Bourbon & Bacon: The Tale of the Manly Cupcake

Do you know what this is? Bourbon Syrup for Maple Bacon topped Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake with Bourbon Syrup.

Lets go!
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Men really are just THAT simple. From my 24-year old, unmarried, un-children-ed perspective. They have 5 “Must Have” B’s: Bacon, Booze, Babes, Beards, and Baseball (or other sport). This recipe contains 2 of the 5 B’s, made by a 3rd B, but then again, I’m clearly bias. (The 3rd B was babe, that’d be me… crickets? really?). As for the Beard and Baseball, I mean- they’re not in this recipe, but you are more than welcome to get creative.

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Let me introduce, The Manly Cupcake: A moist chocolate cake with fluffy peanut butter frosting and topped with sticky-sweet bourbon syrup and hard-candied maple bacon. I mean DAYUUMMMMM!!! Such bliss truly does exist!

I initially wanted to save this recipe for a mid-fall treat, but after I brought these into work and received rave reviews, I figured the sooner I post the better. The sooner you get baking and chomping on this salty sweet love cakes the better… I mean man cakes, because they’re manly. Because they have bacon. And bourbon. And because they’ll get peanut butter frosting in your hipster man beard.

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DO YOU SEE THIS??? Take another look.
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Bacon is everywhere. So much so that I read pretty soon our love of piggy piggy pork is going to drive the cost higher than a skyscraper. I foresee black market pork exchanges in America’s future, but until then, lets slap it on a burger, cuddle a hot dog in it’s sweet fatty blanket, and grease up a perfectly good chocolate peanut butter cupcake with a big ole salty slice of pork!

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This blog entry is like a vegetarian’s worst nightmare.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake with Candid Bacon & Bourbon Syrup

Ingredients for the Chocolate Cake

1/2 Cup butter, room temperature
1 Cup white sugar
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup buttermilk
1 1/4 Cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Ingredients for the Maple Candied Bacon

4 slices of Bacon
2/3 Cup dark brown sugar
1/3 Cup pure maple syrup
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper

Ingredients for the Bourbon Syrup

1 Cup Bourbon
1 1/2 Tablespoon buter
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

Ingredients for the Peanut Butter Frosting

1 Cup butter, room temperature
3/4 Cup peanut butter
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
5 Cups powdered sugar
6-8 Tablespoons whole milk

Directions

For the Chocolate Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Then, add in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Then add in vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Then, alternate adding in the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the sugar mixture and mix until well combined. Pour into a cupcake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes. Makes 16 Cupcakes

For the Maple Candied Bacon: Wait until the cupcakes are done cooking before you proceed. Once the cupcakes are baked, preheat oven to 400 degreed Fahrenheit. Pour maple syrup in one bowl and in another bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Dip the bacon in the syrup so it is fully coated. Then rub the brown sugar mixture into the bacon until it is completely coated in the sugar. Do this for all 4 pieces of bacon. Then, bake for 20-25 minutes until it is dark brown in color. If it is undercooked, it will not candy and become a hard salty treat.

For the Bourbon Syrup: In a small pan, bring bourbon to a rolling boil. Turn to low and add in maple syrup, butter, and dark brown sugar. Then cook covered for 30-40 minutes until it thickens up and reduces to about 1/3 cup. Let cool before topping the cupcakes.

For the Peanut Butter Frosting: In an electric mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter. Then, add in the vanilla extract. Beat in the powdered sugar until it forms thick “beads.” Add more powdered sugar, if necessary. Then add in milk one tablespoon at a time until it reached your desired consistency. I like mine a little fluffier so I add add a little more milk and beat for a full 2 minutes.

 To assemble, frost your cupcakes, top with your delicious candy bacon, and drizzle that bourbon goodness all over the place!

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Do you want something specific from your boyfriend/husband/male of any relationship? Bake these bad boys and I dare him to tell you no.

I really hope my boyfriend isn’t reading this.

Actually, no- he better be reading this!

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End of Summer Quiche

I am back from my quick stint in Florida and have never been more sad to leave, but at the same time more happy to get home to Jersey to this cool pre-Fall weather. Florida is hot ya’ll! I spent my last afternoon in Valparaiso  feeling my skin burn on Eglin’s Military beach, though the water and company did provide some refuge.

Anyway, back to food and back to books.

IMG_2010 As I mentioned in my last post, I brought the novel Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen with me on my travels and dug into most of it sitting around Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and on my flight to and from Florida. Stormy Weather has a lot going for it. I mean, the list of unlovable characters that you can’t help but adore is endless.

