Tag Archives: party food

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread

One of the hardest parts about moving halfway across the country is making new friends in a strange city. Luckily, the Internet makes it relatively easy to find social groups, volunteer organizations, and more. Within a few weeks of moving to Austin, I started exploring the Austin MeetUp website, where I found several local women’s social groups that appeared to be filled with people I could definitely get along with. Through events these groups have sponsored, I’ve been able to explore Austin while meeting lots of funny, smart, and awesome people who have the potential to become a great group of friends.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cookie swap table

Setting the table before the guests arrive.

I’ve begun to enjoy the people in one group in particular over the past few weeks and wanted to give back by hosting my own MeetUp event for ladies in the group. I decided to host a small Christmas cookie swap for those who were interested as a chance to hang out while also getting a fun collection of holiday treats to enjoy over the coming weeks. As the host, I wanted to make sure I had some salty snacks to compliment the sweets we’d be sampling as well as a little mulled wine for everyone. With so much already on my to do list, I needed make a swap treat that had minimal steps and took little time to bake. Spending hours preparing baking sheet after sheet of cookies seemed like too daunting a task when the floor still needed to be mopped.

Onion Cheddar Bread - finished onion cheese bread

The clear choice for my dilemma was mini-loaves of quick bread. With 3 loaves of bread baked per recipe batch, it would be easy to quadruple the recipe and make the required 12 loaves of bread for the ladies to take home aftewards. I even had 12 cardboard mini loaf pans in the closet waiting to be used! It was fate. A few test runs later, I perfected this super easy, 9-ingredient, savory quick bread. It is perfect with a little butter  or cream cheese served on the side of a smooth tomato soup.

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread
(1) 9-inch loaf bread or (3) mini 4-inch loaves

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces white cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounce bottle nut brown ale or porter

1)     Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan or 3 mini 4-inch loaf pans.

2)     Add olive oil to large heavy bottomed skillet over low-medium heat. Add diced onion and cook slowly to caramelize. While the onion is cooking, shred or roughly chop the cheddar cheese. When the onion has just begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool so that it doesn’t melt the cheese.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cook the onions

3)     Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in onions and cheddar until evenly distributed.

Onion Cheddar Bread - whisk dry ingredients

Onion Cheddar Bread - add chredded cheese

Onion Cheddar Bread - stir in onions

4)     Slowly add beer, stirring to fully combine. The final batter will be thick and you will need to spoon it into baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes for a large loaf or 30 minutes for smaller loafs. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing, airtight, in the fridge.

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 1

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 2

Roasted Garlic Jelly for Foodie Fun

Garlic Jelly Jar 1It’s the holidays and we are down to less than one week until Christmas Day. Yikes! If you are anything like me, you probably either a) have not started on your gift list (not me this year, yay!) or b) are stressing over those last few gifts…you know, for the folks that have all they [think] they want sans the winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket.  My office buddy and I are kind of in that last boat together  this year.  What to get for those last few names still on our lists while simultaneously trying to overcome the dread of having to brave the frantic shopping town centers.  Enter the realm of Do It Yourself (DIY)! Now don’t panic if you are thinking about how empty the craft store shelves are by now, because you likely won’t need anything too seasonal for this idea…because you’ll be doing most of your shopping at the grocery store!

A fun, food themed gift basket or goodie bag is always a hit with my circle of friends. You may recall the Vanilla Salt I shared with you two years ago. That yearGarlic Jelly Cheese Bread 2 I also made Thai-Chili Sugar, and Mulling Spice packets. Last year I made the delicious Roasted Garlic Jelly I am sharing with you today. This year…well I can’t quite tell you the exact details since some of the receivers are reading this…but it involves some fun baskets. For example one friend, who recently moved her family in with her new honey’s family, is going to get a package of family friendly fun things they can make with the kiddos. Another is getting complimentary recipes and pre-made mixes to go with items I bought her off of her Christmas wish list. My dad is getting a basket of NCIS DVDs tucked alongside jars of homemade pop-corn seasoning, cute popcorn themed bowls, and popcorn kernels.

