Emeril’s Apple Coffee Cake

The Banker is not one for big breakfasts.  I gave up even asking if he wanted me to make anything years ago.  Now, Saturday mornings finds him running to the donut shop for the kids while I sleep in my warm, cozy bed.  So really, I’m thankful he doesn’t want me to cook in the morning.  I didn’t need the extra calories from pancakes anyway.

However, there is the occasional event that warrants something a little more special.  Like when you have house guests you want to impress.  Thank you JennyRambles for introducing me to the wonderful world of Apple Coffee Cake a la Emeril Legasse.

I’ll admit that this is a labor of love kind of dish.  It doesn’t exactly throw itself together and I seem to create plenty of dirty dishes in the process.  But a few dishes in the sink isn’t enough to scare me off.  Plus, The Banker normally starts in on those before I’m even putting the dish into the oven.

This wonderful breakfast treat will surely make your kitchen smell heavenly.  Whether you have house guests to impress, an occasion to celebrate or you just want a delicious apple cake, this is the recipe for you.  I promise, you won’t regret it.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Emeril’s Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping

Prep time: 30-60 minutes (depends on how good you are in the kitchen)
Baking time: 45 minutes
Serves: 12 (or 8 really hungry people)

Original Recipe from Food Network

Cake:

  • 1 stick plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples

Crumble Topping:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • Grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples.
  • Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.
  • For the topping, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl and mix with a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake.
  • Bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

BTS Tip:

I have always skipped the Brown Sugar Glaze found in the original recipe.  I find the cake to be perfect without it and my leftovers aren’t soggy when I heat it up.

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Chocolate Chubbies

Recently I was forced to take a day off from work and stay home to nurse Marshmellow’s nasty cold.

[Side note: as a mom, I have the hardest time deciding when a kid should stay home.  I mean…it’s a cold, right?  And the germs were more potent the week before we even knew there was an illness looming.  But the cough that morning sounded kinda nasty and she gave me sad puppy dog eyes.  So I changed back into my pajamas.]

The time at home gave me a chance to catch up on old emails and all of the blogs I like to follow.   Blogs are like a drug.  And they feed into the HGTV syndrome.  You know the one.  The one where you watch other people being creative and awesome and you immediately want to do it yourself, but you know in the long run it will never turn out as good so you don’t even bother.  Yeah, that one.  But baking is something I can do!

“Hey Marshmellow, what feel-better treat would you like mommy to make you?”

“What are my choices?”

“Anything you want!  Cookies, cake, bars, a special lunch.  Anything.”

“I do like cake…but…I like cookies too.  What kind of cookies would you make?”

“That’s up to you sweetie.  What ingredient do you want?”

“CHOCOLATE!”

Back to the computer I went in search of different chocolate cookie recipes.  Marshmellow quickly followed and helped in the selection process.  We eventually came down to two choices: Chocolate Chubbies and Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies, both found on Serious Eats.

We determined that there was TONS of chocolate in the Chocolate Chubbies, so they won.  This time.

After a quick run to the grocery store, I was back in the kitchen.  I sent Marshmellow to the couch for some rest, which allowed me to go about my merry way.  All. By.  Myself.

I find the whole baking process to be very therapeutic.  Especially if I am allowed to do it without kids fighting over which ingredient they get to pour in, who gets to stir, they’ve had the spoon longer, I wanted that one….  I also find the smell of melting chocolate intoxicating.  And who can resist warm cookies?

I never can remember.  Is is starve a cold, feed a fever or feed a cold, starve a fever? Actually, who cares?  I find both of them to be ridiculous.  Who ever thought starving a sick person was a good idea anyway?

Marshmellow and I enjoyed a few warm Chocolate Chubbies and snuggled together on the couch.  I’d say the feel-better treat was a big hit.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Chocolate Chubbies

Makes: 2 dozen cookies

Recipe from Serious Eats

1 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

  • Preheat over to 350° F
  • Line your baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Melt the butter on the stove using a double-boiler.  Add the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate, stirring often, until all chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
  • Sift the flour, baking powers and salt together in a medium bowl.
  • Whip the eggs using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the eggs are foamy and lightly thickened, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar, then vanilla.  Whip until the eggs are very thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
  • Reduce speed to medium and add the cooled chocolate until incorporated.
  • Place the paddle attachment on the mixer and reduce speed to low.  Slowly add the flour mixture.
  • Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the chocolate chips, pecans and walnuts until well mixed.  The dough will be soft.
  • Scoop batter onto pans about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake immediately if you want your cookies to look shiny.
  • Bake 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan half way through.  The cookies will be done with the edges release easily, even if the center seems underdone.

