Category Archives: Personal

Spoiling Myself

Last month, I spent a few days at my parents’ house in Laredo, Texas.  It was such a treat.  My folks got to see my changing pregnant body in person and I got a little spoiled.  I got plenty of attention, and had a couple of generous escorts to shuttle me around and take me shopping.

But, besides their company, I most enjoyed the food.  Both my parents are talented in the kitchen and they always make sure I have my Texas favorites, so I ate really well.  Plus, while I love cooking, this pregnancy makes me tire easily and I try to avoid staying on my feet for too long, so having someone else not only do all the cooking, but all the clean-up, too, was like visiting a spa.

It was nice to come home and see my husband (who spoils me in different ways) and pets, and sleep in my own bed again.  (I missed you body pillow!)  However, I do miss waking up to ready-made food.  It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I’m so hungry when I wake up I can’t think straight and trying to put breakfast together can be a lot of effort.

So, I’ve been trying to prepare some breakfast items in advance that way I don’t have to exert much energy or brain power to feed myself first thing in the morning.  And, while I can’t have my parents cook for me right now, I can enjoy their recipes.

This recipe is a hearty breakfast bread that my mom shared with me last year.  It makes wonderful toast and provides protein, fiber, and potassium – you know…good stuff.

Toasted Almond and Apricot Bread
Makes 1 loaf

7 oz dried apricots
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped natural almonds
1 heaping cup rolled oats or 1 cup oat flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt

Coarsely chop apricots.

Heat orange juice in small saucepan until it boils.  Stir in brown sugar and apricots.  Remove from heat and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Add 1 Tbsp oil to medium frying pan and use it to brown the almonds.  Stir and toss the nuts so they toast evenly and are lightly browned.

If you don’t have oat flour, add 1 heaping cup of rolled oats to a food processor and blitz until it resembles flour.

Beat the eggs until frothy.

Mix in remaining 2 Tbsp oil and buttermilk.

Thoroughly blend the all-purpose and oat flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix in toasted almonds.

Add dry mixture to egg mixture and blend well.

Stir in apricots and their juice.

Pour the batter into a well-greased 9-inch loaf pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean and top is lightly browned.

Let rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.

The bread will keep several days in an airtight container, or may be frozen.  To freeze, after completely cooling, wrap the loaf in foil and store in a plastic zip-top bag for up to 6 months.

I really enjoy it toasted with butter.

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Filed under Bread, Breakfast, Personal

Bun in the Oven

Perhaps you have noticed that I haven’t posted to the blog in quite a while.  Well, at least I hope you’ve noticed.  I’ve missed all of you and I’ve missed my kitchen, too.

I’m not here to offer excuses, but more of an explanation.  Turns out Mr. Cook in a Bar and I are expecting a baby.

As good as this news is for the Cook in the Bar family, for several months this expected baby didn’t really want me to have much to do with cooking or eating or writing.  In fact, she made me feel downright sick most of the time.  Ugh.  This wasn’t a very helpful development for someone who spends her days thinking of and attempts to earn her living through food.

For now, however, I am pleased to announce that future Baby in a Bar and I have reached an uneasy detente.  I am feeling much better and I am attempting to return to my normal activities.

Okay, mostly normal activities.  You’ll probably notice a slight change to Bar Stool Fridays (sigh) and I’m sure my cravings will be clearly illustrated by upcoming entries between now and my expected due date of July.

Sorry for the cliched title, but I hope you can enjoy these literal buns in the oven.  They hit several craving high points for me – oranges, cinnamon, and of course, baked goods.

Sticky Orange Cinnamon Buns
Makes one dozen

For Dough:
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees F), divided
1/2 cup sugar, divided
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 – 6 cups all purpose flour

For Glaze:
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
1 cup chopped pecans

For Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Start by working on the dough.  Combine yeast, 1/4 cup milk, and dash of sugar in small bowl.  Let stand until foamy.

