Breakfast Buzz: Jameson and Baileys Irish Coffee Cake

irish coffee cake

“May those who love us love us. And those that don’t love us, May God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, May he turn their ankles, So we’ll know them by their limping.”

And so the countdown begins. It’s almost that wonderful time of year when being ghostly pale and looking amazing in Kelly green is the ultimate symbol of cool—so what if it’s only for about 48 hours.

I take it where I can get it.

Fratboymessy drinking aside, March 17th is a great day to dive head first into some great Irish food and love on freckles. Bring on the soda breads, scones, breakfast and beer laden stews—there’s nothing Irish about those damn coconut potatoes.

So…who’s up for breakfast?

Irish Coffee Cake
This cakey dream has all the elements of a warm Irish Coffee – java, Jameson and Baileys — in an edible form. It reminds me of those chocolate glazed donuts my grandma used to get from Curry Donut on Saturday mornings, just with a little more oomph. Thanks for encouraging the fat kid in me to recreate that taste, Gram.

Chocolate Coffee Cake:

  • 2 C. sugar
  • 2 C. All Purpose Flour
  • ¾ C. cocoa powder
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. strong black coffee (room temp)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • 1 C. buttermilk or sour milk (1 T white vinegar + milk to equal 1 cup)
  • ½ C. vegetable oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, coffee, vanilla, buttermilk, and vegetable oil. Beat at a medium speed for about 2 minutes. Pour evenly into greased/floured pans. Bake 30-35 mins or until wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before you glaze.

*Time should be adjusted according to the pan you’re working with—I used 8” cake pans and cooked for about 32 mins. A rectangular or bunt pan may take a little more time. Start with 30 and go from there.

Jameson/Baileys Glaze Icing:

Melt butter and add all ingredients together. Mix until creamy. Drizzle over the top of your chocolate cake and allow to set (or not, if you can’t wait). It’s a little boozy but I’ve never heard anyone complain about a little buzz in the morning…

Jim Dandy to the Rescue

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As we all nurse little hangovers this morning–whether from too much booze or too much chocolate –I have to wonder why everyone gets so annoyed with Valentines Day. I love red, booze, chocolate and the ridiculous, decadent, INeedAnExcuseToEatThis food. To hell with the Hallmark version–though there are some funny Valentines out there that deserve some props–but I have to say: I love the love day.

It gives me a reason to hang out with Jim Beam on a Thursday–what’s not to love?

I wandered through Whole Foods last night giggling while the entire male population of Queen Village panicking as they looked for the perfect flowers, the perfect chocolates, cheeses, cookies, cakes and last-minute gifts. All I wanted was meat. (insert joke) Something that would suck up the smokey sweet flavor of my drink and serve as a quick, easy dinner. Happy Valentines Day to me. Love, Turkey.

I picked up a Turkey Tenderloins since they are relatively healthy, cheap, easy to cook and tasty. The tenderloin on a turkey seems like an odd thing to think of but it’s just the all-white piece that comes from the rib side of the breast. They never run the risk of being dry or lacking in flavor like the Thanksgiving bird sometimes can.

Turkey makes me think of cinnamon and cinnamon (for some reason) makes me think of bourbon. And that’s how a recipe gets born in the birds and bees of my head.

I escaped the Valentines consumer mob relatively unscathed–only a chocolate bar and a cookie courtesy of Matt (yes, you can have a piece!)–and got straight to my date with Jim Beam.

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Turkey Tenderloin with Jim Beam, Cinnamon, and Rosemary

  • 1 lb Turkey Tenderloin
  • 1 C Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In large frying pan, heat olive oil on high. Dust turkey with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Sear tenderloin, 2 minutes each side or until the skin is nice and brown. Pour 1/2 C of the Jim Beam Bourbon over the tenderloin and add rosemary. Cover and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Remove lid/covering, cook 10 minutes more.

