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Candied Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

This weekend we’re having a trial run as a bed & breakfast.  Don’t tell Rick, but that may be exactly what I want to do with his retirement (which will effectively be my third career) in five or six years. 

All four of our bedrooms are chock full of Learmans.  Ten of them, to be exact (including us, anyway).  Ages 0-54.  Surprisingly, I woke up this morning to a totally quiet house.  I thoroughly expected to be awakened by a screaming 5-month old or a barking dog who forgot we had houseguests.  Instead I just woke up because the sun was coming up & streaming in our bedroom French doors.  Weird.  Especially since we didn’t go to bed until at least 3:00 a.m., as per usual in the fashion of these big family get-togethers. 

So what did I immediately think of?  Breakfast, duh. 

Specifically the breakfast we had our first morning in Napa at a little French bakery across the street from famed chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega: Bouchon.  It was so adorable I was almost intimidated by it. 

The fact that the awnings matched the blazing warm colors of the surrounding fall trees did not seem accidental. 

Of all the gorgeous scones, muffins, coffee cakes, cookies, brownies, buns and other goodies, I chose a tall, rich-looking bacon & cheddar scone.  As I predicted, it was satisfyingly crumbly, buttery, and had gorgeous bits of savory bacon throughout.  What I did not expect was a background sweetness – absolutely the perfect compliment to the salty bacon.  After my second bite I realized I had to try & recreate this at home. 

This was the perfect occasion.  I had a house full of people and a totally empty, quiet kitchen, all to myself. 

Unbeknownst to them (again, good thing they don’t read this!), Rick’s kids have been my guinea pigs before, and they’re either really good at it or kind of suck at it.  None of them has ever complained (even when I made cinnamon rolls that didn’t rise – someone should have at least mentioned it) and more often than not, they rave.  And they’re generally great eaters.  Right now the girls are dieting, which is kind of annoying considering I’m trying to stuff their faces with fattening carbs, but the guys are all still growing (at ages 25-50, mind you) so they’re dependable feeders. 

They liked these.  A lot. 

So did I.  So will you.  I made them the Semi-Homemade way, inspired by my friend Sandra Lee whose memoir I just finished Thursday night.  The peppery candied bacon was so great on its own you at least have to go there this Christmas. 

You know, as a gift to the men in your life. 

I see these as a bed & breakfast staple. 

Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Biscuits  yield: 20-24 biscuits

3-1/4 cups Bisquick mix

1 cup milk

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

6-8 slices center-cut bacon

4 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon honey

salt

freshly ground black pepper

Lay out bacon strips on a wire rack set over a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons brown sugar on top and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until bubbly & browned.  Sprinkle generously with black pepper when it comes out of the oven & cool slightly.

Julienne (thinly slice) the bacon into bits.  Mix Bisquick, milk, the bacon drippings (yes, do it)

bacon, cheese and 2 tablespoons brown sugar until combined.  Spoon heaping tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes or until just browned. 

Meanwhile in the microwave, melt the butter & honey.  When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush with honeybutter.  Serve warm to your family with good coffee next to a warm fire.    

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Next week: Wine Reviews =D

First stop, El Dorado:  Holly’s Hill

Second stop, El Dorado:  Sierra Vista (hence, the amazing view of the Sierras).

Third stop in El Dorado:  Mount Aukum

Final stop, Karmere, Amador County – solely for the sparkling almond wine.  And sunset.

Apple Moon Pies (Pie Cookies, Hand Pies, Lunchbox Pies, whatever!)

I recently updated this post and brought it back for a second round because the fabulous inspiring blogger Cheryl over at TidyMom is just too generous and resourceful and scored some MAJOR schwag.  Go check out the giveaway for the best pie recipe!  I’m not sure if this is the *best* recipe, but it is fantastic, delicious, fun and easy.

Come join Love the Pie with TidyMom  sponsored by Cherokee USA, Le Creuset, Wilton, Bags by Bloom and  Harvard Common Press!  I honestly hope to win the cute apron from Bloom =D

Conveniently enough (since I chose one of the flavors myself) this week’s cupcake orders involve apple pie filling.  So I woke up this morning excited to make it again.   

Not coincidentally, I just so happened to have a refrigerated pie crust that was a month or so past its expiration date and needed to be used.  (PS ~ in case you ever wondered, those dates are just suggestions and, I think, marketing devices.  Don’t throw away refrigerated pie crust if the date on the box leads you to believe [erroneously] it has expired.  It’s fine.  Trust me.)

I didn’t actually want to make a pie.   If pies were cupcakes, they’d be hand pies, like these:

Perfect for stuffing into lunchboxes, they start out with simple little rounds of pie dough.  The perfect size is a Folgers coffee can lid, fyi.  I’d say they’re about 4.5 inches or so. 

