One of the best ways I know how to show love is with some extra effort in the kitchen. Whether it’s a batch of homemade cookies, cooking a favorite meal or even stopping by a restaurant to pickup a beloved dish, when Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, you have all weekend to spread the love.
When life gives you a giant plaster statue of Jack Daniels, you should make Bourbon Syrup with Pecans.
(And never go to another silent auction again.)
Bourbon Syrup with Pecans
1 1/2 cups good maple syrup
1/2 cup bourbon (Jack Daniels, preferred since he is now the ambassador of my living room)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 ish cup of chopped pecans
Bring the maple syrup and bourbon to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Quickly add the cream and stir to combine. The bubbling will reduce immediately, add the pecans, turn down the heat and simmer on low for several more minutes.
Serve warm on waffles or ice cream.
Or on the rocks. Obviously, a woman with a 7 foot replica of moonshiner makes no judgments.
Lately I’ve been making a lot of healthy brain food that doesn’t taste like salmon.
Here’s a biscotti recipe that I adapted from Ann Burrell that incorporates whole nuts, berries and dark chocolate in a not-so-sweet cookie for breakfast or dessert. She dips hers into a chocolate ganache, but I like the chocolate on the inside. It’s decadent enough without the dipped and extras.
And it’s a long way from lox and better than a bagel.
1 stick of room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 white for brushing on the top
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 c. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup toasted almonds, rough chopped
4-6 oz package of dried cherries
2-4 oz dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
A couple of tablespoons of raw or turbinado sugar
1.) Preheat oven to 300°. Beat together the sugar and eggs until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then almond extract until well combined.
2.) Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Fold in cherries, almonds and chocolate chunks until just combined.
3.) Divide the dough in half and shape two long, skinny logs on a piece of parchment paper about 12 inches long. You really don’t have to roll it out–it’s sticky but will shape nicely. Flatten the tops just slightly, and brush with the egg white until glossy and then sprinkle with the raw sugar.
4.) Bake for 35 minutes until somewhat firm–they bake again so it will be on the soft side at this stage. Remove from oven and cool 10-20 minutes before slicing into thick slices on an angle.
5.) Arrange the slices back on the cookie sheet and bake for another 10-12 minutes until hard. Cool completely on a rack.
One of the very best happy accidents of this new venture has been how much more crowded my kitchen has become. As soon as I mentioned the new blog to my friends, they have jumped right in offering recipes, taste-testing, opinions, and wine-glass filling. The test kitchen has become my favorite place with some of my favorite people along side offering their generous and delicious additions.
Such was the case when my friend Mikki came through town this summer.
After a bottle of wine or seven, we came up with the most decadent deviled eggs you’ll ever meet. These are so good and so rich, you’ll move up a tax bracket after just one bite.
Deviled Eggs Benedict
18 eggs, hard boiled and peeled (Use organic eggs, worth the splurge when the eggs are the star of the show.)
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon champagne vinegar
4 slices prosciutto
2 english muffins
chives for garnish
1.) Cut whole eggs in half lengthwise and place on a large platter. Put yolks into food processor. Pulse until smooth.
2.) Add vinegar and lemon juice; pulse again until smooth. With processor running, add the meted butter through the feed tube and blend until smooth and creamy. Use spatula to scrape sides, add salt to taste, blend again. This should resemble and taste like hollandaise sauce.
3.) Place yolk mixture into a plastic bag with the tip cut off for piping. Pipe into eggs. If mixture is slightly runny or soft, it is ok, it will set up nicely in the refrigerator.
4.) Chill eggs for at least an hour. Meanwhile, set oven to 400°. Place prosciutto on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes to crisp up. (You could also do this on the stove top if you prefer.)
5.) Toast English muffins and lightly butter if desired. (It really doesn’t need it.) Cut muffin into small, crouton-sized chunks.
6.) Assemble eggs by placing a piece of the crisp prosciutto, muffin crouton and a sliver of chive on each one.
There are numerous examples of my craziness and the impending severity of it, but number 876 is my inability to throw away over-ripe bananas without promising no one except myself, that I will not let that beautiful fruit go to waste and will immediately bake a lovely bread or muffin.
The really crazy thing is that I don’t even like bananas.
But here’s a bread that I will even eat, packed with all sorts of wholesome goodness.
3-4 over ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1.) Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2.) Mash bananas with a fork until smooth-ish. (Leaving some lumps is ok.)
3.) In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
4.) Into the mashed bananas, whisk in sugars, milk, egg, and vanilla.
5.) Gently fold in flour mixture just to combine, add chocolate chips and pour into the loaf pan.
6.) Bake for 55-65 minutes until a knife blade comes out clean. (Crazy people use knives, not toothpicks.)
Allow me to introduce myself, I’m your new neighbor. That neighbor.
Oh, I don’t plan any trouble, slights, inadvertent impoliteness, or anything to make you call your insurance company, emergency services or realtor; but chances are pretty good that you will at some point. I apologize in advance and offer these anticipatory peace offering muffins.
We have teenagers who park poorly and will probably impede your driveway access at some point. We have young kids that have cannot keep a ball in their own yard to save their life. We have a dog. Cute, but she’s a runner and a digger with a propensity for your fence line and begonias.
We have parties. And house guests. And a drum set. And inappropriate boundary issues.
But if you’re able to overlook these few flaws–and the tragic paint color experiment on your side of the house–we do have our good points.
Like you know the Bunco group with all of the popular people in the neighborhood? Well, I’m blacklisted from that one but I’ll bring you as my personal guest to the one formed by outcasts in dramatic protest.
And you know that giant nest of rabbits that live under your back porch? They used to live here before I chased them out after eating the biggest patch of basil this side of Tuscany. I’ll make you (and your exterminator) a batch of homemade pesto.
And since we are in a constant state of violation with the homeowner’s association, chances are you can get away with a plethora of infractions with their attention turned our way. We are responsible for so many of the amendments to the covenants they refer to us as the Continental Congress. You’ll probably be able to skirt a fine for those bottle rocket casings littered all over your roof for at least six more months. (I’m sorry and you’re welcome.)
So while it may not seem like we make the best neighbors, we do make pretty decent friends. Join us for a BBQ this weekend and I’ll show you.
(And how that large bare patch in your lawn in the shape of a giant chicken wing got there.)
Anticipatory Apology Blueberry Muffins
Makes a dozen
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pint fresh blueberries (They’re your new neighbors, make a good impression and splurge on fresh berries, for goodness sake.)
Turbinado sugar, if desired
1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 Tablespoon and toss over blueberries in another small bowl. Set both aside.
2.) Whisk together sugar, sour cream, oil, egg and almond extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries.
3.) Line a muffin tin with papers and fill each with the batter evenly. Sprinkle each with a healthy sprinkle of turbinado sugar before putting in the oven.
4.) Bake for 20-25 minutes. Deliver to new neighbor. No mention of highjacked wifi needed.