In a large bowl, beat remaining milk, remaining sugar, butter, orange peel, and vanilla until well blended.  Gently add yeast mixture.

Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended.

Stir in salt and cinnamon.  Add flour 1 cup at a time and stir to combine.  Add flour until smooth but still slightly sticky.  Please note the amount of flour depends on things like your measuring style and the humidity levels of your work area.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Place in a large greased bowl and cover.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 60 to 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking pan and set aside.

Stir together all glaze ingredients, except for pecans, in a medium saucepan.

Bring to a boil and let bubble over medium heat until slightly thickened, maybe 3 or 4 minutes.

Stir in pecans.  Moving quickly, but carefully, pour glaze into prepared pan.  Spread it out evenly with a spatula or spoon.

Beat all filling ingredients together until smooth.

Once dough has risen to double in size, turn it out again onto a floured surface.  Gently roll into a 18×9-inch rectangle.

Spread filling over entire surface of dough.

Starting with long edge, tightly roll dough into a long cylinder, pressing edge to seal.

With a sharp knife, cut into 12 even slices.

Place slices, cut-side up, into pan.

Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 60 to 90 minutes.

Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes.

With a knife, gently loosen edge of buns from side of pan.  Line a baking sheet with wax (or parchment) paper.  Place that baking sheet on top of the pan and invert.

Cool buns for at lest 15 minutes before serving.

The buns are best served on day of baking, but they can keep for a couple of days if they are kept tightly wrapped in wax paper surrounded by foil.

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Filed under Bread, Breakfast, Personal

Lies and Little Trees

My mother was a great illusionist.  Or maybe I was an unobservant child.

I remember the evening the scales fell from my eyes as I sat at the dining table.  My mother did not eat broccoli.  How could that be?

In fact, she didn’t seem to eat a lot of vegetables.  I watched the bowl of bright green steamed broccoli reach my mother, a mere mouthful amount was dished out, and it was then passed on to the next person at the table.  That small amount of broccoli was eaten, but clearly not enjoyed.  Yet, my brother and I were constantly being lobbied to eat all the green things on our plates.

Broccoli was called little trees.  We were told how delicious it was…how good for us it was.  Dessert was withheld until the entire portion of broccoli was consumed.  (Chocolate has always been a motivator for me.)

Hmph.  Unfair, I thought.  How can she make me do something I don’t want to do?  I had been fooled!  I had been lied to!

Then, I realized that I actually like broccoli.  In fact, I like all vegetables.  Really.  Even brussel sprouts and lima beans.

My mother encouraging us to eat all things green has made me a great eater.  I don’t just tolerate vegetables, I seek them out.  I experiment new ways to prepare them.  I enjoy all growing seasons.  Thanks, Mom.

Here is just one of the my recent experiments with broccoli…it is delicious paired with Asian-flavored tuna steaks or pork tenderloin.

Roasted Sesame Broccoli
Serves 4

about 1 lb broccoli, washed and trimmed to florets
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss broccoli florets with olive oil and then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Roast  for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned.  It will cook faster on a dark-colored baking sheet than a light-colored baking sheet.

Remove from the oven and toss with soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame seeds.  Serve warm.

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Filed under Personal, Vegetarian

Apple of My Eye

When I look back on my childhood, I often realize I was not as grateful for certain circumstances or actions as I should have been.  But, I guess that is the benefit of having a pretty good childhood, huh?  You don’t know how bad it could be.

One such situation involved my father’s caregiving for a short while.  In the midst of an extremely trying time at work, he had to take care of my mother while she recovered from abdominal surgery and my brother and I (who were not always the easiest individuals to please).  He did fairly well at doing the duty of two people and I never even realized what a hard time he was having in the office until adulthood.  However, all my brother, Tom, and I knew was that Dad wasn’t doing things like Mom did.

