Game Day Eats – Apple Cider Doughnuts

Consider the doughnut.

In the words of M.F.K. Fisher does it live, “a dreadful but exciting life”?  Naw, probably more like a short and delicious life.

Who doesn’t love this fried confection?  It is one of my favorites without a doubt.  But, they are best eaten quickly after frying.  It is indeed a brief and joyous time for us.

If you are planning a brunch for your friends this weekend or your tailgating starts early, might I suggest you wow them with some apple cider doughnuts?  You won’t be sorry…

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Makes about 20 doughnuts and holes

Modified from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for  working with the dough
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
not small quantity of vegetable shortening (aka Crisco)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce apple cider to about 1/4 cup.  It took me about 20 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until each is incorporated into dough.

On low speed, gradually add the apple cider and buttermilk, mixing until just combined.

Add the flour mixture, and continue to mix until dough just starts to come together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Turn the dough out onto one of those sheets and using your hands, flatten the dough until it is about 1/2-inch thick.

Add more flour, as necessary.  Place the baking sheet of dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until it is slightly hardened.

Pull the dough out of the freezer, and cut out doughnut shapes.  Place the cut doughnut onto the second baking sheet.  Place the cut doughnuts in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.  If you need to re-roll the scraps, refrigerate them again for a while before cutting.

Add enough shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 2 inches.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side and heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees F.  Have a plate lined with paper towels ready to receive the fried dough.

While the shortening is heating, you can make your toppings, if you like.  We made both cinnamon and sugar (self-explanatory) and a glaze of apple cider and powdered sugar.  Set them aside until the doughnuts come out of the oil.

Once your frying oil is ready, carefully add just a few doughnuts at a time.

Don’t crowd the pan to ensure even frying.  Fry until golden brown and gently flip to the other side.  Drain on paper towels for a minute or so and then dip in toppings.

They are best if served immediately.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Soothing Toddy

With fall officially here, it is time to indulge in one of my cool weather favorites…the hot toddy.  It is a much needed balm when it is damp and cold and I’m recovering from a sinus infection.  The warm alcoholic drink soothes my sore throat and warms me all over.

You can use any type of spirit for your hot toddy.  The traditional recipe is a mix of whiskey, hot water, sugar, and lemon or orange.  I recommend you avoid the cheapest bottles, though.  I think the heat can make the alcohol taste even sharper, so I go with one of my favorite (and affordable) standbys – Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon.

Bourbon Hot Toddy
Makes 1 drink

lemon slice studded with cloves
1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 1/2 ounce bourbon
4 to 6 ounces boiling water
1 cinnamon stick

Drop the clove-studded lemon slice into the bottom of your heat-resistant mug.  Add sugar, nutmeg, and bourbon.  Pour in hot water and stir with cinnamon stick.

Cheers!

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Game Day Eats – Harvest Blondies

I’ve said it before  and I’ll say it again…I really feel no get-together is complete without something sweet to eat.  Game watching or tail-gating is no different.

But, these gatherings are not really the place to bring out a tiered cake or serve complicated desserts.  Something simple is better.  Something that is easy to make and transports well and folks can serve themselves.

Bring on the bar cookie…

Harvest Blondies
Makes 16 bars

1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt
about 3/4 cup M&Ms or other candy coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with butter; line pan with parchment paper with about a 2-inch overhang, and butter paper.

Melt butter then, combine with sugars until smooth.

Whisk in eggs and vanilla.

Add flour and salt; stir until just moistened.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.  Arrange candies in rows on top of dough.

I used only autumn colors of yellow, orange, red, and brown, but you should do as you prefer.  You can use team colors, or mix them all randomly.

Bake about 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Set pan on wire rack to let cool completely.  Then, using edges of parchment, lift from pan and transfer to a cutting board.

Cut into 16 squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  If the cookies make it past the first night, they will last about 2 days in an airtight container.

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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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She’s A Firecracker

I have a  friend.  (Yes, I have more than one friend, smarty-pants, but today’s entry is just about one in particular.)  Anyway, I have this friend.  Her name is Wendy.  I’m jealous of her long lean legs and her beautiful red hair.  And, her charmingly cute kid.  And her fierce skills at first base.  Wendy is smart and funny and one of the kindest people I know.