BTS Tip:

My first batch I just dropped the dough on the pans.  The second batch I rolled them.  I personally like the look of the rolled ones better.

Since these were the feel-better treat, I went all out and bought Ghiradelli chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate bars.  This made this little cookies ridiculous expensive.  Next time, I’ll try the store brand chocolate.  I bet they taste just as awesome.

My office raved about these cookies…so I think these are approved to serve at gatherings.

Naughty Bars

Back in June, I spent a nice weekend with my Great Aunt in Minneapolis and came across her Penzeys Spice magazine and catalog.  There I was, mindlessly flipping through the pages when…BAMNaughty Bars appear on the page.  In between pages of spices are cute little stories from their readers and a recipe they like to make.  Well, Monica likes it naughty.

So what do you do when you come across a Midwestern gem like this?  You snap a picture of the recipe with your phone.

Yes, I’m the freak who takes a picture of just about everything.  Pictures aren’t just for cute kids any more.  I take photos of items and price tags at stores.  I capture the plate of food before I eat it.  I send snapshots of a potential outfit to my best friend for approval.  And anything else I need to remember, but know I will forget without photographic evidence.  Which is increasing in frequency.

My mom says one of the joys of getting old is having the benefit of learning something twice.  Skimming my pictures last week, I came across this recipe and got excited all over again.  But this time…I was at home and was able to do something about it.

The great thing about these Naughty Bars (or brown sugar bars as my mom remembers them), is the simple ingredient list.  No running to the store for some obscure ingredient that none of the sales clerks no what isle it might be in.  Just your basics:  butter, eggs, flour and brown sugar.

Also, it takes just a few minutes to pull all the ingredients out, mix them together an get them in the oven.

Morale of this story:  make some Naughty Bars to have a quick, simple, and comforting dessert.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Naughty Bars

Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 15

Recipe from Penzeys 

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tps vanilla
2 cups flour
2 large eggs

  • Preheat over to 350° F
  • Grease a 9×13 pan with butter
  • In glass bowl, melt butter on high for 30 seconds or until almost completely melted
  • Using a wooden spoon, mix in brown sugar until completed mixed
  • Add baking powder, salt and vanilla and mix well
  • Gradually add the flour and mix well – the batter will be stiff
  • Whisk the eggs well in a small bowl and add them to the batter, mixing well one last time
  • Spread the batter into prepared pan and bake until golden around the edges and the center is still soft, about 30 minutes
  • DO NOT OVER BAKE!
  • Let cool completely before cutting into small squares.

They go together quickly and there are NEVER any left over!

BTS Tip:

Serve a la mode.  Because everything is better with ice cream.

Cell Phone Pic

Honey Apple Brie Bites

There are occasions where little smokies and beer cheese dips are the perfect pairing. Like a football party. [Have you looked at the calendar lately?  Football season is upon us.  Keep those recipes on the top of the pile.]

But a bridal shower deserves an appetizer with more class.  More sophistication.  More elegance.  And there enters my Easy and Impressive Appetizers cookbook recently purchased from Pampered Chef.

Want to make your guests think you’re a genius in the kitchen?  Pick up this book, open to any page and make it.

I opted for the Honey Apple Brie Bites. There’s something about brie that makes me think high class.

The official recipe lists two steps.  But that’s assuming you’ve zested your lemon, toasted your walnuts, diced your apples and cubed your cheese.  But even with adding those steps in, it’s a pretty simple thing to throw together.

In my crazed party mode, I completely forgot about the walnuts.  But it turns out phyllo shells are really, really small.  So small, that I had to go back and cut my brie cubes in halves and quarters just to fit.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not one who likes nuts in my baked goods. I find that walnuts seem to take over in a perfectly fine brownie or in moist banana bread.  So perhaps it was my subconscious overlooking this particular ingredient.  But I honestly don’t think this recipe needed anything more than the brie and apples.  Did I mention how small those shells are?  Nuts would have just taken up space better used on apples.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Honey-Apple Brie Bites

1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup toasted walnuts (optional)
2 medium red apples, finely diced
1/4 cup honey
1 4-inch Brie cheese, cut into small cubes

  • Preheat over to 400°F
  • Combine lemon zest, walnuts (if using), diced apples and honey in a bowl and gently mix.
  • Arrange phyllo cups on a large cookie sheet and place one Brie cube into each cup.  Top with a scoop of apple mixture.
  • Bake 6-8 minutes or until cheese is melted.

