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Slowing Down

The past week has been pretty crazy! Last weekend was the final weekend of yoga teacher training for my group of

Let our powers combine

fellow trainees, therefore it was our testing weekend. We had both a written exam and a practical plus we had to watch our practical back and receive feedback. Ultimately we all successfully graduate on Sunday, but it was a pretty emotional weekend. We’ve all become really close and it is going to be very exciting to see where our paths take us. For me, who knows. I’m participating in a mentorship through the yoga studio that I graduated from, so for me, that is my next step, to continue to hone my teaching skills and hopefully be a successful teacher one day.

 

Also, in case you’ve noticed, I’m trying to include ads in the blog now for recipes and all things food. I was approved through a few affiliate programs and I’m playing around with WordPress to determine what plugins would help me run the ads but it’s so much more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s definitely a learning experience, but having knowledge of scripts and program codes would be extremely beneficial. Bear with me while I work through upgrading the site, it is a constant work in progress as I’m learning so glitches are bound to happen, but such is life. Things happen along the way of improving ourselves, we can’t take it personally, just learn and grow.

Figuring out this advert thing

Since this week has been busy with so much going on, I just wanted to take some time to slow down. I didn’t want to make a difficult recipe with multiple steps in it this week from Back to Basics. I wanted something simple and therapeutic. In the cooking realm, the most calming thing for me is doing something that I know I can do and do well. It isn’t the time to start some crazy endeavor like making croissants from scratch. For me, that is baking cookies. I feel like when you make cookies for years, you tend to learn a pattern that works for you and they just come naturally. Luckily Ina has a recipe for some Oatmeal Raisin Cookies in her Back to Basics book. I have no idea what I would have made otherwise.

Ready to devour

The BEST kind of cookies for me are ones that are thick, chock full of stuff, crisp on the outside, while still retaining some chewiness on the inside. This recipe hits all those marks. I know that the cup and a half of pecans and raisins sounds like overwhelming, but there can be NO such thing as too much. I mean, when making chocolate chip cookies, I don’t even bother with measuring the chips out, I just dump the whole bag in. I don’t have time for that.

If you’re one of those people that are turned off by raisins, you can sub them out for chocolate chips. Honestly though, why do people give serious hate to the raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies? Raisins are dried grapes, grapes make wine, you’re eating dried wine nuggets. Why can possibly be bad about them?

Anyway, the process of making the cookies is relatively simple and honestly is kind of like an assembly line, plus it gives me time to do stuff in between when they are in the oven. Also, there is nothing quite like a cookie that is still slightly warm after being baked. That is when they are the best.

 

Print Recipe
Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten page 214
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop very coarsely.
  3. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Fold in the oats, raisins, and pecans with a rubber spatula and mix just until combined.
  5. Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.
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The Spice of Life

You guys, it’s getting creepily close to Christmas and I’m not sure if I’m excited or sad! Maybe some of both. Excited for the holiday and sad that it is passing by so quickly!  As I sit here to write this, I have A Year Without a Santa Claus on tv and just listening to it brings back some of the childhood excitement the season brings me.

Having a little taste test before bed

With it being so close to the holiday, tis the season for some quality gingerbread. I’m not talking about the fancy Martha Stewartesque gingerbread houses all decked out with their candy cane gates and jolly rancher swimming pool. Ina offers up a much different version of gingerbread. It is a rustic dessert that is dense, spicy, and sweet. This is a perfect addition to any holiday dessert table this year. Also, it makes the whole house smell AMAZING. Think of it as edible potpourri. The orange frosting on top adds more flavor to the cake but you can opt to skip it and simply sprinkle it with powdered sugar.

How could this possibly be bad?!?!

