Tag Archives: A Proper Cup

The First Brunch in 2013!

January 2013

Happy-Healthy-2013

There’s still so much of 2012 that has yet to sink in! I styled my first wedding, and I made my first wedding cake for very dear friends (pictures still to come)! I played with chocolate for four days which transformed into this catalog. There were brunches with the best of friends, travels for new ideas and inspiration and many a moment shared with my special one. This past year was a good one, but I have a clearer direction and a new zeal for a new year! May the fruits of 2012 and the lessons learned become the raised glasses and toasts of 2013!

First Brunch Beverages

I was so privileged this year to make a big journey right before the holidays (more on that soon!!). The very distanced time away relaxed my mind and invigorated my spirit, a perfect combination for reflection. The goals unfurled from there. Goals or resolutions, whatever you may call them, this year I am all about them! I’m not talking the generic, “lose weight” types of New Year’s resolutions which are abandoned long before February 1st. I’m talking focused, outlined goals, with defined actions, which will push me from all angles- health & wellbeing, relationships, education, creativity and so on.

First Mimosas

In 2013, I will be a more positive and grateful person who draws and paints and wraps her brain around subjunctive verb forms while leafing through Spanish and French dictionaries. I will continue to educate myself. I will have a portfolio. I will tell the people who matter to me why they matter to me! I will tell those who have inspired me how they have inspired me. I will make mistakes along the way, but I will practice discipline to overcome my fears of failure. I will continue on this route I have mapped, and that my friends, is quite an exciting prospect!

Whipped Cream for Coffee

Homemade whipped cream + French Pressed Coffee =

Whipped Cream Plus Coffee

Poor girl’s cappuccino? A fancy girl’s cappuccino!

First Brunch 2013 is Served

Happy-New-Year-2013

Much like the transition I am hoping to see from 2012 to 2013, New Year’s Eve dinner was good, but New Year’s Day Brunch was even better! Our New Year’s Eve menu featured roasted salmon and bacon sliders, with avocado and blue cheese, served with roasted sweet potato fries, steamed artichokes, salad and red wine. The leftover salmon and avocado transformed into a delicious egg scramble the following year. (Donut recipes to come in subsequent posts).

First Brunch Plate

Here’s to a brand new year of beautiful brunches and positive changes! What are your resolutions?

p.s: This is a great collection of creative resolutions.
p.p.s: Here are some more positive words for shaping a brand new year!

Birch-and-Barley-Beautiful-Menu

They Had Us At “Birch & Barley” (Brunch in Washington DC)

September 2012

This Labor Day weekend I attended a very special wedding in Chantilly, VA. Where is Chantilly, Va? For the purpose of a Sunday morning, Chantilly is precisely “close enough” to Washington DC to justify a jaunt for brunch . A quick investigation of the DC brunch scene revealed a restaurant entitled “Birch & Barley.” As two rustically-inclined, event designers, they had us at “Birch!”

One of Birch & Barley‘s biggest claims to fame is its collection of 555 artisanal beers, of which I drank not a drop. Brunch, I repeat, I was there for brunch (I’m also such a baby when it comes to beer, but that is beside the point at 11am). The display of beers on tap dazzled me nonetheless.

Though I did not spy any birch, I immediately embraced the interior scheme of rustic brick and glass candleholders wired to the wall and columns. The menu was also a thing of beauty- thick, watercolor paper with letterpress inspired fonts and “painted” dabs demonstrating the farm-fresh egg varieties.

Warm Brioche Sticky Bun
Brown Sugar Caramel, Pecans, Cream Cheese

I’m a big fan of ordering a cinnamon roll for the table (exhibit A), and the use of brioche dough in this sweet bun added all the extra allure I needed to choose between this and the donut varieties (Toffee-Bacon, Lemon-Poppy Glazed, Bittersweet Chocolate to name just a few examples). The roll was fresh and warm, and the dough was light and squishy. The only complaint was the uneven distribution of cream cheese, which appeared in a little burst.

Note: The half & half arrived in a metal version of a [miniature] carton of milk. As the waiter said, “we really try with the details.” I applauded!

Duck Confit Quiche
Caramelized Onions, Frisee Aux Lardons, Fried Shallots

A little heavy on the duck and light on the quiche, but still a passing entree. The hash browns arrived in a Jenga-like stack of fresh herbs in a crisp, fried case. One major oversight of our waiter was a failure to tell us the entree included hash browns, since we ordered a side of them. Apparently, he took us for ravenous and gluttonous (which fair enough because we did order way too much food, including a serving of the house-smoked bacon…house-smoked!!!).

Fried Chicken & Waffles
Belgian Waffle, Buttered Pecans, Maple-Chicken Jus

We went overboard, but when we saw chicken and waffles…we just had to! I would have liked an ample supply of maple syrup to push the sweet and savory juxtaposition, but alas, it was a drier serving. Pittsburghers will be happy to note, we both enjoyed this version, but in our hearts, we knew we would have preferred the cheddar, jalapeño, cornbread waffle with bourbon-bacon maple syrup from … you guessed it… Meat and Potatoes.

Sometimes you just need a little excursion to make you appreciate the places nearer to home. That being said, the overall Birch & Barley design, the food and the wanderings outside the restaurant door made the trip well worth our while. I would sincerely love to return with a hearty beer drinker and a healthy appetite for a really great cocktail!

Keepin’ It Real: Coffee & Curses

July 2012

Somewhere in this great, big world, is a yoga teacher who inspired my practice long after she left the room. Beyond her yoga insights and inspirations, a phrase of hers will stick with me forever. One of her students was about to make drastic changes to her diet, the type of changes that affect more than a shopping list. The yoga teacher encouraged her with ideas and affirmations, and then she uttered the phrase I have made into a mantra.

“There are two things in this world I’ll never give up: coffee and the f-bomb.”

For all the things we might give up in this world, it’s equally important to cling fiercely to something else. If you’re going to cling, why not cling to something dark, bold, undiluted and really fucking flavorful! Caffeine is one of my least concernes when it comes to coffee. Why I cling to it, is because of its complex flavors, varying textures and the experiences of gathering with friends or sipping slowly while reading or writing. However, that caffeine is, very often, a great perk!

In your coffee wanderings, might I suggest trying something new and intense? I spotted this bottle of cold pressed coffee at my local Whole Foods. Of course, this bottle could never fully pry me away from my true love for coffee in Pittsburgh- Espresso A Mano.

