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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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I Cheated. Don’t Tell.

I am so glad none of the in-laws read this.

I was in charge of dessert for last night’s annual Christmas dinner.

And because I was still recovering from sugery and had an UBER-busy week at work, I totally cheated on my required Christmas dessert, red velvet cupcakes. 

I mean TOTALLY cheated:

Boxed cake mix is one thing.  An excellent thing, actually.

But generally I pride myself on scratch baking.  (There are days I believe it’s over-rated, however.)

Not only did I use a box, but I also used the 2-ingredient Weight Watchers recipe, using 12 ounces of pop (soda for you non-Michiganders).  Dr. Pepper is perfect for red velvet.

AND although I pride myself on my amazing frosting creations, I didn’t even make homemade frosting.  I used straight Cool Whip. 

Piped on with a 1M star tip like snowflakes. 

Cool Whip is secretly my favorite food product on earth.  Isn’t it beautiful?  Sniff. 

Shiny red wrappers and a chandelier cupcake stand and BAM!  Instant fancy dessert.

Three ingredients.  I’m a genius.  Okay, four.  I added Ghirardelli chocolate chips as a last-ditch effort, in vain, to add some class.

Then, when I got home from work yesterday with an extra half hour to spare, I made a homemade pumpkin pie and kept it all for ourselves.  Shhh.  Don’t tell.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to eat any real food for dinner so I made sure to have something soft, creamy & palatable for me to eat when we got home from the Christmas party. 

Our white elephant gift exchange was epic – “must be wearable on one’s head”.  The best ever!

Feliz Navidad! Orange Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttercream

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Since I’m still recovering from surgery and can’t chew anything yet, of course all I can think about is food.  It’s Christmas, and all I want to do is bake.  I haven’t been able to make anything new for the last few days, so I’m going to share one of my all-time favorites from last year. 

Last year I made an amazing assortment of festive cupcakes to pass out to our firm’s best clients. 

For about three days, our whole house and garage was FULL of cupcakes!  I think I made 16 dozen or something crazy.  Each client’s sampler box included four flavors:  peppermint stick, gingerbread with orange-cream cheese frosting, double hot chocolate with marshmallows, and “Feliz Navidad” ~ an orange-cinnamon butter cake topped with Mexican hot chocolate buttercream. 

Have you ever experienced Mexican hot chocolate?  If not, you MUST!  It is HOT in every sense of the word.  Not too sweet, rich, dark, warm and cozy, it’s spiced up with dark cocoa powder, a touch of coffee, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  This is by far my favorite cupcake ever.  (Regardless of how many times I say that.)

It’s something a little different, but distinctly festive.  It begins with yellow cake and chocolate frosting – the makings of many a favorite birthday cake. 

Feliz Navidad Cupcakes

Cinnamon-Orange Butter Cake

Ingredients:

One “Golden Butter Recipe” yellow cake mix

Zest of one orange

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup orange juice (or the juice of one orange, with enough water added to equal 2/3 cup)

3 large eggs

1/2 cup softened butter (1 Stick)

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl according to the box directions.

Divide batter into 24 lined cupcakes and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out with a few crumbs, but no wet batter sticking to it. 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttercream (slightly adapted from cupcake rehab)

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (or 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup shortening, which is what I usually do)

4 -5 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 Tablespoons – 1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s special dark)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on how spicy you like it

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (not coffee granules)

Directions:

Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes until light & fluffy.

Add 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, coffee and 1 tablespoon milk. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Add 2 cups sugar and vanilla. Mix. Add the rest of the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix for 4-5 minutes, at least, until fluffy, gradually adding a tablespoon more milk at a time, up to 1/4 cup total, if too thick.  If too thin, add up to 1 cup more powdered sugar. Continue blending until consistency is satisfactory.*

Frost completely cooled cupcakes and top with cinnamon red hot candies – seriously, DO NOT omit the red hots!   

These are ridiculous.  Easy and phenom. 

I’m sharing these with a baking circle for the 12 Days of Christmas Goodies at Mom’s Crazy Cooking ~ hop on over there to see MANY more amazing ideas! 