This was especially true of his cooking during this time.  As I’ve grown older and my palate has broadened, I really enjoy my father’s cooking. He’s very confident and creative in the kitchen.  But, when I was small and he was harried, my brother and I could not appreciate what he was turning out for dinner and putting in our lunch boxes.  Dad was well-meaning, but no elementary school kid wants olive loaf on rye bread, even more so when Mom usually put together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on homemade white bread (and sometimes even cut the crusts off) with sweet little notes tucked on the side.  We ate a lot of casseroles for dinner which were so different from what Mom served.  I remember one night in particular actually being a little horrified to see my father scrape leftovers into a casserole dish and place it without ceremony right into the oven.  Then, while the oven door was open and the oven rack was extended (breaking a kitchen commandment in my child’s mind), he roughly cut (by hand not on a cutting board as Mom taught me was the only way to use a knife) both cheddar cheese and raw onion.  I think my brother and I actually shed tears over that one.

Poor Dad.  We made things so difficult for him, but he never made us feel bad for it.  And, we both do now.

Tom and I talked about Dad’s cooking while we picked apples recently and we each have our favorite dishes from him (and some things we hope he doesn’t make again).  I particularly like his applesauce.  I enjoyed it so much when I was young, that I thought he must have created it especially for me.  I didn’t even know you could buy applesauce in the store, and once I tasted the commercial stuff, I felt bad for kids who didn’t have a dad who made it for them.

It is only appropriate that I post the applesauce recipe today.  Happy Birthday, Dad!  Sorry I wasn’t always grateful for what you did for us.  I certainly am now.

Chunky Applesauce
Makes about 4 pints

about 4 pounds apples
2 to 3 Tbsp lemon  juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
about 1 cup water

Peel, core, and roughly dice the apples.

Add them to a large pot with remaining ingredients.  Add just enough water to prevent the apples from burning.

Bring to boil, then turn down the heat and cook slowly until apples are soft.  Probably about 20 to 30 minutes.

If you are canning the applesauce, spoon it into jars while it is still warm and process in a boiling water bath for about 10  minutes.

This applesauce also freezes very well, and it is great served hot or cold.

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Filed under Personal, Preserving

Bar Stool Fridays – Girl Scout Cookie Shots

I’ve got something in my pocket,
It belongs across my face,
And I keep it very close at hand
In a most convenient place.

I’m sure you couldn’t guess it
If you guessed a long, long while.
So, I’ll take it out and put it on -
It’s a great big Brownie smile!

As a girl, I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout.  I even worked for the national organization as an adult.  Luckily, I don’t think there are any pictures of me wearing the uniform as an adult.  Our office had access to cookies year-round and we kept them in the Cookie Closet.  I’m not kidding.  That is really what we called it.  My colleagues and I really enjoyed that closet and it made us quite popular around town, especially as supplies dwindled for civilians, even for those who hoard the cookies in their freezers.

While reminiscing with some of my former Girl Scout colleagues, we thought about all the happy hours we enjoyed together.  Wouldn’t it be great to combine our loves for alcohol and Girl Scout cookies?  They encouraged me to develop a drink or several drinks inspired by Girl Scout cookies.  Wonderful idea, I thought, and I decided to consult with my bartender brother, Tom.

He took the lead and created two delicious shooters.  One is inspired by the Thin Mint cookie and the other tastes like the chocolate and peanut butter Tagalong.  Each drink tastes like you are taking a big bite of cookie.  They are sure to bring a great big Brownie smile to your face, too.

Thin Mintastic
Makes 2 shooters

2 ounces vanilla vodka
1 ounce creme de menthe
1 ounce creme de cocoa

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously.    Strain and pour equally into two small glasses.  Toast your silver and gold friends.

Tagalong With Me
Makes 2 shooters

2 ounces vanilla vodka
1 ounce Frangelico
1 ounce creme de cocoa
1 ounce Castries peanut rum creme

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously.    Strain and pour equally into two small glasses.  Enjoy with a campfire.

We will go to work on the other cookie flavors soon!

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Filed under Cocktails, Personal

A Little Something Fancy

This week Washington, DC was host to the Summer Fancy Foods Show by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade.  And, I was lucky enough to go.