There’s a prostitute, Edie, and her pimp, Snapper, who attempt multiple insurance frauds with the occasional beat-down/murder-driven encounters. Then there’s the self-centered newlywed Max who literally leaves his wife Bonnie on the streets of hurricane-torn Miami to chase the feral monkey that stole his video camera. Did I mention he was taking footage of the devastation to sell to news stations? His persuit of the monkey inevitably got him kidnapped by ex-governer turned toad-poison smoking drug addict Skink. I said that right, toad-poison smoking drug addict. Skink happens to be friends with a gentleman named Augustine, of which whom Bonnie (Max’s bride) falls for. And as a real kicker, Augustine inherited his Uncle’s collection of exotic anmals from his zoo, all of which  escaped from their cages during the hurricane- including a certain feral monkey.  

All those loons, plus a son wanting to avenge his mothers death by killing the salesman who sold her a flimsy house,  crazed ex-wife who is wants to run back to her ex-husband after she learned of her old home’s value and her current boyfriend’s affair, and two poor Dachshunds caught up in the mess of it all.

DSC_1109 Even though it seems like I gave away a lot, I really only told you the first 50 pages. You can’t even imagine or guess what happened from pages 51 through 380. I’ll give one part away, kind of. There is a crucifixion gone completely wrong, but totally as planned at the same time. All I’ll say is, when I read the crucifixion scene, I had to read it twice because I couldn’t believe it. I’d never laughed so hard in public.

DSC_1111 Also an interesting point, Stormy Weather is written in third person omniscient, meaning the narrator, who I believe is the hurricane, reports on events, feelings, and thoughts from the perspective of any character at any time. And more interestingly, it was done really well! Third person can be difficult to write in, especially when the perspective travels a lot. Considering the sheer load of characters the novel follows, Hiaasen took on a great challenge when he decided to write from this point of view. For a schmuck writer, like myself, this technique would be an epic failure. But for dark-comedic writer Hiassan, it came so naturally. I applaud you.

DSC_1112 So how does this relate to quiche? Well it doesn’t. In fact, the quiche is very boring in comparison to this novel. But just as Stormy Weather was a nice season capper to Summer, so is this quiche. Made with Summer vegetables, but still acting as a food blanket to cool end of Summer morning, it’s also kind of like a season capper.

Anyway, you should really read Stormy Weather because there’s only one guy sick enough to think of the kinds of things written in this book, and that’s the author. And I say sick in the nicest, more endearing way possible.

DSC_1115 Summer Vegetable Quiche

For the Pastry:

1 1/4 Cups flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

4 Tablespoons cold butter

4 Tablespoons shortening

2-4 Tablespoons ice cold water

3 Tablespoons parmesan cheese

For the Filling:

2 Tablespoons Butter

1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon olive oil

1/4 Cup onion, diced

1 large potato, any kind

2/3 Cup green beans

1/4 Cup diced tomato

3 large tomato slices

8 Eggs

2 Teaspoons sirracha

1 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon pepper

2 Teaspoons parmesan cheese

3 Tablespoons whole milk

1 Avocado, optional

Directions:

For the Pastry: Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and shortening. When it forms pea-sized crumbles, add in ice cold water until it just comes together. Roll out on a floured surface. Grease a 9-inch round pie with a TON of butter and lay your crust down. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

For the Filling: Preheat oven to 350 Degree Fahrenheit. In a saute pan, heat butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add potatoes and onions to the heated pan, giving them a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook until just fork tender. Set aside to cool. Beat the eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, and sirracha. Then add in cooled potato and onion mixture, green beans, diced tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie pan and  place the slices on tomato on top. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool and serve with sliced avocado.

DSC_1119 When I asked myself, What quote BEST captures the themes and nature of Stormy Weather, this quote was the obvious fit:

“Edie Marsh headed to Dade County from Palm Beach, where she’d spent six months trying to sleep with a Kennedy.”

Happy reading!

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Chocolate Almond Fudge Cake

Oh to travel, a grand notion to some is a total nightmare for me. Tomorrow, I will be traveling to the good old Gulf Coast of Florida and no matter how many pre-flight preparations I embark on, the only one that usually has some successful follow through is the part where I get my nails done. Maybe it’s just a pre-trip preparation for girls.  Well anyway, even that didn’t go great this time! I’m stuck with nails the color of Barney.

IMG_2205 In addition to nails that look like I scratched Barney’s face in a crazy act of self defense, I’ve got a luggage full of mismatched clothes, liquid toiletries seeping out of my 1 quart sized zip-lock baggy, and a binder full of “important travel documents,” i.e. every print out confirmation e-mail from Delta Airlines, Hotwire, Trip Advisor, and Travelocity. You’d think I’m traveling to Kenya for a month, when I’m going to Eglin AFB  in Valparaiso, FL for four days.

IMG_2206 Of course included in my Doomsday preparation-type packing style, is a good read for the  airport. I say airport, rather than plane because I spend the majority of the plane in and out of sedation and reciting the Hail Mary with no time for reading. Did I mention flying is my biggest fear? I’m not the subtly nervous flyer, I’m the vocal, get me off this death box in the sky, type of flyer. I’m really not the ideal person you want to get stuck sitting next to on the plane, but I have gotten better at flying. I mean, I don’t pass out anymore. That’s a huge step.

