Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cinnamon Chai Sables (Gluten Free)

Are y'all as much of a fan of Food52.com as I am? It's such a great community of professional chefs and home cooks and my go-to source when I need a little inspiration.  They also conduct a little cookbook tournament at the beginning of each year called The Piglet pitting all of the previous year's best against one another.  Winner take all.   Or maybe the winner takes nothing.  I'm not sure.

This year's tourney was full of my top books from last year, including Baking Chez Moi,  A Kitchen in France, My Paris Kitchen, Heritage, Huckleberry and Flavor Flours.   The first round actually provided a little "controversy" so to speak between one book Fancy Desserts,  that I own and will probably not bake from all that often simply because it's not, well, all that simple vs. one of my favorites from last year, A Kitchen in France. (I talked about it here).  The first round reviewer, Adam Roberts, seemed offended by Ms. Thorisson's "lifestyle" and consequently penalized her. Actually he pretty much "shamed" her for being attractive in the form of a childish cartoon.  Jealous much?  Needless to say, Mimi took umbrage.  I agreed.  Look, I get that the stories and the writing in cookbooks is important but ultimately, I'm there for the food.  And I think the average home cook will find the recipes in A Kitchen in France much more approachable than the ones in Fancy Desserts.  Just saying.

Another of the first round match-up's pitted two baking legends against one another....Dorie Greenspan vs. Alice Medrich with Alice's Flavor Flours narrowly pulling out the win.  Both of these books are fabulous but I'm going to agree with the reviewer on this one, if only for the fact that Flavor Flours (or is it Flour Flavors?  I keep getting it confused!) offers up a totally gluten free baking book that doesn't keep screaming GLUTEN FREE every other word.  Instead it introduces you to non-wheat flours such as Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, etc and their flavor profiles and what other ingredients work best with those profiles.  The most humble and educational "gluten-free" book I've come across.  

I've read several reviews of this book which have proclaimed the Carrot Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and the Chestnut Jam Tart to be "unlike anything you've ever eaten.  These Sables fall into the same category.  

Alice says....."These are splendid plain cookies  -  even more buttery and flavorful than traditional butter cookies made with all-purpose wheat flour.  They have a perfect melt-in-your-mouth sandy texture and a gentle nuance of oat flavor."  I opted for her chai sable variation which added two teaspoons of pulverized chai from either loose chai or from the contents of tea bags.  I used the tea from two of my favorite cinnamon chai tea bags and crushed it up into a finer powder using my mortar and pestle.  I love, love, love the bold flavor of these cookies.  Like a buttery cup of chai tea in cookie form.

There are so many suggested variations of these in the book and they all sound delicious.....from the addition of cacao nibs to lime and mint to grapefruit and basil.  And because these are a slice and bake, they're perfect to make ahead and freeze so you can pull them out for a last minute treat.

I highly recommend this book, even if you're not gluten intolerant.  You'll love the subtle difference non-wheat flours can make in your baking.

PS....as I was writing this I discovered that Flavor Flours was just defeated in The Piglet by Fancy Desserts, so that just goes to show what I know!!  I'm going to have to dig that damn book out from the back of the shelves and take another look!

Here's the recipe:

Cinnamon Chai Sables
Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich

Makes about 36 2 1/2" cookies

1 1/4 plus 2 tablespoons oat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white rice flour 
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar (I used organic and non-GMO coconut sugar but regular is fine)
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cream cheese, cut into chunks
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
2 tsp pulverized chai (from a package of loose chai or from the contents of 2 to 3 chai tea bags)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the dough in a food processor, put the oat flour, rice flour, salt and baking soda in the food processor.  Pulse to blend.  Add the sugar, cream cheese, butter, chai, and vanilla.  Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough.  Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom with your fingers.

Divide the dough between two sheets of wax paper and form two 8-inch logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap them tightly in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably longer or overnight.  The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 deg. F.

Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough long into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown at the edges and well browned on the bottom.  The tops will remain fairly pale.  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool.  Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing,  They may be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Frittata Muffins

Are you as sick of winter as I am?  Not only am I sick of winter.....I'm sick of talking about winter!  Because we only talk this much about winter if it's BAD.  So I'm hoping yesterday was the beginning of the end here in Alabama.  We got invited to go down to Regions Field to watch my Buckeyes play UAB and we sat outside in the warm sun and it was glorious!!  Until the Buckeyes lost and then it was a tad less glorious, but still pretty damn glorious.  

So instead of talking about shitty weather, lets talk about these Frittata Muffins.  I thought these would come in handy this week while I work myself into the new Fletcher routine.  He comes home from bootcamp tomorrow and my mornings will change from leisurely enjoying my coffee and breakfast before heading to the gym to a quick cup and eating on the go in order to get in Fletch's morning walk.

Not only are these easy to pop into the microwave and then go, but thery're a great way to use up any leftover meat or veggies.  I had some chicken sausage leftover from a pot of taco soup earlier in the week and some mushrooms from something else.  Add in whatever else you've got in the veg drawer, some herbs and spices and voila!  

Here's the recipe:

Frittata Muffins
Adapted from The Art of Eating Well
Hemsley & Hemsley
Makes 12

10 eggs
large pinch of kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 cups hot Italian chicken sausage, casings removed, crumbled and cooked until done
(feel free to leave the meat out and stick to strictly vegetables)

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1 cup chopped mushrooms
(or replace those with whatever you have....red peppers, peas, fennel, etc.)

1 tsp fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems and minced
(or fresh parsley, or dried oregano)
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tbsp chopped chives
(or diced leaks or a small diced onion)

1 cup of grated hard cheese, such as cheddar, gruyere or parmesan  


Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.  Grease a muffin tray well with a little butter/ghee or use paper muffin cups.  (I recommend giving the paper cups a bit of cooking spray too as the egg tends to stick to them.)

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the salt and pepper, mustard, garlic and herbs and whisk thoroughly.  Add in all of the grated and chopped meat and vegetables.  Stir to combine thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into the prepared muffin tray.

Bake for 12 minutes, then crumble the cheese on the top and return to the oven for about 5 more minutes until the tops are golden brown.  You may need to turn on the broiler for a few minutes but watch them closely!

To check if them are done, give the muffin tray a wobble  -  the frittatas should be just set in the middle.  You can always put them back in the oven for another couple of minutes if you think they need to cook longer.

Remove the frittatas from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack.  Store in a plastic bag in the fridge until ready to use.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Faves with a Banana Banshee!

Fave Drink

I apologize for the less than stellar picture but don't hold it against the drink!  I'm sure I was being rushed when I took this by our pool in Puerto Vallarta.  You can bet, whomever it was meant for was giving me the stink eye to hurry the eff up.  I would have made another one today to get a better shot, but it's kind of an unwritten rule that these are a treat only for tropical locations!   It's a loosely followed rule and you should totally discount it.

Hubs and I had these on my first trip to Ft. Meyers just after we started dating.  It was over Christmas break and I was meeting his parents!  We snuck away for lunch one day to some chain restaurant.....not an Applebee's but in the same vein as an Applebee's.  It was steamy hot outside so what could be better than an ice cream drink.  I think we both had two.   It was 1988 and I was 25 so ice cream drink calories burned off a lot quicker than they do today.  Now when I make these, I only allow myself one drink of Mr. B's before I hand it over!  You'll see why!!

This is a very forgiving recipe and it changes based on what's in the fridge and liquor cabinet, but here's how I made them in Puerto Vallarta.

Banana Banshee
Makes 2-6 drinks depending on your glass size!

1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 banana
1/2 cup Captain Morgan Rum
1/2 cup Malibu Rum
a hefty splash of Creme de Banana liquor
a hefty splash of Creme de Cocoa liquor
handful of ice

Put everything in a blender and blend!

When we were in Hawaii, I threw in fresh pineapple and coconut and one time in Cabo I added chocolate syrup and oreos.  Do whatever makes your skirt fly up.  