Clear liquids and homemade dinner rolls

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Right now I’m lying on the couch with my head in a pretty white “ice helmet,” as my dad likes to call it, wearing hospital-issued grippy socks, watching some football and recovering from oral surgery.    Yesterday I finally had my wisdom teeth extracted – all SIX of them (I like to say: two of them were why I pretty much skipped the majority of my senior year of high school, two get credit for my honors Bachelors degree, and the other two got me a magna cum laude JD).  I probably would’ve left them in forever if I hadn’t developed a cyst in my lower right jaw that has been causing me some pain over the last few months.  Plus, I guess they’ve served their purpose.  That is, unless I ever actually go back to school again, which I think I’ve been talked out of. 

Anyway, I’ve been avoiding it because I’m a huge baby.  I HATE needles, blood, doctors offices, etc.  I knew over 15 years ago I had impacted wisdom teeth.  My dentist (now brother-in-law) just told me it was my choice whether to get them out or leave them in, and there are many people who leave them in without ever having an issue.  So of course I was NOT about to have elective surgery!  No Way Hozay.  Hospitals and I do NOT get along.  I’ve been super lucky in my life to have only had one other hospital experience, and that was a tonsillectomy at age 19, after spending my freshman year in college on an unlimited amoxicillin prescription and perpetual sore throat.  To this day I can tell when someone else has a sore throat just by the sound of their voice.  My mom used to know even before I did when I was getting sick.  Getting my tonsils out shouldn’t have been a big deal, but, man, I have horrible memories of the experience and not just the pain, which was deadly.  It was rather simple outpatient surgery but for some reason I was totally traumatized by it. 

This time I was in the hospital for a little over 14 hours because, according to the surgeon, I had some pretty severe surgery.  They wanted to monitor my pain & thought I might need a hit of morphine (or several) once the local anesthetic wore off.   When I woke up from the general anesthesia in the (thankfully empty!) recovery room, the first thing the surgeon told me was, “hey kiddo, we’re going to admit you & keep you overnight to manage your pain.”  It took all of thirteen seconds for me to wake up completely and start blubbering & crying.  The nurse asked what was wrong and I just garbled, discovering my mouth full of gauze, “Iwahwahohhommme.”  Yes.  I wanted. To Go. Home.  The nurse and surgeon both said that if I was doing okay later on, they thought I might be able to.  Hurray, I had hope!

I was conscious enough to know I had to collect myself before getting up to my hospital room so my parents & husband didn’t freak out because I was crying.  I wasn’t yet in pain and didn’t want them to worry about me.  As I was wheeled in the door I saw my dad join up with us behind my bed and I looked at him, flipped the bird, and mumbled “Uck.  Iss.”  and pointed to the room.  For a minute, he thought I was flipping him off, but soon enough I was able to clarify what I meant.  My text to my brother reiterated the point something along the lines of, “yeah, so they think they’re keeping me here overnight but they can SUCK IT!” 

I was told immediately that the local anesthetic was supposed to wear off in 6-8 hours.  I added that to the time I saw on the clock when I first woke up, 11:33, and planned my escape for 5:30. 

My parents went to lunch, then came back & let Rick go to lunch and check in at the office.  I chatted with my mom like everything was fine all afternoon.  When Rick got back I wanted to hear all about the flopped closing he was dealing with at work, and generally I kept up a great spirit.  I didn’t hit the morphine button even once (and at discharge totally tried to negotiate with my RN to unlock the machine & let me take the vial with me.  Afterall, I’m pretty sure I bought the damn thing and could at least try to get my money back on Craigslist or something.  She was sympathetic and I almost thought I had her!) 

Because I wasn’t feeling any real pain yet at 5:30 I decided to wait another couple hours, thinking I was probably still numb.  I mean, if I was supposed to need morphine then the pain was probably going to be epic, right?  Still, by 7:20, nothing.  On a scale of 1-10, a 2 or 3.  I’ve had migraine headaches that I’d categorize as a freakin 12, and I medicate those with OTC meds.  Finally, Rick & I decided we were ready to go.  It took the hospital staff about an hour & a half to administer my discharge papers and give me an initial shot of steroids & pain relievers through my IV.  During that time I’d removed the “ice helmet”, sat up, started to get organized, went to the loo, and unpacked the last round of gauze.  The IV came out smoothly & painlessly, much to my surprise (I told you I’m a baby) and I got dressed.  I had to wait another 15 minutes or so for a wheelchair driver to arrive, and then navigate the 3 floors down & out of the hospital.  By that time the pain had increased to about a 4 or 5, surprisingly.  I waited a bit for Rick to pull up the car and finally we were headed home. 