IMG_2208 My one friend let me borrow her book titled Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen for this trip. This novel takes place during the height of tourist season in South Florida, when a destructive hurricane sweeps through the area. In addition to Mother Nature’s wrath, the storm lures crooks of all crimes into the area- looting homes, scamming the most vulnerable, and bringing the most unlikely of characters into contact. My friend recommended this book because I am a sucker for a good dark comedy.

IMG_2209 I am only two chapters in, but so far I’ve been introduced to newlyweds Bonnie and Max. Bonnie, who really just wants to go to Epcot, is pressured by her new husband to chase the newly notorious storm, bringing them into the center of both the storm and society’s destruction. I’m using the word “destruction” a lot- it’s a little over the top of me.

Anyway a full book report upon my return! And no worries, its supposed to be blue skies and green Gulf waters for my trip, no hurricanes for me- thank God.

Chocolate Almond Fudge Cake

Ingredients for the Cake:

1 Cup butter, room temperature

2 Cups white sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

2 Cups whole milk

2 1/2 Cups flour

6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Teaspoons baking powder

1 Teaspoon salt

1 Cup mini chocolate chips

Ingredients for the Icing & Filling/ Topping:

3/4 Cup butter, room temperature

1 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Cups powdered sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 Cup + 2 Tablespoons whole milk

2/3 Cup Nutella

2 Cups crushed almonds

Directions

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degreed fahrenheit. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time and set aside. In a separate bowl, sift together the four, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Then, alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk into the wet ingredients. Mix in the mini chocolate chips. Bake in four 9 inch baking rounds that have been overly greased with butter and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick clean. Let cool for an hour before frosting. This cake will be flat, dense, but super moist- hence, Fudge Cake.

For the icing: While the cakes are baking, beat the butter and cocoa powder in an electric mixer until it is creamy. Add in powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk. Beat until well incorporated. Then, add in nutella and beat until fluffy. Add more milk if needed.

For the topping: Toast the almonds for 5 minutes at 350 degrees fahrenheit. Do not do this while the cakes are baking. Opening the oven while baking causes the cakes to sink in the middle. Once the almonds are toasted, crush them using a rolling pin or your fists- depending how much aggression you need to let out. To assemble, frost one later of the cake and then sprinkle it with crushed almonds before adding another layer of cake. Do this three times. For the top of the cake, more generously frost it with the chocolate frosting and decorate with almonds.

IMG_2212 Go ahead… embrace this thick and fudgy chocolate goodness and a good book.

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Billionaire Bars & The Great Gatsby

I’m going to share something very special with all of you- My recipe for Billionaire Bars. Why? Why are they so special you ask? Let me ask you a few things. Do you like buttery flakey cookies that crumble with the most delicate bite? Or deep, dark, molasses caramel that just melts into perfection beneath Ghiradelli milk chocolate? How about salty and sweet maple candied pecans that have been gently tickled with some warm nutmeg and cinnamon notes?

DSC_1130 That’s what I thought- that’s exactly what I thought. It’s been some time since I’ve paired a recipe with a book so I asked myself, what novel is the epitome of luxury and scandal and thrives on the darkest of all secrets? Duh, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m just throwing this on the table, I have never seen the film version of the novel and am unsure how closely they compare. With that said, this entry is based solely on my high school AP English class recollection of the novel.

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Just as The Great Gatsby’s West Egg is home to new money and East Egg is home to old money, this recipe is inspired by Blue-Eyed Baker’s recipe for Millionaire Shortbread. In this scenario, I am West Egg- call me Nick Carraway. The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and Jay Gatsby as they throw extravagant parties across city and social class lines, linger in the shadows of their scandalous pasts, and strive to rekindle a love that ends in tragedy. I don’t want to insult this great piece of literature by comparing it to E!’s Real Housewives series. I’ll just say for those younger readers, The Great is the original Real Housewives.

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My Billionaire Bars and The Great Gatsby are seductively sweet, salty, and scandalous. Bring these to a party once and I can guarantee you’ll be invited to all the neighborhood bashes. Or if you live the life of Daisy Buchanan, neighborhood balls.

Billionaire Bars

Inspired by Blue Eyed Baker’s Millionaire Shortbread

Ingredients:

For the Shortbread Cookie:

3/4 Cup butter, room temperature

1 Teaspoon salt

1/3+ 3 Tablespoons, white sugar

3 Cups flour

3/4 Cup cornstarch

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Caramel:

1 1/2 Cup butter

3/4 Cup dark brown sugar

4 Tablespoons dark corn syrup

3/4 Cup sweetened condensed milk

For the Topping:

2 1/2 Cups Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips. Any milk chocolate chips will work.

1 1/2 Cups Pecans

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon maple syrup, though Aunt Jemima will work just fine.