A Cold Pressed Bottled Coffee from La Colombe

Steeped for 16 hours in stainless steel wine tanks, free from oxygen, pressed and filtered twice, PURE BLACK is a bottled celebration of the culinary flavors of coffee – cocoa tones and sweet goodness. We recommend pouring PURE BLACK over ice.  100% Real – No Dilution & No Preservatives

Pork-n-Pone

A Spot of Hillbilly Tea

June 2012

The weekend had been a Bonnaroo whirlwind, but the Sunday morning raindrops over Manchester, Tennessee fields, put us on the road earlier than we intended.  We may have missed some Bonnaroo shows as a result, but foregoing rainy concerts meant more time for lunch along the way.  Thanks to Nicole, we decided upon a quaint patch of Louisville, Kentucky called Hillbilly Tea.

“At its core Hillbilly Tea is an Appalachian themed “Tea Café”, which offers a variety of fresh organic whole leaf teas and boast a full menu of wholesome mountain inspired comfort foods.”

From my first peek through the door, I knew we had made the right decision.  There was an abundance of brick, rustic wood, old metal and mason jars.  On top of the visual welcome, our waiter was brimming with positivity and personality.  We all exchanged Bonnaroo stories and a few traveling tales before even discussing the menu.  I told the waiter I was ready to move into the space, and his enthusiasm for the place just beamed.  It was so apparent he genuinely adored the cafe, and it made an amazing cafe all the more memorable!

pork & pone
w/ garlic mayo red cabbage chow chow & choice of side

Sweet, tangy, tender chunks of pork atop slightly sweet and spongey corn pone…

…very quickly became a picked over plate!

Duck Burger
w/ house bacon, caramelized onions, greens & cheese

Additionally there was a cakey biscuit with local honey, smokey greens that taught me how proper southern greens can really steal the show, sweet potatoes and endless mason jars of Nettle tea from the Hillbilly farm outside of town.

Our charismatic waiter said “dessert,” and I was going to pass, but he kept talking, and when he did, he uttered the words “bourbon bread pudding.”  We ordered it without hesitation.  We did it for us, and we did it for Nicole, knowing she would surely be on her way to some celestial paradise if she could have taken just one bight of the warm caramel-topped bread chunks with a meringue topping and BURSTS of bourbon flavor!  Our charismatic waiter also suggested a hot tea pairing similar to a chai but made with a smoky black tea, milk and sorghum syrup.  It was the type of tea that conjures views of bluish-green hills shrouded in low, dewey clouds, when time is timeless and the quiet is invigorating.  It was an entire scene of calming respite in a sip of smokey tea.

I could have stayed there all day, just sipping tea and enjoying the waiter entertain each table with his happy attitude, wild gingery beard and blonde hair.  I could have, but alas I, for some reason, continued on the journey toward home.

Tea & Biscuits

May 2012

Sometimes simple and sophisticated packaging properly represents its contents.  Sometimes a spot of tea is worth a bit of decadence.  Sometimes tea inspires more than just musings, even though inspired musings are worth a shiny penny as well.

Tea for two is usually best, but sometimes a third little, tiny explorer is welcome as well.

Tea and biscuits are a pair made for quiet, slow mornings. This time, tea and biscuits were a very perfect pair connected via flavors of coconut and almond.

Coconut Almond Buckwheat Biscuits
With Peaches ‘n Cream 

Ingredients

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup local buckwheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup unsulphured coconut shreds
12 Tablespoons (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sliced almonds
1 ½ cups local buttermilk (or 1 ½ cups local milk + 1 ½ Tbs lemon juice)
½ teaspoon organic almond extract

Directions

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position, and heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch skillet.

Combine the flours, baking powder, salt, baking soda and shredded coconut in a large bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour mixture until the combination resembles coarse meal.

Add the sliced almonds.

Stir in the buttermilk until combined.

Use a greased ½-cup measuring cup to transfer heaping portions of dough into the prepared skillet.

Bake until the biscuits are puffed and golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

Cool in the skillet slightly.

Serve with homemade whipped cream and warm, sweet peaches.

Whipped Topping

1 cup organic heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Honey, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a chilled bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve and eat abundantly.

Peach Topping

Ingredients

4-5 organic peaches, pitted and sliced
organic unsalted butter
organic brown sugar, to taste

Directions

Add a smidge or two of butter to a pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced peaches.  Swirl the peaches around until they start to brown ever so slightly.  Add brown sugar to your taste, and continue to swirl a bit.  Remove from heat.  Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Cake & The Beanstalk!

May 2012

Having felt the fatiguing effects of a brunch bourbon (judge me not, it was brunch!), it was the perfect time to take a quick stroll and discover a whimsical little coffee shop called Cake and the Beanstalk.

Cake and the Beanstalk
1112 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Neighborhood: Washington Square West

The colors were bright and cheery, the sizes were silly, and the chairs provided a wee bit of entertainment.

Oh how happy was I to see Lucy the Margate elephant again…this time on a cute, little chair!

Of course there had to be a chair routing for the hometown team.

I was also partial to the Queen, not for any power issues, just the alliteration…I swear!

So if you’re looking to satisfy your adult need for caffeine and your inner child’s need for color and playfulness, Cake and the Beanstalk is the perfect place! And the drinks are good too (sorry we didn’t have room for cake after the beautiful garden brunch)!

Header_kinfolk

Third Time’s A Charm: The Kinfolk Dinner Series

May 2012

Once upon an internet stroll, I happened upon a beautiful, blossoming endeavor entitled Kinfolk.  Beneath a video that admittedly moves my overly sentimental side to watery eyes, was a manifesto that spoke straight to my sensibilities:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us…. Kinfolk is the marriage of our appreciation for art and design and our love for spending time with family and friends.

Thus, I made a habit of regularly visiting the pages of Kinfolk.  What impressed me beyond the refined design and the enviable places and products (and they are enviable!), was the way the site seemed to preserve  meaningful moments in time.  Reading Kinfolk feels like a quiet visit to a memory.  

Beyond the awe inspiring posts and publications, Kinfolk began a dinner series tour! When I noticed Philadelphia on the list of cities in the tour, at Terrain specifically, my mind began whirling. Before I knew it, my finger was clicking the option to enter the lottery for tickets. Fortunately, whimsy and practicality worked in a harmony entitled Memorial Day Weekend!

