going to the dark side and the tour

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So. Welcome to another week here at food for fun. Please help yourself to a chilled, creamy beverage while I explain what we’re up to today. This week kicks off a bit differently than others as I’m responding to a … Continue reading

owning the scallion ‘cakes

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Anyone else feeling the crazies lately? The end-of-school-year crazies when you run to games and banquets and recitals and whatnot? When you run in circles and fall so behind on sleep that you forget to write your weekly blog post? … Continue reading

U is for udon (and that’s good enough for me)

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Another month, another letter forward in Cooking Through the Alphabet. The CTtA gang continues to grow. Just last month I joined Shanna, Amanda, and Sofia in their quest to cook up all things Tofu. Today we’re also joined by Anna … 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

t is for tofu

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An invite to play with tofu was too good to pass up. Today’s food for fun post is a collaboration with three other fun-loving bloggers. Shanna, of Curls and Carrots, pulled me into a “cooking through the alphabet” game she … Continue reading

cookbook travels and banana bread squared

A show of hands here–who brings cookbooks home from their travels?

Even with the rise of the electronic recipe (my 11-year-old daughter Googles recipes, despite her mother’s large cookbook collection), paper cookbooks remain popular vacay take-homes. They give travelers return trips, even if just in mind and taste buds.

Opening Makers Mark® The Special Touch cookbook, a Kentucky purchase, I smell the bourbon of distillery tours. When the pages of Savoring San Diego are flipped, I see the ubiquitous flowers of that fair city. The Montana Cookbook brings back a sense of open land and Simply Colorado invites visions of rocky mountains.

While relatively close to home, the city of Duluth was another vacation spot worth remembering. (Culinary details from last summer’s camping trip recorded here.) An especially impressive restaurant stop was The Duluth Grill, and their cookbook told the tale of evolution from Ember’s franchise to one-of-a-kind comfort-food haven. The parking lot garden speaks volumes to their emphasis on fresh, locally sourced, and sustainably raised ingredients.

The book’s $30 price tag gave me pause and I left without, knowing I’d find it online for far less. Except I didn’t. The Duluth Grill Cookbook was available only on the restaurant website. I kicked myself (and certainly deserved a kick for not supporting small business when I had the chance), but found redemption in a friend who was making a quick trip that way. She, too, is a big fan of this much-loved restaurant and agreed to bring the cookbook back for me.

sauce with bookJust last week, then, I finally held a copy of this beautiful and lovely book in my hands. To prove its worth, I immediately set out to make Tofu and Walnut Marinara (taking a pass on the walnuts). It was hearty, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you veggies. Two days later it tasted even better and I know I’ll be making this sauce again.

now THIS is a tofu marinara sauce

now THIS is a tofu marinara

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

I have my eye on the Ratatouille recipe as well as the Buffalo Tofu Strips, both dishes I enjoyed while there. I’d also love to make their Beet Lemonade, though will have to riff on their standard Lemonade recipe as they do not share the beet version I was so enamored with during my visit.

Minnesota’s bitter cold winter called for a baking recipe, so I also made TDG’sr Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the same manner as an earlier cookie adventure, I experimented with each baking sheet, sprinkling some unbaked cookies with chocolate salt, some with vanilla salt and also mixing in marshmallow bits and even leftover movie popcorn that was sitting on the counter just asking to be poured into the remaining batter. Even without my improv, these cookies were amazing and hit all the right sweet, salty, tender, crisp notes.

cookies

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

So here’s to cookbooks and here’s to travel and here’s to those cookbook gems we find when we travel. If you’re looking for the recipe for either the sauce or cookies, let me know in comments or at deLizious facebook and I’ll pass them on your way.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I’ve been on a bit of a banana bread binge lately after finding two renegade recipes on favorite food blogs that demanded to be made. The Cottage Grove House rocked my world with Rye Whiskey Banana Bread

there's rye whiskey in my banana bread!

there’s rye whiskey in my banana bread!

