

I filled and roasted 10 of the bananas, placing them on a foil-lined baking sheet to avoid having to wash the pan. The fragrance was heavenly and the final puree was as amazing as I’d imagined.

this stuff is pure baking gold

pure baking gold

I immediately set aside a cup for my next project, which was…

bananarama cake!

bananarama cake!

Beki, of Beki Cook’s Cakes, is the instructor responsible for my personal best in making a cake look pretty. She responded to my facebook query with a link to her blog for what looked to be an amazing recipe. I followed this recipe mostly to the letter, though used the roasted rum bananas and sprinkled a touch of vanilla salt between frosted layers.

The cake was phenomenal, though Beki will most likely wonder if I left my fine decorating skills in her classroom. Alas, the finished cake was a bit more goofy than it was beautiful. (I could use my 7-year-old daughter as an excuse for the imperfect frosting, but she was really only responsible for one smudge in the lettering. I’ll take full responsibility here.)

one crazy--but tasty--cake

one crazy–but tasty–cake

But even without bakery-quality visuals, this cake was crazy good. I was finally able to stop myself after three slices (they were fairly small, but still!) and am even now remembering how moist and tender that cake was. How it had an earthy sweetness that keeps you coming back for more. I managed to part with half of the cake to share with our neighbors, which means the cake has already dwindled significantly. When it’s gone? I’ll make another as I have a good cup or so of the spirited puree in my freezer.

oh, this is good

oh, this is good

The one banana recipe I did not use (besides the one that read “open trash bag, throw away”–horrors!) was offered by the keeper of the Kirschner Cookbook Library, which I’ve written up here before. Megan posts great finds from this library at a favorite blog and she pulled from her archives to share Banana Sardine Boats. These scary salads are worth a click for the kitsch factor alone.

Left in my freezer, then, is about a cup of spirited banana puree and maybe 1/2 cup frozen banana chunks. I was thrilled to meet my banana challenge, though also had plenty of help from facebook readers. While the four bunches of spotty bananas are gone, I’m certain I will run across more sooner rather than later and I’d bet you will, too. So I ask you to keep the recipes and ideas coming. What is your go-to banana recipe when you find yourself with too many brown bananas? Please share as it’s more fun to go bananas with fellow food folk 🙂

cocktail inspiration

I aim for regularly scheduled blog posts as I see foodforfun as an extension of my business and a professional commitment of sorts. Topics are chosen because they answer my daily question of, “what’s been fun in my culinary world today”? But some days–though it could be me rather than the day–lack inspiration. Take today: A quick breakfast (oatmeal, cottage cheese, grapefruit), lunch at church (the standard line-up of French toast, bacon, and fresh fruit, though the yogurt buffet was snazzy). Supper was a fridge clean-out as we made a meal of leftovers from the past week. As well, I spent much of the day helping my girls with homework, so no time to play in the kitchen.

Come evening, I had no clue what I could write up for the day’s blog post. Rather than skip it, though, I asked myself what sounded like fun. How about an end-of-weekend cocktail? When I opened the liquor cabinet, I noticed a deck of cards I’d purchased on last year’s summer vacation. I’m still wondering why Mitchell, South Dakota’s Corn Palace gift shop carried Drink Recipes Playing Cards, but they sold me on them and I’ve enjoyed the occasional shuffle through the deck. (Note that the drink names are not child-friendly, though neither are alcoholic drinks so it works.) I’d never actually used a recipe from the deck, though, and decided that tonight was the night. I found four cards that interested me–each recipe had three (or fewer) ingredients, those ingredients were already on hand, and they sounded tasty.

My take on each drink follows. Each small glass contains a half-recipe and with one exception, I didn’t finish any. Not a single brain cell was harmed in the making of this post:-)

conch

Conch Shell: I liked this one very much, though a spritz of club soda would have made it easier to drink. It was the most refreshing cocktail of the bunch. But if you only like sweet drinks, it’s not for you.

latin

Latin Lover: Again, needs a spritz (or two) of club soda as it’s strong booze. I like that it’s served over ice as the melt helps dilute. The flavors of amaretto and tequila blend nicely.

hop

Jamaican Hop: Here’s the drink I downed after snapping the photo. Smooth, creamy, lightly sweet–dessert in a glass. I used fat-free half-and-half instead of cream.

piece

Piece of A-hem: I didn’t pick this one for the name, for sure. I recently made homemade sour mix, so am always looking for fun new uses. As well, I like mixing Southern Comfort with other flavors. This one was knock-out strong, too much so for my tastes. I’d drink it again only if it was diluted at least 50/50 with club soda.

So by night’s end, I had found my inspiration by adding four new cocktail recipes to my arsenal. Not every day is inspiring, but if we think on it long enough, we can usually find something to make us smile.