This harmony almost did not come to beautiful, burlap accented fruition. The lottery for dinner tickets did not favor me, but the Monday before the dinner, I received an uplifting email.  Due to a few cancellations, there was room for me and my guest should I still want to attend. Should I still want to attend?!?  Of course I did!

Beyond the excitement of taking part in a Kinfolk dinner, I was especially thrilled with the choice of location.  This marked my third attempt to eat at Terrain.  Please excuse what will surely sound like the “woe is me” ramblings of first world problems when I say my first attempt to visit Terrain (not just Terrain but a craft beer and local honey festival!!!) was thwarted by the heavy rains of a passing hurricane (on the up side, I prepared this meal for my friends, and they’re still talking about it!).  On the second attempt, I took my good old time meandering through the store then joined my place in line to be seated.  As my turn came, I looked at the hostess hopefully, and she announced my second failure- they were no longer taking names.  Hence, attempt number two was a beautiful fail. As I arrived at Terrain, yet again, the other two fails felt purposeful, as if they had led me to this third time, the beautiful, enchanting charm!

And oh, was it charming!

If you, like me, associated Pennsylvania wines with the taste of communion, then you, like me, will be thrilled to discover a wine that proves us wrong.  From what I gather, what distinguishes Galer wines is the intentional choice of which exceptional grapes are suited for PA soils versus existing PA grape varieties turned into wine. Dr. Galer also sought experts in the field of viticulture when he began his endeavor, which you can read about here.

To Start

Flower Pot Bread:  tarragon honey butter, smoked sea salt

Mixed Field Greens:  sliced radishes, wild strawberries, toasted almonds, micro basil, balsamic vinaigrette

Main

Rosemary Honey Mustard Leg of Lamb

Quinoa:  sugar snap peas, baby carrots, english peas, pea tendrils

Kennett Square Mushroom Skillet:  wild mushrooms, organic eggs

Sauteed Lancaster County Vegetables:  Fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, dwarf bok choy

Sweets

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pecan Pie

To see the beautiful menu in its full glory, click here.  The design came all the way from a talented artist in the Netherlands named Anja Mulder.

Even the napkins added a clean and rustic touch, so I adorned my lap very proper like.

Do you spy the brilliant idea in the photo on the right?  I shall soon try my hand at gardening little pots of soft, fluffy and slightly sweet bread.  Beyond the brilliance of the idea, the bread was one of the most delicious breads I have ever sampled (and I have sampled quite an array of breads!).

One benefit of eating with foodies and photo fiends is the patience given to the documentation of beautiful meals.  These weren’t just any foodies either!  I’ve been a fan of Something’s Hiding in Here ever since I saw the tour of Shauna and Stephen’s Philadelphia loft, so meeting the incredibly enthusiastic and humble couple was much like a celebrity encounter for this dorky blog reader.

Sitting directly to my right was Sullivan Owen, who had adorned the Terrain barn with her floral designs.  Aside from being very friendly and talented, Sullivan offered me lots of business inspiration!  I hope to spend more time learning from Sullivan in the future, and if that time is accented by one of her stunning arrangements, all the better!

That wasn’t all!  Across the table were Andrew and Carissa, the lovely couple behind many a Kinfolk video, specifically the Manifesto video that drew me to Kinfolk in the first place!  I can’t wait to see what they culled from this dream dinner.

Quite the plate!  My favorite main was the Kennet Square Mushroom Skillet. The mushrooms were quite meaty!

One might expect the coffee to be prepared with utmost care at a dinner focused on bringing people together, and one would be right.  Two Rachels served coffee prepared specially for each and every coffee partaker.

They even sent us on our merry ways with a creatively packaged single brew sample.

Additionally, Sullivan offered her floral displays as a generous token of her talents, and the very stylish farmers of Happy Cat Farm bestowed organic tomato plants upon us and an extra pack of seeds in the little totes on a big mission from Nest.  The night just continued to impress!

It was a beautiful dream dinner, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!  My third attempt at Terrain was beyond a charm. Kinfolk shared their own account of the night through the multiple lenses of this talented and personable photographer. I love how dark and saturated Parker’s images are, and I was especially excited to see this photo made the cut.  ;)

Here’s hopin’ many of us cross paths again!

Cafe-Estelle

Brunching in Philadelphia: Cafe Estelle

May 2012

A friend sent me this list based on my predilection for brunching. When brainstorming my goals for Memorial Day weekend, three points earned Cafe Estelle a spot on my list:

1.  Cafe Estelle serves brunch on Saturdays.
2.  According to the cafe’s website, they were voted “Best of Philly: Best Brunch.” (Not that I live my life according to ratings and lists, but I do take them into consideration).
3.  The cafe focuses on local, sustainable and organic ingredients as much as possible.

Thus, we found ourselves outside a gated apartment building parking lot on a sunny Saturday in Philly. The locale and facade are not major selling forces for the cafe, nor was the interior brimming with style, but it did offer a few worthy accents.

Cafe Estelle
444 N 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Neighborhoods: Spring Garden, Northern Liberties

Cream Cheese Walnut Sticky Bun
Cream cheese, walnuts, brown sugar, warm cream cheese icing

We spied the remains of one of these monstrous rolls on another table, and those remains were enough to convince us to order our own.  This cinnamon roll was more like cake rolled around itself either because the roll was still very warm and hadn’t set yet or possibly because some woman named Estelle had a very different idea of what a cinnamon roll should be.  Either way, it was a pleasant enough sweet treat for an indulgent morning, but it wasn’t exactly what one would expect when ordering a “cinnamon roll” and therefore, slightly disappointing.

The perk of the self-serve coffee was the variety of options.  I chose a Costa Rican variety for my pretty floral mug.

Strawberry, Rhubarb and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
Rhubarb compote and Warm maple syrup

Colossal!  These stacks of French toast were impressively colossal, and the filling was so secretly piped into the center, it was almost magical.  I would have sacrificed some size in exchange for more rhubarb compote and a fresher filling.  The cream cheese filling tasted a bit too runny, as if it had been cut with a strawberry flavored yogurt.  This brunch entree was still worthy of repeated forkfuls, even excessive forkfuls, but again, it didn’t quite live up to the appeal of its description.