BTS Tips:

  • Phyllo shells don’t give you much room.  Dice those apples into very fine pieces.   Same goes for the Brie.
  • I had a hard time getting much apple chutney on top of the brie cube, so I filled the cup with the apple mixture first and then placed the cheese on top.  This helped with monitoring the cheese melting as well.
  • These little suckers were gobbled up by the ladies.  I would recommend getting 3 packages of phyllo shells.  There should still be plenty of Brie and apple mixture to use as filling.

Makes 30 cups

Recipe from Pampered Chef

Lavender Shortbread

I was treated to not one, but two different lavender desserts while in the lush state of Washington.  The first was a devine lavender cookie from Blackbird Bakery located on Winslow Way of Bainbridge Island.  It was enjoyed outside sitting at an old fashioned concrete chess table under a shade tree.  The second was from Three Girls Bakery in the Post Aly of Pikes Place Market while watching the world walk by. 

Knowing I was making lavender lemonaide for an upcoming bridal shower, I immediately decided another layer was going toadded to the menu.  After all, I already had lavender flowers in the house.  A few internet searches later, I found the one I was ready to try.

Look a the beauty of the lavender flowers with the bright yellow lemon zest.  Love.

This was my first attempt in shortbread.  I was suprised at the lack of ingredients and the look of simplicity reading the instrustions.  Then I was taken by surprise by how few cookies it made and quickly decided that another double batch was in oder. 

They were so yummy, I decided that they were going to be part of my take-home treats for our guests.

Thank God for good neighbors…I was two eggs short for the last batch.  To reward her for  her generosity, she was presented with the final product.  She came back to thank me!Let me tell you why you need to make these for your next party: Rolling out the dough to make the cut outs is like playing with stress releiving playdough.  No joke.  In the midst of party planning, food prep and house cleaning, the scent of lavender and the slow, intentional motions forming perfect hearts and flowers was so calming.  And if it can calm my craziness, just imagine what it can do for you.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

sam

Lavender Shortbread

¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp dried lavender
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp lemon zest
1¾ cup  flour
3 large egg yolks
1 cup  sugar, for coating

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Gently mix the powdered sugar and lavender together in a bowl
  • In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, lemon zest and lavender/sugar until smooth
  • Add the flour and mix until well combined
  • Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated
  • Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, not letting the dough get too firm
  • Roll the dough out to 1.5cm thickness
  • Pick your favorite cookie cutter and go to town
  • Dip each cut out into the granulated sugar, coating all sides
  • Bake on the parchment lined pan for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges

Makes about 12-15  small cookies.

Recipe adapted from this blog post from Milk and Cookies.

Poulsbo and Sogno di Vino

During our time on the Kitsap Peninsula, we found an adorable little town by the name of Poulsbo or “Little Norway.” My Scandinavian roots were intrigued…

I wanted to take my time in each and every one of the quaint little shops featuring antiques, Norwegian nit-knacks, and baked goods.  Instead, we quickly walked the streets and ushered cranky children back into the car.  But I left unsatisfied and insisted we return.

After an enjoyable afternoon roaming the streets, savoring another cup of local coffee, and dreaming of how to redecorate my entire house beach cottage style, it was time for more food.  Two restaurants were recommended: Mor Mor Bistro & Bar for fresh northwest flavor and Sogno di Vino for authentic Italian cuisine.  The Banker had  his fill of local fare and opted for Italian.

I was allowed to dine alfresco.  Our table sat under a 100 year old Magnolia tree wrapped in white lights and I was able to see the Puget Sound, marina and the adorable street all at once.  Add a glass of a local blended white wine to the mix, and I was one happy girl.

The food!  I haven’t talked about the mouth-watering food that was placed upon our firepit adorned table. Of course, every Italian restaurant will serve fresh bread.  Sogno di Vino was no exception.  The flavorful bread had a salted crust and was drizzled with what I’m assuming was infused olive oil.

The Banker ordered the Tuscan Steak with Espresso & roasted almond mascarpone that was served with fingerling potatoes, balsamic braised shallots and asparagus.  My fork may or may not have reached across the table a few times.

In typical form, I made my order slightly more complicated.  I ordered the Strawberries, Beets and Feta salad…hold the beets, add chicken.  It came with spring greens, strawberries, candied pecans, feta and a Raspberry-balsamic vinaigrette.  I practically licked the bowl.  If we hadn’t already eaten all the bread, I would have used it to soak up the left over dressing.

Should you ever find yourself anywhere near this darling town, either on Bainbridge Island or in Seattle looking for a day trip, you need to go.  Preferably without children so you can actually enjoy the quiet streets and shops in peace.