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Remove from oven, let meat rest before cutting. While meat is resting, deglaze the (fuck out of the) pan. Pour remaining bourbon into the pan and, using a wooden spoon, use the liquid to scrape the brown remains from the bottom of the pan. *You can add more bourbon or chicken stock to make a thinner pan sauce.* Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Slice turkey, add sauce and enjoy over veggies, potatoes or rice. Or noodles. Noodles are always good.

No reason you can’t get your booze in as many places as possible. Especially on a holiday. Happy Valentines, Valentines. Hope your heads feel better.

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Easy (&Boozy) Last Minute Gifts

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I hear those sleigh bells jingling…ring ting tingling, too. The holidays crept up this year when I wasn’t paying attention and now, here we are 5 days out and I’m doing my best to suppress sheer panic. Christmas is a time for family, friends, glitter, twinkly lights, loads of cookies…and blowing budgets. It’s that budget part that gets me all in a tizzy. There is just something about another cashmere sweater, insanely priced imported chocolates, or those witty (but pointless) gifts that fit the recipient so perfectly that would bring a big shameonyou for not purchasing.

Usually at this time of year, I turn to the exotic food section at Wegmans, the gourmet aisles of DiBruno Bros or extra special bottles of the local Wines and Spirits for some inspiration and saving grace. Christmas for us is all about the food and drink (surprised?). From the coffee we drink while opening presents to the bread we clean our dinner plates with, everything is just a bit more decadent than usual.
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And since gifts for me should always be decadent, thoughtful and maybe a little ridiculous, what’s a better way than gifting food? Don’t think I skimped on the booze…not even a little bitnot even at all. Here are some ideas to save your butt and budget over the next few days so you can avoid traffic and standing in line for that giant snowflake sweater …again. Plus you’ll get bonus points for the handmade gifts.

And what mother doesn’t love that?!

A few places that are musts to hit: a liquor store, unless of course you have random bottles of alcohol that you’re able to use, a Home Goods (or something similar) for some fun, funky glassware and kitchen products that are cheapcheap, and the grocery store. Most grocery stores will sell Ball Mason jars—check the bottom shelves in the dry goods section or ask. If not there, check hardware or craft store. You might have been headed there anyway!

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Red Wine Cherries with Black Magic Cake Recipe

  • 1 Half Pint Mason Jar
  • 1 16 oz. Bag of Frozen Dark Sweet Pitted Cherries—fresh ones are nice but pricey and the work of pitting is already done for you (go frozen!)
  • 6-8 oz. of a full-bodied red wine (Zinfandel or Cabernet work well)

Fill the clean Mason jar with as many cherries as you can fit. Top with red wine. Seal jar. I topped mine with a split wine cork for a little homey touch. Since these cherries are fantastic spooned over chocolate cake, I packaged with this amazing Black Magic Chocolate Cake recipe, a container of Sharffen Berger cocoa, some cake pans and a spatula.

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Orange Vodka for Christmas Morning ManMosas

  • 1 Pint Mason Jar
  • 2 Jumbo Navel Oranges
  • 12 – 14 oz. Vodka

Slice one of the oranges into wheels and cut each in half, add to clean Mason jar. With a zest cutter, cut the skin of the second orange completely, add to jar. This should fill the jar pretty well. Top with vodka and seal. Package with pint glass or beer stein and a recipe breakfast ManMosas: the manly alternative to the mimosa with orange vodka, OJ and Blue Moon. *Thanks to Jimmy for teaching me to drink like a man in the morning.*

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Christian Brothers Brandy Soaked Cherries and Rye Manhattan Recipe

  • 1 Half Pint Mason Jar
  • 1 16 oz. bag of Frozen Dark Sweet Pitted Cherries
  • 6-8 oz. Christian Brothers VS Brandy

Fill the clean Mason jar with as many cherries as possible and top with brandy. Seal. These little suckers are fantastic in a Manhattan and can be packaged with a glass if you know your recipients preference of up or on the rocks. I didn’t, so I stuck with the shaker and a simple drink recipe. A little chalk board paint on the lid let me label it in a fun way.