This cake is sweetened by molasses, there is no other sugar actually in it. Molasses is a very dark, sweet, smoky syrup that gives gingerbread its unique color and flavor. One thing I did want to look up is what exactly unsulfured molasses is since the recipe specifically called for it. I’ve never really paid attention in the store. According to my research, molasses is the by product of the sugar making process. So when the sugar cane is crushed to make the little sugar granules we use to sweeten almost anything, the leftover is molasses. In some instances, sulfur is used during this process. I can only imagine that the sulfur adds a not too pleasant taste. I have also learned that most molasses in the states is unsulfured, so you don’t really have to worry about it. It’s always safe though to check the label to make sure.

Bubbly molasses and butter

This cake also has it’s fair share of spice in it. A whole teaspoon and a half of ground ginger root (it is gingerbread after all), cinnamon, and cloves give the cake balance with the earthy sweetness of the molasses. Another balancing ingredient which I think it totally necessary is the orange zest. You can’t taste it too much in the cake but it definitely adds a layer of flavor and helps cut through the sweetness.

I did make a few changes to the recipe, not major, but some differences. I didn’t use the recommended golden raisins, I used the regular ones. They are easier to find, taste the same, and I think more nostalgic looking. It reminds me of the applesauce cake my grandma made with the dark raisins in it. Also, I don’t have an 8×8 pan so I had to improvise. I do have a 6-cup bundt pan which worked perfectly, all I had to do was up the baking time by 15 minutes. If you use the bundt pan, I recommend baking the gingerbread for 45 minutes and check it and if it needs more time, add 5 minutes then check again. I got about 15 slices out of the bundt cake which was great as I had planned to take it to a work holiday lunch the next day.

A little edible decoration never hurt…

I decided to add a little extra Ina to my gingerbread. A mantra of hers is that she always garnishes a dish with an ingredient in the dish, “so you know exactly what’s in it.” So, I used my special zester that peels little strips off of the citrus. For this recipe, I zested half the orange which went into the cake, then I used this zester on the rest of the orange for the garnish. This isn’t necessary, you could just zest the rest of the orange regularly into the frosting to add extra flavor if you wanted. If you want to purchase a zester like this one, check out the amazon link below. Just make sure you zest BEFORE you cut and juice the orange, otherwise it’ll be a mess.

A great wine to pair this with is Winc’s new sparkling wine, Fink’s Widow. Bubbly just screams holidays and it is great for cocktails or after a meal with dessert. It has a lot of great apple and even pineapple flavors that are really crisp on the palate with the effervescence. You can’t beat the price on this one – only $13. That’s about the same price as prosecco. Many sparkling wines are difficult to find that cheaply (that are good), but this one is definitely a winner. It’s great on it’s own, but I was tempted into turning it into a holiday mimosa. Use this link for a discount on your first order: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

FW spreading some holiday cheer!

I first got the idea for this cocktail by seeing sugared cranberries and wanting to make them. When you make sugared cranberries, you cook them for a little and then let them soak in a mixture of sugar and water. The leftover syrup is turned slightly red from the cranberries and has great flavors. I added about 2 teaspoons of the simple syrup to 2 Tablespoons of cranberry cocktail mix and then topped it with the Finke’s Widow. I put the finished sugared cranberries on a large toothpick as garnish. SO GOOD! The cranberry flavor is balanced out by the sweetness of the syrup and the wine adds some crispness to the drink. This is one you’ll definitely want to make for your holiday party. As an alternative to the sugared cranberries, you can always freeze some fresh cranberries and use them as ice cubes in your drink as garnish and to keep the drink cold without watering it down.

Festive and refreshing


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Print Recipe
Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 202
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch cake pan. Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.
  2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt together into a small bowl. Mix to combine. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth.
  3. Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
  4. When the cake is cooled, whisk together the confectioner's sugar and orange juice and pour it over the gingerbread allowing it to drip down the sides. Cut into 9 squares.
Recipe Notes

You can use a 6 cup bundt pan. If so, increase baking time to 45 minutes and if it isn't done completely, put back into the over for another 5 minutes. Using a bundt pan yields about 12-15 slices of cake.