Fave Drugstore Find:

In the "you're never too old to break a bad habit" category, I've been trying to quit picking my cuticles.  Yeah.  Nasty and often really fucking painful habit.  I've found that if I don't let them get dry, I don't pick at them.  Genius.  This stuff really helps.  My manicurist is so proud!

Fave New Multi-Purpose Clothing Item

I've worn the first one I bought so frequently that I bought it in a different color last week.  I took it to Puerto Vallarta to use as a swimsuit cover and it was perfect with leggings for morning walks at Sea Island in December.  And it's only $69.

Fave Jars

How flipping cute are these Weck jars?  Technically they're juice jars (1/4L.) but don't they make the perfect little spice jars?

Fave Tunes:

The whole album isn't released until Tuesday but if the remaining tracks are as good as the three that were pre-released, this is going to be great.  Check out In the Heat of the Moment,  Ballad of the Mighty I, and Do the Damage

Fave TV

Thank God this season of the Bachelor is almost over.  He's down to the virgin and the one with the voice of a three year old.  Personally I think that the virgin is too smart to ever go live in bumfuck Arlington, Iowa so I'm going with the three year old.  For two of the funniest episode recaps, check out I Hate Green Beans and Dr. Psych Mom.

And if you're not currently watching Empire you're missing out.  Taraji P. Hensen kills it.  Every.  Time.

Hubs is excited to binge on the new Amazon series, Bosch, which is based on Michael Connelly's best selling novels.  He's read them ALL.

Fave Food Links

Cotton Candy Oreos?

Bailey's Irish Cream brownies for St. Patty's day.  Yes, please.

I've never attempted to make flatbread before because YEAST but this looks like a good place to start.

This had me at Bacon Bourbon Frosting.  Boom.

Now this is my kind of party.

That's all I've got, people!  Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Browned Butter and Coffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For the last three days, the Alabama weather service has been warning us that Snowmageddon 2015 would be happening today.  They've been warning us for three days so as not to have a repeat of Snowmageddon 2104.  Which, by the way, the experts got completely wrong....they predicted any hazardous precipitation would occur well south of Birmingham and, in turn, sent our ONE salt truck in that direction so when it hit Bham the city was caught with their pants down and the entire population of the city was caught on ice covered roads.  It seems they're going to get it wrong this time, too.....however, in the "good" way.   But, I get it.  The lack of proper snow removal equipment coupled with the massive amount of sheer panic that inflicts every native southerner at the mere suggestion of a dusting of snow is a great reason to advise people stay off the roads.  Especially for the safety of myself and my fellow Yankees who grew up in this shit and know better to slam on our brakes every three seconds.  

So yesterday, the Governor pre-declared a "state of emergency".  All the schools are shut down, businesses closed, revenue and income lost.....all for a little rain.  Safety first!!  I'm just going to say thank you, Gov. B, because my trip to the gym this morning was traffic free!  

And since everything is closed today, I made cookies!  Smack-your-grandma-damn-delicious cookies.  These were inspired by the Coffee Energy Bites I posted a few weeks ago and some other recipe I was drooling over the other day that started with browned butter.  Yeah.  Memory isn't what it used to be.  Whatever.

I fell in love with the crunch the ground coffee added to those bites and everyone knows that browned butter makes everything better, so I decided to incorporate those two things into my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Yup it's the one on the back of the Nestle's package.  Don't hate.  I get major requests for my chocolate chip cookies!

These are devine.....the coffee and chocolate are the Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss of cookies, BFF's, and the browned butter gives them such a deeply satisfying nutty flavor, it's impossible to stop eating them.  So I took the rest of them to my trainer this morning.  He loves me.

So, if you're one of the lucky ones with the day off work because of little rain, stay home and make these!  

Here's the recipe:

Browned Butter and Coffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from Nestle's Toll House 

(I always double this recipe)

2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks butter), browned
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup uncooked coarsely ground coffee beans
12 oz pkg chocolate chunks

In a medium bowl, whisk together four, baking soda and salt until combined.  Set aside.