and Shanna over at Curls and Carrots kept my spirits up with Rum-a-Dum-Dum Banana Bread. Thanks, ladies, for two fabulous loaves!

rum-spiked banana bread

rum-spiked banana bread

Thanksgiving in the blogosphere, French bread, and lots of blog links

The past week has been an especially tasty one in the blogosphere as forward-minded bloggers published post after post of amazing dishes that would make any Thanksgiving table proud. Simply Bitten Kitchen gave us cornbread dressing (along with the cornbread for said dressing), cranberry sauce, and turkey wings. A Pug in the Kitchen also offered cranberry sauce and dressing along with potato rolls, a centerpiece-worthy turkey complete with gravy and sides, pie, and even wine suggestions. These are two of oodles of blogs that published Thanksgiving recipes in a timely manner. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving meal or providing at least a component, you would have read their posts and still had plenty of time to whip up the recipes.

Then there is food for fun. My blog. Where you will indeed find a stand-out recipe for a lovely baguette–developed by a Jesuit priest, for goodness’ sake–posted very late in the eve before the day that is Thanksgiving. This is the bread I will be bringing to my mom’s Thanksgiving feast. We will slice it and slather it with butter and maybe spread some cranberry sauce on it or even dip it in gravy. It will be heavenly. I will also slice up a loaf and turn it into Sweet Potato Crostini as seen in a Taste of Home back issue and offer it as an appetizer.

But sadly, Brother Curry’s recipe will not help you this November 28. For who has time to make this bread–with its 10-hour rise time–for their Thanksgiving meal? I apologize for this. My bad.

Just the same, I offer you a photo, recipe, and hopefully a feel for how easy it will be when you do have time to make this bread. It doesn’t need a holiday to be enjoyed, no. Make a batch (you’ll be richly rewarded with three loaves) and enjoy for breakfast, lunch, supper, and any time before or after any of those meals. Eat it plain, spread it with butter/jam/honey, make turkey sandwiches with it, float thin slices atop soup. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy these baguettes.

three French loaves

three French loaves (recipe below)

Though I am unable to help American folk fill their Thanksgiving table, I still want to wish all a blessed Thanksgiving. The blogging community–readers, Likers, commentors, followers–is high on my list of what I am thankful for. Blogging has brought amazing friends and helped me stretch my writing wings, take a few more risks. I’ve learned how to use my camera’s photo editor and my recipe collection has expanded exponentially. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the blogosphere to be so rich. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all.

In that vein, I’d like to especially thank Ada, of More Food, Please and Shanna, over at Curls and Carrots. Both ladies, besides offering first-rate content on their respective blogs, have supported my endeavors with their thoughtful and enthusiastic (and just plain fun) comments both here and over at deLizious facebook. Over the past few months, they’ve honored me with their nominations for Dragon’s Share, Versatile, Sunshine, Blog of the Year 2013, Dragon’s Loyalty, WordPress Family, and Best Blogger Ever of All Time (haha, just made that last one up) Awards. I love that you enjoy what you read here, Ada and Shanna. Many many thanks. You ladies rock.

While there are official rules for accepting these awards, I’m going to mix it up food blogger-style. Instead of answering questions and nominating others, I offer you a recipe.

Recipe for a Culinary (and otherwise) Tour of the Blogosphere

Makes as many servings as you think you can handle.

Click on links. Read, then laugh, drool, swoon, ponder, smile, etc as appropriate. Click Follow if you want another serving.

One more thing: I already sent you to Curls and Carrots above, but if you haven’t yet clicked over, I’ll send you directly to Shanna’s recent granola bar post. She claims she took inspiration from last week’s food fun for granola bar post, though even if that’s the case, she’s far surpassed anything I could have done. You must see these!

And now for that bread…

French Bread

From The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry, S.J.