Make Mexican Food An Event

The fam has a new Mexican food habit on Friday nights.  So we make Mexican food an event these days.

It’s really just because The Banker has taken a liking to our local Mexican restaurant’s chips and salsa.  So we keep going back for it.

The salsa we really like is the roasted tomato salsa.  But it photographs horribly and The Banker was getting pissed I was still taking pictures with my phone.  So you’ll have to settle on the fresh salsa.  But it does have my beloved cilantro in it.

The restaurant has this great little back patio with a water feature and a giant metal cactus.  We were lucky enough to snag one of those outdoor tables the first time.  Typically, there’s too long of a wait and we end up inside.

During our first visit, I was enticed by their drink special.  It was some lovely mixture of flavored vodka, juice and sprite.  That’s the one picture up above.  I never remember what it was, so my I send my waiter with a vague drink order to give the bartender.  I figure they’ll come back with something good.   Oddly enough, a margarita has yet to hit my table.  Perhaps I’ll try out their sangria margarita next time.  For now, I enjoy this fruity vodka mix.

We tend to chow down on all the free chips and salsa brought to our table.  By the time our food arrives, we aren’t really  hungry.  Plus by this then, the kids are over the etch a sketch they were given for entertainment and have turned to driving us completely nuts.  Which makes me want to say, “Waiter, can I get another drink here?”

Wait, back to the food.  This time we were smart and decided to split a meal.  The Banker seemed unimpressed by everything, so I got to pick.

This is what the menu reads, verbatim:

Fiesta Chicken Salad: caution, this salad can be addictive! strips of seasoned grilled chicken, fresh mixed salad greens, cilantro and tortilla strips tossed in our signature tequila lime vinaigrette and topped with our chipotle peanut sauce.

DANG!  It was addicting.  I scarfed my half of the salad as if a hungry bear might take it from me.  When I finally came up for air to check on the rest of the table, I saw The Banker casually pushing lettuce around his plate.  So I scarfed his down too.  Definitely my new favorite.

My point?  Find yourself a nice Mexican restaurant, eat their free chips and salsa and Make Mexican Food An Event.

Sunday Salads

I’ve been a dedicated yo-yo dieter for a good part of my life.  Most of the time, its all-for-not with an end with little result and complete frustration.  Sound familiar?

Then I was talking with a friend who told me how she lost all kinds of weight on a high-end, über expensive diet.  [And since this isn’t a paid advertisement, and not at all the point of this blog, I’m not going to name names.]  For perhaps the first time in my life, I was determined to have real results.  So I committed.  Like, seriously committed.  Committed to the tons of lean protein, tons of green veggies and very minimal dairy and starches.  And it worked!  I lost 20 pounds in 3 months.  And all I did was change how I ate.  Of course, all means all my food was changed.

But life goes on… and so do the pounds.  Because I can’t commit to never eat a brownie again.  Or enjoy adult beverages on the back patio on a hot summer night.  So instead, I’ve repeatedly gained and lost at least ten of those pounds over the last two years.  And while I try to recreate my good diet habits, I’ve never been able to find that solid commitment I had the first go around.

The one habit that I haven’t lost is my daily lunch salad.  It’s one of those salads that the ladies in the lunchroom always ogle over because it looks so much better than their frozen meal or left over dinner that turned kinda mushy.  Nobody likes mushy left overs.  But admit it, you would want to eat this too.

 How do you create this beauty?

Start with fresh ingredients.  I use romaine lettuce, baby spinach, celery, green onions, and red peppers. But you add to your hearts content.

Chop away.  I use 1 to 1 ½ heads of romaine and spread it across four salad bowls.  Then I tear some spinach onto and layer away with the rest of my veggies.  That’s right, I make four salads at a time because who has time to do this in the middle of the week?  Not me.  I avoid too much cooking.

Add some meat.  The Banker is amazingly kind and grills up a bunch of chicken for me every Sunday night.  Regardless what [or where] dinner is that night.  He’s pretty awesome like that.  Then I let it cool of and cut up the meat into chunks.

Garnish.  If I’m feeling extra special, I’ll add some fresh cilantro.  How I love me some cilantro.  And if I’m lucky, I have some feta in the house to enjoy.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite.

And since I’ve already dirtied the cutting board, I generally make a few containers of veggies for the kids to munch on for the week.  Celery slices, red pepper slices and cucumber slices.  It’s a good time saver.

And look at that, I do make more than dessert.  Although those are way yummier.

sam