(Meanwhile in the living room Rick is hollering expletives at the tv because MSU just committed another personal foul and Denard is on the ground.  “They are a dirty #&%$#@& team!”  My mom was right.  Those ugly uniforms make them look like the thugs they are…)

At any rate, this really is the perfect blustery fall day for an impulse pie.  Or several mini ones, as the case may be. 

It took me a bit of negotiating with these things to get the right amount of filling in each one.  I really wanted to put a lot more apples in them than they wanted to hold. 

I’d say they only got about a tablespoon each (I spooned off probably 1/3 of the filling from the one above after taking the pic).  So obviously, the crust-to-filling ratio is pretty steep.  The good thing about that is they’re not very sweet at all.  Perfect for a mid-day (or half-time) snack. 

Today, with the state our team is in, they’d go perfectly with a shot of rum to kill the pain. 

Fold over the dough & seal the edges with a swipe of eggwash (1 egg whisked together with 1 T water).  Press a fork around the edges for a pretty detail and drip-proof seal.  Poke two tiny slices in the top so the steam can escape.  Then brush the tops lightly with eggwash so they bake up golden brown & shiny. 

I rolled the leftover pie crust out for a mini lattice-topped pie, decorated with a heart inspired by a friend from Up North.  =) 

Here’s the Apple Pie Filling recipe (this also goes GREAT warmed up on top of vanilla ice cream & cider donuts):

3 large apples peeled, cored & chopped into 1/2” cubes – I used 2 golden delicious and 1 honey crisp.

3 T butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup apple cider

1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tablespoon milk

1 Tablespoon ap flour

dasha nutmeg

dasha salt

Cook all of the ingredients listed above in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the apples soften to your desired tooth – I cooked these for about 6-8 minutes.

Mix milk & flour in a cup until smooth and slowly pour it into the boiling cider while stirring to prevent lumps.  This will thicken the mixture considerably.  Cool to set up a bit before filling pie circles. 

(I have no idea why this dessert caused me to channel Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen in Cars, but it did.  Ka-CHOW!)

Glamping (French onion soup)

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Last weekend it was absolutely beautiful in Northwest Michigan! 

Nevermind that, yes, it was 33 degrees at night and never hit 60 during the day.  It was simply gorgeous.  A perfect weekend for camping. 

This weekend trip was my mom’s birthday celebration.  Okay, so her birthday was actually in August but hey, we had a busy August, so this was the best way to defer the festivities and still make it the kind of weekend my mom deserved. 

Now, my mother is amazing on SO many levels.  She’s also super human.  I mean that in the “very” human sense, as much as the Superwoman sense.  See, she has no concept of how to dress for cold weather.  She cannot STAND to wear bulky clothes.  But she is the Queen of style – color, texture, accessories, current trends, the works – at all times.  Including camping.  In 33-degree weather. 

I think she wore five different sets of footwear (boots, slides, sneaks, sandals and gold thongs – yes, I said “thongs”, my mother does not wear “flip flops”.)  She wore at least three different vests, two jackets, including this adorable dark brown leather biker jacket (unlined, of course), two different hats, scarves, gloves, and coordinating jewelry.  Do you think she had longjohns or silkies under all those cute clothes?  No way.  Do you think any of those cute gloves & scarves were warm?  Not a bit.  Sure she was cute, but I’m pretty sure it took her 48 hours to warm up after she got home. 

Rick & I do not go “glamping”.  But with my parents, we were totally glamping.

Food included.  Mom & I exchanged no less than 98 emails over the last week planning our menu.  (Don’t you think she could have had the courtesy to send me just ONE email about wardrobe???  Sheesh.) 

Anyway, we had brie & honey crisp apples.

Bagel chips & red pepper hummus.

Scallops.

Breakfast burritos with bacon, eggs, Virginia ham, Swiss cheese & salsa.

Vanilla nut latte.

Cinnamon French toast. 

And French onion soup.

All over an open camp fire. 

I can’t even tell you how good wood-fire grilled French onion soup is.  With a couple’a cans of cold beer.  Man!  Awesome.  Great idea, Mom! 

Glamping French Onion Soup

4 yellow onions, sliced fairly thin (I halved my onions first, mom sliced hers whole).

1 stick of Oleo (magarine, for you young’uns)

Sautee onions in margarine in a big, heavy-bottom soup pot over an open camp fire (or on the stove, sure, wuss out on me) for about 15-20 minutes until the onions are softened and almost transparent.  Stir frequently.

Add 2 cloves of garlic, minced.  Cook for another minute or two.

Add 2 quarts of low-sodium beef stock.  Cook until almost boiling.

Portion out in (ideally not plastic) bowls.  Sprinkle herbed croutons on top, add a slice of mozzarella cheese and a few bacon crumbles.  Let the cheese melt & devour. 

Enjoy with a cold beer, outside, under a canopy of golden sugar maples, with your amazing lumberjack grillmaster husband and fun-loving parents. 

