Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Black Pepper Parmesan Bread

In Baking, Uncategorized on January 31, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Today was the last day of National Bread Machine Month. Apparently regular National Bread Month is November.  I don’t know why,  but the internet says it is so and I believe it.  I own a bread machine.  Most people don’t know that, but I received it as a wedding present and in last two plus years I have used it three times.  Guess I am a bit of a traditionalist. Also, I don’t like to clean equipment or utensils unless I REALLY need them, so maybe it is kinda a lazy thing too? Though I have to admit letting a bread machine make your dough – very rewarding!

I did such a thing this last Friday with this bread.  I let the machine do the hard work and then I removed the dough to rise and bake.  It was nice and worth the cleanup as I made the Bacon & Onion Scones during the “down time”.

Black Pepper Parmesan Bread:

1 cup warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
1/2 heaping cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 1/4 tsp yeast, active dry
Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp water
additional freshly ground pepper for dusting loaf


Directions: Place ingredients, in this order, into the bread pan fitted with the kneading paddle.  Bread machine settings should be as follows: medium loaf; French/Italian style loaf; medium crust.  Once you have selected your setting press the Start button.  You can let the bread machine do the whole kit and kaboodle; however, I hate the squat loaf shape of the bread machine pan and like the liberty to egg wash my bread.  You can even let the machine knead and rise the bread and remove before the baking cycle…If you choose to do so continue below:

Option One: (Rise bread out of machine) Lightly oil (olive oil) a large bowl; remove bread dough and place in bowl covered with a tea towel to rise (in a warm place – I always put mine on the dryer and load it up)  Let the dough rise for 45 minutes to an hour and half, or until doubled in size; punch the dough down and knead on a lightly floured surface; repeat rise.

Option Two: (Bake bread out of machine) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  You can now use a loaf pan, shape the dough and cook on a cookie sheet, or make a round loaf in a round cake pan.  Whatever you choose either lightly grease the bake-ware and dust with cornmeal before placing the bread.  I folded the dough into a rounded shape and placed on a cookie sheet, crease down.  You can dress the bread up even more by making a few slashes with a very sharp knife, by making diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of the loaf.  Prepare egg wash by beating egg and water together and brush loaf; bake for 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove loaf and brush with egg wash a second time; grind fresh pepper over the second egg wash so it will adhere to the loaf; bake an additional 15 – 20 minutes until the bread tests done.  Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing (hot bread is much harder to cut!).

Review: I made this bread on Friday – it is Monday and there is no bread.  Kinda speaks for itself. Let me see just plain this bread is light, tender, and has a very subtle cheese and pepper flavor, but toasted… OH My toasted this bread takes on this amazing deep cheese flavor and hearty crustiness that is irresistible.  This bread would make show stopping croutons for a salad.  At least I thought so, but this loaf didn’t survive long enough to test.  Actually I don’t think anything happened to this bread beyond toasting and a smear of butter and it was a good thing 🙂

P.S. When I made this bread I had no intention of posting or sharing. I was just using up some parmesan cheese I had leftover and alleviating the stress of breakfast for company, but it was too delicious not to share!!


Weekly Boozer: Gimlet

In Uncategorized, Weekly Boozer on January 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I took a drink personality test once.  Yes… I did, this is apparently also a confession… that once I might have wasted five minutes of my life answering questions to see what kind of drink I was based on my personality.  I was a Gimlet.  I think the test was rigged; my husband was a Gimlet.  We have very different personalities, but “we” are Gimlets.

Needless to say a) I would attach a link, if I could remember or find this elicit test (it was on Food & Wine website, or Epicurious… or Gourmet – some site along those lines.)  I would love for you to take it… you might be a Gimlet too; b) I didn’t know what a Gimlet was (a small sad feeling… not knowing my own drink personality, since we have been  together for so long. ;))  I quickly investigated and mixed it up (recipe below).  Turns out that many believe the Gimlet was created by an early 20th century British naval surgeon to combat scurvy.  I hate scurvy too, maybe they are on to something with this 🙂

But on with the show, it is a tasty and super easy little number.   If you are a fan of sweet, lime, and gin (or vodka) then you should give it a shake!  I personally think it is a bit sweet this way, while my husband adores it.  You can tone it down with a splash of club soda… or make it with fresh lime juice and a sweetener like simple syrup or powdered sugar – keeping you in control of the sugar level!


