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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fruitcake! - Part 2

Whew, what a week! Hubs and I have been busy getting ready for tomorrow, which is Halloween (in case you forgot!). :-)

Every year, we put on a big display in the yard for the neighborhood. So much that I have to take the day off work to help set it up, and we build most of what we display ourselves. We have animatronics, and sound, and lots of fun stuff. It's very Disney-esque. We also dress up and hand out candy on the driveway.

We've become that house!

Anywho, have you made your fruitcake? If so, it's time to baste babies! Be sure to baste every week, so they're nice and boozey (this also helps keep them moist)! Here's the second recipe and this one is my favorite. I love the other one just as well, but I have a soft spot for gingerbread, and basically all things gingery.

Gingerbread Forest "Rum Cake"

Ingredients:
½ to ¾ liter brandy or cherry brandy
1 large box (1 lb) of golden, seedless raisins
½ lb chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
2 ½ cups sifted, all purpose flour
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup molasses
5 eggs
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup orange juice
1 cup seedless, blackberry jam

24 hours before baking: Pour brandy, raisins, and nuts into a glass dish and let macerate for 24 hours.

When ready to bake: Strain fruit and nut mixture and reserve infused brandy for basting. Preheat oven at 275°. Beat butter and sugar till very light and fluffy, then add molasses. Beat in eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix in half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add orange juice and jam, then add the rest of the flour mixture.

Add strained fruit and nut mixture to batter and mix with a wooden spoon. Take two loaf pans and line them with parchment paper (this is important). If you do not use parchment paper, the cakes will stick, even with non-stick pans! Spray parchment paper with Pam and spoon batter into loaf pans. Bake for 3 ½ hours.

Cool in pans until they reach room temp. Poke holes in the top of the cakes with a toothpick and basted cakes liberally with reserved, infused brandy. Unwrap cakes, turn over, poke holes in the bottom of cakes, and baste. Wrap cakes in parchment, place in Rubbermaid containers in the refrigerator.

Baste cakes on top and bottom with reserved, infused brandy once a week until Christmas.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Status Check

The C25K (Couch to 5K) training is still on! I’m actually doing quite well and have only stopped ONCE during a training regimen where I just didn’t have the energy to run that last ½ mile. From here on though, it’s going to be tough. Now, I’m not running fast at ALL mind you, but I’m not stopping during my runs (knock-on-wood). By the end of this week, I’m supposed to be able to run 2 miles without stopping (gulp).

I’m trying to decide if listening to music is helping or harming me while I run. On one hand, I like the distraction. On the other hand, the beat of the music makes me run faster; therefore, making me lose my breath and not pace myself. I did learn that you have to run more on the balls of your feet versus your heels. After week 2, my back was hurting terribly and after talking to a friend who used to be an Army drill sergeant, he told me to lean more into the run and run on the balls of my feet. And you KNOW he knew something about running!

Well we gave one more pumpkin ale a try and it was a FAIL too. We saw a 4 pack of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale at the store and thought, “WTH”. Sadly, we’ve tried all 5 pumpkin ales that are available in our area, so next year we’ll have to special order.

I guess I could just LEARN how to make beer, huh?

BTW, I still owe you a Fruitcake #2 post, plus some of you have been asking how I make my meade (I was supposed to post that this weekend, but the weather was sooooooooo nice). Fear not faithful readers! I will not let you down…stand by!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fruit Cake! - Part 1

My house smells very yeasty right now. This past weekend, hubs and I bottled the Oaked Cherry wine I started back in June. It still needs a bit of aging, but I think it will be very nice. So, I started a batch of Harvest Fig Wine. So far, so good, but the yeasty beasties are having a party in my spare bathroom.

It's also time to make the Annual Besotted Fruitcakes. I know, I know, but these are unlike ANYTHING you've ever had and will develop a cult following. I call them "Holiday Rum Cakes" to avoid the stigma. It must be the booze.