1/2 Teaspoon salt

Directions:

For the Shortbread Cookie: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then add in vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, and cornstarch. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture on medium speed. beat until it forms pea-sized crumbles. Pour the dough into an overly buttered 9x 13 pan and press down with your hands. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the sized just begin to turn light brown.

For the Caramel: Once the cookie is removed, begin to prepare the caramel. Go into this expecting a light arm workout as you will constantly be stirring. In a saucepan, brown the butter on medium heat and stir constantly. When you brown butter, it will begin to get foamy. This is what you want. It will start to bubble, turn into foam, and then back to bubbly. It will brown up quickly and when this starts to happen, remove from heat to ensure it won’t burn. Add the brown sugar, dark corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Put back on heat and stir constantly on medium heat until it begins to boil. Then pour over top the shortbread cookie and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until the caramel has hardened.

For the Topping: Preheat oven to 350 degreed fahrenheit. On a butter baking sheet, coat the pecans with cinnamon, nutmeg, dark brown sugar, salt, and maple syrup. Bake for 10 minutes until they just begin to brown. As they cool they will begin to harden. Melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler OR microwave in 30 second intervals until it melts. Spread the melted chocolate over the hardened caramel. Then, scatter the pecans on top. Let harden at room temperature or refrigerate for 1 hour. If you refrigerate, remove from fridge ten minutes before serving as it is easier to slice that way.

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“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” ~ The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

Indian Summer is the only part of summer I can handle- you know that late August morning and night chill. It is a breath of fresh air after two months of immediately sweating like crazy once I’m not in air conditioning. I also like Indian Summer because its that awkward ducking period between my favorite season, Fall.

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For me, Indian Summer is the universe’s way of giving me permission to start eating pumpkin things and to wear scarves every day because Fall is coming. Fall has everything girls like: boots, jeans, pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween, cozy oversized sweaters, knitted hats, hot apple cider, cinnamon sticks. There really isn’t anything to not like. You don’t have to worry about sweating to death from the sun’s hell rays or having your skin destroyed by a swarm of mosquitos or, if you are familiar with the nemesis of the Jersey Shore, green head flies. In the Fall, you can wait in the subway and not keel over from the stench of rotting garbage and subway steam. It’s just a really accommodating time of the year.

DSC_0009 I’m more than happy to wave Summer goodbye. The perfect meal for this time of year is Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs, it is still light, summery, and conscious of your beach body, but it has that hearty, warm your soul feel without making you sweat to death.

DSC_0013 If you’ve never made spaghetti squash before, it will blow your mind. It is just like cooking any other squash, but when it’s done, you let it cool for about ten minutes, take a fork to it, and start to “scratch” it long ways, It will form these long, angel hair pasta-type noodles without all the heavy carbohydrates that leave you sluggish. It does have more of a bite to it than pasta, but the spaghetti squash holds sauces and ingredients just like it’s starchy counterpart.

DSC_0017 As I say my farewells to Summer, I’ll enjoy these Indian Summer nights with a big bowl of Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs until Fall finally arrives.

Spaghetti Squash Ingredients:

1 Spaghetti Squash, equal to 3/4 pound pasta

1 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon pepper

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Turkey Meatball Ingredients

1 1/2- 2 Pounds of ground lean turkey

1 Cup of fresh spinach

1/3 Cup chopped onion

1/2 Cup sodium-free cracker meal, if you can’t find it, any bread crumb type product will be fine.

1 Egg

1/2 Teaspoon ground sage

2 Cloves fresh minced garlic

1 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon pepper

Simple Summer Gravy Ingredients

For all those non-Italians out there, gravy means spaghetti sauce.

4-5 Large tomatoes chopped, about 4 cups

1/2 Cup onion, chopped

2 Cloves minced garlic

2 Tablespoons fresh basil

1/2 Teaspoon salt, more to taste

1/2 Teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions:

For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Saute onions until they start to sweat. Add in minced garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. Chop spinach into small strips. Turn off the heat and add in spinach. The heat will wilt the spinach. Once wilted, let cool to 15 minutes. In a large bowl, add ground turkey, spinach and onion mixture, cracker meal, egg, sage, salt, pepper. Use you hands to incorporate ingredients. If it is too sticky, add more cracker meal. Do not over mix. Form into meatballs. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees fahrenheit.

For the Spaghetti Squash: Cut the squash in half long ways and take out its guts (seeds, etc). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I put the meatballs and the squash on the same pan for easy clean up.

For the Summer Gravy: Chop onions and cook on medium-low heat in a medium sized, greased saute pan until it begins to sweat. Then add in the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Chop 4-5 tomatoes and add this to the pan. Stir occasionally. After ten minutes add basil, salt, and pepper. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 40 minutes until it is reduced.