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115ºF)
  • Pinch sugar (my addition)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In large bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 cup water, and the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add remaining 3/4 cup water, the salt and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; beat vigorously 3 minutes. Beat 5 minutes longer, continuing to add remaining flour until dough pulls away from side of bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead 8 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil large bowl; place dough in bowl. Turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight. (or at room temperature for half that, which is what I did due to lack of foresight. see paragraph 2 above)

Let dough come to room temperature (lucky me–mine already was). Heat oven to 450ºF. Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into thirds; shape into baguettes. Place dough on trays. Cover with tea towel; let rise 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Spritz loaves with water. (Original recipe recommends spraying with vinegar, which I didn’t understand. Anyone know why this would be a good thing?) Make seven slashes in each baguette (so says Brother Curry). Bake 10 minutes; spray with additional water. Bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

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.

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!

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.

being a guest, DIY cocktail mixers, and pb graham poppers

blog  /bläg/

  • noun: blog;  plural noun: blogs
  1. a personal website or web page which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.
  • verb: blog;  3rd person present: blogs;  past tense: blogged; past participle: blogged; gerund or present participle: blogging
  1. add new material or regularly update a blog.  “It’s about a week since I last blogged”
  2. write about (an event, situation, topic, etc.) in a blog “”he blogged the Democratic and Republican national conventions and an independent”

Who knew?

“Blog” is a relatively new word for most. Wikipedia cites its first appearance in the late 1990s and only in 2009 did it take off on a more personal level. (Credit for definition and graph goes to google.)index

I never imagined I’d author something with such a funny name, but here I am. (And here you are–you’re probably doing it, too.) Food for Fun was born because it seemed important for a food writer to have a food blog. It’s been rewarding and a favorite part has been the community of like-minded (and some not so like-minded, but fun just the same) folk I’ve come to know.

An unforseen bonus has been having clients bring me on as guest poster for their sites. As it’s all food related, I’ll offer links here–please give them a look-see. The salad alone make them worth the read. Promise.

But I won’t just send you elsewhere to read other blogs. Food for Fun is about content, folks 😉

First up: I’ve become of fan of celery simple syrup, which goes especially well in gin and vodka cocktails. It’s also a great way to use up those last few ribs of celery that always seem to be hanging out in the crisper. For each 2 ribs chopped celery, add 3/4 cup each water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes; drain and voilà! It’s sharply flavored enough that you’ll know the celery is there, but mild enough to be a versatile and interesting addition to lighter cocktails.

celery simple syrup

celery simple syrup

Second: How-To sour mix (margarita, anyone?) posts are everywhere, so this may be old news, but having tried it once, I always keep a stash on hand. It’s tasty enough to drink as-is, but a dilution of at least soda water makes is irresistible. And it shines in tequila-based drinks, absolutely.

D.I.Y.

D.I.Y.

Making the homemade sour requires more muscle than does the celery syrup as it calls for a cup each fresh lemon and lime juice. After much squeezing, the juices are poured into a premade simple syrup (boiling 1 cup each sugar and water until sugar dissolves). Its bright and fresh flavor set it worlds apart from store-bought sour and there will be no going back if you haven’t already made the switch.

Third: Now that your cocktail pantry is stocked, we’ll roll some peanut butter balls. A recent project put me close up and personal with oodles of peanut butter recipes–most of which I want to make immediately as they look so amazing. Because I’m paid for working on the recipes on paper and not in the kitchen, I hadn’t tried any. Until I came across this 3-ingredient, 5-minute recipe that demanded to be made NOW. You’ll like them, too, I think.

three ingredients--all you need

three ingredients–all you need

peanut pyramid of power

peanut pyramid

PB Graham Poppers

adapted from a Skippy® recipe

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Sprinkles, coconut, additional graham cracker crumbs, unsweetened cocoa powder, and/or other favorite coatings

In medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, the peanut butter, and honey. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Roll into 15 (1-inch) balls; coat in sprinkles, etc. as desired. Refrigerate to store.

I’ll be back next week with a more cohesive post, though hoping you enjoyed today’s smorgasbord of goodies.

a very long introduction, three recipes down, one to go

Needing a topic for this post, I thought back to starting food for fun. With so many great food blogs already out there, I knew I needed a niche. While I didn’t know what that niche would be (still not entirely sure, btw), I jumped in and started writing. Topics have been chosen solely because they inspire or excite me enough to want to share.