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Star Fruit and Dried Berries for Fantastic Winter Cosmo

  • 1 Half Pint Mason Jar
  • 2 star fruit, slice thinly
  • 2 Tbsp. dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp. raisins
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 4-6 oz. Triple Sec

Add the sliced star fruit, cranberries, raisins and cinnamon sticks to the jar and top with triple sec. Package with a fun shaker, martini glass (or a combo of both!) and a great winter Cosmo recipe that calls for the drunken fruits, white cranberry juice and vodka.

Give Thanks for Leftovers

The dust has settled. Families are back in their respective homes. I’m slowly remembering what work needs to be done in the coming week. And I’m officially sick of turkey.

Post-Thanksgiving days revolve as much around food as the holiday itself does. Why did we make so much? Can we freeze this? How are we going to eat all of this stuff? All are questions I’ve had over the last few days. Once it’s all cooked, we hit the point of no return — it’s time to own up and not let anything go to waste.

Matt (aka: my brobro) works for a fantastic artisanal bakery that on only rare and special occasions allows him access to a Chocolate Sour Cherry Round—a specialty holiday bread so rich and decadent that it easily confuses my taste buds for cake but makes a much more acceptable breakfast than the confection (toasted, dry and with coffee).

When I found one of the coveted chocolatey boules went stale after one too many days of hearing, oh we’re saving that for so-and-so, I had to act. No perfectly good holiday food would meet the Hefty Man on my watch.

It was bread pudding time.

I’d seen chefs I worked with whip batches of it together after someone forgot to wrap and put bread deliveries away. Just because we couldn’t serve the bread for dipping, didn’t mean it was trash. Commonly known as “poor man’s pudding,” bread pudding cites its origins back as far as the 11th century and was made by frugal cooks looking for ways to use every scrap of food including bread that past its prime. By adding a little milk, sugar, eggs and some spices any leavened loaf can be saved. Recipes will vary along with the type of bread used, but the comfort food definitely spans cookbooks around the globe.

Crisis averted, folks!

And of course…to pay homage to our older brother who couldn’t be home for the holiday because he’s out battling pirates and exploring the world with periscopes, we added some in some Sailor Jerry for Sailor Hughie. What’s a little chocolate and cherries without a little rum. 

The SJ worked particularly well because it’s smooth and doesn’t carry the overly boozey baggage that I found with some other spiced rum (that I bought 3 years ago on an island somewhere…) that threatened to take over the flavor party. And let’s be honest…who doesn’t love that label. The intense vanilla and toffee flavors in the rum added a subtle sweetness and tickled the best notes of the luscious chocolate—leaving my head spinning and my stomach ready to burst. You’re welcome and I’m sorry…

Sailor Jerry Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

  • 1 La Brea Bakery “Chocolate Sour Cherry Round”, stale
  • 2 ½ C milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/3 C Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 T unsalted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Cut bread into 1” cubes, place in a large mixing bowl and pour milk over bread. Allow the bread to soak for about 10 minutes until all of the milk is absorbed. In separate smaller bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, rum, and cinnamon. Gently stir into the bread mixture.

Pour butter into the bottom of a 9” x 9” inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in the bread mix and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until set. The pudding is done when the edges start to pull away from the edge of the pan and the top gets crispy. Serve warm—with vanilla ice cream if you’re a glutton for punishment.

Sauce in the Sauce: Cranberries

Here we go again, Thanksgiving, just a few short days away. I love you…I adore you… so, can I ask? What happened to the fall and when-the-heck did you get here? I never seem to arrive in the middle of November well prepared. It’s like I left October without my house keys, a pair of socks or a contact case, Thanksgiving arrived early, my house isn’t clean and I have no food.