Pain – 6.  Uh oh, had I made a mistake in leaving the hospital too soon? 

We got home and I knew immediately I needed one of my prescription pain meds, but the dosage instructions said they could cause nausea so I was supposed to take them with food.  I hadn’t had anything other than a few “see, I’m fine, ready to go home” spoonfuls of green jello at the hospital, so Rick heated up some Kitchen Basics chicken broth I had conveniently opened the night before to make the most delicious chicken marsala EVER (is it just natural law that the last meal before a fast is the best meal EVER?  Because I might have to blog that recipe.). 

Anyway, I quick popped half a pain pill, then drank the warm, remarkably tasty broth, slid on the ice helmet and laid back on the couch.  Ahhh…. relief.  Within ten minutes the pain started going back down.  And I was SO glad to be home.

Rick ran to the store for jello and left me with my dad, who had come over to watch the dogs after he & my mom left the hospital around 5:30.  He chattered on excitedly about a bunch of random stuff, the dogs and their new stick, the two dinners he fed them, and the bottle of our great new Dreaming Tree wine he drank and LOVED, and I could tell he was feeling a huge anxiety release that I was finally home from the hospital and feeling okay.  He eventually told me how upset he was during my surgery that it took a lot longer than the surgical staff initially estimated.  But he kept laughing about my “Uck this” initial remark and I promised him I didn’t mean it at him.  I tried to tell him I couldn’t talk much because one of my stitches was irritating me and he told me, “I KNOW!  I tried to tell you to shut up all afternoon!”  LOL!  What a riot. 

My mom was nearly insistent that Rick call her to come over for my midnight dosage of pain meds and said she was going to stay up late putting up her Christmas decorations anyway, so we might as well call!  My parents can be crazy sometimes, but they’re the best under pressure.   

So despite the surgeon’s prediction that I’d need to stay overnight, I was lucky enough to sleep soundly in my own bed, next to my own personal nurse who fed me & kept me comfortable all night.  Rick doted on me like you wouldn’t believe.  He seemed to enjoy himself immensely – and so the “in sickness” vows have been met, and after only 3 months!  ❤  Swoon ❤ 

This morning I woke up fairly early to take my next dose of pain meds, slipping silently out of bed so as not to disturb Rick (I felt quite fine, actually).  Then I lied in bed thinking about – of all things – FOOD. 

OF COURSE!!!  I mean, it’s CHRISTMAS!  I have three parties to bake for in the next few weeks and each of them are different.  I was also thinking about different clear liquid things I could have Rick make for me today, and gradually-increasing solids.  More chicken stock, with a scrambled egg mixed in, a’la egg drop soup.  Banana-yogurt smoothies with nutritious Grade B maple syrup.  Mashed potatoes…  I must be feeling well if my appetite is this fierce less than 24 hours after surgery.

So, back to the dessert plans I have to make:  next week is Rick’s family’s big Christmas party.  I’m considering making a Yule log, but I don’t own a jelly roll pan and don’t have anywhere to store one if I were to buy one.  I also thought of gingerbread cupcakes with orange-zested cream cheese frosting like I made last year.  Or red velvet cupcakes with cool whip in lieu of frosting. 

The following weekend is my girlfriends’ dinner party.  That menu has me totally geeked:  beef tenderloin, greenbeans almondine, roasted root vegetables, homemade dinner rolls, and some amazing desserts. 

Oh, yeah, so what I wanted to show you today was this flub:

Failed dinner rolls.  And I was SO excited about this recipe from How Sweet it Is.  I mean, look at it, aren’t those pictures just amazing?!?! 

I cannot for the life of me figure out what I did wrong.  The dough mixed up perfectly, rose like a charm, (and if you try to tell me the cranberry-vanilla-orange martini had anything to do with the fail, try again)

came together in lovely little clover balls

but then plahhh. 