Tools & Directions: Cocktail Shaker; shake and strain into a martini or old-fashioned glass (any container really…). A lime garnish would be nice, but hey we are fresh out…

To date I haven’t made the drink with fresh lime juice.  Our limes seem to migrate into meals and beer.  I do plan to and there are tons of different variations and recipes for the Gimlet.  Some recipes involve egg whites, fresh mint, basil, and the addition of other citrus like kumquats.  Limes, kumquats and gin! Sounds like a future weekly boozer 😀 Until next time, Cin-Cin!

Bacon and Onion Scones

In Baking, Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm

We have company this weekend – which always leads to baking!! I love to have bread hanging around for people to munch on for breakfast or if you need a little snack between meals.  These are yummy, I mean bacon and onions… how could you go wrong?  A little bit sweet, a tad salty, little bite of pepper, and oh so fluffy!

Bacon and Onion Scones

  • 4 strips center cut bacon
  • 1/2 a medium-sized onion, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper, to taste (I used as a garnish)
  • 1/4 cup chilled lard, cut into bite
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used fat-free milk with a Tbsp vinegar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp water

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment, and set aside.  In a skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp; remove bacon and let it cool on paper towel.  Add the onion and sugar to bacon grease, stir until softened and onions begin to caramelize, about 2-3 minutes; drain grease and dry on paper towel.  Crumble bacon finely.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper, add the lard, and work it in with your fingertips till the mixture is crumbly.  Add the crumbled bacon and onion and stir until well blended.  Add the buttermilk and stir until sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto floured surface, knead 8 to 10 times, and pat into a circle 3/4 inch thick.  Cut four times (half, quarter and repeat in the center of previous cuts), leaving you with 8 equal-sized scones.  Arrange onto prepared baking sheet.  Whisk egg and water together and brush top of each scone; top with fresh cracked black pepper.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy hot or cool on a wire rack and then store in an airtight container.  I know! Bacon twice in a week… I don’t know what is going on, but hey it’s bacon ♥.  If you don’t want bacon and onions, feel free to substitute… ham and green pepper, go all veggie, bacon and green onions or chives, any cheese and herb combo really – just make it your own and use what you love! Happy eating! I’m off to enjoy my company… and bread 🙂

Dutch Baby with Blueberry Syrup

In Cooking, Uncategorized on January 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Tomorrow is National Blueberry Pancake day.  Umm… YUM! While I didn’t strictly make blueberry pancakes, I think that blueberry syrup on an oven pancake qualifies.  Plus it’s fun to tell people you have a baby in the oven, just kidding.  I love to make oven puffed pancakes and it is an easy dish to lighten.  They are super quick and the pancake rises so beautifully in the oven, of course don’t be alarmed as it will collapse shortly after removal.

Lightened Dutch Baby

  • 1/2  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free milk
  • 2  tablespoons  granulated sugar
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  large egg
  • 1  large egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract, optional
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest (or lemon), optional
  • 1  tablespoon  butter


  • Powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon, optional
  • Blueberry Syrup, recipe below – if you are using this syrup make it before the pancake

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (flour through citrus zest); stir until moist.  Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pour batter into pan (don’t have cast iron? use a metal pan.); Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.

To serve in the traditional style sprinkle with powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Or top with prepared blueberry syrup, recipe below. Cut into quarters; serve immediately. Pancake makes 4 servings, nutritional data approx: 141 cal.; 4.4g fat; 5.2g protein; and 19.9g carbs.

Blueberry Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar-free or low-calorie syrup (for those not being calorie conscious – maple syrup)
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest, optional
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh blueberries

Directions: In a small saucepan bring syrup of your choice, orange zest and cinnamon to a simmer; once the mixture begins to bubble add the blueberries and turn off the heat.  After 3-5 minutes muddle some of the warm berries and stir the sauce.  Allow it to sit and for the flavors to combine and develop.  Before serving remove the cinnamon stick and discard; stir the sauce (can be re-warmed if needed). No nutritional stats, but if you need them ask – I will be glad to figure it out.

The orange zest and the blueberries are so fantastic in this syrup and it brings up the level of flavor so that you don’t really notice the absence of a full flavor maple syrup.  Of course made with maple syrup this is divine, all be in not very healthy.  Also this style of pancake is not the fluffy kinda cake, but more a cross between a regular pancake and a crepe. Anyways, yeah for pancakes, yeah for blueberries, and yeah for random national food days! 🙂

Mint Chocolate Meringues

In Baking, Uncategorized on January 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm

So it’s been a long week – my foot hurts, and things have just been crazy, especially today.  I volunteered to babysit and it turned into a seven hour gig.  I have to get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow and drive to Dallas – woe is me.  I deserve cookies right? Well these are my excuses and I believe they justify the consumption of cookies.