A backward glance, though, tells me that I often jump over inspired and even excited to arrive at obsessed. (About an hour after having this thought, I read a friend’s post which highlighted this very word–nice.)

You’ve read of obsession with all things marshmallow (here and here). You’ve read a post outlining obsessive stalking following of The Weary Chef’s Happy Hour. (A much earlier post had offered only four cocktail recipes.) You’ve seen batch after batch after batch of homemade ice cream, one even damaging my phone. Then there were the four batches of caramel sauce (in. a. row.) to achieve a dark enough color. And the most recent “project” using 24 overripe bananas in as many hours? Yes to obsessive. With the banana post in particular, more than one facebook comment suggested that I was possibly a bit bananas myself.

So here’s my question: Do folks blog because they are obsessed enough about a topic that they absolutely have to write it up and put it out there for others to read? Are all bloggers bananas?

Everyone writes for their own reason, so I wouldn’t presume that all come from a place of obsession. But I know absolutely that there’s oodles of passion behind a blogger’s reasons for writing, no matter the topic. And maybe your blog serves the purpose that mine does for me: to legitimately attend to my obsessions.

And with this thought, I return to my original question (feel free to head up to the top again as it’s likely been forgotten during this long-winded intro): What to write up next? I didn’t like the idea that came to me as it seemed repetitive. But. What’s an obsessed food writer to do? It seemed that food for fun was to go bananas AGAIN. (Sorry guys. I really fought this one.)

You’d think the smoothie, roasted puree, and cake made last week would have satisfied my banana fever, but the siren call of four bunches of browned bananas clearanced out at 99 cents was too much for me to resist. I snapped the bananas up and roasted them Perky Poppy-style, using brandy instead of last round’s rum. (I also skipped the butter and the resulting puree was as divine as the last batch.)

The puree went into Barefoot Contessa’s Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, which could pass for dessert as easily as they could breakfast. The bananas are added to the top of the ‘cakes before flipping, adding a flavor hit bar none. (“Bananas in a basket!” read one facebook comment.) Thanks, amb, for pointing me toward a killer recipe.

Barefoot Contessa's were prettier, but they couldn't have tasted any better than this stack

Barefoot Contessa’s were prettier, but they couldn’t have tasted any better than this stack

Though some would have stopped at one banana recipe, I had Trace in the Kitchen’s Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies to make. Only changes: upping the 3/4 cup chocolate chips to 1 cup as that last 1/4 cup was begging to be used and adding a dot of Marshmallow Fluff to each dough ball just because I could. These cookies were as tasty and soft and dreamy as Trace had promised.

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Next up was Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread, which included the extra step of draining thawed frozen overripe bananas, then reducing that liquid by half and stirring it back into the puree. It calls for whole wheat flour–a plus–and its crowning touch is a layer of shingled banana slices sprinkled with caster sugar. The cupboard bare of caster sugar, I grabbed a bottle of coarse pink sugar (found in the cupboards of moms of young girls everywhere), though next time will use coarse sanding sugar as the pink didn’t do it for me. But the banana bread itself was a winner. Removing some of the water from the mashed bananas heightened their flavor, making the final bread richer and more darkly banana-y.

not sold on the pink, but Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

not sold on the pink, but Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

Also on my list were these delicious-looking peanut butter banana chocolate bars from Kelli’s Retro Kitchen Arts, though a closer look revealed banana cake mix, not fresh bananas. The photo looks so amazing, I’ll eventually find a way around the cake mix dilemma and come up with a version for my brandy-roasted bananas.

And that, I hope, is the end of my banana tale. I raise a (Weary Chef) cocktail to bloggers everywhere, celebrating our obsessions, passions, and willingness to share. Thank you for reading about mine.

happy hour @ foodforfun

A few months back, I happened upon a blog I connected with instantly. Andi, a.k.a. The Weary Chef, is mom to two little ones and enjoys playing with her food while building her virtual empire complete with facebook page, tweets, pinterest boards, and lots of other icons I don’t know but am sure lead to great fun. She strives to put homemade meals on her table–and provides readers with the recipes for those meals–and I absolutely connect with all of that.