When the meatballs are done, add them to the gravy to keep them moist while the squash finishes cooking. Once the squash is finished cooking, let rest for 10-15 minutes. Then, using a fork, run the fork down the squash long ways until all the little noodles come out. Keep running the fork through until you hit the Squash’s skin. Then, remove the meatballs from the gravy and add the spaghetti squash into the gravy pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes so it soaks up all the gravy flavor. Then serve the squash with meatballs and fresh basil!

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The Royal Muffin is Fresh From the Oven

It should have been me…

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Now that, that’s out of the way- Oh what Royal excitement! The third Heir to the throne has been born and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s baby North is SO left eating Prince William, Princess Kate, and their baby boy’s Royal dust. Thank. God. Bets on the name? Lil’ James Charles Philip- mark my words.

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Since William and Kate were married on my birthday, April 29, obviously we have an unbreakable bond…. (awkward pause over). They exude everything that is timeless and classy, while still setting great marks in history, which is why I absolutely adore everything about them. For example, did you know that little Prince No Name is the first Heir to the Royal Throne  not of full Royal blood? Times they are a changin’!

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When I first heard the news, I jumped out of my chair, looked at one of my coworkers and proceeded to scream repeatedly, IT’S A BOY!  I have literally been waiting for this day for 9 months…. as have million and millions of other people. But why care? Prince No Name was one of thousands of babies born on July 22. I care because it’s happy- it’s as simple as that. You turn on the news and it’s Zimmerman trial, shooting in Northeast Philadelphia, riots in the Middle East, which city is going broke, which country is the poorest, what is Amanda Bynes doing now to destroy my childhood memories – I mean seriously! I love the news, I L-O-V-E Brian Williams, but for the love of God can we just have one good thing to talk about on the 6 o’clock news? And can someone please bring Amanda Bynes circa 2003 back?! Or at least hose her down? Give her a bar of soap?

DSC_0902Moral of the rant, it’s nice to see something happy on the news and it’s fun to get excited about things like this every now and again. It’s nice to see a young happy couple, who are in the constant spotlight, remain, for lack of better words, normal. William drove Kate and the babe back to Kensington Palace. I mean come on that’s adorable! They didn’t have a fancy car or a driver. It was just him, her, and the babe. It was very sweet.

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So to celebrate this newest Royal birthday of Prince No Name, I made blueberry muffins. Blue because it’s a boy- get it? Get it? I should have made scones. That would have been more English of me. Maybe for Royal baby number two.

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Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

3/4 Cup white sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

1/3 Cup vegetable oil

1 Egg

1/3 Cup whole milk

1/2 Teaspoon white vinegar

1 1/4 Cup blueberries

1/4 Teaspoon lemon zest

For the Topping

1/2 Cup white sugar

1/3 Cup all purpose flour

1/4 Cup cold butter, cubed

1 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

For the Muffins: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line a cupcake pan with liners. Whisk whole milk and white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar,  and nutmeg and set aside. In an electric mixer, beat the vegetable oil, lemon zest,  and egg until well combined.  Slowly alternate adding in the milk and dry ingredients, starting with the dry ingredients. Once well combined, mix in the blueberries. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake pan in 3/4 of the way full with the muffin batter. Set aside.

For the Topping: In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and butter using a fork or your hands. It should form small lil’ pea-sized rounds. Sprinkle this on top of the muffins.

Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, or until it comes out tooth-pick clean.

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Just so you know, when I’m baking, THIS is what is going on next to me.

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This Baking B***h is BACK! With a Cheesecake

One year ago today I posted a recipe for a Vanilla Chai Cheesecake- not much stemmed from that for the following 365 days. I am a well-intentioned gal, but unless I’m getting paid I have issues with follow through. Story of my life. However, I’m back, but I won’t promise for how long since we all saw what happened the last time I made promises.

DSC_0530I promised two posts a week and a short story a week… I am so full of shit. The reason why I haven’t posted anything on The Baker in the Rye for an entire year is (drum-roll) because I wanted to watch disgustingly awesome reality TV and do what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to bake and write about food so I didn’t. But here’s the thing- if this blog created recipes inspired by The Real Housewives of New Jersey instead of books, I’d have 0 followers. It was best to take a break.

DSC_0535Baking, blogging, and working at my old friend Starbucks made me one bitter bitch. Like the ULTIMATE crAAzY bitter bitch. So I took a break, stepped back from baking for people’s parties and from writing because it didn’t make me happy anymore. I created this blog because I loved to write, I loved to bake, and I wanted to feel like I was achieving an ounce of any goal I set forth for myself once I graduated college. But after a while, I lost my passion for it and I lost sight of what it is that I wanted to do- until now- kinda.

DSC_0536Things are gonna change around these parts- let me tell you. For starters, I know how to create all of these recipes and I spend a lot of time making sure they are easy to make and with a lot of detailed instructions. Therefore, do not ask me to bake these things for you. You can do it, I promise its pain-free. I do not cater events.

Secondly, do I hope to post once a week. YEAH! Will I? Probably not because I have proven to be a dirty, dirty liar on the internet just like almost everyone else on the internet. But I will try my best.