Lemon Yellow "Holiday Rum Cake"

Ingredients:
- ½ to ¾ liter rum
- 1 lb. dried fruit mix (cherries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries) – Do not use the candied “fruit cake” fruit mix you see in the store with those nasty red and green maraschino cherries! Do not use dried pineapple or citrus peel. Just dried fruit. Sam’s and Target carry a brand called Stoneridge that I’ve used every year.
- ½ lb of chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
- 1 lb butter, softened
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 4 cups white cake flour
- ¼ cup lemon extract (yes, ¼ cup)

24 hours before baking: Pour rum, dried fruit, and nuts into a glass dish and let macerate for 24 hours.

When ready to bake: Strain fruit and nut mixture, save infused rum for basting. Preheat oven to 300°. Beat butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Beat in half of the eggs, then half of the flour, then the rest of the eggs, then the rest of the flour. Beat in lemon extract, add strained fruit and nuts to batter, and mix with a wooden spoon.

Take two loaf pans and line them with parchment paper (this is important). Spray parchment paper with Pam, then spoon batter into loaf pans. If you do not use the parchment, the cakes will stick, even with non-stick pans!

Bake for 45 minutes, then cover the pans with tin foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Watch carefully near the end of the cooking time. As soon as the cakes start to pull away from the edges or resist when you poke them gently, they are ready. It’s better to under bake than over bake. Let them rest on a rack until they’ve cooled to room temp.

When they are cooled but still in the pans, poke holes in the top of the cakes with a toothpick. Take a basting brush and brush the tops of the cakes very liberally with the infused rum. Pull cakes out of pans, unwrap and turn over, and do the same with the bottom. When through, wrap cakes with parchment, and store in Rubbermaid containers in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate remaining infused rum and baste the cakes with the rum on both sides, once a week till Christmas.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"R" is for Rutebaga

You know, it has dawned on me that I have NEVER eaten a rutabaga. At least none that I’m aware of, but I thought it would be a good, eye-catching title for this post!

Hi there! How are you today? Did anyone catch the absolutely GORGEOUS harvest or hunter’s moon we’ve had for the past night or two? Stunning! And the sunrise these past few mornings (here in Florida) have been pretty breathtaking as well.

Happy Fall ya’ll! I love this time of year! Even here in Florida, we know that “fall” is here when the temps only get in the 80s versus the life draining 90s that we’re used to. And the humidity has been really low as well. During these breaks, I feel like I could work out in the yard all day. There’s no WAY you could keep me inside the house when the weather is nice.

Another thing I love about fall is the abundance of gourds, squash, and root veggies at the market or grocery. Last year, I discovered that I absolutely adore roasted beets, especially golden beets. And this is the only time of year where you can buy beets or butternut squash at a reasonable price, so we have the most of it when we can.

I love, love, love this recipe. The original recipe calls for beets, parsnips, and sweet potatoes, but feel free to experiment. My favorite trio is golden beets, carrots, and butternut squash. A little much in the yellow color, but it’s all going to the same place: in my tummy!

The vinaigrette is smashing all on it’s own and it wonderful over a salad too.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Horseradish Vinaigrette
Recipe Source: I don't remember, Bon Appetit? Southern Living?

2 large sweet potatoes
4 large parsnips
6 med beets
3 T EVOO
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Peel potatoes and cut into cubes, peel parsnips and cut into slices, peel beets and cut into wedges. Toss potatoes & parsnips with oil, and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes & parsnips on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and sprinkle w/ salt & pepper. Toss beets with oil in separate bowl and arrange on a separate cookie sheet/pan; sprinkle w/salt & pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 min or until tender. Cool before adding vinaigrette. Drizzle vinaigrette to taste over vegetables before serving.

Horseradish Vinaigrette

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/c cup EVOO
2 T horseradish
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 T tarragon (fresh or ½ T of dried)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp honey
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Serve immediately, or chill up to 4 days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Can I Have 4 Beers?