Pour browned butter into large bowl (or bowl of stand mixer) and let cool for about 15 minutes (you don't want to cook the eggs!).  Add both sugars and mix thoroughly, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 1 minute after each.  Mix in vanilla.

Slowly add in flour mixture until all combined.  Add in ground coffee beans and chocolate chunks.

Refrigerate the dough at least 4-6 hours.  It needs time to "set-up" because of the melted butter.  If you try to bake the cookies immediately they'll spread into one giant blog.  Trust me on this!

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.Line a sheet pan with silpat or parchment paper and scoop cookies onto pan.  I use a medium ice cream scoop.  Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on size of cookies and your oven!  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Puerto Vallarta and Fletcher........

Ugh.  It's been two weeks since my last post so it took all of a month to fail at my New Year's resolution to post more consistently.  Typical.  Exactly why I should know better than to make any resolutions.

In my defense, we were gone for a week and then weren't home for 48 hours before I got a 911 call from my mother regarding their puppy, Fletcher.  More on him in a minute.

We spent a (mostly) sunny week in Puerto Vallarta with friends and family.  It pains me to look at these pictures again knowing the weather that is headed toward Birmingham for the next few days....a little sleet and the possibility of up to 8 inches of snow.  Yeah.  So let's just remember my life two weeks ago.........

We stayed at Exclusive Resort's Real del Mar outside of Puerto Vallarta.  If you're a member, we were in the Abanico residence.  This is my third trip to Real del Mar and although the layout of this house is challenging (lots of stairs), I think it has the best views.  The above pic is the view from my lounge chair at our pool!  You've got a front row seat every morning for incredible sunrises.....

Gorgeous, right?  We divided our time between hanging out at our pool and the beach club, which in the eight years since my last trip has gotten much busier.  I don't remember all the locals on the beach before, which wasn't really an issue except for the dudes trying to sell me scarves and jewelry.  It wasn't bad, but it was there.  Just saying.

One of our previous trips was also during whale season and we actually chartered a boat for the day to get up close and personal with them.  And we did.  So much so that I was content to watch them from our house this time.  I wasn't always quick enough with the camera to get them jumping, but you can get the gist......

The whale watching boats in pursuit

If you feel like being waited on hand and foot, head down to the beach club.  We all chilled by the smaller pool next to the ping-pong table, so I could deliver a daily ass kicking to my poor nephew.  There's also plenty of water toys....kayaks, paddle boards, boogie and skim boards.....if you're an ocean person.  I'm NOT.  

A shout out to the staff at the club.....very attentive and I only had to explain my margarita preferences once.....Patron, Contreau and lime.  NO SUGAR!  It should be easy, but for some reason IT NEVER IS!!  And the food was fabulous.  Our friends raved about the burger,  I think their son had one every day he was there!!

So it was a fun and relaxing and maybe at times a bit over-tequila'ed, but it's hey.....it's vacay.  

My very own silver fox!

We had a small storm one night......that's lightening, not mountinas!!

The Banana Banshee....a long-time family vacation favorite.  I'll give you the recipe on Friday!!

So about Fletcher......

It seems that a very energetic puppy is not a good idea for 75 year olds.....no matter how active they are!  The puppy won.  Or in my case, I won.  I inherited the little shit last week and yes, he's a handful, but nothing that a little boot camp this week won't fix!

He's a cutie with a really strong will.  Most of the time, not in his best interests.

Yeah.  A miniature version of Rafter!  He's actually a standard schnauzer, but he's much smaller than the giant.  He's nine months old, so I don't really expect him to get much bigger.

This is pretty much the sequence of events between he and the boss, right now......

Rafter minding his own business

Fletcher seeing what he can get away with.....

Realizing not much, and quickly retreating.
 I'm sure either they'll get that worked out on their own, or I'll make sure they do!!

Footnote......what did y'all think of the Oscars last night?  My in-a-nutshell takeaway was that John Travolta is a major creeper

 and John Legend just keeps getting better!  

I may have more thoughts on the Oscars on Friday Faves, but I also may be over it by then! 

Have a great week everyone!

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