Eggs Juan
Poached eggs, salt cod brandade fritters, smoked paprika-tomato hollandaise with homefries and toast

These eggs were just as good as the description!  I’m not sure who Juan is, but I highly recommend his spicy, creamy eggs over fishy fritters!

Overall, I didn’t walk away disappointed, but I probably wouldn’t make a point of returning.

Happy Mother’s Day: An Ode To The Mothers in My Life!

May 2012

When I try to gauge, just for the sake of gauging, whether or not I could take that giant leap toward motherhood, I ask myself, “would I give up that last bit of bright cherry pie or mint chocolate chip ice cream or mashed potatoes with a pool of rich gravy?”  I ask that question because of a childhood moment, when my mom gave me the last of her mashed potatoes (which I probably drowned in gravy).  From the naive perspective of little me, that sacrifice was HUGE!

I couldn’t imagine giving up my last mashed potatoes.  No way!  Years later, I know this was merely a snowflake on the iceberg of sacrifices my mother made for me.  The question of “would I give up my mashed potatoes?” may seem too simple.  However, it’s really a question of “would I devote myself to motherhood the way my mom did?”  Of all the roles I may one day have, the role of mother is the one I will take the most seriously, and it’s because I am so fortunate to have a mother who gave herself 100% to her children!

There are so many questions I have for Regina the woman.  There are so many aspects and stories from her life I do not know, but as her daughter, I know her well.  Regina the mother is the most patient listening ear.  She is the most generous and thoughtful person. She makes everyone feel special on their birthdays.  She trusted and supported me to make decisions for myself, only wanting what was best for me, never wanting to control me.

For that freedom, I am immensely grateful… ever more grateful by the day when I hear friends tell of the ways their mothers imposed their choices.  My mother is creative and humble. Her strength has been tested, but I have never seen her cower.  Her petite frame cannot hide her fortitude.  As her daughter, there are not enough words in the world or languages in which to say them, but I humbly offer my graciousness on this day devoted to mothers like her!  Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  

I once looked into the old eyes of a devoted sheepdog, and the love inside me welled beyond belief.  I wanted to make the world a better place for that dog.  At that moment, I tried to imagine the insurmountable feeling of love from mother to child, and it brought tears to my eyes.  It may be the passage of time or the effects of biology, but that love amazes, inspires and humbles me more and more!  I am one of the lucky ones.  My mother changed the world by investing in my family.  I am convinced we all need to honor and reinstate the importance of that role if we are to make major positive changes.

Recently, I found inspiration in Drew Dudley’s TEDx Toronto talk on Everyday Leadership (it’s a short video, give it a watch!).  Dudley offers, “we celebrate birthdays where are all have to do is not die for 365 days, and yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.”  In that vein, there are other mothers who have made a difference in my life, and they deserve to know it too!         

To my own sisters, I applaud you!

This past Christmas, Tosha creatively foiled her children with joke presents- boxes filled with heavy, noisy items to keep them guessing.  The kids grumbled a bit as we all laughed, but that creativity was really special.  I know years from now, her kids will gather around a Christmas tree and recall the time they opened boxes of erasers or toys they already owned.  That same Christmas, my niece gave my sister coupons for hugs.  While hugging my sister, my niece said, “I made a lot of the coupons, but I don’t really care if you use them.  I’ll hug you for free!”  My heart welled with love and pride for my sister, and I blinked away the tears.  Tosha, your devotion to your children is palpable, and I deeply respect you for it!

To Tonya, I am filled with awe and respect.  I have admired your perseverance in a male dominated field and your examples of female independence. I have also watched with awe as you devoted your life to your daughter.  The results may speak for themselves, but it bears saying anyway.  You’ve raised a smart, thoughtful, polite daughter who has the entire world ahead of her!

To my oldest sister, you showed me so much of the world when I was little.  You fostered my grammar obsessions with your speech lessons.  You introduced me to the theater and art museums and secret gardens.  My childhood was a richer place because of our magical adventures, and I am grateful for it!

To the “village,” you indeed helped raise me!  I am grateful to those neighbors who treated me like one of their own, even caring for me when I was sick.

To the mommas-to-be who faithfully attend Bikram Yoga classes as their bodies change in miraculous ways, you are truly inspiring!  How can I doubt my own physical potential when you exemplify such fierce focus?!?

To my dear friend Rumbi, I have felt mothered by your wisdom on many occasions.  You are an old soul housed in a beautiful, youthful glow.  Your strength is unfathomable, and there no words to fully describe the unfettered dedication to your twin boys (can we all just pause to imagine the energy required for twin boys?!?!).  You inspire me!

To the mother of my special one, thank you!  A smart, thoughtful, sensitive, optimistic man set on saving the world?!?  Those men are few and far between, and I owe you many a thanks for bringing such a man into the world!  Beyond raising such a gent, you welcomed me so sincerely into your home, and for that, I am truly grateful.

To My Mother and the Mothers in My Life,

I wish I could gather us all at a beautiful, rustic, wooden table, topped with dainty delicacies and gingery muffins.  We would toast teacups to your sacrifice, devotion and love!  For now, please accept my most humble gratitude for the lifelong role you all have exemplified.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Most Sincerely,

Quelcy Trenae Kogel

Ginger, Pear, White Chocolate Muffins
Makes 18 muffins

Ingredients

2 cups finely ground chestnut flour
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

4 eggs (local/free-range)
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, browned
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger

3 organic pears (2 overripe, 1 ripe), cut into chunks

1 cup chopped organic white chocolate
1 cup slivered almonds
Candied Ginger
Cinnamon

Directions

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.

Whip the eggs in a mixing bowl and then add the remaining wet ingredients.

Combine wet and dry mixes until well incorporated (the batter will be really thick).

Stir in the overripe pears (the batter will thin as the pears mush with stirring).

Gently mix in the firmer pear chunks, the white chocolate and 1/2 cup of the slivered almonds.

Pour the batter into lined muffin tins.

Place a slice of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Sprinkle each top with the remaining almonds and a dash of cinnamon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 F (or until golden brown).

Cool on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tin.

Serve warm with drizzles of honey, and share with the important women and mothers in your life!

