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.

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 GoldschlĂ€ger, 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!

cocktail flippin’

Mentioned in my last post was my delight in meeting other like-minded folk within the blogging community. My circle of friends has expanded in ways I’d never imagined as has my pool of ideas and inspiration. A recent find has been The Weary Chef. Like me, she feeds a husband and two young kids while also running around tending to the rest of her life. While I’ve only just discovered TWC, I’m already nuts about her Friday Happy Hour post. While you’ll find a handful of cocktail write-ups at food for fun, there’s nothing scheduled weekly. Yet I so like the idea of celebrating the end of a workweek with a fun adult beverage that I’m hoping to stop by TWC each Friday and make whatever it is she’s making (or at least an approximation, depending on my pantry).

In honor of my new Friday tradition, I’ve been inspired by a review of a just-opened restaurant (you must click on this link if only to see the box graters hanging from the ceiling) in the latest Minnesota Monthly. Borough’s bar menu features A Flippin’ Good Drink and for the name alone I already love it. But it gets better: this drink combines milk stout with bourbon and egg to taste “almost like bitter dark chocolate.” Anything with bourbon gets a Like from me and the whole concept sounded absolutely lovely.

Amounts were not given, so I guessed at two parts stout to one part bourbon. And the (raw) egg thing didn’t sit well with me as it smacked of health shakes circa 1970. But I love me a little egg white froth on a cocktail (ramos gin fizz, anyone?), so tossed one white in the mix. Into the cocktail shaker, then, went 1/2 cup stout, 1/4 cup bourbon, 1 egg white.

flippin' good, yes

flippin’ good, yes

Minimal shaking required as the stout provided plenty of foam, though the egg white gave it a boost as well as tamed some of the stout’s rougher edges. I gave it a blast of carbonated water after sampling as it was too strong for my taste, but the chocolate notes rang loud and clear. I hope to hit Borough soon to try the real deal, but for now will enjoy my homespun version of the flippin’ good.

Overall, my drink-mixing skills are bare bones as I have yet to develop a sense for what kind and how much of one spirit to mix with another. But if I continue hanging out at TWC and other fun cocktail posts (Putney Farms is another good one for fun drinks), I’ll eventually find my inner mixologist. If you have favorite cocktail recipes or blog suggestions that will help me get there, please holler back via comments or facebook. I’d love to have you at the party 🙂