Thirdly, the last book I read was in August (of 2012) and it was Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, and though it was hilarious and wonderful and I highly recommend it, I haven’t read a single book since then. Will every recipe be inspired by a book moving forward? No. But will I share with you what I am reading and make occasional recipes inspired by that? Yes. In fact, a friend of mine lent me The Charm School by Nelson DeMille and, though I am in the early pages, it is an exciting, suspenseful read and I’ll most likely make a Russian recipe inspired by the novel, as it takes place in Russia.

Fourthly, moving forward I will not be as salty as this blog post is making me out to be- well I am making me out to be. I mean, I am salty, but usually not to the public.

DSC_0538A lot has changed in the last year and I have learned to celebrate all of my failures instead of wallowing in them. For example, I’ve failed as a blogger for the last year. It’s true. People are more likely to have more failures than successes anyway, and by celebrating them it’s less bad. You feel less like a total emotional dork if you have a glass of wine and think I’ll get ’em next time instead of sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream crying because you failed and didn’t get that $10.00/hr PR position run out of some lady’s living room in Red Bank, NJ…. whaaaaa? Oh, wait- that was just me two years ago.

DSC_0541Today, I am no longer that sad girl crying into an excessively large bowl of double fudge brownie ice cream. In the last year since I blogged, I found a job working for a non-profit in Philadelphia. I finally found a stinkin’ job where I utilized what I learned in college. I was starting to think college was a total waste of my time. I wouldn’t have gotten the job that I’m in now if I didn’t take a break from all this internet nonsense and just focus on me and making myself a happy person again. No one wants to hire a sad, bitter Rachel. But everyone wants to hire a happy, goofy Rachel!

DSC_0551So I left last year with a cheesecake and I begin this year with a cheesecake. How full-circle-of-life of me? It’s been a year, but I still make a mean cheesecake. This time, I made an Almond Amaretto Cheesecake. It’s pretty bad ass. It’s so right its wrong and needs to be slapped- or just eaten in total gluttonous serenity. This cheesecake is the 8th deadliest sin. This cheesecake was also made a year ago before I abandoned the The Baker in the Rye. See, I told you I’m a dirty, dirty liar.

DSC_0554

Almond & Amaretto Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 1/2 Cups crushed amaretti cookies, plus extra for topping

3/4 Cups ground almonds- crush until it looks like flour

5 tablespoons butter

Cheesecake:

4-8 Oz packages of cream cheese

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

3/4 Cup amaretto

3 Eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature

1/3 Cup sour cream

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 Cup ground almonds, ground until it forms a flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

Topping:

1/2 Cup heavy cream

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Almonds for garnish

Instructions:

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Heavily grease a springform pan with butter and sprinkle with flour so the cake will release easily. Crush the armaretti cookies and grind the almonds until it forms a powder. Melt the butter and combine it with the dry ingredients until the mixture just sticks together. Press it to the bottom of the greased springform pan. Wrap the bottom on the springform pan in aluminum foil and place it on a baking sheet to prepare it for its water bath.

For the cheesecake: In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is lump-free. Add the sugar and continue to beat until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Once that is well combined, mix in vanilla extract, sour cream, and amaretto. Once it is well combined, add in the almond flour, which you made form ground almonds, and salt. Beat until it is lump free and creamy. The good thing about cheesecake is that you don’t have to worry about over mixing it. Then, pour this mixture into the springform pan.  Fill the baking sheet up half way with hot water and place the cheesecake in the oven. The reason why I cover the bottom on my springform pan with foil is to prevent the pan from potentially burning the crust. I cook it in a water bath to prevent cracking. 

Bake the cheesecake for 60-70 minutes- until it jiggles like jell-o when shaken GENTLY. Then, turn the heat off and leave it in the oven for 1-2 hours. Take it out and let it get room temperature before putting it in the fridge overnight. This creates the creamiest cheesecake with no burns, cracks, or any imperfections. Trust me- no one has ever had  a bad work about my cheesecake.

For the topping: Right before serving, make the topping by whipping the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Then add in vanilla and sugar and beat for another 5 seconds. Swirl it on the top of your cheesecake and garnish with crush amaretti cookies and almonds.

DSC_0542And to wrap it up, the last line from my favorite book

Isn’t it pretty to think so? ~ The Sun Also Rises

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Give It A Chai! Vanilla Chai Cheesecake

The “Drink Me” and “Eat Me” scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the most memorable as it is the start to her strange and unforgettable journey. At this point in the novel, Alice had fallen into the rabbit hole, which was lined with cupboards and all sorts of oddities. With a mysterious key in hand, she uncovered a door, which was much too small for her to fit into. Just then, she spotted a bottle marked “DRINK ME,” and Alice did just that.