The Comforts of Solitude & The Pleasures of Company

April 2012

A lovely friend had an idea for a quiet gathering on a Saturday afternoon.  The Cafe at the Frick has a delectable menu offering and an even more stunning garden setting.  Though we lamented the rain at first drop, a funny thing happened as the droplets drizzled down our window.  Being surrounded by flowers weighed by water droplets became the ideal way to enjoy the garden views, the clink of tea spoons, the hum of little girls in tutus drinking tea like royalty and the tiers of lovely little foods.  It was a perfectly peaceful way of enjoying the rain, as if we were tucked away at a fancy country cottage without a care in the world.  Rather than dissect the delectable tiers of pretty foods, I’d rather just reflect on the powers of tea and good company.

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea,

which is one you forget about afterwards.

~A.A. Milne

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude

and the pleasures of company.

~Author Unknown

Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.

~Honoré de Balzac

The first sip of tea is the always the best…

you cringe as it burns the back of your throat,

knowing you just had the hottest carpe-diem portion.

~Terri Guillemets

Another novelty is the tea-party, an extraordinary meal in that,

being offered to persons that have already dined well,

it supposes neither appetite nor thirst,

and has no object but distraction,

no basis but delicate enjoyment.

~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin,

The Physiology of Taste

Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious,

and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise,

and will not use abstinence.

~Samuel Johnson

Bread and water can so easily be [scones] and tea.

~Author Unknown

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.

~Catherine Douzel

Thank you lovely friend for suggesting such a deliciously romantic respite from the rest of the rainy gloom.

An Epic Brunch of Minis (Part III): The Gathering of Great People!

April 2012

The fickle skies threatened gray, gloom and even little flecks of snow in spite of the calendar, but I had visions of reds and burst of berries.  The dining room was set for a summer festival of friends and fruits and an Epic Brunch of Minis!

I admit it.  I was very nervous when Nina asked me for honey and a chopstick, but she crafted us a beautiful brunch time beverage!  A sip past the honey-sweetened rim revealed a mixture of organic cherry juice, some bubbly and the gift Erica bestowed upon us- Forks of Cheat Winery Raspberry Wine.

Just in time!  A magical appearing act…

Why was this brunch so epic?  I can answer that from left to right!  Aside from completely filling my dining room, these friends fill a good portion of my personal timeline!

Nikkie!  I was so lucky to share many a stoop session with a wonderful neighbor who became such a significant presence in my life!  Nikkie is such a strong, confident, charismatic and loyal, loving friend!  I miss her, but I’m so happy for her new Atlanta life.  I couldn’t believe the great fortune of hosting her at my brunching table during her Pittsburgh visit!

When we were little “nerd birds” in Suburbia, Pa, Erica and I used to pretend to sip fancy white wine [water] at fancy bars [as if we knew what to imagine a bar to be].  We may be farther apart than our Main Street days, but we’re pretty lucky to live in bordering states. It’s a special time whenever she makes the journey from her adopted state of West Virginia!

[That's me...the lucky one in red!!!]

I once dated a man who didn’t make much sense for me in the long run.  When it comes to the ups and downs of the heart, I focus on what I have gained, and in that case, I gained a friend named Dana.  She’s more than a friend!  She’s like my Pittsburgh big sister, and she’s one inspirational tough cookie!

Nina and I suffered and celebrated many an all nighter in Carnegie Mellon’s architecture program.  After graduating, I would make us coffee, like an old fashioned wifey, before sending her to work.  She’s generally a blur of activity!  No one knows how she does it all! I usually try to lure her with brunch, so she’ll slow down for a spell.

That charmer on the end?  He’s the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, so I try to find as many ways as possible to tell him that!

And they’re all a bit crazy too!

And there were still a few more friends to come!

You see?  Epic!

Mini Cherry & Almond Baked French Toast Cups

The phrase, “I baked these just for you” is all the more real when handing over an individually portioned brunch treat (even if the bruncher has more than one- that’s perfectly encouraged and acceptable)!

Beets + Blue Cheese + Broccoli + Black Forest Bacon

You remember those Alliterative Mini Frittatas, don’t you?

Someone was quite the hungry, hungry hippo and started right into those marbles!

More faces!

One of those watermelon faces is Deanna’s.  She’s an animated bundle of talent and wit and lends such a patient, listening ear when needed.  Thanks to Deanna, I now know Kira and Mike!  They’re sincere and gracious- the kind of friends who take the time to sit and appreciate the finer moments in life.  They also know quite a bit about coffee and shared a special brew with the end of brunch crew!  Someday soon they’ll teach me all about vacuum brewing, and I can’t wait!

Every Sunday should be filled with such friends and fun!

Waffles With A View & Ham ‘n Cheese Too (Cabin Weekend, Part III)

March 2012

When I think of the special cabin in the woods, I think of the lower cupboard with the pots, the pans and the waffle maker!  Since my own kitchen is not [yet] equipped with the pattern making tool, there’s something extra special about making waffles on those weekends in which we escape reality, sleep late and come to life as the waffles take shape.

The waffle is not a far cry from the pancake, but there’s something extra special about the flapjack’s patterned cousin.  Maybe the extra something is the crispiness surrounding a light and fluffy texture.  Maybe it’s the way the syrup pools in the recesses.  Maybe it’s memories of European vendors dispensing their thicker, crispier, sugared versions to travelers and city dwellers alike.  In my case, it might be the lack of flipping that lures me into the waffle charms.

Whatever the case, the waffle’s charms date back quite far!  The humble waffle has its origins in the Middle Ages, when bakers would make wafer cookies between two patterned hot plates.  Centuries later, breakfast makers and brunchers are still seeking new ways to enjoy waffles (that’s me in the spoon, in my yellow waffle shirt!  I subconsciously dressed for the occasion).

On this sunny morn, my inspiration was the perfect brunch juxtaposition of sweet and savory, but I wanted that harmonious blend in every bite…a la ham and cheese waffles inspired by Bon Appétit.

That cowgirl was callin’ out for some buffalo…Buffalo Trace that is!  Bourbon whipped cream was equally delicious on the waffles as it was in the coffee!

Ham & Cheese Waffles w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1 Tablespoon of organic brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated (local/free-range)
1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter, browned
1 cup organic buttermilk
3/4 cup soda water
2 Tablespoons bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
1 cup Irish cheddar
1 cup all natural, black forest, maple ham, chopped

Directions

Whisk flour, spices, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until medium-soft peaks form.