I think this is pretty light as is, but if you’re watching your waistline, add a lot less Oleo or butter, use a little light olive oil instead, and use just a few croutons & no bacon.  But what fun would that be?

Brown Jug Tailgate

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I took these little babies to our Michigan – Minnesota tailgate party yesterday:

Chocolate zucchini muffins.  Mmmm…  SUPER fluffy!  They were a smidge dry, but that’s probably my own fault for overbaking a minute or two.  The other chocolate zucchini bread recipe I use ends up a bit more dense and chewy, which I totally love.  I’m going to compare the two recipes & see if I can find something that looks this good

And tastes as good as the other one. 

Hey, no one complained!  And Michigan did win 58-0 😉  Next game:  cinnamon rolls.

Back on the blog bus!

This first new post is going to be about chocolate chip cookies eventually, so I had to share this pic of my all-time most popular cupcakes, the Cookie Monster.  I can’t wait to make these again…

I have been stomping around for the last few weeks bummed out because I quit blogging a couple years ago, and it seems like the blogosphere has gotten enormous since then and I missed out.  I had to quit whining about this and get back to blogging.  Maybe I did get off the bus too soon, but no one was keeping me off the bus except myself!  The last few weeks I’ve had so much to share I’ve hardly been able to contain myself.  But I kept telling myself I couldn’t blog about these things unless I could do it “right”, so I just didn’t share at all.  Idiot!  (Slapping self in forehead) Whose “rules” was I living by??? 

So, world, I’m letting you know straight up, now, up front, right away:  I CANNOT FOLLOW A RECIPE!  There, I said it.  Oh, and I DON’T WRITE RECIPES either.  =D  Those are the things I figured I’d have to do to make a blog that people would want to read.  So, maybe no one will ever read this, but at least I’ll have a place to chronicle my own trials & tragedies in cooking, baking, photography, writing, and maybe other stuff, too.  That way, when I need to make cream cheese frosting again I won’t kick myself thinking I should have freaking wrote down what I did last time I made it successfully.  I’ll do that here, or at least I intend to do that here. 

No, honestly, I can’t follow a recipe.  I mean, I can, but it is sooo difficult!  First of all, I never buy unsalted butter, so I always use salted butter and reduce the amount of salt in the recipe a little to adjust.  Or not.  And I refuse to buy unitaskers (those pesky utensils that only do one thing and just take up valuable drawer or cupboard space 99% of their existence) or ingredients I know I won’t use completely before they get funky, like anchovy paste (which starts out funky, now that I think of it) or ginger root.  Sometimes I’ll add a spice or a flavor element not mentioned in a recipe, or screw up the timing, or use a different size pan or halve the quantities or leave something out if I don’t like it or don’t have it… or, frankly, sometimes I just read the darn recipe wrong.  This is no surprise; civil procedure is my weak subject at work.  I can read a set of court rules 45 times and still not serve a paper correctly…. 

This began long, long ago in a land far, far away (or not, but it was at least 15 years ago at my parents’ house which is a 15 minute drive from my house) when I lovingly made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for my brother who was due home on leave from the Air Force for the weekend.  My brother loved homemade chocolate chip cookies dough and, having been away from him for so long I was starting to realize for the first time that I kind of actually liked him, so I thought I’d make him his own batch of cookies.  The project started out fine & dandily.  I put the yummy-looking scoops of soft dough onto the cookie sheets and after a few minutes they started to smell scrumptious.  Impatient baker I am, I turned on the light and peeked into the oven only to freak out – GAH!  FAIL!  There on the top two oven racks were two whole cookie sheets full of spreading, liquidy chocolate chip caramelly goo!  AH!  Immediately I grabbed my mom’s trusty red-and-white checkered BH&G cookbook (everyone who cooks or bakes knows that this is my bible) to look over the recipe and realized that I forgot (wait for it)….  only the flour.  Yep, the flour.  Nothing important like the baking powder or salt or anything.  Nope, the flour.  Awesome.  (Strangely enough, the resulting product was pretty tasty, anyway, eaten out of a bowl with a spoon.) 

Luckily I rarely make the same mistake twice.

Naturally, cooking comes much easier to me than baking but I LOVE to bake, and I LOVE to come up with complex flavor combos that turn simple cakes & desserts into sophisticated delicacies.  I love the challenge of a multi-step recipe.  I have no formal training, no culinary education, and no family restaurateur background.  Possibly I inherited my interest in food from both branches of my family tree: my paternal grandmother ran a very casual catering business out of our church kitchen (“Village Hall” where the ham, meatballs & mashed potatoes were legendary) and my maternal great-grandmother had a degree in nutrition, but I have zero authority and this is just a hobby. 

I repeat:  THIS IS JUST A HOBBY!  I hope it turns out to be a fun venture ~ thanks for stopping in!