This chocolate pudding will make you feel like a kid again.

I never really understood people who didn’t make their own pudding, and relied on the store-bought instant variety. It takes the same amount of time to make it from scratch. Seriously. And it’s EASY. Not only all that- but you get to know exactly what you’re eating.

In this chocolate pudding, there are 10 ingredients, most of which you probably have already. And you can pronounce them all.

Double chocolate pudding! Just like the kind you had as a kid, but homemade.

You love chocolate pudding, don’t you? Who doesn’t? What kid DOESN’T like chocolate pudding? It’s the great equalizer, like pizza. Everyone loves it. I know as a kid I was obsessed with homemade butterscotch pudding & chocolate pudding, equally. I was so excited when my mom made pudding, I hated waiting for it to chill. But NO SKIN- if there was skin on it, it was peeled off & thrown away promptly.

I still don’t like to have skin on my pudding.

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Hearty spent grain French bread.

Just a few days ago I posted about bagels, now it’s bread. I know, it’s crazy. But winter time is time to bake a lot of warming, comforting things. And bread is definitely one of those, don’t you think?

Back in August I told you all about my friend Pete, and his home-brew supply store, Homebrews & Handgrenades. I told you all about how he gave me a ton of spent brewing grain to bake with, and I made that bread.

Well things have been a bit busy around here since then. I remodeled almost the entire place, had no appliances, and then there was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. It hasn’t been conducive to insane recipe experimentation like is required when you get something brand new, like spent grain. So whatever I haven’t used yet is sitting in jars in my freezer, waiting for me to decide what to do.

What is spent grain?
Spent Grain is a byproduct from brewing process. The chemical composition of wet spent grains is given below:
- Water, 80%
- Protein, 5%
- N-free extract, 9%
- Fat, 2%
- Cellulose fibres, 4%
- Minerals, 1%

- source

Spent brewing grain, drying in the oven (click through for cracker recipe).

First, I dried out a bunch of the grain by laying it out on a cookie sheet and baking it at my oven’s lowest setting (170° F) for 7 hours or so, basically “overnight.” This was important because the grain was wet when I got it, and I froze it immediately. That means there was a lot of moisture trapped in there!

Once it was dried (and a little toasted, ’cause I raised the temperature a bit for the last hour), I let it cool completely. Then I used my KitchenAid grain mill attachment to grind it into a flour. I used a somewhat medium grind, it wasn’t too fine but not too coarse. And then- voila- I had spent grain flour! Which, by the way, you can store in your pantry in sealed container for as long as you like.

Spent brewing grain French bread.

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Homemade bagels, part 2.

Homemade bagels in no time!

The last time I posted about homemade bagels was about 5 years ago. Maybe even 6. My photography was horrendous! Jeez. I was totally a newbie blogger, and it shows. But I’m older now, and wiser, and my photography has improved (I hope!) as well as my food-creation in general. Last time, my bagels weren’t quite as golden as they should have been, so since I love bagels and I love making things from scratch I decided to revisit this whole bagel idea. Especially since the photos will be have to be infinitely better.

Make easy homemade bagels & be eating them in no time!

This is an EASIER recipe than the last one. Seriously. The last one wasn’t even hard, just required a few different rising times, etc. This one doesn’t- one 2 hour rise & you’re all good.

So easy that I made it & was eating bagels in no time. And they are GOOD bagels!

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Snack time with Milton’s! A delicious ricotta dip… and a giveaway!

*****COMMENTS CLOSED! 1/25/13*****

*The winner is… EILEEN! Comment #21*

Eileen- Milton's Cracker winner!

 -Thanks to everyone who entered! -

***********************

Yep. Today I’m going to be giving away a TON of crackers from Milton’s Craft Bakers, but first, I’m going to give you an easy recipe idea. A really, really easy dip recipe for any party, football game- or even just for movie night!

Baked ricotta dip with mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & basil. Goes great with Milton's Craft Bakers gourmet crackers!

I love dip. I love any kind of dip; hot, cold, room temperature, cheese, onion, vegetable, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy, savory, etc. And I love any kind of vehicle to eat aforementioned dip. I’m a snack person. I can make a meal out of snack foods. But crackers? I looooove crackers. I love crackers with 5 o’s, that’s how much I love them. I eat crackers plain. I eat ‘em with cheese. I eat ‘em with dip… and this hot baked ricotta dip is just the thing.

It’s easy to make, bakes up quick and you can make it in as large or small a batch as you need!

Baked ricotta dip & Milton's gourmet crackers. (click for recipe)

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Friday Fifteen: COLD.

Snowy railings in New York.

Sheesh. It’s only January 17th, and we’ve already been hit with a pretty big  “first snowstorm” of the year. It’s also been pretty damn cold, I mean 25° F for the daily HIGH has been considered a good day! Actually no, the best day so far was last Saturday; 50° and pouring rain. But its winter, right? What else do we expect? Especially here in the Northeast.

And so here we have the newest Friday Fifteen, aptly titled “COLD.” Filled with tons of warming & comforting things… so take a look!