What got me really excited, though, was her Happy Hour. Each Friday, Andi posts an original cocktail and I was enamored enough to mention it in a previous post here, pledging to recreate her Friday beverages to the best of my pantry’s ability.

Though I never again mentioned it at foodforfun, I’ve been faithfully recreating The Weary Chef’s cocktail each Friday on my deLizious facebook page. If  you’re already on board, thank you for that (!), and you’ve perhaps seen these drinks before. But if facebook isn’t your thing, a recap of food for fun’s take on The Weary Chef’s Happy Hour is in order:

my first TWC Happy Hour

my first TWC Happy Hour

This was my first attempt to recreate Andi’s concoctions, and I was thrilled with the results. Not only did I match her ingredient for ingredient (save using whipped cream vodka instead of plain vodka, though wouldn’t do again as my drink was just a touch too sweet), but I even had a similar glass for photo.

I was over-the-moon with this one as I’d just ordered it the weekend before at a fancy-pants restaurant. I’d also seen mention of this classic cocktail in one of my favorite reads: Boozehound On the Trail of the Rare, The Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits. Here I matched her on all ingredients and it was a lovely drink for sure.Aviate

deLizious facebook sat this one out as it was Easter weekend and my mother-in-law’s pantry is less well-stocked than my own. But being at my mother-in-law’s had other rewards, as it was she who introduced me to the pink squirrel. Here’s what we made that weekend.

usually use fat-free half-and-half, but at the  in-law's it's ice cream all the way!

usually use fat-free half-and-half, but at the in-law’s it’s ice cream all the way!

not much green at all

not much green at all

With so much greenery, this drink was prettier than it sounds. Yet without Coitnreau, cucumber, and fresh basil, I ended up with an entirely different drink detailed here in facebook archives:

“Lacking pretty much everything for The Weary Chef’s Green Quencher, I had to make a few changes. This one (gently) muddles 2 strawberries, a few (frozen) basil leaves, 2 parsley sprigs, cut-up tiny lime. Topped with 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce Chambord, and seltzer to the top. It was sweeter than what TWC served up and probably a bit more intense, but still mighty tasty. Will call this one the Berry-Lime Smash.”

Seems odd that the two Happy Hours I’ve had to miss have both been sangrias, but there you have it. I was busy doing art-y like things for my girls’ school that day (not to be confused with doing real art for which I am unqualified) and also into the evening for their Art Show. Fortunately, the art-program ladies cap off their night at a local restaurant known for its Rudy-tinis. Served with a side of champagne, this drink is–in the words of a facebook commenter– “four drinks in one.” While not my beverage of choice that night, I snapped a photo and put it up on deLiz facebook so Andi would know I at least tried.

yep, four drinks in one

yep, four drinks in one

oldfashionedAndi was especially clever with this one, taking a classic and giving it a fruity spin. And because bourbon always wins with me, I was thrilled to have an excuse to open a bottle. No pineapple on hand (though by now Andi was dropping hints via messaging that I might need certain ingredients on hand come Friday), I subbed in kiwi and used a bit of strawberry juice for the pineapple juice. I liked mine well enough, but would have also liked to have tasted her version.

TWC's was more pink than mine

TWC’s was more pink than mine

Here’s where I outdid myself: I had both sake and rose water on hand–no hint needed! (Though no canned pineapple for the previous week’s cocktail. Go figure.) This one rated “tastes like a flower!” in my comment to Andi and is a light and pretty little cocktail–think bridal shower or garden party.