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Wine Tasting Featuring Winc

The holidays are fast approaching and that means one thing – parties. I actually was invited to attend a doterra essential oil party that one of my yoga friends was hosting. We decided to do the part potluck style where everyone chips in and brings something different. I offered to bring something snacky and some wine because of course I did. I figured this would be an excellent time to bust out some new and different Winc wines for my friends to try.

When I was looking through Back to Basics, I turned to the first recipe in the Appetizers section and I knew immediately that was what I needed to make. It is the recipe for Ina’s Parmesan & thyme crackers. Yes, homemade crackers and they are SO easy you won’t believe it. Essentially they are savory shortbread cookies. Shortbread being cookies that are butter and flour with no egg. Instead of adding sugar, the recipe calls for Parmesan cheese and thyme to give them lots of flavor. The result is a buttery cracker with great salty Parmesan and herb flavor. I actually decided to use some dried thyme when I made them because it was easier. I KNOW, I KNOW – Ina would not be a fan of using a dried herb here. However, I think dried herbs are great and convenient. Not everyone has time to run to the store to pick up some fresh thyme just to use a teaspoon for a recipe. This is where dried herbs are a savior.

No cheese for these crackers - only wine...

No cheese for these crackers – only wine…

I can’t wait to make these around Christmas and mix up the herbs and possibly the cheese a little bit. In fact, I was chatting at the party with a friend who is lactose intolerant. She gave me the idea of using Pecorino cheese instead of the Parm because Pecorino is sheep’s milk cheese and doesn’t contain the lactose that Parmesan (cow’s milk) does. You’d still get the same salty bite but it would be lactose friendly. These went great with the wine. They are perfect for neutralizing the palate when switching between different wines.

Now, on to the wines. I chose 3 to bring along that I thought would be different for everyone to try. Vinyasa Chenin Blanc, To Be Honest Red Blend, and Supercluster Tourigua Nacional.

Vinyasa Chenin Blanc:

vin-YAS-a

vin-YAS-a

The only white wine I brought, it’s totally self-explanatory why it was necessary. With the attendees being my yoga teacher training peers – we HAD to have some Vinyasa! Also, this wine is particularly interesting. First, it is low in alcohol by volume – only 11.8%. I like how I say “only”, I mean, it’s less than normal. Anyway, this wine is also…vegan. Before I found out, I thought all wine was vegan. I mean, it’s fermented grapes stored in either steel or oak barrels, what animal products could be involved. I decided to do some digging. Turns out A LOT of wine is not vegan friendly. Here’s the deal: when wine is made and the grapes are crushed, there is a lot of sediment that floats around in there, especially in very young wines that haven’t been aged very long. The producers put that wine through a processed called fining before bottling. This process is basically a filtration system that removes the sediment and leaves the wine clear. I figured they’d just run it through a fine sieve, but what producers do is pour animal casein (protein) into the wine. This casein attracts the sediment and it kinda congeals into larger clumps of stuff that can more easily be removed from the wine. To achieve this, vegan friendly wines use something like activated charcoal for the fining process. KNOWLEDGE DROP! I know what you’re thinking – MIND.BLOWN. I’m not actually sure if wines will actually say they are vegan or if you need to do your research before hand. It can’t hurt to do a little research if you want to maintain a vegan friendly diet.

Ok – so the taste. Even though this is a white wine, it definitely is not sweet. I tasted citrus and interestingly enough the pith of the citrus. There was some bitterness there like you were eating an orange or drinking unsweetened tea. I think this wine would be great with some peaches or raspberries in it to counterbalance the bitterness of it. Or it could definitely be great for a sangria.

To Be Honest Red Blend by Matt Bellasai

Nothing to whine about here, tbh.

Nothing to whine about here, tbh.

Oh Matt Bellasai, how I want your job. If you followed Buzzfeed on Facebook over the past couple years, you’ve probably seen Matt’s entrance into the wine world with their segment “Wine About It”. He basically sat at his desk, slammed some wine and got buzzed, then was given a topic to complain about. I specifically remember his segment where he did the Edward 40 Hands challenge with I think Pinot Grigo. He has since moved on from Buzzfeed and started his own segment now called “To Be Honest” and the premise is the same. However NOW he has his own wine! When I saw that Winc was collaborating with him I knew I had to try it. And Matt, if you’re reading this and you need an assistant or backup – let me know!