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and stir frequently until amber in color and nutty in aroma, about 4 minutes. Be careful not to let it heat too long or it will burn.

Combine the browned butter, buttermilk, soda water and bourbon in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients.

Fold in the egg whites.

Gently stir in the Irish cheddar and black forest ham.

Grease the waffle iron with melted butter.

Use a measuring cup to scoop waffle batter onto the iron. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a warmed plate.

Serve with caramelized apples (organic butter, organic brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg), bourbon whipped cream and pure maple syrup!

Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

Directions

In a chilled bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Post Patty’s Brunch (Frittata & French Toast)

March 2012

While Pittsburgh beer enthusiasts and/or the local “Irish” were clumping into green colored herds to commence daytime drinking and revelry, I was clad in red and very soberly intent on avoiding them. Am I against the holiday?  No, I just have a hard time relating to festivities that revolve solely around intoxication.  Thus I came to celebrate in my own way, which meant a green inspired Post Patty’s Day brunch.  Though there was plenty of Jameson, our holiday acknowledgement notably lacked the debauchery of the previous night’s full fledged festivities.

On the menu for the celebration…

Irish Coffee Baked French Toast
Cheddar & Greens Frittata
Cake in the case of the Birthday Girl
Kiwi & Lime Bellinis (Kiliminis?)

Irish Coffee French Toast

Ingredients

multi-grain baguette
organic challah rolls (4)
1/2 cup organic sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup Bourbon Berries
2 cups organic buttermilk
1 cup Organic Valley hazelnut half & half
1 cup brewed and cooled (such as One Village Coffee)
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Jameson whiskey
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
ground ginger

Directions

Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Use slices of the challah rolls to create a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Use pieces of the multigrain baguette to fill in any spaces.

In a pourable, glass measuring bowl, combine the sour cream, ricotta cheese and maple syrup.

Pour the mixture over the bread layer.

Spread the bourbon berries over the cheese layer and follow with another layer of challah and more multigrain bread chunks as needed.

In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, half & half, coffee, eggs, vanilla, Jameson, brown sugar and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread, making sure to saturate the top layer.

Sprinkle with the spices. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Serve with Irish Whipped Cream and pure maple syrup.

Irish Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
4-5 Tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey, to taste
2-3 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.

My First Frittata Ever…

Cheddar & Greens Frittata

Ingredients

7 large eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons organic heavy cream

Olive oil
1 medium sized red onion, chopped
1 organic parsnip, sliced
4-5 brussels sprouts, sliced
1 small organic leek, sliced
Freshly ground smoked black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Yakima Applewood Smoked Sea Salt
organic spinach (eye it)
1/2 cup Irish Cheddar, grated
Danish blue cheese, crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a pourable measuring bowl, mix the eggs and heavy cream. Set aside.

Pour a few Tablespoons of olive oil into a 10-inch skillet, over medium-high heat. As the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped onion.

Once the onion has softened (about 2-3 minutes), add the sliced parsnip and brussels sprouts. Stir frequently.

Once the brussels sprouts have begun to brown slightly, add the sliced leek, and continue to stir.

Add the salt and pepper, and continue to stir. Once the vegetables are stir fried (still slightly crisp), remove the skillet from heat.

Stir in spinach leaves to your liking. The remaining heat will be sufficient to wilt the greens slightly. Add the cheese, and stir to combine.

Pour the egg and cream mixture over the vegetables in the skillet.

Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more.

Slice and serve directly from the skillet, warm or at room temperature.

It didn’t dawn on me fully until this Post Patty’s Sunday, but there is a place where I can find inspiration, creativity, humor, craziness, encouragement, passion, advice, knowledge, exploration, activism, insight and so much more!  It’s the brunching table!

Over glasses of green juices and plates of food, Dana commended Nina for her actualization of the venue Dana had once wanted to create.  Assemble is a place where one can engage his or her intrigue through hands on activities about art and technology, through film screenings, happenings, workshops, lectures, and community activities.

Meanwhile, Dana was inspiring both of us with the story of channeling her own powerful cancer survival story into fighting for environmental initiatives and anti-fracking campaigns.  These environmental discussions circled back to a need for more educational programs a la Nina’s involvement with this amazing program to promote girls in math and science.

Those accomplishments certainly merited another toast!

Dana’s response to my request for something green to drink:
Fresh Pressed Kiwi Juice + Lime Juice + Simple syrup (from pure cane sugar) + Prosseco

Nina’s garnish addition:
Green grapes + Fresh Mint

Go team!

Another Nina brunch plate interpretation.  It looks like an army tank?!?  Knowing Nina’s artistic inclinations, it’s probably something on the phallic side of the sculptural world.

Turn a good cup of coffee into an even better cup of coffee with a dollop of the Irish Whipped Cream (recipe above).  Even the coffee cup will be smiling when the coffee is gone.

Nina zipped away in her greenest display of the day- her new mini!  I’m still waiting for my inaugural ride!

As I took a moment to take in the remains of the table, the true power and potential of these friends of mine hit me in the most marvelous way, and I felt truly honored to have brought them together!

Never underestimate the power of brunch!

Header-golden-brunch-table

Brunch For A Babyhood Friend

March 2012

Crazy sisters made somehow crazier by adulthood… looming life questions… the jobs we have worked versus the jobs we expected to have… the broken hearts along the way… the parents we try to understand more and more… the desire to be more creative… these are the occurrences and developments that keep us on the same page, and this was the brunch that brought us to the same table.

Erica grew up in the corner green house.  I grew up in the red, brick house on the opposite corner.  We were neighbors, but we were also like family.  She was the like the little sister I never had, and when we put our heads together, the most inventive adventures ensued!  I won’t wave our crazy flags too specifically, but I figured Jono would be enthused to have a glimpse into my even weirder childhood, hence the three plates.

Salad

Spinach
Mixed Greens
Organic Raspberries
Sliced almonds
Dried Figs
Goat cheese

Vinaigrette

Dijon mustard
Olive Oil
Cabernet Wine Vinegar
Maple Syrup

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread w/ Bourbon Buttercream
Cupcake Quiches 

It’s not a complete brunch without a little bubbly.

meyer lemon + raspberries + champagne + blackberry juice

Above is what the table looked like as we finished.  Below was what the great outdoors looked like…a turbulent swirl of snow straight into eye level no matter where you walked.