Friday Fifteen: COLD

  1. When it’s really cold, and you don’t want to leave the warmth of your bed in the morning… sometimes you need something like Guinness ginger cake to boost your morning routine. What? The alcohol burns off… *wink*
  2. Hand-knit socks. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
  3. I love this easy one-pot stove top mac ‘n’ cheese recipe from White on Rice Couple. Really quick & no baking needed! Throw away those boxes of Velveeta & Kraft- this is just as easy, and better.
  4. For me, winter is bread making time. I want to bake something every day, probably because any excuse to have the oven on is welcome, and the best thing to make frequently is bread (because it’s eaten almost every day!). My favorite bread to make is either a simple no-knead bread or beer bread, although I love me some sourdough too. If you’re into putting in a bit more effort, try making a French bread, basic Levain or rosemary & olive oil Levain bread this winter, you’ll see it’s not as hard as it looks! (and also pardon my old blog photography *cringe*)
  5. I’m really into baking with spent brewing grain again, lately. Thanks to the Brooklyn Brew Shop‘s Spent Grain Chef for the inspiration.
  6. I want to make a rug like this for our bathroom! In dark blue, black, light gray and white, I think, since that’s our scheme. It’s so cute.
  7. Salted Rocky Road fudge from Shutterbean. Uhm… yes please!
  8. I’m into listening to really old school country & folk music lately. Foreverly, Norah Jones & Billie Joe Armstrong’s take on the Everly Brothers Songs Our Daddy Taught Us is awesome.
  9. Spice infused milk, kind of a homemade coffee creamer, is great to have on cold winter mornings. It’s easy to make, stores pretty well and you can customize it 100%! I think you could probably use a light or heavy cream as well.
  10. If that isn’t your thing, how about homemade chai?
  11. Joy the Baker‘s French onion puff pastries are a must this winter, especially for Jay, who loves French onion soup!
  12. And in other mini-pie or pastry news, how about Well Preserved‘s apple hand pies with maple syrup, whiskey and sour cream? Whoa.
  13. I know its a long way off… but rumor is the new American Horror Story theme is “Circus.” CAN’T WAIT!
  14. I LOVE blood oranges! And the best way to use up all those oranges is marmalade. Thanks to Love & Olive Oil, you can make blood orange marmalade: three ways.
  15. Since the season of love is upon us, open your heart to a shelter pet! And if you can, maybe a special needs pet. Get some inspiration from The Remi Project.

Also… if you’re reading this, and you AREN’T a fan of Cupcake Rehab on Facebook… WHY NOT? Be sure to click like, and then click ‘get notifications.’ That way you won’t miss out on anything.

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Sweet little s’mores meringues.

I love making meringue. Ever since Lola came into my life, it’s been easier than ever. But even with my hand mixer (better known as He Who Must Not Be Named), it’s pretty simple. And fast. I haven’t made them in years, though. I figured it was time. And now that I have a new oven… Well, it doesn’t matter the reason. There’s never a bad reason for cookies.

So yeah, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while: meringues.

Meringues turned into s'mores? YES.

And meringues- or meringue in general- is extremely easy to make, if you have a mixer. Even a not-so-strong mixer can handle making meringue. I do recommend a stand mixer, however. Mainly because you can walk away & just let the mixer do its thing, without standing there with your arm feeling like it might fall off. I will say, though, that meringue has been made in France & Switzerland since before 1692, and they didn’t have stand (or hand) mixers. So it’s definitely possible… it just isn’t as easy.

But its still easier than mixing cheesecake by hand. Did I ever tell you about the time I broke a mixer on cheesecake batter? It was cray x 100.

Okay, anyway. Back to the subject at hand. Yep. These are meringues. However… not just any meringues:

S'mores meringues: vanilla meringues dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.

Meringue cookies are actually quite simple. Even more simple than your average chocolate chip cookie, really. They require 3 ingredients, the mixing is 1-2-3 and the baking time isn’t very important to get perfect since they need to be “dried” in the oven anyway. The roughest part is the mixing- or the creation of the foamy egg whites (or worse yet, the notorious “stiff peaks”). And the chocolate sauce is really easy too, I swear.

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Four & Twenty Blackbirds baked in a salty honey pie.

A few months ago, back during the height of “pie season”, my mother sent me a link to Daily Candy that featured this pie. The name intrigued me: Salty honey pie. Sounded awesome. As far as I’m concerned salted anything is pretty delicious- salted caramel, salted chocolate, etc.

I know of this pie shop & the name is pretty awesome. Not only that, but the cover of the book is awesome too:

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie book.

So anyway, now that the holidays have wound down & I’m not on a baking schedule of specific traditional treats, I thought I’d make this salted honey pie & see how it is. See if it lives up to the idea of deliciousness that I (& everyone else) has in my head. I made it twice (this is the second one). The first one didn’t look that great because I used a larger pie plate than I should have for the sake of convenience, and the crust slid down into the filling. This one was ultimately the better-looking one, so aesthetically speaking it “won.” However both tasted fantastic.

Salty honey pie recipe from Four + Twenty Blackbirds pie shop.

I think it’s Jay’s new favorite pie.