But, watch out…she’s a firecracker.  She uses that intelligence and humor and sparks fly out of her mouth.  Those sparks can catch some folks off guard, but I love it, even when it is directed at me.  Wendy makes life fun and she reminds me to laugh at myself and to see comedy where it is not always obvious.  And, she reminds me that someone is always watching and reading and what I am doing is not a waste of time and energy.

Thanks for being my friend and a great audience member, Wendy.  I’m glad I got to help you celebrate your birthday.  I hope you liked your cake.  Kisses.

Red-Headed Firecracker Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze
Serves 8 to 10

For cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups of peeled, cored, and diced apple

For glaze:
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

For cake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease and flour an 8- to 10- cup Bundt pan.

Whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, ginger, and cayenne in medium bowl.

Whisk canola oil, brown sugar, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend.

Add dry ingredients and fold until blended.

Fold in diced apples.

Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake about 40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on rack for about 10 minutes.  Invert cake onto plate or rack.

For the glaze:
In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugars.

Cook the mixture, stirring, until bubbly, maybe about a minute.  Stir in the heavy cream.   Bring to a boil.   Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.  Then, spoon the glaze over completely cooled cake.  It is quite messy, so you may not want to glaze it on your serving dish.

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Game Day Eats – Boozy Caramel Corn

When I was single, I would sometimes make dinner out of beer and popcorn.  Occasionally, it was followed by ice cream.

I would come home too tired to do much of anything but take off my high heels and plug in my air-popper.  But, that was enough.  The salty, crunchy, buttery (real butter, of course) corn would improve my mood in minutes.  Okay, okay…the beer and ice cream helped, too.

I’ve spread the popcorn habit to my husband, but we don’t eat for dinner.  Just lots of snacking.  I so clearly convinced him of the value of regular popcorn that he bought me a huge table top popcorn popper for our bar.  Now, we can make big batches for our friends when they come over to watch a game.

But, when I want something a bit more than butter and salt  on my popcorn, I mix up something like this…

Tequila Caramel Corn
Makes about 4 quarts

4 quarts popped popcorn
1/2 cup unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp tequila
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts

Place popped popcorn in a large, buttered roasting pan.  Place the roasting pan in a 200 degree oven to keep the popcorn warm while you make the caramel.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, syrups, and salt.  Stirring constantly while it heats.

Once it starts to boil, stop stirring and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Remove the popcorn filled roasting pan from the oven.  At the end of 5 minutes, quickly stir in baking soda and tequila.  You may want to add spicy tequila, like I did.

Working very quickly, sprinkle 1 cup of peanuts (I used chile lime peanuts!) on top of the popcorn.  Then, pour the  caramel on top.  It is very helpful to have an assistant here so one person can scrape out the caramel and one person can stir it into the popcorn and peanut mixture.  It is very hot, so be careful.

Once the popcorn and caramel are well mixed, put the roasting pan back in the oven and increase the temperature to 250 degrees F.  Bake the mixture for about an hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Break apart and let cool before storing.

Charley is not my only four-legged friend.  I also have a cat, Izzy.  He apparently wanted to see what that other black cat was doing…

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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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Bar Stool Fridays – Dog Walking Adventures

The sun was shining and it felt warm on our skin.  Charley and I had encountered very few U.G.O.s (unidentified ground objects that he tries to consume) or chicken bones (yes, I live in a community where folks really throw chicken bones on the ground) on our daily midday walk around the neighborhood.  We didn’t pass anybody dealing drugs, I didn’t catch a whiff of urine from the alley…I may have even been smiling.  I was really enjoying this walk.

Now, I am definitely not a fearful person.  I walk through life with confidence, but I try to always be aware of my surroundings and I am far from trusting strangers.  However, I had no reason to be suspicious of the car driving toward us.  The driver had his window down with his arm resting on the frame.  He also seemed to be enjoying this lovely day.  And, because I look quite different than most individuals in my neighborhood and I may have been smiling, I was not surprised that he looked our way.  I didn’t find it threatening.  I was not even surprised when he stopped the car and began to speak to me.  Charley was paused to sniff what most have been a particularly fragrant section of tree and he also didn’t feel threatened by this man in the car.

“Uh wahh wahh meh like yah wahh that big black dawg?”

He was smiling when he said this, so for some reason my brain didn’t register this as something with which I should be troubled.  I smiled and replied, “What’s that?”