So we went for a snowventure!

Look at the tree all the way on the left.  Notice a peaceful glimpse of wildlife?

From the grays and snow covered grass of Schenley Park, we snaked along curving, sloping roads to the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where bursts of color awaited.

We continued through the blue-gray, snowy blanket to the top of the [Pittsburgh] world- Mt Washington.

As the dark day transitioned to an even darker night, Erica and I returned to the warmth of my fireplace, sipped hot tea and confided in each other as if time had never escaped us. Little did we know how many similar experiences we’d been having.  As I attempted to relay the helpful advice another friend had given to me, I was reminded how truly fortunate I am to have strong, creative, intelligent, supportive friends in my life!  This Sunday brunch and snowventuring was just what Erica and I had both needed.  Never underestimate the power of an old friend, a dining room table, snowy views and cups of tea!

The Owls Are Not What They Seem, But The Pancakes Are

February 2012

My special one and I started watching Twin Peaks to keep ourselves busy during the snowy, wintry, gray hibernation months.

We’d heard about the cult classic, but we had no idea into what we were delving!  There were a lot of “what the f&*k, David Lynch?!?” proclamations, as the show lured us into its addictive snare of plot twists, ridiculous melodramas and supernatural oddities set in the pristine, green hills of a fictitious, Washington town.  There we sat, poised in front of the projector while it snowed outside.

A Few Thoughts…

Shots of James on his motorcycle, just being a tough yet sensitive and misunderstood guy with the “masculine” musical theme…makes me laugh everytime!

Donna…honestly…stop being a bitch!

“Who’s that?”
“Oh her?  We call her ‘Log Lady‘”
So glad she became a significant character!

We get it, Lynch, cops like coffee and donuts!

I can’t get this song out of my head, especially since my special one does the perfect impression.  Is that what Lynch thinks teens do on a school night?  Oh wait, they don’t really have “school nights,” since they skip school all the time to tease the emotions of agoraphobic shut ins.

I keep threatening to don an eye patch and scream, “Oh Ed” while running toward my special one at full force.  He says this threat makes me a really weird person.  I’m not convinced.

Next thing you know, we found ourselves repeatedly watching “just one more” episode and rapidly working through the series.  Accordingly, we enjoyed a number of our meals in front of the projector, including a pancake brunch, in which the owls, a prominent Twin Peaks symbol, took the spotlight.

Very, very, very rarely will you find me listing the word “mix” in my recipes.  A pet peeve of mine is seeing “cake mix” as a first “ingredient” in a recipe.  In my purist (and possibly extremist?), self-assigned set of rules, it’s an oh no no’s.  Yet, rules are meant to be broken!  I make an exception for this locally grown mix of flours from a mill I like to visit every now and again, mostly because it comes in a stamped linen bag with a small, colorful ribbon.

In my hypocritical use of a mix, I stuck to my guns about embellishing the recipe.  I went above and beyond the mix’s instructions, so in the end, it was really just rule bending (probably something rule breakers say).

Though I’d like to say these pancakes correlated to flavors in Twin Peaks, they didn’t.  They were simply a delicious, owl accented approach to pancakes, to accompany a snowy morning of viewing.  I ambitiously schemed a more themed meal until I watched the finale.  I won’t spoil it, but the end left me wanting, and that wanting cut my brainstorm quite short.  Thus, these pancakes may be as Twin Peaks as it gets around here… at least for the time being as we try to fill the log sized void in our lives.

Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Cranberry Pancakes
Perfect for Brunch & A Twin Peaks Binge 

Ingredients

Saint Vincent’s Buckwheat Pancake Mix (unbleached flour, buckwheat flour, sugar, baking powder and salt)
Dash of Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Ginger
2 cups organic milk
4-5 Tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, browned
1 Tablespoon organic almond extract
1 ¾ cup organic pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 cup homemade cranberry sauce (similar to this recipe)

Directions

Empty contents of pancake mix into a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine a scant 2 cups of milk and 1 egg, mixing well.

Slowly stir the egg/milk mixture into the dry ingredients.

Gradually, add browned butter, stirring well.

Add the almond extract, pumpkin puree, maple syrup and cranberry sauce. Stir to combine.

Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes.

[This is when I pass the batter (a lot like passing the baton) to account for my inability to flip pancakes well]

For each pancake, pour 1/4-1/3 cup of batter onto a hot, lightly greased skillet. Cook until tops of pancakes are covered with bubbles and edges appear slightly dry. Turn and continue cooking until bottom sides are browned.

Serve with butter, lots of maple syrup and perhaps some homemade whipped cream.  Most definitely serve with a mug of chai!

Had I been strictly adhering to my supposed theme, we would have been drinking strong, black coffee.  However, this chai is worth breaking supposed themes!  I highly recommend two mugs of Rishi Masala Chai prepared with a touch of almond milk and a generous squeeze from the honey bear.

Remember…

“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot [chai].” – Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks

A Cookie For The Kind of Man I’d Be (Snap ‘Staches)

February 2012

If I were male, it’s pretty safe to say, I’d have obnoxious facial hair, channel the Prohibition era in my fashion choices and fantasize about having a dimly lit den, where my male counterparts would gather, perhaps even smoke some cigars (though I generally find this habit disgusting), drink brandy and discuss the world.  If I were male, I’d channel the quintessential high society, manly man (minus the misogyny) of yesteryear.  In a distilled manner of speaking, I’d be one of those Brooklyn hipster types.  If I were that man, these would be my cookies, and this would be my coffee!

Presenting another collaboration between yours truly on the baking/styling front and the ever talented man behind the camera, Adam Milliron, who has now entered the twittersphere!  Three tweets for Adam!  Tweet tweet hoorah!

Strong Black Coffee + Snap Whipped Cream

Strong black cuppa joe, prepared as you see fit (I generally press my beans in the French style)

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
2-3 Tablespoons AITA Snap, to taste
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized, chilled bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.

Add in heaping dollops to a cup of joe.  Political debates to ensue.

Snappy Gingerbread Mustaches
(Makes about 3 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups chestnut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamum
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled organic smoked black pepper
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons AITA Snap

Directions

Combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the molasses, egg and Snap.

Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough.

Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

Position a rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.)

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick.

For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to a baking stone lined with parchment, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.

Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.

Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.

The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.

The Method To Our Madness & Make Believe

Want to see how obsessive Adam and I are about arriving at the perfect shot?  Here’s a glimpse into our madness.  It may seem petty to some, but finding that perfect spot for a sugar cube really makes our day!  Hopefully, it makes your day in some way as well!

Fin.

Salty Sage Biscuit Brunch Sandwiches

February 2012

Look at the sun shining on that butter and the flour clinging to those kitchen tools.

In my minty colored kitchen, that combination could easily mean a morning batch of pancakes, which I could happily eat once a week.  For the sake of variety, and for the sake of keeping my chief pancake flipper guessing, I diverged from my Saturday morning creature comforts.

I sure did!  I said “sage” too!  Then I started talking about cheese, and from there, things became a little salty but fortunately, not in the sassy or sarcastic sense of the word.

Salty Sage Biscuits for Breakfast Sandwiches
Makes 5 larger biscuits or 10 small biscuits
(the pictured biscuits were on the smaller side)

Biscuit Ingredients

3/4 cup chestnut flour
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
Fresh sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 stick organic, unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
3/4 cup buttermilk (I was fresh out, so I used this method for homemade buttermilk)

Recommended Breakfast Sandwich Filling

Sliced Porqueta
Aged gouda
Eggs (local/free-range), sunny side up

For the Biscuits

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Position rack in the middle. Line a baking stone with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, baking powder, baking soda, black pepper and pecorino cheese. Add the chopped sage.

Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand.

Add the buttermilk, and stir until a dough forms.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and knead it until it comes together.

Pat the dough into a rectangle, about 1 in thick.

Use a small, round cutter, stamp out as many biscuits as possible. Reroll the scraps if necessary and repeat.

Transfer the biscuits to the baking stone, and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until golden and risen.

Let the biscuits cool.

Fill the biscuits with slices of porqueta, aged gouda and sunny side up eggs.

Enjoy lazily with someone special!

Might I also suggest a tiny teapot of this chai?

Header_Vday Finale

Valentine’s Day Observed: The Finale

February 2012

From the dinner, we settled onto the couch, to put my birthday present projector to use. You see, part of the present was a video, to him, from me!  (Did you catch that wee little rhyme?)

ps:  I really like almond croissants!

p.p.s:  That J.R.M is pretty special! On the grossest, grayest, NJ-spitting-upon-us day, he helped make my mecca come true even though this is how he feels about New Jersey. Why?  He knew how much that giant, lovable elephant meant to me!

Header_leftovers and syrup

Leftovers and Inspiration

February 2012

The gray, somewhat snowy, somewhat rainy, altogether sludgy days are abundant in this part of Pennsylvania.  I often ask myself what I’m still doing here, since I have an inherent need for sun on my skin.  Despite my desires to be in a warmer, bigger elsewhere, I welcomed all the gray this day had to bring.  I’ve recently begun a sincere attempt to switch my thinking, to synthesize happiness and to find at least three positives in each day…

1.  A quiet, reflective consumption of delicious French toast leftovers from time well spent with a dear and crazy friend.

2.  You know the feeling the gray days bring- wanting to curl up with tea and a good book?  The union of that feeling and the ability to do just that is really perfect!

3.  A day to myself.  No place to go.  Nowhere to be.  Just me, a sheep skin, my arm chair, my window light, a good view, my tea and contentment.

Bonuses:  the perfect size and sentiment of grandma’s gradation mug, the warming effect of yellows, pools of pure maple syrup, the ease and payoff of making homemade whipped cream, finding a friend’s drawings in my reading material !!!

I’m really quite lucky!

To Happy Gray Days!

World Nutella Day Commemorative Brunch

February 5, 2012

Someday I’ll have a calendar marked with all the quirky, commemorative food “holidays” (does that calendar already exist somewhere?).  Last year, I discovered I had just missed World Nutella Day, but I did what any modern girl on a mission might do:  I marked my Google calendar and let technology take care of the rest for me!  Last year, I also discovered what I had always thought was the result of a flash of French brilliance was actually an Italian invention.

Fast forward to 2012, and my calendar reminded me I had a celebration in store!  When Italy is due kudos, it’s my time to queue Nina, the best gift Italy ever gave me (albeit it via America, but she does have the passaporto)!

I am not one to argue against the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnut, but I do have a few objections to some other items on the Nutella ingredient list.  Thus, I made my own version…my own “rustic” version (my food processor is a bit on the tired side) and then put it in between layers of panettone bread for a really rich flavor and an additional nod to Italy.

Look what happens when we pretend!!!
(click on the image ↓ below ↓ to see us in action!)

We channeled the best of Italy- the curvaceous women of Fellini films, donned our sunglasses for a spell and proceeded to pretend we were sitting at an Italian cafe.

Little trays with a view certainly help the Sunday morning game of pretend…

Brunch beverages…

One Village Coffee (with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, perhaps?) and a cinnamon swizzle stick for a touch of fancy and spice!

Blood Orange Bellini and a toast… to our inner Sophias!

World Nutella Day Baked French Toast

I had some egg nog approaching its final days.  Being the daughter of invention, I used that egg nog for a really decadent milk source in the custard sauce.  Waste not, eat creatively!  Feel free to use regular milk instead.

World Nutella Day Recipe:  Baked French Toast

Ingredients

Organic, unsalted butter
1 loaf Panetonne bread in 1-inch slices,
1 cup homemade nutella
pure maple syrup
Goat cheese (Soignon), sliced
Mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa
3 cups organic egg nog
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Frangelico
1 Tablespoon AITA Root
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Generously grease a 9×9-inch baking dish with butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan.

Smooth a layer of homemade nutella over the bread, followed by maple syrup and the slices of goat cheese.

Use the remaining slices of bread to complete the top layer. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa.

Whisk egg nog, eggs, vanilla extract, Frangelico, Root, brown sugar and salt. Pour over the bread. You probably will have extra liquid, but make sure the mixture seeps into the top layer of bread.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares and serve with maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Homemade Whipped Topping

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons Kraken Rum

Directions

Step One:  Release the Kraken!

Step Two:  Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Step Three:  Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Step Four:  Heap onto French toast and maybe even add a dollop into your cup of coffee!

Felice festa di Nutella!

[Mi dispiace io non parlo italiano.]

Finale.