Because I’d (finally) caught Andi’s hint, a bottle of Pimm’s was on my shelf when I saw her Happy Hour post that week. This one is my favorite thus far–lots of tang and fruit and sweet. Refreshing and perfect for summer. Also got the most deLiz facebook comments, making it a crowd favorite as well. (That said, my husband wasn’t a fan. ??)

summer in a glass

summer in a glass

a touch too pink to pass as a snickerdoodle

a touch too pink to pass as a snickerdoodle

She used Goldschläger, I used cinnamon liqueur. Hers was white, mine was pink. She had vanilla vodka, I had tuaca. My version didn’t look a thing like her original, but was still sweet and yummy. Very much a dessert beverage.

So there you have it–Happy Hour with the Weary Chef as told by deLizious and food for fun. I invite you to stop over at deLiz facebook page Friday afternoons for whatever Andi puts together next. Or start at Andi’s page and work your way over to mine. I remember posting a while back about wanting to expand my repertoire of fun and tasty cocktails and now as I write this, realize my goal is being met. Many thanks to Andi at TWC for helping me along. (Another rockin’ cocktail shout-out goes to Putney Farms for some of the most gorgeous sippers I’ve seen.) Cheers to all!

foodforfun’s guide to irreverent cookie wisdom

Mentioned here before is my delight at meeting like-minded folk in the blogging community. Often, these bloggers write about food, but just as often I’ve enjoyed learning about nonfood topics from experts in other fields. Movies and TV, humor and travel. I’ve even (unwittingly) picked up a bit of sports trivia. (Still looking for a music blog–please recommend!)

Then there’s the “fiction” blog, which took a bit of getting used to. But Fannie Cranium and her adventures pulled me in. Stand-alone “chapters,” each post recounts an episode in (mostly) fictional Fannie’s life. The first paragraph on the About page welcomes readers “to Fannie’s world where she explores the adventures of married life, on the intersection between “I Love Lucy” Way and “Erma Bombeck” Avenue.” This has to be good, right? Even better, Fannie’s stories are authored by a talented (and soon to be famous, I’m sure of it 😉 ) writer who has an eye for detail and a way with words.

And here’s the food connection (you knew there had to be one, didn’t you?): One of Fannie’s stories involved a plate of mint-chocolate chip cookies. I sent off a comment (jokingly) asking for the cookie recipe and darned if author Tracy didn’t send me her cookie recipe! Talk about a class act.

So with many thanks to Tracy–and an urging to you all to check out her fun-to-read stories, which follow the life of Fannie Cranium, husband Richard, friends Bunny and Clarissa, and other assorted and colorful characters–I bring you Mint Decadence Cookies.

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mind you, I made changes along the way, but what food blogger worth his or her (chocolate) salt wouldn’t? For starters, instead of grating a large Hershey bar, I gathered leftover chocolate Easter bunnies (about 14 ounces worth) and chopped them into chunks. Also, wanting to apply some of the “irreverent wisdom” found in Tracy’s blog, I tried to get more mileage out of the cookie dough by treating each baking sheet a bit differently.

The first batch was rolled in powdered sugar before baking, the second sprinkled with vanilla salt, and the third with chocolate salt. At this point I was down about two-thirds of the dough and my eyes happened upon a bottle of rum sitting on the counter (you can’t enjoy that Derby Day mint julep without rum, folks). Before I knew it, a splash or so (thinking about 1/4 cup) of rum went into the leftover dough, as did about 3 tablespoons baking cocoa to balance out the extra liquid. These cookies were sprinkled with either vanilla or chocolate salt, then dusted with powdered sugar as soon as they emerged from the oven.

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

No matter how they were topped, the cookies were deep, dark, and yum. The mint flavor wasn’t so much a wallop as it was a subtle backnote rendering these cookies Decadent with a capital D. I imagine Fannie and Richard Cranium would approve and I’m hoping Tracy does too. So here’s to friends made while hanging out in the blogosphere. I thank you all for your reads and likes and comments. May you always enjoy chocolate decadence as you continue to write and read about your favorite topics.

Mint Decadence Cookies

1 (10-ounce) bag mint-flavored chips
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 giant Hershey’s candy bar, grated (I used 14 or so ounces chopped assorted chocolates)

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.