Don’t know what I’d do without family to invite me over!

When going to a big family function—foreign or domestic—it’s important to wow the judges. On holidays, we go all out. The table is set with carefully starched and pressed linen napkins and cloth, bone china, antique silver flatware and cut crystal. Everything–the cheese, the bread, the wine, the vegetables and meats–is the freshest, most beautiful that we can find; brought to the table like little gifts.

But while sipping from a glass that costs more than I spend on food in a week, I’m left to wonder: how the hell did that can shaped, gelatinous blob of cranberries get deemed acceptable?

Aside from the fact that they’re delicious and more hysterical than the turkey shaped butter mold that my dad insists on lopping the head off as soon as we sit down, how does the red viscous can-mold manage to make it under the radar every year?

This year, I said I’d take on the task of reinventing the cranberry. Much easier than the wheel…Here are some fun ways to add some sauce to the sauce: that boring canned cran will never be the same!

First comes first: breakfast cooking cocktails! Thanksgiving is always served more as a lunch, so starting early is necessary. In order to stand in the kitchen while others lounge in front of football, a little morning bev is needed. Again I’ll say: it’s a holiday!

 

Poinsettia

  • 4 oz. Champagne
  • 1 t. Jellied Cranberry Sauce (the canned stuff)

Place cranberry sauce in champagne glass and top with chilled champagne. Now, you may enter the kitchen…

Cape Codder Cran

  • 1 14 oz Can Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • ¼ C Vodka

Just like the cocktail! Mix all ingredients in medium sauce pan and heat on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, serve chilled. Lime wedges optional.

Jager Spiced Cranberries

  • 1 14oz. can Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 Persimmon, diced
  • ¼ C Jägermeister

Mix all ingredients in medium sauce pan and heat on medium for 5 minutes, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, serve chilled or warm with dinner or along with cheese platter! This pairs beautifully with Brie, Camembert, Gouda and mild Swiss cheeses.

CranMarnier Sauce

  • 1 12oz. bag Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 C Water
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 Navel orange zest and segments, pith removed
  • 1 Persimmon, diced
  • ½ C Pomegranate seeds (click link for tips on cutting & seeding!)
  • ½ C Grand Marnier

In medium sauce pan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and add fresh cranberries, orange segments, orange zest and persimmon. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add pomegranate seeds and Grand Marnier. Serve chilled or hot (according to your preference) with the holiday bird.

Don’t forget about dessert…

Vanilla Vodka Whipped CranDip

  • 1 14oz. container Cool Whip,
  • 1/4 C Crème fraîche (cheat & buy it…)
  • 2 T Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 14oz. can Whole Berry Cranberries

In large bowl, combine all ingredients and whip with electric mixer until evenly combined and fluffy. Serve chilled with cut fruit or in a pre-fab graham cracker pie crust (frozen or chilled) for dessert.

Thanksgiving cranberries will no longer be the laughing stock of the table. That butter turkey is another story…Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sage vs. SAGE: You be the judge

Nothing the world likes better than a good fight.

I’m sure we’d all like to say that fighting doesn’t solve anything, but it sure seems to be damn entertaining. Otherwise we wouldn’t be watching reality TV, there would be no market for televised MMA fighting and the debates wouldn’t get such high ratings. Competition, tension, and –maybe a little blood—is exciting. If it bleeds, it leads…right?

As the middle child and only girl, I was bred to be competitive and to be fueled by the fire of a fight. So waging a war between my ingredients makes cooking a little more interesting.

In the right corner: fresh sage. Officially salvia officinalis, sage is a perennial, evergreen ground hugging shrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region. Flavor-wise, it’s the aftertaste of gravy at Thanksgiving—earthy, woody and slightly bitter.

In the left corner: SAGE, another fantastic herbal libation from Art in the Age. It has the perfumey, piney, minty notes that remind me of gin but lack the throat-closing elements that keep us apart (juniper berries and me–we don’t get along).