This is a great versatile red blend as most are.  A little bit of breathing on this wine really releases the fruitiness of it. It is quite complex as it is a blend of four grapes from the Paso Robles region of California. Best part of this wine, is that it is great, easy to drink and only $13 – very affordable and would make a great gift for anyone who likes red wine.

Supercluster Tourigua Nacional

Hipster chic

Hipster chic

This is what I call the hipster of the bunch. Tourigua Nacional is a Portugese grape that is grown in Paso Robles, California and is considered to be pretty rare. What makes this wine “hipster” is how it is made. When I think of the hipster scene, I think of cold-brew coffee and microbreweries with the whole chemistry set up. They are always looking for ways to incorporate science into how they make things. This wine is just that. It is made using the “carbonic method”. Like vegan wine, I had to do some research. Essentially, the grapes are harvested from the vineyard and instead of being macerated to let the juice ferment, they are place into large drums in tact. The winemakers fill the drums with CO2 and the grapes are left to ferment in tact. Meaning the juice ferments INSIDE the grape. This is to result in a lighter bodied red-wine and it’s just a pretty cool and modern method.

This was by far my favorite. It was super easy to drink right out of the bottle with loads of fruit flavors. It also had a little bit of syrupiness to it, so it had some weight to it. A great way to describe it is how one of my favorite vloggers, Whitney Adams puts it. She says it is like drinking whole milk versus skim. You know how whole milk is thicker and silky whereas skim milk is a bit watery. Yeah, Supercluster is like whole milk in that situation. It’s so great – and I’d definitely pair that with a cheese board because it would really go well with some bold flavored cheeses.

So there you have it, three interesting wines and some delish homemade crackers to go with. As the holidays are fast approaching, you might be wondering what to get as host/hostess gifts for any upcoming parties. WINE! Especially some interesting wine that would be a great conversation starter. Plus, it gets delivered right to your door! If you want to pick some up for a discount, visit my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Until next time, happy eating and stay thirsty!

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Print Recipe
Parmesean & Thyme Crackers
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 30.
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
crackers
Ingredients
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
crackers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon of water (mine took 3 teaspoons of water total).
  2. Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a sharp knife and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You can totally make these WAYYYYYYYYYY ahead of time and put them in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you need them, thaw them out in the fridge overnight, slice and bake.

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That Pumpkin Roll

Howdy folks! Glad to see there was a lot of interest in the salad that was posted last week. I hope for those of you that tried it, you loved it. Or if you decided to try Winc and get some wine, I hope you enjoy it as well. If there are any kinds that you have questions about, let me know, I’ve had my fair share of them so far so I can give you some pointers on those that I have tried. 🙂

So many of us know that Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Unless you rely upon the retail industry to tell you, then you’ll likely think that next week is Christmas. Anyway Thanksgiving is here – a joyous holiday that celebrates eating! Whether you’re celebrating with your family, friends, coworkers, pets, whomever, there is usually one staple that pops up after the turkey and sides and that is something pumpkin. 😀 I, along with the throngs of fervent fans, have been lining up for some pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks since September. Now it’s time to glorify our love of it and make it into something edible. Traditionally, the pumpkin dessert comes in the form of pie. However, leave it to Ina to take her pumpkin spice to another level for Turkey Day….a Pumpkin Roulade.

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So, I’ve totally made this before – not Ina’s, but I think it was just a generic recipe that I had found. I’ve also grown up with what we called Pumpkin Roll, so this wasn’t too new to me when I saw the recipe. I did note a few differences though. First, Ina adds more spice to her cake which adds a lot more flavor as I’ve discovered. Second, her filling is made with mascarpone cheese. Think of this as the Italian version of cream cheese and can be found in the grocery store either in the specialty cheese case (where the brie and smoked gouda are) or it’ll be with the cream cheese. It’s not quite as dense as American cream cheese and it has more of a ricotta consistency. Lastly, she rolls hers differently than I’ve seen/done it in the past, which I’ll get into in a second.  Let me talk about a few other things first.