As she took her last sip, she quickly shrunk. Even though she can now fit through the door’s tiny frame, she realized that she had left the key high above her on a table. After a small fit, she spotted a cake marked “EAT ME” slyly positioned at the table’s base. Alice assumed the cake would turn her back to her true size, but was left disappointed when the cake seemingly did nothing.

Pool of Tears continues with Alice’s struggle with her size as she suddenly grew nine feet tall. Though she can reach the keys on the tabletop, which is now the size of a doll house compared to her giant physique, she can barely see through the door, let alone squeeze through it.

Alice began to cry so hard that a large pool of water formed around her. As she got more confused and frustrated, and began to cry even harder causing more water quickly built up around her. This is until she realized that a fanning motion caused her to shrink. She fanned herself until she shrunk so small that she was swimming in a pool of her own tears. Frightened she asked a mouse for help. When the mouse didn’t understand, she spoke to him in French by reciting a line from her lessons about a cat. This scared the mouse. As Alice’s attempts to befriend the mouse continued to fail, she bargained with the mouse and said she will never speak of cats or dogs if he helps her. The mouse then tells Alice to swim along the shore.

Alice found herself swimming to shore with other animals, including a Dodo, a Duck, a Lori, and an Eaglet. Eventually they reach safety and focus on drying off.

This over the top fantasy scene is symbolic for the identity crisis we all face between that child to adult period. Or in my case, the college vs. post college period. The bottle and cake are symbolic of the big decisions that come with age and with life changing events. In Alice’s case, she had no choice but to give the bottle and the cake a try…. Or in the case of this recipe chai… give it a chai.

With a play on words I captured the “EAT ME” cake and identity crisis in the form of Vanilla Chai Cheesecake. If you’ve been following this blog for some time now, you will have realized that I will try to turn everything into a cheesecake.

Chai is a sweet, spicy, nutty ingredient that can be used in many other ways beyond a cup of tea or Starbucks Chai Latte. Tazo’s chai concentrate can be infused into a lot of recipes by replacing milk with the chai concentrate. Think of the possibilities! Chai cupcakes, chai scones, chai cookies, Chai Chicken… okay, maybe that last one is a work in progress.

So go ahead, give it a chai.

Vanilla Chai Cheesecake


Ingredients

Crust:

2 1/2 Cups crushed vanilla wafers

1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 Cup butter, melted

Cheesecake:

4- 8 oz packages of cream cheese

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

3/4 Cups chai concentrate

3 eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature

1/3 cup sour cream

1 Vanilla bean

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 Cup flour

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger

Topping:

1/2 Cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons Chai concentrate

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 Cup White Sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. To make the crust, mix together crushed vanilla wafers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and melted butter. Press into a buttered springform pan
  3. In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add Chai concentrate, eggs, and egg yolk one at a time. Gradually add in sour cream, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Mix until it is creamy and lump-free.
  4. Pour into a springform pan and bake in a water bath for 60-75 minutes, until the edges are firm and the center wiggles slightly.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but over night is preferable.
  6. For the topping, once the cheesecake chilled and set, whip heavy cream in a cold bowl. When it starts to form firm peaks, whip in chai concentrate, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Continue to whip until it forms firm peaks. Using a piping bag, arrange whipped cream onto cheesecake. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of cake.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” ~ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 

 

Just for fun… This Vanilla Chai Cheesecake is Daisy Approved

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Earl Gray Lemon Cod & A Series of Tea Infused Foods

Tea parties are a regular affair in the life of a young girl. Sometimes there are elaborate hats or flamboyantly dressed dolls in place of human company. To young girls, the doll wearing Victorian style clothing and with a politely placed handkerchief over her waist is not just some hunk of plastic at the end of a table. To her, that doll has a personality, a family, and friends beyond the confines of a childhood bedroom.

There are two tea parties that have gone down in world history: The Boston Tea Party and The Hatter’s tea party from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 nonsensical novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the next few weeks, we will travel a tasty tea-infused  journey through the novel that changed the notion of genre.

As if you don’t already know, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the story of a young girl who falls into a dream world full of characters like the always late White Rabbit, the mysterious Cheshire Cat, and insane Hatter who is stuck constantly stuck in tea time, and the Queen of Hearts, known for her appetite for flamingo croquet and daily executions.

Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland is so interesting because it falls into literature limbo: literary nonsense. Since being labeled literary nonsense upon it’s first publication, it’s drawn more intrigue than anything else. To this day it is one of the most widely read fantasy stories among children.

Like Hatter, I’ve gone a little mad recently when thinking of new recipes. Tea infused foods are the latest food blogger trend and I want in, but not in the way everyone else is in. I want crazy in, out of the box in, how does this recipe make sense in. And I’ve done it.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting recipes that all include a variety of Tazo teas from peppery Earl Gray to the minty Refresh.

Let’s start with my most absurd idea yet: Earl gray tea and lemon marinated cod.