Mint Chocolate Meringues

2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 6 drops of green food coloring, optional
1 package of mint chocolate chips, (10 ounces)
– I used Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper (if you don’t have any then grease the cookie sheet lightly); set aside.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.  Next add the sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time while beating, until stiff peaks form.  Now mix in vanilla and food coloring if you so desire.  I used 4 drops for a lovely pale mint green.  Fold the package of morsels into the fluffy batter.

Drop rounded Tbsp onto prepared cookie sheet (I used my cookie scoop and it made the meringues look like cute scoops of ice cream), leaving about 2 inches of space between each; bake for 30-35 minutes or until dry to the touch.  Remove and transfer to wire racks for cooling. Store in an airtight container. Makes 30 cookies.

These cookies are light, fluffy, crunchy and oh so minty.  I would say like dehydrated mint chocolate ice cream, but I don’t like “astronaut’s ice cream” and this I love.  These cookies are very nice treat after a long day and I plugged the recipe into a nutrition website and they are approx: 95 cal and 4.8g fat per cookie.  My house smells insanely delicious and now I am plotting making a fruitless spin on Eton’s mess – let you know how that goes.  Hope you enjoy and that you are having a better week than me!

Loot: Apricot-Pepper Glazed Bacon!!!

In Cooking, Loot, Uncategorized on January 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm

It is nice to have foodie friends.  Foodie friends are fun to eat with… foodie friends are fun to shop with and well foodie friends also love to make and give food.  Yeah for them!  Some of those friends are extra special and you name your shortbread recipes after them :).  I have such a friend and she started making jams last year.  They are divine.  You of course do not have to use this jam for this recipe, but if you are so lucky to own some… then you should!

If you are thinking bacon??? I am on diet. Remember it is important to treat yourself and to eat things you crave – helps to keep you on track (moderation not deprivation is the key!!).  Plus according to the package labels and my research on nutritiondata.com for three pieces it is approx: 130 cal; 4.5g fat; and 7.0g protein.  Easily done with most meals.

This stuff is magical… can’t you tell from the picture???


Apricot-Pepper Glazed Bacon

One package bacon (use what you like – we use center cut)
1/4 cup apricot preserves (if using plain, you can add a touch of vanilla bean/extract)
fresh cracked black-pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place bacon on large non-stick cookie sheet.  Brush bacon with apricot preserves; and then add generous amount of pepper.  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until it begins to turn golden and edges begin to blacken.  Remove from oven; turn and coat underside with remaining apricot preserves (additional pepper is not needed, unless you just love pepper); return to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes or until it is cooked to your bacon standards.

I am pretty sure that in a past life bacon and apricots were soul mates.  Once you try this bacon you will agree.  The bacon takes on a candy-like chewiness, the charred bits are this dark caramelized and crunchy kind of heaven.  Of course the apricot adds this sweet warmness to the whole thing and the pepper adds a spicy undertone that plays well with both flavors (bacon and apricot).
P.S. Thanks AJ for the amazing jam – as always you inspire me!

Bouchon Bakery’s Nutter Butter

In Baking, Uncategorized on January 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Okay there is nothing healthy about this recipe.  NOTHING. Well I guess the fact that it is loaded with peanut butter protein, but I am pretty sure the 5 sticks of butter totally outweighs those benefits.  But MAN, are they worth every single calorie.  Trust me, I am not a peanut butter fan and I thought these cookies were intensely delicious.  I think their similarity to the store-bought cookie takes you to a special place.  You get that comfort of eating an old classic cookie with that amazing homemade goodness.  (Keller seems to have a thing for recreating the classics, as he also has a Oreo recipe.)  Alas, enough about how I love them here is the recipe so you can try them:

Nutter Butters from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery

For the cookie dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
2.5 cups quick-cooking oats

For the filling:
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1- 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

For cookie dough:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.  Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter.  Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down bowl twice.

At low-speed, add eggs and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and beat at low-speed until well mixed, frequently scraping down bowl.  Add peanuts and oats (I only had 2 cups of oats, but the recipe still worked fine…), and mix well.  Using a scoop 2 inches in diameter, place balls of dough on parchment lined baking sheets at least three inches apart.  Bake until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool and firm up, 5 to 10 minutes, before lifting them off with a spatula.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling.

For filling: using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until very smooth.

To assemble cookies, spread a thin layer on underside of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie.  Repeat. Makes:  20 large cookies. (I actually ran out of icing before I ran out of cookies, but the cookies are also good on their own.)