Feeling less panicked now?

So back to this Roasted Garlic Jelly.

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray 2Almost everyone makes this face when I say “garlic jelly”.  I think Emilie is the only one that didn’t raise an eyebrow.  Yes, yes, it sounds weird, but trust me this stuff is quite delicious. Have you ever had a clove of roasted garlic? Don’t you remember how it’s pungent flavor mellowed out and took on some caramelized sweetness?  I think you see where I am going with this now. Roasted garlic jelly is different, but it’s still a sweet jelly with just the faintest bit of tang (that would be the vinegar) and aroma of delicious, roasted garlic. This juxtaposition is precisely what will make this such a fun gift for your friends and family.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Roasted Garlic Jelly

Fills 6-8, 4 ounce jelly jars. Recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.


  • 3  heads garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces pouches liquid pectin (typically two packages)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Slice off the tops of  the garlic heads to expose the cloves. Place each head on a small square of aluminum foil.Garlic Jelly Expose Cloves
  3. Over each head, pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar, approximately a tablespoon each per garlic head.Garlic Jelly balsamic
  4. Wrap the foil squares loosely around the garlic heads and roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Let garlic heads sit until  cool enough to handle. Unwrap from foil and  squeeze each head to push out the softened cloves  into a medium saucepan. Discard skins.
    Garlic Jelly roasted garlic heads     Garlic Jelly roasted garlic cloves
  6. In a the same pan, add the wine, water, white balsamic vinegar and peppercorns to the roasted garlic.  Over medium heat (gentle now!) bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to boil gently for 5 minutes.Garlic Jelly Making Garlic Juice
  7. Cover sauce pan and remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes.
  8. Line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a large,  dampened coffee filter.  Place strainer over a deep bowl.
    Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 1            Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 2
  9. Pour garlic mixture through the lined strainer into the bowl.  Let drip, undisturbed, for about 30 minutes.  You should end up with about 1 2/3 cups garlic juice. If you end up with less, add up to 1/4 cup dry wine or water.
  10. As garlic “juice” is draining,  prepare canner, jars, and lids by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and boiling your jars and lids for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, but keep jars in hot water until ready to jar for up to an hour. Any longer and you will need to re-sterilize.Green Tomato Preserves Sanitzing Jars
  11. Transfer garlic juice to a large saucepan and stir in lemon juice and sugar.Garlic Jelly adding sugar
  12. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil.
  13. Stir in pectin and return to a boil. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.
    Garlic Jelly adding liquid pectin    Garlic Jelly skimming
  14. Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. (This jelly sets quickly!)
  15. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
  16. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.Garlic Jelly hot water bath
  17. Once processed, remove from  canner.  As they cool, you’ll hear the lids “pop” as the jars seal.  To test whether the jar has sealed, press your finger against the middle of the lid.  If it springs up, it has not sealed.
  18.  Allow the jars to cool before storing.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve as a cheese and fruit tray condiment
  • Use as a savory/sweet glaze on pork or chicken
  • Stir a tablespoon or two into risotto
  • Spread on toast (with bacon!)

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray

Filipino Adobo – National Dish of the Philippines

Filipino Adobo 4First, I want to say thank-you to everyone’s concern about my family in the Philippines in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan.  My family is fine.  Most of mother’s side of the  family lives in and around the capital, Manila, about 500 miles north of the devastation you have seen in Tacloban.  I grew up in that region of the world and experienced many typhoons, but nothing like Haiyan.  The closest comparison to the American experience is probably Hurricane Katrina.  Please continue to pray for the country and its people.  They have a long and hard journey ahead to recovery.