For a week after I was struck with this potentially horrifyingly disgusting idea, I badgered my friends at work constantly. I spent a large part of my shift asking them, “Yeah but is earl gray tea and fish too weird?” They all cringed out a “No, not at all.”

When you think about it, if there’s a tea to make savory, it’s earl gray. It’s peppery and spicy, which allows it to be pared with tangy lemon and sweet honey, both used in the marinade. Cod is a mild flaky fish with a firm body, which allows it to hold up to a more experimental marinade.

That being said, I made this scary idea into a delicious reality.

 Earl Gray Tea & Lemon Cod with Grilled Summer Veggies 

Ingredients:

4 Cod Fillets

6 Cups water, boiled

5 Tazo Earl Gray Tea bags

2 Lemons

3 Tablespoons honey

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

3 Shallots, minted

2 Garlic cloves, minced

Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Seasonal vegetables; Mine included carrots, yellow squash, asparagus & vine tomatoes.

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Steep 5 tea bags and 1 lemon in water for 5 minutes. Then, remove tea bags. Add  in honey, brown sugar, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and  1/2 teaspoon pepper. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cool.
  2. Once the marinade in cooled, add cod and let marinate for 25 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  4. Remove fish, pat dry, and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes, until it is just flaky.
  5. While fish is cooking, rub your veggies with salt, pepper, olive oil, and juice from 1 lemon. Place on a grill and cook until they are tender.

 “The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was ‘Why is a raven like a writing-desk?'” ~Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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Where The Wild Things Are & Mac n’ Cheese

Earlier this month, the literature and illustration community lost a great influence of modern children’s literature. Maruice Sendak, the children’s book author best known for his 1963 book Where The Wild Things Are, passed away at the age of 83.

Most have a fond memories of this book, whether having it read to him or herself self as a child or reading it to his or her own child. Children often wonder what could possibly live beyond their own bedrooms, homes, backyards, etc. Sendak gave children the ability to wonder and image a world beyond anything they could have by allowing them to experience the Wild Things with Max.

 The influence of Where The Wild Things Are, stretch far beyond childhood and into adulthood in the 2009 mirror-titled movie version, as well as 2009 book adaptation titled The Wild Things by David Eggers. As children’s favorite characters came to life on screen, their parents fell under the same charm. Today, more and more platforms for the 1963 classic are emerging every day. It’s clearer than ever before that Where The Wild Things Are is a classic that defies both time and age.

 Max was introduced to the reader as the rambunctious child who was sent to bed without any dinner- a child’s second worst nightmare. The first is getting sent to bed without any dessert. As he drifted off to sleep, an imaginary world of forests grew from his own bedroom. Max sailed across a mysterious sea until he entered the world of Wild Things. The Wild Things are a group of creatures that lived without any rules and without the love of parents. As Max spent more time with the Wild Things, and even became their king, he longed to be where he was loved most of all. When he woke up, he found himself in his room with his supper, still warm.

 My favorite dinner to this day is my mom’s macaroni and cheese, a rarity since my dad hates macaroni and cheese almost as much as he hates mashed potatoes- I know, it’s totally bizarre and makes zero sense. If I were sent to bed- at the age of 23- without my mom’s macaroni and cheese, I couldn’t even imagine the night terrors I would have. It’s too creamy and dreamy to not eat  Funny thing, when I called my mom to ask her how she makes it, she literally had no idea. Apparently, she doesn’t believe in measurements. This made for an interested few hours, not to mention four trips to the supermarket within three hours.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way… and in this case some macaroni and cheese.

Giselle’s Mac N’ Cheese

Ingredients:

1 Pound of macaroni, I used corkscrew shaped pasta called Cavatappi

1/2  Cup butter

1/2 Cup all-purpose flour

3/4 of a pound white American cheese

1  2/3 Cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

1/3 Cup grated parmesan cheese, (plus 1/4 cup extra for topping)

4-5 Cups whole milk

1 Teaspoon salt

1/4 Teaspoon black pepper

1/3 Cup Italian-style bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt and toss your pasta in. For Cavatappi, cook for 7-8 minutes or until barely al-dente. Al-dente is when the pasta is just cooked, but still has a nice bite to it. Pasta will continue to cook when in oven. If the pasta is too soft, it will turn into mush. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 345 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large saucepan, create a roux by melting the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, add the flour and cook until it is a very light brown and forms a paste. This will ensure the flour-like taste is gone. Then, add 4 cups of milk, salt, and pepper on medium-low heat. When it just starts to bubble, add in American cheese, Cheddar cheese, and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix constantly until it melts completely and begins to thicken.
  4. If need be, add more milk if too thick and more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time if it is too thin.
  5. To ensure an extra creamy texture, I put my cheese mixture into a blender and blended it until all the lumps were gone.
  6. In the pasta bowl, smother your noodles with the cheese mixture until all the noodles are evenly coated. Top with grated parmesan cheese and the Italian bread crumbs. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for ten minutes before eating.

 “Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” ~Where The Wild Things Are

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