“Yew wanna walk me like your walkin’ that big black dawg?”

Hmmm…that was not what I expected to hear.  I thought he was going to ask for directions or comment on Charley’s size or shiny coat.  I had no expectation that someone driving down the road would pull over and ask a strange woman if she would walk him like a dog.  No expectation.

Once my brain processed what he actually said (and it did take me a couple of beats), I replied, “No.  No, thank you.”  (I have to say thank you ’cause I’m from Texas and we are nothing if not polite.)

He shrugged.  I turned away and Charley and I continued down the block as he drove away in the opposite direction.  My smile actually came back as we walked on because I found the exchange more amusing than intimidating.  I shook my head and thought, “This is why I enjoy so many bloody cocktails.”

So, I decided to make one.  Literally.  Well, with blood oranges…

This drink is inspired by the classic tequila cocktail, the Compadre, which translates to friend/partner from Spanish.  So, I’m calling it the Vecina Amiga, or the Friendly Neighbor.  Yeah, I am using the feminine, but it is pink.

The Vecina Amiga
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces tequila (I used silver)
1 ounce Campari
3 or 4 ounces blood orange soda (see NOTE)
ice
lime wedge, for garnish

Shake the tequila and Campari vigorously with ice.  Strain into an ice-filled highball glass.  Top with blood orange soda and stir gently.  Garnish with a lime wedge and serve.  Maybe you can even make one for your friendly neighbor.

NOTE: I found the “gourmet” blood orange soda in a local grocery store.  If you cannot find a similar product, mix equal parts of blood orange or grapefruit juice and club soda.  Taste, and if it needs to be sweeter, add a splash of simple syrup.

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Game Day Eats – Make Ahead Snacks

You’ve had a busy week.  Maybe things didn’t go as you planned or you are in a bit of a funk.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel – the weekend approaches.  You are looking forward to hanging out with friends and family, and you can’t wait to watch your team win the big one.

But, said friends and family are coming to your house to watch said game.  And, you are expected to feed them.

What snacks can you make in advance before kickoff?  What can you do to avoid an even longer trip to the grocery store without resorting to the freezer case?  Not that I don’t sometimes enjoy pizza rolls or  7-layer Mexican bean dip, but sometimes you want to mix it up…make something a little more special for your guests.

Or maybe you don’t.

If you do, though, then here are a couple of sophisticated snacks for even the pickiest eaters.  And, most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry or cabinets.  They are both easiest if you have a food processor, however.

These straightforward recipes are not only perfect to make in advance and keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but they also travel well (to a tailgate or friend’s house) and they taste just as good in the fourth quarter as they did during the pregame hype.

White Bean Dip
Makes about 2 cups

1 (15 oz) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 – 3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
about 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed, plus more for garnish
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pita chips, carrot sticks, and/or celery sticks for serving

Place beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pulse again until smoothly pureed.

Transfer bean puree to a small serving bowl.  Sprinkle lightly with minced parsley for garnish.

Serve with pita chips or crunchy carrot and celery sticks.

Black Olive Tapenade
Makes about 2 cups

about 3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
juice of one lemon
about 1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 – 2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, to taste

Add olives, capers, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes to bowl of food processor.

Pulse until it makes a smooth paste.

Slowly add olive oil while processor is running.

Season with black pepper, to taste.

This pungent olive paste is great spread on crostini or sandwiches.

Or include a small bowl of the tapenade on a platter of grilled vegetables (think eggplant, peppers, tomatoes) with mozzarella or goat cheeses.  Or mixed into a classic pasta salad.  You get the idea…

Let’s go team!

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Bar Stool Fridays – Bacon and Bourbon

Yay…more food gifts for the Cook in a Bar household!  Our friends Dave and Laura gifted us with some bacon flavored syrup and the suggestion we use it in a cocktail.

We thought that was an excellent idea and what better combination for bacon than bourbon?  And what better time to have both bacon and bourbon than at breakfast?

Bacon and Bourbon Milk Punch
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce creme de cacao
4 ounces whole milk
1/2 ounce bacon flavored syrup
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg

Shake the liquid ingredients and cinnamon vigorously in an ice-filled shaker.  Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass.  Sprinkle the top with nutmeg.

Kick off your weekend right and serve these up for brunch.  You won’t be sorry.

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