In honor of my mother’s homeland, I thought I’d share the [unofficial] national dish of the Philippines: adobo.  Unlike other popular Filipino dishes, such as lumpia or pancit, Filipino adobo is indigenous to the archipelago.  When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they made mention in their records of the natives preparing food in vinegar and Filipino Adobo 2salt.  Why? Food preservation.  Pinterest has enlightened many of us to vinegar’s antibacterial qualities.  Combine vinegar with salt and heat and you have one serious cootie kicking combination.  Later on, soy sauce eventually replaced salt as Chinese influences entered into the Philippine islands .  The term adobo itself means a seasoning or marinade in Spanish.  This is why you will find a vast amount of completely different dishes originating in Latin and South America that share the name adobo.

Filipino adobo is typically made with either pork or chicken.  Growing up, my mother used both, but we definitely had a preference for chicken.  I find that  bone-in, dark meat is best, as it stands up to the stewing process and intense flavors of the vinegar and soy sauce.  In the past 10 Filipino Adobo 5years, my mother has actually switched to using chicken wings for her adobo, which has made it a frequent request for parties.  I also prefer to make my adobo to the consistency of a stew, because I love pouring the vinegary “broth” over jasmine rice and letting it soak up all that yummy flavor.   Another version is to cook the adobo until the cooking liquid has reduced to a thick, glaze like consistency.  If you like my mother’s chicken wing idea, I’d recommend using this latter style (use less cooking liquid).

“Aaaah, Ruth! You did so good!” my mother declared the first time she tasted my adobo.  There’s nothing like receiving praises from your mother when it comes to the dishes she used to make for you when you were a child.

Filipino Adobo 1

To add some green to this very brown dish, add petite baby bok choy during the last 5-8 minutes of cooking time so that they steam in the pot with the adobo liquid.

Filipino Chicken Adobo


Chicken Adobo Ingredients

  • 3-3 ½  bone in, skin on dark meat
  • ¾ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup to 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  1. Optional: Heat oil in large, heavy pot over medium high. When oil is hot, brown the chicken lightly, but no more than 5 minutes.  You’re only browning, not cooking the chicken.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients into the pot over the chicken.Filipino Adobo All in the Pot
  3. Over medium high heat, bring liquid to a boil.Filipino Adobo Boil
  4. Cover and reduce heat so that the liquid comes to a simmer.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until chicken is tender.Filipino Adobo Simmer
  5. Serve hot over steamed rice.Filipino Adobo 3

Low Country Boil, Summer Entertaining Southern


Ah, how bitter sweet it is.  Today marks the end of the summer “season”.  Sadly, this summer just did not feel like summer. Barring the handful of 100°+ days, the season was uncannily cool and horrendously wet.  The constant rain often precluded my friends and me from enjoying our favorite summer outings, like boating on the Potomac and picnicking at one of the many delightful Virginia vineyards.  Being the sunshine and daisies Pollyanna that I am, though, I still found effective ways to enjoy a few summer delights.

For example,  instead of driving out an hour or more to a vineyard only to be caught in a torrential downpour huddling under a single shelter, I’d set out a blanket in the common area of my neighborhood to read a book while nibbling on cheese and enjoying a chilled Virginia Viognier.  When the storm clouds got too close, all I had to do was gather the few items and re-establish myself on the back porch and enjoy the storm comfortably.  On days like that, an awesome summer stew, like this Low Country Boil was the perfect accompaniment.

Also referred to as Frogmore or Beaufort Stew, I first enjoyed this classic LCB 5southern dish in its native land of coastal South Carolina, also known as “the Low Country”.  It goes back to my Marine Corps connections.  You’ll find that many Marines with an aviation background (like my dad!),  are familiar with this dish seeing as one of its namesakes is Beaufort, which is home to a Marine Air Station…Parris Island is down the road, but I don’t know how much Low Country Boil they let you have in boot camp, lol!