In top of double-boiler set over simmering water, melt 3/4 cup each mint chips and chocolate chips over hot, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir in melted chips and eggs; beat well. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in grated chocolate bar and remaining mint and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until just set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

partying like ponies and an awesome birthday cake

Loving any excuse to maffick (follow the link as this is a word you will want to know and use), I take great joy in throwing parties. Two young daughters give me a twice-yearly excuse to invite friends and family over for birthday celebrations. A fair amount of planning goes into the food for these parties.

Knowing my youngest’s seventh birthday approached and her family party was on the calendar, I laid awake one night wondering what to do for the cake. (My husband notes that many folks buy birthday cakes at bakeries–Costco cakes are indeed divine–or whip them up with cake mixes, but for many reasons, that folk is not me.) While I very much enjoy making from-scratch cakes for family birthday parties, I am not known for my cake decorating skills. Exhibit A: These cat cupcakes taste good, yes, but they also look a wee bit scary.

birthday treats--yes, they're supposed t

birthday treats–yes, they’re supposed to be kitty cats

While effort has gone into improving my cake decorating skills, I’m still better with ideas than implementation. As I lay there contemplating cakes that night, keeping in mind my daughter’s request for a pink and purple Little Pony cake, I envisioned baking the batter up in 13×9-inch, 11×8-inch, and 8-inch square pans. If the cakes were stacked bottom-up from largest to smallest, then filled and frosted, could we call it a hillside on which to place a few of her precious Little Ponies?

three cake layers ready for baking

three cake layers ready for baking

When I posted the above photo and idea on deLizious facebook and got an enthusiastic response, I knew I was on to something. A friend who commented offered the services of her daughter, who has taken multiple cake decorating classes and is also a friend of my eldest. Knowing I had help, I fully committed to my hillside pony cake. The day before the party, I made a crazy-good batch of French buttercream (from Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s Cake Bible) and gave the birthday girl free rein with the icing colors. I was wowed by her sense of color.

vibrant hues

vibrant hues

Lexi came over the morning of the party, pulling her extremely large decorating kit behind her, and along with my older daughter, filled, frosted, and ponied up one of the most amazingly fun homemade birthday cakes I’ve ever seen. (Crack-me-up comments like “I trust no ponies were harmed in the making of this cake” and “I think there’s room for one more pony” greeted its fb debut.)

could there be any more ponies?

could there be any more ponies?

This cake made my seven-year-old happy. It made the decorators happy. It made party guests happy. It made me happy. And this, in the proverbial nutshell, is why I love parties and celebrating: They make folks happy. There’s so much sadness and tragedy and even just general annoyances in life that I choose to live by words I remember my mom saying more than once: “You have to celebrate the good stuff.” (This was an order from my mom, mind you–she used the words “have to.”)

Because the party was all about ponies, I served up a spread of grazing foods–popcorn, cheese, crackers, fruits, carrots, hummus. (My oldest pointed out that horses don’t actually eat most of these foods, but as hay wasn’t an option I stuck with my original plan.) So in addition to the cake making folks smile, there was plenty of finger food to munch on as well. (And we musn’t forget the fruit-infused water: I subbed in a sliced apple and handful of blackberries for the more-often used lemon or cucumber slices.) It gave me great joy to see friends and family visiting and laughing and eating the foods I’d had so much fun putting together (with help from others, yes).

party spread for grazers

party spread for grazers

apple-blackberry water

apple-blackberry water

This led to a bit of pondering and the realization that foodforfun, while always about cooking and baking and food and drink, is at its core really about wanting to share happiness. (same goes for deLizious facebook) We all have our vehicle–some love movies, some music, some gardening, some sports. But in the end, we’re all sharing happiness. I like that thought a lot and put it out there even in the wake of what seems like so many recent tragedies. I’m going to remember and honor the sad things, yes, but will focus on celebrating the good (thanks, mom) and I raise a glass of fruit-infused water and invite you to join me.

Victory Part 2-1

Why is Ryan Gosling here? This is why.