I decided on a simple soup where the dueling dragons could really stand out—as one of only 6 things, they didn’t have a choice. Pumpkin, apples, chicken stock, some salt and pepper rounded out the posse in the fight. The battle would determine which was best: fresh, authentic flavor or the doctored, essence.

The chopped sage gave the apple, pumpkin mixture a tastier look while roasting and when they met the blender, produced a richer, darker broth that fit the toasty flavor of the soup. SAGE caramelized on the fruits as they browned under high heat and allowed the vibrant orange of the Cinderella pumpkin to sing. The sweetness of the liquor, pumpkin and apples had to be quelled (for me anyway) with a little extra pepper to become ass kicking…but once it was there, this stuff was incredible.

In the end, if there could be only one, my vote went to the booze (surprised?) since I didn’t have to dig that out from under leaves in my mom’s garden. It was a good, clean fight though and I’ll happily to pit them against each other again soon…just for fun.

Pumpkin Apple Sage and SAGE Soup (as adapted from EatingWell.com)

  • 4 lbs. pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 lbs. sweet-tart apples, such as Empire, Cameo or Braeburn, unpeeled,      cored and cut into eighths
  • 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground tri-colored pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 C Art in the Age SAGE
  • 6 C chicken broth
  • 1/3 C chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Seed, peel and cut pumpkin into 2” chunks. Be sure to buy a pumpkin that weighs in at 5-6 lbs to yield 4lbs of pumpkin (the junk has weight too!). Core and cut unpeeled apples into eights. Separate pumpkin and apple evenly into two roasting pans. Toss each with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (2 T = 1/8 C, 4 T = ¼ C) and pinch of salt. Roast, uncovered, stirring once, for 30 mins.

Pull one pan from the oven and cover—setting aside so the competitors don’t mingle. In the second pan, toss in fresh sage. Roast 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and transfer one-half of the pumpkin and apples to a blender along with 1 ½ cups broth. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a stock pot on low and repeat for second batch. Season with salt, pepper and heat through over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent splattering.

With first batch of resting pumpkin and apples, add 1/4 C of SAGE and roast in oven, uncovered for 15 minutes. Blend with chicken broth and heat in second stock pot.

Chop hazelnuts and place small dry skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Top competitors with chopped nuts and you be the judge.

Liquor Store Spice Shop

There are a ton of liquors and liqueurs out there that specifically feature spices—things you might not always have or have access to because of seasonality, location or lack of a gourmet grocer. With the flavor living in a bottle though, there is no worrying about shelf life. These leaves won’t turn brown and mushy in the fridge or die on your window sill because you forgot to water them for a few weeks (come ‘on, like it hasn’t happened to you?!).

I put together a little shopping list: all great options to add to your cabinet over the next couple of weeks that can work in place of, or in harmony with, the spices they feature. Some are definite splurges, but can be enjoyed on the rocks while you cook—others are great for mixing or strictly to add to the pot

Art in the Age Suite: Rhubarb Tea, Root, Sage, Snap.

  • fruit chutneys, cookies, soups, cake, icing, stews…and just about everything els

St. Germaine—elderflower.

  • vinaigrettes, cakes, jams, champagne cocktails, fruit chutney

Jagermeister—citrus peel, licorice, anise, poppy seeds, saffron, ginger, juniper berries and ginseng.

  • roasted leg of lamb, gingerbread, chocolate glazes

broVo suite: lavender, Douglas Fir, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Rose Geranium.

  • ham glazes, poached salmon, braised beef, drunken fruit, champage cocktails

Rosolio—rose petals.

  • chocolate truffles, icings, ice cream, sorbet

Kummel—caraway seed, cumin, fennel.

  • MEAT. braising, poaching, searing, roasting, marinades for grilling…

Menta—peppermint.

  • hot toddies, brownies, cakes, with pasta (& garlic!)