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Roulade is a fancy French term for anything that is rolled as it comes from the French root word meaning “to roll”. It doesn’t have to be a dessert, in fact Ina’s got a nice recipe for a Turkey Roulade in Back to Basics that I’ll get to try later. I think that the idea of rolling the cake is a bit daunting. I remember I had to have my mom help me out the first time I made one because I didn’t understand how just roll a cake up. The batter has a higher ratio of eggs to flour than most typical cakes which makes it more spongy and pliable. You also bake it on a half sheet pan so it is long and thin which aids in the rollage process. The most important aspects I’ve learned of making a roll cake is that you have to use a liberally confection sugar dusted kitchen towel (and when I say liberal I mean it, think Bernie Sanders liberal, as the sugar keeps the cake from sticking) AND you have to do the rolling while the cake is hot. If you wait to let it cool, it’ll just break apart. So have your kitchen towel dusted completely with confection sugar on the ready and flip that cake out as soon as it comes out of the oven, and roll it up.

img_0681

Speaking of rolling, let’s get to what I wanted to mention earlier. I didn’t follow Ina’s recipe exactly on this. She recommends rolling from the short side so you get several layers and albeit a more dramatic presentation. The end result is a taller cake, but shorter cake so when you slice it, you get more per slice but less slices if that makes sense. The roll that I’m used to, I’m going to call the West Virginia Roll because that is how I learned to do it. This is the exact opposite of Ina’s method. You roll from the long end so it is longer, there aren’t as many layers but you get more slices out of it. As I decided I wanted to take this to work, this was great because I easily got about 16-18 slices out of it. It really just depends on how you prefer to do it. It’ll taste the same, trust me on that.

Pre-roll

Pre-roll

I also made a minor change to the filling as well. I used half cream cheese and half mascarpone. I just think that the cream cheese is a bit thicker so it holds up when slicing better. You can totally use all cream cheese if you can’t find mascarpone or just don’t feel like using it. Your choice. Oh! Ina also has you put crystallized ginger in the filling. Never heard of it or had it? It’s basically ginger root that has been sliced and cooked in sugar syrup until it get’s really chewy. It’s SO good. OMG. It still has the spice from the ginger but the sweetness makes it more palatable. You can find this easily in the grocery store with the dried fruits.

Sweet AND Spicy - I like

Sweet AND Spicy – I like

Now, let’s talk about wine. Winc gave me a little lesson in wine, specifically European wines that have to be “declassified”.  I know that this gives the perception that there is something wrong with the wine or it is low quality.

De "Classy"!

De “Classy”!

Winc assures us otherwise. In fact, they pointed out that high profile vineyard in Europe often have to declassify wines due to other countries’ wine laws. An example: the vineyard’s yield exceeded its yearly allowance. So they bottle those that are allowed under their vineyard and the remaining wine is bottled under seperate cover and sold below market value. Sooooo essentially, declassified wines are my jam. High-end delicious wines for cheap! Sign me up. Now, Winc won’t tell us what kind of wine it is or where it is from – so we are left guessing. They did give a clue that the grape grows really well in and is native to Piedmont, Italy. From my research, the king grape of Peidmont is Nebbiolo, so that’s what my guess will be. The tasting notes of this wine are cherries, vanilla, and rosemary. SO GOOD! This wine would pair well with some turkey and dressing, not to mention a ginger filled Pumpkin Roulade. You still have a few days to order if you want some in time for Thanksgiving, the shipping is SUPER fast, so if you want some and want to get a discount on your first order, use my link and give Winc a try: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Happy Thanksgiving! Take some time to reflect on what you are Thankful for and enjoy your time with family and friends. 😀