On the second rise, they stuck to the dish towel I had covering them and when I pulled it off they deflated.  I didn’t have time to let them rise again (and didn’t actually consider that as an option until a friend mentioned it later on), so I just put ‘em in the oven and though what the heck, they might turn out… 

Not.

While they actually tasted pretty decent, they were super hard.  We ended up eating a few, but then I crumbled them up to serve as a sort of dressing or biscuits with turkey & gravy on top as leftovers.  That wasn’t half bad. 

But I really want to impress my friends with these as a side dish in a couple weeks.  I WILL TAKE ANYONE’S SUGGESTIONS.  Ready, go:

For the Love of a Vampire: Drunken Black Forest Cupcakes

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Here I go again with the wine and cherries.  I made these even before we went to Napa!  

 I had VERY good reason –my friend Kristy’s birthday, and the fact that our “Book Club”* was going to see Breaking Dawn on opening night.

How perfectly dark and sexy and vamp is this combination:  dark chocolate cake, wine-soaked black cherries, vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream.  Rahr.  We will call these cupcakes “I Wish I Was a Cullen” (or, in my personal case, Team Carlisle.) 

I obsessed over this recipe in my head for weeks.  Originally, my super classy aunt asked me to make something for her November book club meeting and I instantly knew I had to make something infused with red wine.  She’s a true wine connoisseur.  (And yes, I did have to spell check that.)  Since I made a couple different things earlier this fall using wine-soaked dried Traverse City cherries the idea has gelled considerably. 

For my aunt’s classy book club I wanted to make something sophisticated, rich and decadent…  and just maybe a little tipsy.  Drunken black forest cake anyone?  Classic.  When Pam’s book club cancelled I couldn’t let go of the idea. 

My grandmother always had black forest cake over the holidays, but it was never my favorite dessert because the cake always seemed dry and I highly detest canned cherry pie filling.  It always seemd too red, too sweet, too sticky, too… artificial, in every way. 

So to up the game for this creation, I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (my favorite!), frozen whole black cherries and Chateau Grand Traverse Sweet Red wine.  The rich tart cherry filling with the deep dark dense chocolate cake and creamy vanilla frosting was intense… Perfectly Cullen-worthy. 

I have to share the recipe:

Chocolate Cake by Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman (using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and 1/4 cup of coffee in place of 1/4 cup of the water called for in the recipe)

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream by Smitten Kitchen

My own Red Wine Cherry Filling(yields enough filling for 12-16 cupcakes)

2 cups of frozen black (tart) cherries

1 cup good red wine (use a wine you love to drink because the flavor intensifies as it cooks.  I used Chateau Grand Traverse Sweet Red)

1/4 cup sugar (if using a dry wine, use 1/3 cup of sugar)

1 T cornstarch

1T red wine

Add cherries, 1 cup of wine & sugar to a small saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes until cherries burst and the wine reduces by about half.

In a small cup or dish, stir 1 tablespoon of wine into the cornstarch to dissolve it, and gradually stir the mixture into the bubbling cherry sauce.  Let it boil for a minute until thickened.  Remove from the heat and chill slightly before filling cupcakes with it. 

To fill the cupcakes, run a knife around the top of each cupcake to cut a cone-shaped piece out. 

Fill the hole with a spoonful of cherry filling and swirl frosting on top. 

For the “fang marks” I poked little holes with a chopstick and piped in more red wine sauce with a candy bottle.  I LOVED these.  Very adult. 

 

*As you may guess, the book club is a total front.  For some reason, at this age it seems like we need an intellectual-sounding suburbian coverup for our girls-only nights out.  I would never have read the Twilight series if it weren’t for the peer pressure of my friends who called me a literary snob when I turned my nose up at the idea (I have awesome friends).  At 30-something, unlike when I was a teenager, my friends can look at me with scrunched up noses, hands on hips, cocky looks on their faces, and tell me “c’mon, everybody’s doing it,” and I cave & do it (see, great friends).  It didn’t take me long to get hooked on the Twilight books, (solely because I had to find out if Bella ever actually BECAME a vampire) and for us to form a “book club” so we could tell our men we had a legit reason to go to the movies to watch a tween vampire movie – or five!  IWIWAC Book Club Rocks. 

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!)