Jaan Paan—betel leaf, saffron, cardamom, sandalwood.

  • chicken, salmon, waffles

Goldschlager—cinnamon Red Hots.

  • chili, chicken, pork, sugar cookies.

Ouzo—anise, fennel.

  • seafood, marinades for meats, Greek pastries

Old Liquor Store Ginger Liqueur—ginger!

  • vinaigrettes, marinades, seafood, cranberry sauce, pho

Voyant Chai—chai, cinnamon.

  • whipped cream, icings, tomato sauce, braising meat

Y Chilli—chili peppers.

  • chili, chocolate cakes, salsa

Galliano—vanilla, star anise, Mediterranean anise, ginger, citrus, juniper, musk yarrow, and lavender.

  • beef stew, brisket, braised chicken

Hurricane Survival Candy

Dearest Hurricane Sandy: way to mess up a perfectly good week.

Instead of drinking hot cider, eating an obscene number of FUN-SIZE candy bars and watching Hocus Pocus until my brain reached the consistency of wet bread, I spent most of this last week watching the news. As if the inundation with smear campaigns wasn’t enough; I’m watching the Weather Channel. I hate that about you, Sandy.

I try my best to look on the bright side of things—past the generator that’s still running my parents’ refrigerator from the garage, the houses that are in the middle of highways and the lives that are turned completely upside-down. I had two extra days off and a bottle of red I most definitely deserved (a 70 hr work week does that to a girl).

With the risk of losing power at any moment, I cooked everything that required heat from our electric stove or would be ruined if left without refrigeration. Drinking an excessive amount of coffee helped get me through the milk. “Garbage eggs” accounted for all dead and dying vegetables living in the dark places on the bottom shelf. Chicken and dumplings took care of a frozen bird, some old carrots, potatoes, lemons and the remains of a bottle of white wine I believed to be long dead.

The problem: while we had some great meals to look forward to, we lacked snacks. It was raining far too hard to venture out for anything crunchy and the few pieces of candy we had were still alive for a reason—without naming names, I’ll say that waxy milk chocolate is not my thing. No amount of rainy day boozing would get me to that point…

I started digging and found some chocolate chips. With only butter in house, I couldn’t make myself make cookies but hatched a plan when I found the hidden emergency Oreos, cream cheese and some Triple Sec (we have 3 bottles for some reason). I love the bittery sweet flavor of triple sec because its gives the full flavor of orange without tasting synthetic like some liqueurs can. Plus, together orange and chocolate can do no wrong.

So, I failed miserably at my first attempt to make Oreo chocolate truffles. Apparently chocolate is a touchy substance that does not like liquid. When water, or in this case some delicious orange flavored Dekuyper, came in contact with melted chocolate, the chocolate actually freaked out. Seizing, as it’s called, can’t really be solved but the chocolate can be repurposed. So I tossed the Oreo idea and salvaged the lumpy chocolate with more triple sec and heavy cream to form a ganache. When chilled, rolled and dipped into more melted chocolate – which I was very careful to keep clear of all liquids and liquors—I managed to make some pretty amazing truffles.

So, thank you Sandy, for giving me the time to look around my cupboards, get covered in dark chocolate and have a great reason to log some extra miles as soon as it stopped raining. I love running in the cold anyway…

Sandy’s Triple Sec Truffles

  • 2 C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • ½ C Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ¼ C Triple Sec
  • 1 C Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Toppings!

I’ve seen some folks start with the chocolate chips in a regular bowl, but I found that the ganache formed easier with a little heat (maybe it’s cold in my apt?)—so I put my chocolate chips in a double boiler set to low. In a small sauce pan, bring heavy cream to a boil. Add triple sec. Pour cream mixture over chocolate chips and let sit for about 2 minutes. Slowly stir the mixture until smooth and shiny. Refrigerate for about an hour or until hard.

Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out hardened chocolate and form into balls. The chocolate will melt in the warmth of your hands, so don’t mess around with them too much. I kept mine on a plate over ice to keep them cool. Once all of the ganache balls are formed, place in freezer. Melt remaining chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium heat. Once melted, drop heat to low or turn off completely to avoid burning chocolate. Be careful to avoid any water vapors or condensation from getting anywhere near the chocolate.

Prep cookie sheet with foil or parchment. If you have fondue forks, this is a great place to use them. If not regular forks, spoons or corn picks work great for rolling the ganache balls in the melted chocolate. Roll them one at a time and place on tray to dry. I rolled mine in some toppings—salted caramel hot chocolate mix, peppermint hot chocolate mix (W&S fix), and Himalayan pink sea salt—to mix things up a bit. Orange zest, flavored sugars and cocoa powder work great, too! Store in a cool, dry hiding place.

Bloody Genius, BloodyMary!

Even though I was the kid who rinsed off hot wings (yes, in the sink), I find myself loving spice lately. There’s just something really cleansing about the eye watering, nose running and deep belly fire that’s better than Bikram in August for a good full body rinse.

Spice helps raises metabolism, rids the body of toxins, clears out sinuses, and lowers blood pressure among other things. The fact that we inadvertently take in all kinds of toxins on a daily basis is a good reason to get rid of a few here and there.  Spicy foods like hot peppers actually help to dilate (open up) blood vessels and increase blood flow. Better blood flow = less crap. Less crap, happier body.

After a long, fuzzy weekend of purposeful toxin guzzling, I need as much blood flow as possible.

While the truly perfect solution has always involved chewing (read: cheese omelet with mustard, greasy hash browns and dry wheat toast and about 2 gallons of water), sometimes food is not quite what I’m looking for…and not yet what I’m able to manage. To make sitting upright possible, spicy drinks are the secret. They help to hydrate, satiate and get me firing on all cylinders again. If the burning in my stomach can distract from the burning behind my eyes — even better.

The Bloody Mary is the answer.

I hate to admit that I had my first Bloody Mary about a month ago. I wish I knew about this for most of my 20’s as I suffered through many long days of brain-dead zombie-time. I probably deserved that suffering though. Builds character says my dad.

Life is a learning process.

A lot of seasoned vets will tell you extra horse-radish is the way to go—but after seeing horse-radish nearly kill a woman on “1,000 Ways to Die”, I just can’t take the chance any more. After developing what seems like an immunity to the attempts of Tabasco, I knew shit was about to get real. It was time to play with fire.

I’d love to take credit for this gem—but it was Matt who decided to shove 3 of his home-grown what-do-I-do-with-them-now? jalapeños into a bottle of Absolut at the beginning of the summer. The heat emanating from this bottle is the only reason it’s been living here for more than a few weeks.

If it’s survived this long, it might really know something I don’t know…

If you’ve got a long weekend ahead, run out and grab these ingredients–it’ll save your life come Sunday. Promise.

Bloody Genius, Mary!

  • 3/4 C Tomato Juice
  • 1/4 C Jalapeño Infused Vodka*
  • 1 t horse-radish
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • 1/8 t Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/8 t Steak Sauce (A-1)
  • 1/8 t Tabasco Sauce
  • 1/8 t Sriracha sauce
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedge, lime wedge, Hot Pepper Pickled Asparagus** spears to garnish & take the place of celery as a stirrer

*Quick note on infusing vodka: it’s very easy! You don’t need to use a whole bottle if you don’t want that much jalapeño vodka. Slice up peppers and soak. It will get stronger the longer it sits. 24 hrs. will suffice.

**Quicker note on the Hot Pepper Pickled Asparagus: I used a variation on the recipe found on Food In Jars. Even though she has a great recipe for pickled asparagus, I like the “quick pickle” version. And these are ridiculously good.

So you’ll need to prep those two things in advance if possible. Consider it pre-gaming.