And I am always, ALWAYS bad at pie crust. Always. I just can’t get it perfect, ever. Oh well.

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Double chocolate bourbon cupcakes!

A new year, and a new recipe! And for cupcakes, no less! I haven’t made cupcakes in forever. I know. I’m an asshole, what can I say? I’ve been neglecting the very thing that got my blog any attention when it was a newbie. It’s downright horrifying of me. I’m ashamed & embarrassed. But I’m back in the game!

It’s pretty cold out, so it’s baking time. It’s been baking time since October,  late September even… so who am I kidding? But it’s serious baking time now.  A high of 11° F? I think that means it’s time to bake. And cook. Hell, I’ll use any excuse to have the oven on when it’s this cold. Plus… I got a new oven… now I’m REALLY using any excuse! Yup- on December 26th, Santa Claus brought me a late Christmas present: a new gas stove, refrigerator & dishwasher. I have no backsplash yet, and my new counters are far in the future, but I can finally cook & keep butter cold. It’s pretty sweet. So yeah, I’ve been busy breaking in my new range & getting used to it. It’s beauuuuutiful!

And really, for me, what better way to break that baby in than with cupcakes?

Chocolate bourbon cupcakes with vanilla frosting & a chocolate bourbon ganache.

Everybody loves cupcakes. Except Duff Goldman. I mean, right? How can you hate a mini-individually-sized-cake? What could possibly be SO BAD about having a small cake, all to yourself? Oh. I get it. Anything “trendy” is awful. Mmm hmm. So I guess you don’t use an iPhone, a mason jar or eat kale either, correct? ANYWAY….

These are cupcakes WITH BOOZE. Oh, yes. So there’s even more to love.

Chocolate bourbon cupcakes! With chocolate bourbon ganache!

I think anyone who hates cupcakes is nuts, personally. But I digress…

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DIY tree stump rustic candle holders.

Yes- this post is ALL about those tree trunk/tree branch candle holders you’ve seen at places like Terrain or on Pinterest or Etsy. It’s really easy to make them yourself, at home, if you have some basic tools.

DIY rustic tree stump/tree branch candle holder.

This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-style Yule logs for Christmas.

The Yule Log started out, we believe, as part of Norse Winter Solstice celebrations. Back then, the longhouse would have a huge fireplace, and the flooring would be either stone or packed earth. Tradition says that the Yule Log began as a huge log, big enough to burn for the entire twelve-day festival. One end would be pushed into the fireplace, and as it burned away, you’d push it in some more until it was entirely consumed.

With fireplaces being less and less common these days, the practical Pagan has adapted. Some choose a small log, some twelve or sixteen inches in length, flatten it along one side to make a base, and drill from one to three holes into the top, suitable for the insertion of candles. The candles are generally (but not always) “fire” colors, with red being the most common. The log is decorated with greenery, sometimes real, sometimes artificial – pine, spruce, fir or other evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe are a few possibilities – and the candles are lighted at sunset on the Winter Solstice. Tradition says they should burn through the night; but given safety considerations, most only allow it to burn so long as someone is around to keep an eye on it.

-JingleBell Junction

Pagan-style refers to how it’s a log with holes for candles, instead of a large log you burn in a fireplace. It’s also a more modern version. My dad made one when he was a kid out of a log with three holes on top. It isn’t just Pagan’s that use that style- lots of Christians have Yule logs in that way- but if I’m not mistaken, they started it.

So I had some wood in the garage that had been cut from branches that were hanging too low on trees in the backyard over the summer. I was saving it for our fire pit, but then the summer ended and the weather got too cold & they were shoved into the garage & forgotten. Then my mother mentioned she wanted a Yule log, and I realized I had the perfect pieces of wood for it. And then I decided I wanted one, but with tea lights instead of taper candles. I realized they’d look great with my winter tree!

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New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

A vintage NYE! (click through for NYE recipes)

Well it’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, as Dick Clark would say. In just a few short hours, 2014 will be here. In case you’re lacking recipe ideas for today, I figured I’d give you some. Consider it a belated Christmas gift. Most of them require nothing more than a bottle of champagne & a quick run to the grocery store.

  • Champagne parfaits: A delicious & easy “champagne jell-O” that takes absolutely no time to make. A grown-up jell-O shot, if you will. Click here for the recipe.
  • Champagne jelly: Excellent melted on roast chicken, or as a topping on a chicken sandwich. And also excellent with cheese on crackers. But I’m sure you can come up with other uses! Recipe can be found here. (FYI: these jars were also a 2011 Well Preserved Pimp That Preserve winner!)
  • Champagne cupcakes: No explanation needed! Champagne cupcakes with sweet champagne frosting. Get the details right here.

This year I knew I wouldn’t be around; I’m presently packing to go to Connecticut. Jay is playing a show tonight at The Webster in Harftord, so I’m going with him. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.. so therefore no NYE recipes for me this year. Boo hoo. But also kind of exciting- it’s the first time he’s been off for NYE since 2009! And that means it’s also literally a New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year’s Eve, and an even better 2014. See you next year…

Happy New Year... A NYE recipe compilation! And most things don't even require more than an extra bottle of bubbly.

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