Um…wow.  This was my first time and I was completely overwhelmed.  There were over 2400 exhibitors and 180,000 products on display.

This is not an event open to the public.  It is a business trade show and a large number of attendees are buyers of food products.  The show gives specialty food purveyors an opportunity to showcase their goods, and for some, it becomes a fast track to success.

I didn’t t have press credentials so I can’t provide you with pictures of the hottest products direct from the showroom floor.  I can offer you my opinion about some of the big trends.

Popcorn.  Lots and lots of popcorn products.  I love the stuff, but I didn’t realize there was this great a need in the marketplace.

Heat and spice.  Spicy elements were all over the place, especially chipotle and jalapeno flavors.  Bring it on!

Salt.  Exotic salts and just plain sea salt were added to unexpected products…Some were intriguing, but others felt like just an excuse to introduce something new.  What have we got?  Hmmm…I know, let’s sprinkle it with sea salt!

Pork is king.  There is saw a continued (stale?) emphasis on bacon writ large, but there were several purveyors of Spanish ham, too.  We did not turn down any samples.

Asia rising.  I noticed a pretty large number of products with an Asian influence (that were not from Asia), and I lost count of how many folks were peddling crispy seaweed snacks.  I was partial to the ones labeled Beer Mate.  We also drank several versions of aloe juice.  I like it and I hope it spreads.

Goat.  Tons of dairy products using goat’s milk…not just rounds of goat cheese, but yogurt, ice cream, baked goods, and more.  Yay!

Water.  Too many lame fancy-pants waters.  It felt very ugly American.  I find them a bit too precious and out of touch with our current economic situation and not too environmentally friendly either.

I am very grateful to the person who supplied our complimentary passes.  She knows who she is, and I hope she knows we appreciated the opportunity.

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Filed under Personal, Travel

New & (Hopefully) Improved

Hello and welcome to the new  A Cook Walks Into A Bar!

The blog has a new look and navigation that I hope is more useful and attractive.

I look forward to your feedback on the changes.

Your comments are always very helpful, and I hope to keep improving what I can offer you.

Thanks for your continued support!

P.S.  Don’t forget to update your bookmarks and RSS feeds…


			

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Vote for My Cocktail

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I was invited to develop a cocktail recipe for Marx Foods using the stimulating szechuan buttons.  Well, I came up with three cocktails, but one, the Buzz of the Green Fairy is in the running now.

If you like what you see, please visit the Marx Food site and vote for me.  The poll will close on Tuesday, February 15.

Thanks for your support!

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I Need Your Help Again

With your help, I made it to the second round of Project Food Blog, an interactive contest to discover the next hot food blogger.  Thank you for all your support.

We are not done yet, though.  I’ve submitted my entry for the second challenge, and voting starts today, Monday, September 27.
If you recall from last week, I advance to the next challenge by accumulating votes from the official judges, fellow Food Buzz Featured Publishers, and you.  Please visit my entry for Project Food Blog and submit your vote of support.  (You will need to join Food Buzz.)  If you like my entry, please ask your friends and contacts to do the same.
Thank you again, and I’m sure with your help, I’ll be back for the third round.

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I Need Your Support

So, you may have heard that I’ve entered a contest on the site Food Buzz called Project Food Blog.  It is an interactive contest to discover the next hot food blogger.

Following 10 challenges to whittle down nearly 2,000 contestants, the winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize and will be featured in a dedicated section of Food Buzz for a year.  Cool, huh?

I’ve submitted my entry for the first challenge, and voting starts today, Monday, September 20.

Here’s where I need your support…I advance to the next challenge by accumulating votes from the official judges, fellow Food Buzz Featured Publishers, and you.  Please visit my entry for Project Food Blog and submit your vote of support.  (You will need to join Food Buzz.)  If you like my entry, please ask your friends and contacts to do the same.

Thanks for your continued support!  I couldn’t do this without your help.

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Filed under Personal