Combine all other ingredients over ice, garnish with lemon, lime and asparagus spears and you’re cured!

Not Your Mamas (or Grandma’s) Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first time I baked chocolate chip cookies in my own kitchen with my own pans and ingredients I purchased with my own money, I panicked. I’d gone too far, was instantly way too independent and far from home. Baking cookies was a family thing. Something we did together and only at holidays and there I was on a Tuesday (or whatever day it was) in my crappy little West Philadelphia apartment surrounded by the thick scent of old paint and industrial cleaning products, throwing tradition to the wind and doing it because I needed chocolate.

It was wrong.

But…I really wanted chocolate.

So I reverted to the exact mechanics of Christmas Eve baking in an attempt to make it right—holiday apron tied tight, The Waitresses blaring, I flipped spoonfuls of dough onto the cookie sheet, carefully making sure that I had four blobs across and six blobs down on each tray per my grandmother’s strict training. She always said that if you couldn’t fit 2 dozen cookies on a pan, you were no baker—a sentiment that my mother loved to reiterate if my spoonfuls grew too generous.

When cookies are that small, they break all the laws of baking time and temperature–I must have missed something in the kitchen when it came to making these adjustments. My resulting cookies were black bottomed and stunk of burning chocolate.  

So, I made them bigger. No one was there to smack my hand with a spatula or pinch off the extra dough or tell me I was doing it wrong. And they were better (I’m sorry, Gram). I started messing with other things—chip type, Crisco in place of butter, size of eggs, dark and light brown sugar—until I found a way to make my perfect cookie.

Perfect is really boring, by the way. Dependable and delicious…but boring.

Ruth Wakefield took a chance when she made the first chocolate chip cookie at the Toll House Inn in 1930 and in celebration of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (May 15th), I got to baking.

I searched out a substitution for the traditional ingredients from my standard recipe on the yellow chip bag. I’ve had a bottle of ROOT—a Pennsylvania brewed, root beer flavored liquor that dates back to the 1700s—sitting on the top of my refrigerator for about a year collecting dust so I decided to work with that instead of the traditional vanilla that the Toll House calls for. The sweet, herbal combination of birch bark, cinnamon, wintergreen, cardamom with hints of vanilla were the perfect substitution, giving the resulting cookie a taste that was more herbal than sweet vanilla.

It wasn’t quiet enough of the in-your-face Root Beer flavor I was going for, so a little paint brush (new, of course) full of booze painted the top of each cookie was the little extra “oomph” these guys needed.

I’m not a big dunker–milk just isn’t my thing–but a glass of CRW (read: cheap red wine) was the perfect pairing for this late night treat…no need to share with any kids.

Root Beer Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C Crisco
  • 3/4 C white sugar
  • 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 t ROOT (+ 2 T for brushing)
  • 12 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Pre-heat oven to 350. Combine flour, salt and baking soda — be sure to stir!–in a bowl and set aside. Cream the Crisco, dark and white sugar until fluffy. (about 1 minute on high).

Add in the eggs and 2t ROOT–beat again on high for about 1 minute until completely incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients into the sugar/Crisco/egg/Root in 4 parts–mixing between each addition until flour is incorporated. Add in chocolate chips — mixing by hand so the chips don’t get annihilated.

Spoon or roll into balls and place onto cookie sheet — allowing space between dough balls for cookies to spread (I do 15 on a sheet). Place in oven for 5 minutes — rotate the pan–and cook for 5 more minutes. *I only do one pan at a time so they cook evenly.

Remove cookie tray from the oven and allow cookies to settle for about 1 minute on the tray before removing (onto a cooling rack if you are so inclined or a kitchen towel).

Once cookies are cool, brush remaining ROOT onto the top of each using a pastry brush (or small, clean paint brush). Put all dishes in sink, pray that someone else does them, pour large glass of red wine and enjoy!!