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Print Recipe
Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 212.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
Ginger Buttercream
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
Ginger Buttercream
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Liberally grease and flour a half sheet pan (13x18x1 inch). If you wish, line the pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Alternatively you can use a hand-mixer. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. The batter should be pale yellow and thickened. Add the pumpkin and mix. Slowly add the flour mixture until incorporated. Finish mixing with a rubber spatula. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. The batter will be thin. Bake the cake for 10-12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.
  3. While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton kitchen towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar evenly over it. (This prevents the cake from sticking to it). As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel (don't be scared). Peel away the parchment paper if you used it. Lightly roll the warm cake and the towel together (don't press), starting at the short end (or long end if you're going for the WV roll). Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix the mascarpone cheese, confectioner's sugar, and cream together for about a minute. (Make sure that the cheese is at room temperature otherwise it won't mix together well at all). Stir in the crystallized ginger and salt.
  5. To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. Spread the filling evenly onto the cake. Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel to guide it. Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve sliced.
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The Apple That Caught My Eye

Hey everyone! I hope that everyone has had a great week! I know I have. I actually decided to go out and find the cafe that Ina Garten visited in Georgetown last week, Patisserie Poupon. So it’s wayyyyyyyyyy out in G-town, like up north, so if you’re planning on going, you’ll want to drive, take an Uber or wear hiking boots. Me being me, I decided to wear boots and walk the distance because I figured it would be scenic. All was good until about half way in and I learned it was farther out than expected…I kept pushing and ended up being on the receiving end of a blister. I had a simple ham and cheese croissant as the place was really small and I didn’t really see too much that was inviting among the counter. I’d kind of like to find out why Ina picked that location to visit. Not that it was bad, but I feel like there are better places in the G-town and DC area that are more accessible and have more of a selection. Ina, if you ever decide to come to DC again, I am offering my services of being a chauffeur around the city to all the food places.

Ok, back to cooking. This week at the Farmer’s Market in DC I found some interesting apples from the selection there. Calville Blanc are heirloom apples which hail from France and were brought to the United States via none other than Thomas Jefferson himself and were planted in Monticello.

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I’ve recently visited Monticello, and Mr. Jefferson had quite the green thumb. He also had an interest in France, architecture in particular. If you’re ever in Virginia, I suggest you take a visit. It is something you can easily make a whole day out of.

After spotting these apples, I knew EXACTLY what I had to make. Ina’s French Apple Tart. Ina her book, she states that this is her favorite dessert to make because it is simple and really highlights the quality of the apples. She recommends Granny Smith apples because they are hearty enough to withstand baking and are easily found in many grocery stores. I used the Calville Blanc apples because, well they both are French and from a local source, but because they too are a good baking apple. At least the lady at the market said so.

The tart is very simple to make. It’s a thin layer of crust (you can use puff pastry if you want it to be extra easy), a layer of apples, and then sugar and butter sprinkled over the top to caramelize the whole thing.

My sous chef rolling out the dough. :D

My sous chef rolling out the dough. 😀

The only issue I had was that the butter basically melted and ran off the side of the tart so I had to baste it to make sure the whole tart caramelized. I’m going to be honest – the tart is good but the edges are Heaven. The butter and sugar caramelize around the perimeter of the entire tart and get really crisp and delicious.

Pre-bake masterpiece

Pre-bake masterpiece

This thing is so good, it’s like angels cried upon on it then served it to me on a silver platter. Don’t believe me? Try it. And while you’re at it – slap some butter pecan or french vanilla ice cream on top and thank me later.

Of course, I had to have wine because wine not? Pardon the pun. Anyway, I chilled some Porter and Plot Chardonnay that I received from Winc and poured a glass to go with.

Transport me to Napa!

Transport me to Napa!