I love Low Country Boil, because it’s just a fun dish and so full of summer flavors. At its core, all you need is shrimp, fresh corn on the cob, crab seasoning, and water. Common additions you’ll find in the dish include sausage and potatoes. Myself, I like to add zucchini just to get a “real” vegetable in the pot.  And this dish is so easy! Basically, throw everything in the pot, boil it and serve. Can’t get much simpler than that now can you?


serves about 6

LCB Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 3-4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 pounds shrimp (unpeeled will add more flavor to broth)
  • 1 pound sausage, sliced crosswise into bite size pieces
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 pound bite size red potatoes
  • 2-3 ears of corn, husked and cut into thirds
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch moons
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot (preferably at big stock pot), combine  water, Old Bay, onions, and garlic; bring to a boil.
  2. Add potatoes; boil for 10- 15 until almost tender. (Cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes).LCB potato time
  3. Add sausage to pot and boil for  5 minutes.
  4. Add the corn and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini and boil for 2-3 minutes.LCB zucchini in the pot
  6. Lastly, add the the shrimp and boil for 3 minutes more or until shrimp turns pink.LCB shrimp time
  7. Ladle into bowls, garnish with an additional sprinkling of Old Bay (optional), and serve.


Note: If you didn’t peel the shrimp…be sure it is cool enough to handle before peeling by hand. Burned fingers are no fun!


Cayenne and Lime Watermelon Wedges, a Recipe from The Kitchn

CLM 5 So what do you get when you put a Political Science major and an International Affairs major in the same room on Independence Day? Lots of fireworks…figuratively and literally! I’m telling you, it gets quite interesting discussing the latest headlines when you add in our sprinklings of Psychology, Sociology, Privacy, Jane Austen, and the wisdom of bartenders. Our conversation about Chick-Fil-A was definitely worth being a fly on the wall for.

Anyway, with all that has been going on, Emilie made it perfectly clear that I would not be permitted to sequester myself for the holiday. I had to agree with her. If Pat Summit (see my last post) can keep on living her life to the fullest despite the Alzheimers, I have no excuses not to do the same. So rather than spend Independence Day having left over pancakes with Death, I chose to fill the holiday weekend with joy, friendship, delicious food and drinks, the laughter of children, minions (eeeeeep!), and of course amazing fireworks.

“It is what it is, but it becomes what you make it.” I chose to make it scrumptious!

For our pre-fireworks cookout, I was assigned fruit duty…more specifically CLM 4watermelon duty. Now you all know me, I couldn’t bring just watermelon. No, no, no that would not do at all. Okay, so how to make something already completely delectable on its own even more yummy? Enter The Kitchn’s Twitter feed and this seriously refreshing and mouth watering recipe posted by Emily Ho. I quickly shot Emilie a text. The decision was unanimous and this delightful dish found itself on our July 4th menu.

You must try this dish the next time you bring home a watermelon! The combination of spicy cayenne and zesty lime with the cool and sweet watermelon is amazing. You will not lose the flavor of the watermelon at all . Instead the salt, lime, and and itty bitty kick of spice accentuates the refreshing nature of the watermelon. Trust me on this one. It’s sure to become a staple in your summer cookout repertoire.

Cayenne and Lime Watermelon Wedges

based on a recipe from: The Kitchn


CLM Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt, such as kosher or sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cayenne
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon honey mint julep syrup*
  • chopped mint for garnish (optional
  • 1 (10-pound) watermelon, cut into wedges
*Remember to leave out the bourbon and ice!
  1. Combine the salt, cayenne pepper, and lime zest in a mortar and pestle. Grind together until combined into a nice powder. (Trick: pour into an empty spice jar for easy sprinkling.)CLM mortar pestle
  2. In a small bowl or jar, combine lemon juice with the honey mint julep syrup.CLM lime and honey
  3. Arrange the watermelon wedges on a serving platter. Drizzle with the sweetened lime juice then sprinkle a light dusting of the cayenne mixture on top.CLM lime and honey juiceCLM sprikles
  4. Serve with a garnish of chopped mint leaves if desired.CLM 1

Note: You can serve immediately…but chilling it overnight brings a whole new dimension with a sneakier kick from the cayenne. Emilie and I discovered this munching on leftovers after our Independence Day cookout. Although both ways are delicious and refreshing, I prefer the “leftovers” version myself.