I think most people start to become a little hedonistic around this time of year. I know my husband and I look forward to every tradition and special treat. We celebrate when we can get an ocassional Pumpkin Spice Latte from Fourbucks, or when our local diner, Applebaums, goes all out for Halloween decorations on the inside. Eating there is like eating at Vincent Price's house.

Another thing we look forward to is the pumpkin ale.

This year, we decided to do a little taste test. Now granted, we don't have access to some of the awesome micro-brewerys that are available up north, so beggars can't be choosy. Every year, we've gotten Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale, which we pick up at Wholefoods, so we wanted to see if there was something better out there.
Overall, our experiment was sadly disappointing. Michelob's Jack Pumpkin Spice Ale didn't taste like anything more than a strong amber beer. It "says" it is brewed with select spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and clove, but we didn't taste a damn thing. The same thing goes for Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale. Overall it was meh. We'll be boiling ribs with these losers.

Next is Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I couldn't put my finger on what this beer tasted like. The label gives the usual spice suspects; however, it uses cardamom, and not in a good way. It must be my imagination (or too many beers), but this beer tasted like sausage to me. This beer would be awesome with sausage, but then again, I don't like cardamom. Hubs didn't like it either.

Last is our trusted favorite, Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale. This beer TASTES like a pumpkin ale should. It has a nice pumpkin spice flavor in the front without it being so stout that it overwhelms. Guess we'll be back for more of this beer before they stop carrying it for the season.

This was fun, but we now have WAY too much beer. Is that even possible?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy Blogiversary!

Two years ago (has it been THAT long?), I started this blog as an outlet for thoughts and recipes. Little did I know that I would meet so many neat, wonderful, and talented people through the magic of the internets!

At first, I didn’t start out as strong, and even had a long hiatus or two thrown in, but now I try to “keep things regular” with 2-3 posts a week. Two years ago, I didn’t know how to make wine or how to use chicken feet in chicken stock. I didn’t know squat about bathroom remodeling or running (except to the store). There’s been hurricanes, recipes, and wedding anniversaries. Holidays, head colds, and new jobs. And I’ve shared it all with you!

Thanks everyone! I wonder what the next 2 years will bring?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sfor-MAH-toa

Cookbooks are like old friends. I can flip through their pages and think, "Remember that party we threw?" or "My sister-in-law LOVED you!" or "What were you thinking?!"

When we had our garage sale, I got the chance to flip through a few old cookbooks that I had forgotten. At one point, I tried to collect the Christmas with Southern Living annual recipe cook books, but only made it three years, then skipped about eight years before buying another. When flipping through the 2001 issue, I found this yummy recipe.

The recipe says it's a souffle (here I go again with the eggs), but it really turned out to be more of a mashed potato pie. The recipe says it's known in Italy as a sformato,which is kind of a molded custard. Either way, it was a great change from mashed taters or rice and great with any kind of gravy.

Potato Souffle
Recipe Source: Christmas with Southern Living, 2001

2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 T of butter or margarine
1/2 cup APP flour
2 cups milk
3 T butter or margarine
1 large onion, chopped
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (I used cheddar)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
Garnish: fresh or dried thyme

Cook pototoes in boiling, salted water till tender. Drain and mash with a potato masher; set aside. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly; gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and saute 10 minutes until tender and browned. Stir together mashed potato, onion, white sauce, beaten egg yolks, and next 4 ingredients.

Butter a 9" x 3 " springform pan. Add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs to pan, tilting to coat bottom and sides with the breadcrumbs. Freeze 1 minute to set crumbs. Spoon potato filling into pan; top with remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Bake uncovered in a 400° oven for 50 minutes (mine took an hour) or until set. Cool 15 minutes before removing sides of pan. Garnish if desired; serve warm.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

From Couch to 5K

Well, hubs and I have decided that we want to run in the annual Turkey Trot 5K run this year. This gives us 9 weeks to train, and I am definitely not too far above the couch stage.

Actually, we're really not that bad off. Basically, I want to learn how to run without feeling like my chest is going to explode.
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