This Chardonnay is fantastic. The grapes come from a vineyard in Napa – known for it’s Chardonnay. It also has the oakiness which in my opinion is necessary for a good Chardonnay. Even with the oaking, I still tasted a lot of fruit, apple in particular which is why this wine paired so well with this recipe. By the way – did I mention that this wine was only $13. Kind of unheard of for a Napa Chardonnay. Or really any wine from that area. Your first bottle is free if you want to try Winc out by clicking here: https://www.clubw.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

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French Apple Tart
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 191.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Pastry
For the Apple Topping
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Pastry
For the Apple Topping
Instructions
Making the Pastry
  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender or a fork and knife, cut the butter into the flour until you the butter is incorporated and is the size of small peas. (You can also use a food processor for this step). Pour in the ice water a few tablespoons at a time while mixing until the dough comes together into a loose ball. Dump onto a floured board and knead into a ball (don't overknead the dough). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Shaping the Pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Roll the dough to about 10 x 14 inches and trim the edges to make a rectangle. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and place in the refrigerator.
Apples!
  1. Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Using a melon baller or a small knife, core the apples and remove the stem. Slice the apples thinly lengthwise and arrange them however you wise on the pastry. Ina suggests on a diagonal. Continue until the pastry is covered with apples. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the butter.
  2. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. You may want to check every 15 minutes or so and baste the tart with any butter or juice that has run off. When the tart is done, remove from the oven to cool. Heat the jelly and water in a pan or the microwave and pour through a sieve to remove any lumps of apricot. Brush the glaze over the entire tart to make it nice and shiny! Loosen the tart from the pan to ensure that the caramel doesn't stick. Serve warm or room temperature.
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Pumpkin Spice Up Your Life

Alright – I know…it’s not an Ina Garten recipe like I said I’d be doing way back when this first started. However, today is the Autumnal Equinox, which means it is officially Fall! Also – these muffins turned out amazing. I know it seems daunting with all the steps and parts, but trust me, it’s not that bad.

Mixing up the batter with this Jimmy Kimmel spatula from Williams-Sonoma

Mixing up the batter with this Jimmy Kimmel spatula from Williams Sonoma

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour and I tried to make the process a little bit easier by just measuring out the muffin with a regular tablespoon. The original recipe called for a heaping tablespoon at one point and level for another. That’s too much to think about when you are assembling muffins – so just go with the tablespoon and it will all work out. Also, instead of using a tablespoon to get the cream cheese filling in there, I instructed to just put it in a zip-top bag and snip the corner off of one end. Then you can easily pipe the filling right into the center of each one.

Streusel Everywhere

Streusel Everywhere

Anyway, lastly I added cinnamon to the streusel topping for the same reason I added it to Ina’s plum crunch a few weeks ago. IT’S NECESSARY. The addition of the pepitas adds color and some extra flavor to the topping. Pepita is a Spanish term commonly used for pumpkin seeds. They are green and are inside the white flat pumpkin seeds we are used to seeing in America. You can find them in the bulk section of pretty much any grocery store that has one. If you’re in the mood this weekend, I say give these a go.

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If you’re in the mood this weekend, I say give these a go. They are a great dessert but would be even better on a crisp Autumn morning with a dark cup of coffee along side it.

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Cream-Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins
Get ready for Fall with these spiced pumpkin muffins with a streusel topping and a cream cheese filling that are perfect as a morning treat with some coffee. Adapted from King Arthur Flour.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Streusel Topping
Cream Cheese Filling
Pumpkin Muffins
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Streusel Topping
Cream Cheese Filling
Pumpkin Muffins
Instructions
For the Streusel
  1. Cut up the butter into small chunks. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until it is crumbly and looks kind of like sand.
For the Cream Cheese Filling
  1. Beat all ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. It is important to have the cream cheese at room temperature otherwise it won't incorporate well at all. Place into a zip-top bag and place in the refrigerator.
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix everything except the flour into a large bowl, until thoroughly combined. Slowly add in the 1 and 1/2 cups of flour mixing until it is just combined. (Don't over-mix or the muffins will be tough!).
Assembly
  1. Line a 12 count muffin tin with paper liners and lightly spray them with non-stick cooking spray. Scoop in 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin batter into each muffin tin. Be sure to spread it out with a spoon to make sure it covers the entire bottom of each tin.
  2. Snip a tiny corner off of the zip-top bag with the cream cheese filling in it. Pipe about 1 tablespoon (eyeball it) into the center of each tin right on top of the pumpkin. You can always go back and add a little bit more if you were modest at adding it at first.
  3. Scoop 2 more tablespoons of the pumpkin batter on top of each muffin lightly spreading it around so it encompasses the cream cheese. Top each muffin with the streusel topping, covering them liberally.
  4. Bake for about 18-20 minutes until puffed and a toothpick comes out clean when poked down through the side (not the center because of the cream cheese). Allow to cool before enjoying!
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Farmer’s Market Find