BLT Deviled Eggs

Rumor has it that there is a huge sporting even happening this weekend. Two brothers duking it out on the gridiron to win the title of champion. At least that’s what people are telling me, because, to be honest, if it isn’t Big10 college football, I don’t know much about it.

Even if I may be more interested in the Puppy Bowl than the Superbowl, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been to my fair share of Superbowl parties and made my fair share of party snacks that would be perfect for your weekend festivities. For example, these deviled eggs are a fun spin on the classic BLT sandwich with bacon, sundried tomatoes, parsley (for the lettuce). While I used freshly cooked bacon, you could easily substitute Bacon Bits and dried parsley if you are short on time or energy.

finished eggs, up close

So say yes to that last minute Superbowl Party invite, whip up a batch of these eggs, and be ready to talk about the commercials on Monday morning. I won’t lie, I’ll be watching the latest episode of Downton Abbey and sipping wine. I won’t be watching football for another 7 months or so… GO BLUE!

BLT Deviled Eggs
makes 12-24 servings

1 dozen eggs
5-6 sliced of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2-3 tablespoons diced sundried tomatoes
1.5 tablespoons regular yellow mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper

finished eggs

1)     Place eggs in a large pot cold of water, enough to cover all 1 dozen eggs with at least an inch of water. Bring water to a boil. Once it has reached boiling let cook for an additional 10 minutes.

2)     Remove eggs from boiling water and place immediately in a bowl of ice water. Change the ice water at least once to bring the temperature of the eggs down quickly.

3)      Peel the eggs and slice in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks into a medium sized bowl and set aside the egg whites.

4)     Using a fork or potato masher, mash the egg yolks. Mix in the crumbled bacon, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, onion powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the mustard and mayonnaise until well combined.

mix the yolk

5)     Fill the egg whites with the BLT egg yolk mixture, top with an additional parsley leaf for presentation (optional) and serve.

pipe the filling

Hump Day Happy Hour: Mulled Wine

Holiday party season is in full swing, and if your calendar looks anything like mine, you will be spending nearly as many waking hours in the kitchen making side dishes and desserts for various parties as you will be spending at the parties themselves. And, of course, the number of hours spent in the kitchen will increase exponentially if you are hosting a party of your own. All of this time spent in the kitchen often has us at a loss for energy and creativity when it comes time to make crowd pleasing drinks that don’t keep the host “behind the bar” all night, but it shouldn’t. Don’t spend your next party mixing drinks instead of mingling. Mulled wine, for example, takes only minutes of hands on preparation time and then can be left alone for guests to serve up for themselves. This is exactly why I plan on whipping up a large batch as part of my contribution to an upcoming holiday dinner party my friend is hosting in a couple of weeks. In addition to the requested canned good for the local food pantry and the side dish I signed up to bring, I plan on surprising everyone (ok, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise anymore) with warm spiced red wine to help keep everyone warm in these freezing temperatures.

I created this recipe using a bottle of inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon and middle-shelf bourbon. I only used one bottle since I was not working with an existing recipe, but developing my own – no reason to waste wine if it didn’t work. The final result can easily be doubled or even tripled (I will probably triple it…) depending on your needs. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge and enjoyed the next day after a brief time in the microwave. I would recommend making multiple spice pouches – one for every bottle of wine instead of one large one, to make sure the spices fully infuse into the wine. If space on your stove top is scarce, you could make all of this in a Crockpot (which is what I plan on doing) with some minor adjustments:

  • Heat the orange juice and whiskey using the Crockpot’s highest setting before adding the sugar.
  • Reduce heat to the lowest setting before adding the wine, cover with the lid and let simmer an extra 30 minutes or so to make sure the flavors fully develop.
  • Make sure to test it before you serve it 😉

Mulled Wine

1 cinnamon stick
3 1/2-inch cubes fresh ginger
20 whole allspice berries
peel of 1 large orange
peel of 1/4 of a lemon
juice from 3 large oranges
2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 750-mL bottles dry red wine

1)     Using a sharp paring knife, carefully peel away as much of the orange peel as you can, leaving behind the bitter white pith. Do the same with the lemon, although you will only need one small strip of the peel.