Hope you too bake your own peanut butter heaven!  P.S. in case you need more of a reason than the delicious awesomeness…. January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day.

Weekly Boozer: Hard Apple Cider

In Uncategorized, Weekly Boozer on January 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider The Saint Artisanal Reserve

Hard Apple Cider is a fermented beverage made from apple juice.  This is the second time I have consumed hard apple cider.  The first was Crispin’s Crisp (from “blue line”) which can literally be summed up in three words “apple jolly rancher” it was actually an article reviewing it as akin to the candy which lead me to sample.  It was dry, but in a pleasing fashion.  This cider was not as dry or tart, it was sweeter and smoother.  The Saint is fermented with Belgian trappist yeast, organic maple syrup and apple wine.  It was almost like non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider with the underlying kick you expect from an alcoholic libation.  I would say though, it has more apple and less sparkle than the non-alcoholic bubbly stuff you see around the holidays.  It also has a nice round sweetness, probably from the maple syrup used in the fermenting process.  This is a cloudy filtration beverage so if residue and sediment in your drink is a turn off you may want to steer clear – as for me I say tilt and swirl to dispense the flavor and enjoy.  I love the natural look of this product… makes it feel homemade and according to their website it helps the cider to remain true its rich full-bodied flavor.

Something else I discovered on their website was a Honey Crisp Cider and given the chance I will definitely pick this up .  While my apple cider experience is limited, I found both beverages to be a fun and tasty exploration of this alcohol.  Given the chance to purchase again I would drink the Crispin Crisp from their blue line over The Saint, but it was just so richly unique and I have a thing for super tart products.  Both are wonderful, especially if you are an apple beverage fan.  Merry drinking!

Snaps: January Edition

In Personal, Photography, Uncategorized on January 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm

My goal this year is to take over 10,000 pictures .  For some that may not sound like a lot, but I’m a home photographer and that means about 834 pictures a month.  When you take in account that I don’t have children and taking pictures is not my job… that is a “couple” pictures…

What inspired this goal? A quote actually from the phenomenal photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, “Your first ten thousand pictures are your worst.”  Not that I am expecting something magically to happen at 10,001, but practice is the idea here.  I love to practice … I love to take pictures… I wish I had a part-time job taking pictures… I might even work for free – love it that much 🙂

Last week I got an opportunity to shoot musicians, which is one of my favorite subjects.  So much movement, sometimes intensity and sometimes pure fun.  Here are a few of my favorites from the night:

Love the focus..(him not the camera)

This kid is so truly talented – it was a pleasure to watch him perform.


This guy was in his own world with his music – love that!





Love the shirt…

Love the joy…

The more I learn about photography and the more pictures I take the more it consumes me.  I am excited about what is to come, even though I have no idea what that will be.  As always, thanks for stopping by and letting me share. 😀


In Cooking, Uncategorized on January 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Today was national popcorn day… did you know that? … probably not, but it was and I dedicated it to my dog.  Her and the P-Corn are bff’s – lol.  In all seriousness we took the opportunity to make some popcorn the old school way:

Wasabi Popcorn:

1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp Wasabi powder
freshly ground pepper, optional
clarified butter, ( 3 Tbsp/ 10 cups of popcorn – optional)

Heat oil until very hot, but not smoking (medium-high or 400 to 460) in a 5 – 6 quart heavy pan with a lid (we have a popcorn pan = dedication).  Add a few kernels – when they pop, you know the oil is ready so add the entire cup of kernels in a sing layer and put the lid on, leaving it slightly ajar. Shake the pan (or turn the knob to stir continuously) during the popping to keep the kernels from burning.  When popping slows, remove the pan from the heat until the popping stops.   Toss the popcorn with fine salt or seasoning of your choice (salt, sugar, wasabi powder, and fresh ground pepper) and drizzle with butter if you choose. We opted out on the butter because this flavor combo was good enough alone!

Homemade Microwave Version: Place 1/4 cup unpopped kernels in a brown lunch sack; fold top over several times until tight and secure; microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until the popping slows (may vary depending on microwave); pour into bowl and toss with fine salt or seasoning of your choice.

A) Love, LOve, LOVE the difference in flavor by using coconut oil; B) wasabi and sugar add a great distinction to this popcorn, but feel free to try your favorite flavor combos.  Next we are making popcorn with Herbs d” Provence one of our favorite seasonings!

P.S. This popcorn is endorsed by the Momo (the dog) – it’s that good 🙂