September is in full swing and it is time for the fall fruit to being showing up the local farmer’s market. This past weekend I stumbled upon some Italian prune plums which are the variety that are dried to make the prunes that you purchase at the store (hence the name).

Beautiful Italian Prune Plums from the local Farmer's Market

Beautiful Italian Prune Plums from the local Farmer’s Market

This particular variety is only available for a very short period in early September and as soon as I found them I knew I had to make Ina Garten’s Plum Crunch recipe. One of her core tenants is to use in season fruits and veggies. This is when they have the most flavor and often times, are most affordable since they are so abundant.

I decided to stock up on extras and freeze some for later. If you want to do the same, there are several steps you should follow:

  1. Wash and dry them thoroughly and prep them while you’re at it. I sliced these in half and removed the pit from the middle.
  2. Lay them out in a single layer on a tray or plate to freeze them for about 4-5 hours. Freezing them this way first ensures that won’t stick together later on. Do this step no matter what kind of fruit your are freezing – it really does work.
  3. Place them in an air tight container or zip-top bag and place in the freezer for storage. They will stay good for months and you can have Italian plums in the middle of winter!

Since I was basically making this for myself, I decided to use a small ramekin to bake it in which held about 10 ounces of plums (about 6). I cut the crisp part into fourths, and froze  what I didn’t use so I can make another one later on with the frozen plums from above.

Sliced Plums

Ina is all about adding ingredients to bring out the flavor of the main ingredient(s) in a dish. In this recipe, she recommends creme de cassis which is a black currant liqueur. I’m sure it does add great flavor to the dish but I’m not about to go out and buy a whole bottle of liqueur just to utilize in one recipe – albeit that Ina does recommend that you can mix the liqueur with white wine or champagne to make kir or kir royale (sounds super fancy – right?). However, I just used lemon juice with a tiny bit of vanilla. The acidity from the lemon will bring out the flavor of the plums just fine and also mix with the flour and sugar to create the “goo” that is a staple for any good crisp recipe. I also added my own twist to this by adding cinnamon to the topping. Just about a quarter of a teaspoon adds a little warmth and it totally appropriate for the start of fall.

Pre-bake!

Pre-bake!

Lastly, just something to keep in mind – when baking or even cooking using fruit, try to choose fruit that are not quite ripe yet. If the fruit is overripe, it will turn to mush when cooked whereas when under ripe, it will soften and still hold its shape.

P.S. – I don’t think anyone would mind if you served this with some ice cream… 🙂

Plum Crunch with Ice cream

Enjoy!

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B2B #9: Plum Crunch
A new take on a crisp using seasonal Italian Prune Plums. From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 205
Servings
people
Ingredients
Filling
Topping
Servings
people
Ingredients
Filling
Topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. For the fruit - in a large bowl, combine the plums, brown sugar, flour and cassis (or lemon juice and vanilla). Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish, pie plate, or individual ramekins.
  3. For the topping - combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, walnuts, cinnamon, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the plum mixture.
  4. Bake the plum crunch for 40 to 45 minutes. I recommend that you place the dish on a baking sheet with either foil or parchment paper because it will bake over and will catch the drippings. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.
Recipe Notes

Plums not your thing? You can use peaches that are in season - just make sure they are under ripe so they don't cook to mush.

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