2)     Place citrus peels, cinnamon stick, allspice, and ginger in the center of a square of cheese cloth. Bring the edges of the cheese cloth together and secure with a piece of string or tie the opposite corners of the cheese cloth together to create a small pouch.

3)     Pour the orange juice and whiskey into a large sauce pan and drop the spice pouch into the juice. Heat over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Add raw sugar and stir to dissolve.

4)     Pour wine into sauce pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

5)     Ladle into heat proof glasses, garnish with orange slices or cinnamon sticks if desired, and serve.

Strawberry Tarragon Bruschetta Topping

My first weekend home from school I spent in sweltering heat. A freak summer storm that caused more damage than our last hurricane left me without power (aka no AC!) for a few days. Unable to cook and no desire for anything remotely warm, I fell back on a lovely, cool recipe I had made a few weeks before I left for Maryland when all the strawberries were beautiful, ruby red gems bursting with delicious sweetness.

Almost everyone has tried the strawberry and basil combination and I was interested in trying a new combination for a savory twist. I knew I wanted to use freshly ground black pepper, but what other herbs to try? Not mint, I wasn’t looking for sweet. Rosemary? Maybe, but I was thinking something more delicate. Ah, what about tarragon? I’d never actually used it before, but I remember “examining” some left overs Emilie had left in my fridge after making her Champagne-Sorbet Dessert while I was in Spain. I liked its almost anise scent and decided to give it a go. Definitely a winner! I think this is a lovely dish to bring to picnics and summer potlucks.

Strawberry and Tarragon Bruschetta


  • 1/2 lb strawberries, hulled and diced small
  • 1 tbsp chopped tarragon (use fresh, not dried)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • toasted baguette slices
  • goat cheese, enough to spread on the toasted baguettes
  1. Mix the diced strawberries and tarragon in a  bowl and toss
  2. Cover and set aside in the fridge for about 2o minutes to allow the flavors to meld together
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and mix well.
  4. Spread goat cheese over the toasted baguette slices and top with the strawberries.


Goldfish Cupcakes: MRAP’s Iron Chef Challenge

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Today is the official kick off of summer here in the states. Emilie has already brought us some tasty summer recipes to try out this season. I’ve had this cupcake recipe on the sidelines for a few months now, and today seems like a good day to bring it out into the sunshine. Before we get to that, though,  I would like to take a moment and bring us back to the meaning of today’s holiday. Like many holidays, the spirit of its intent is often lost in the hustle and bustle surrounding it.

Today, Americans honor our fallen military Service members. Having been at war for over a decade now, today’s living generations have all witnessed the sacrifices made by these brave men and women. Some closer than others as they lay a loved one to rest in Arlington, others at a distance as they turn their heads away in dismay at a TV newscast. As you drive by national cemetaries, you may see Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops lighting candles or adorning graves with American Flags, like at the annual Luminaria inFredericksburg.  At 3 PM today, in response to the “National Moment of Remembrance”  memorandum issued by the White House in 2000, you may here the solemn notes of “Taps” and that everything has come to a halt around you.

On MRAP, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were an everday reality for us.  We once had a Lieutenant Colonel tell us he had never seen a group of people work so hard and for so many years; that even troops got a break from being shot at.  Personally, I think being shot at for 6-18 months is waaaaay more stressfull! Anyway, a job like that can lay a serious toll on people. Luckily, our leadership was often able to detect (or acknowledge when given a nudge…or punch) cracks in morale. At those times, small diversions were arranged, like a mandatory team lunch where laptops and blackberries had to be left behind and work was a forbidden topic for one hour…or a cook off contest like this Iron Chef-esqe challenge we did last fall.

…and the secret ingredient is…


The cracker, not junior’s pet, lol

Allez cuisine!

Vanilla Goldfish Cupcakes with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting

Cupcake Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cake flour, sifted
  • ¾ cup Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish crumbs (appx 1 cup whole)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar divided into ¾ cup and ¼ cup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated, room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Frosting Ingredients
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk or cream
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Choice of food coloring (optional)
Cupcake Directions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Pour Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish into a food processor and pulse until Goldfish turn into fine crumbs.
  3. In a mixing bowl, sift the cake flour, Goldfish crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk (or use your hand or electric mixer’) until eggs are foamy .
  5. Add the cream of tartar to the foamy egg whites and continue beating until soft peaks form.
  6. Once soft peaks form, slowly add a 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar to the egg whites and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. The goal is to be able to hold the bowl upside down with nothing falling out. Once you reach this point, your egg whites are ready.
  7. In another bowl, beat the1/2 cup of butter until soft and creamy (about 1-2 minutes).
  8. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar to the butter and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
  9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after adding each yolk.
  10. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and beat in the vanilla extract.
  11. Once vanilla is blended in, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour, until all the flour and milk has been added to the bowl. If you are using a hand or stand mixer, use the low setting.
  12. With a spatula, very gently fold a little of the whites into the batter. Continue to fold in the remaining whites, taking care not to over mix. Doing so will cause the batter to deflate.
  13. Fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18 -20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
  14. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  15. Once cooled, decorate as you wish with the Lemon Butter Cream Frosting. I used a star tip for the muffin minis and a spatula for the others.
Frosting Directions:
  1. Cream the butter until smooth and well blended.
  2. Add the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  3. Gradually beat in the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.
  4. Add the milk and beat quickly until frosting is light and fluffy. (If the acid from the lemon curdles the milk, add more sugar until smoothed)
  5. Tint the frosting with desired food color (use the paste/gel kind, which will not thin the icing).

Dressed up Cracker Jack

Bryce Harper’s rookie debute at National’s Park, by Scott Ableman (via Flicker)

“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never come back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win its a shame.”
~Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Jack Norworth

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and I agree. Baseball diamonds that is. We are nearly a third of the way through the season and I couldn’t be happier. The Washington Nationals are hovering at the top of the National League East, we have one of the best pitching rotations in the sport right now, and we have Bryce Harper – a serious contender for Rookie of the Year.

While things certainly are going well, we still have over 100 games left in the regular season, so things could change in the blink of an eye. Sort of like the caramel used in this  dressed up cracker jack recipe. I highly recommend the use of a candy thermometer whenever you make something like this, and the minute the needle hit 225ºF don’t take your eyes off of the caramel. I know they say a watched pot never boils, but an unwatched pot turn into a burned sticky mess before you realize it.

Dressed up Cracker Jack

2 3.5ounce bags freshly-popped popcorn *
2 cups slivered almonds
8 ounce package dried cherries
For the Carmel
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Kosher salt, optional

*Use a plain, light butter, or even kettle corn flavor. Anything else (like movie theater popcorn) will be too much.

1)     Preheat oven to 250°F . In a very large bowl (or two regular sized bowls)  toss popcorn, almonds, and cherries. Don’t worry if the almonds fall to the bottom, but do try to break up any clumps of cherries that stick together, and spread them evenly throughout the popcorn.

2)     In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt butter.

3)     Place candy thermometer on the side of the pan and add stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and salt. Make sure to break up any brown sugar lumps you find.

4)     Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature on the candy thermometer his 250°F, or soft ball stage.

5)     Remove from heat and add almond extract and baking soda. The addition of the baking soda will make the mixture foam up a bit, so don’t be surprised.

6)     Quickly pour over popcorn mixture and use large spoons to toss until evenly coated.

7)     Spread popcorn on two rimmed, greased cookie sheets and bake at 250°F, stirring every 15 minutes, for a total of 50 minutes.

8)   Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.