February 28, 2009

"i love you, you love me...

...we're a happy family..."**


**I can't help it--that little ditty and the freaky purple creature that sings it always come to mind when I see the name "Barney."

Yes, the Barney Butter has returned, and in grand form. Not only is it being highlighted in some wonderfully-addictive fudge, but it's also about to make its way into the homes of five lucky readers.

Yes, blog friends, five people who comment on this post and tell me their favorite thing to make with nut butter will receive their very own jar of Barney Butter. I'll close the comments one week from today, on March 7th, and then use the random number generator to pick five winners.


Facts about the Butter of Barney:
-made in an almond-only facility--those with allergies can rest easy
-no stirring or refrigeration is necessary
-its health benefits far outweigh those of peanut butter, as it has less than half the saturated fat and more fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin E


So tell me, what's your favorite nut-butter-containing recipe? Here are some from Barney Butter, and here's one of mine:

Butterscotch Fudge
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Barney Butter
1 bag (11 oz.) butterscotch chips
1 bag (10.5 oz.) mini marshmallows

In a large bowl, microwave the butter and Barney Butter until melted. Stir in the chips and mix until they melt, microwaving more as needed. Fold in the marshmallows and stir until coated. Dump into a greased or lined 9×9 pan, and put into the refrigerator until set.

read more words!

February 24, 2009

coriander, turmeric, cumin, fennel

Curry. How do I put this delicately?


It turns my stomach. It makes my nose wrinkle in disgust. I'm just not crazy about it.

I can honestly say that I wasn't giving the flavor of curry a fair chance until this latest round of Taste & Create (XVI). (I'm stubborn like that.) I was fortunate enough to be paired with the hostess herself, Nicole of For the Love of Food. Folks, this gal has been blogging since 2003, so you can only imagine how many stellar posts and recipes are contained within her blog.

I went all the way back to 2007 and found an interesting post about Curry Apple & Carrot Soup. I was intrigued because Nicole confessed to not particularly caring for curry until she tried this soup. So, if anything was going to bring curry around for me, this would probably be it.


I gave it a shot. I made it a bit thicker than she did and added some red pepper flakes just for fun. It's creamy, kinda sweet, and the curry flavor that I was so afraid of wasn't overwhelming at all. Although I'm certainly not gonna become curry's #1 fan any time soon, I'm glad I gave it a shot and found that it's really not as bad as I thought.

What else did I find? Fluffy buttermilk biscuits, homemade ketchup, and a hearty black-eyed pea stew. And that's just naming a few. Simply put, Nicole, you do good work.

read more words!

February 21, 2009

peanut butter, shmeanut butter

...give me the Barney Butter!


I think it's a pretty safe assumption that the majority of folks in the good ol' US of A have had a Rice Krispies Treat at some point in their lives. The quality I like best about them (aside from their chewiness, sweetness, and hey--vitamin enrichment) is their versatility. There are many twists and alterations one can make to the recipe.

Believe it or not, I decided to get creative. What can I say--I had a whim. I think my inspiration came from the Barney Butter I received thanks to Sandy of 4 Reluctant Entertainers. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the product, it's a completely peanut-free almond butter, which is a blessing for lovers of nut butters in this trying time of peanut butter crisis.


Another contributing factor to my epiphany was the new Banana Nut Cheerios I had bought and rejected (unfortunately, they just didn't do it for me). Bearing in mind that bananas and peanut butter make a darn good combination, I decided to make my treats with those Banana Nut Cheerios, using Barney Butter in lieu of regular butter, and with freeze-dried banana dices mixed in.


I was completely and wholly satisfied with my creation. There was just a hint of the almond butter, a tinge of banana, sweetness and chewiness from the marshmallows, and a fabulous crunch from the cereal. If bananas and nut butter aren't your thing, I encourage you to make up your own fantastic combination--the possibilities are endless!

Banana Nut Bars
6 cups Banana Nut Cheerios
1 cup freeze-dried banana dices
4 tablespoons Barney Butter
1 10.5-oz bag marshmallows

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the Barney Butter and marshmallows for 1 minute; stir. Continue heating at 15 second intervals until the mixture is smooth. Dump in the cereal and banana dices and stir until well-coated. Using a buttered spatula, evenly press the mixture into a 13x9-inch pan lined with wax paper. Let cool and cut into squares.

read more words!

February 18, 2009

puttin' on the pounds

My Mamboni says that people just don't make real, bonafide pound cake often enough anymore. I think she has taken it upon herself to make up for that lack of pound cake because it's a treat she makes often (and quite well, if I do say so myself).


Pound cake pleases me most when it's a)slathered in strawberries and whipped cream, or b)subtly flavored with coconut. Mammy's latest version was made with lemon extract and a light glaze. Look at its moist, buttery goodness:


Delicious. However, if push comes to shove, I must say that I still prefer apple pie.

Mamster's Lemon Pound Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs, well-beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat oven to 300F. Butter and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans, a tube pan, or a Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Stir in the lemon extract.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake 1 hour for the loaves or 75 minutes for the cakes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake(s) cool in the pan(s).


Since this recipe has been used by my Mamtucket for many, many moons, I'm honored to use it as my contribution to Giz and Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen for their Tried, Tested, and True 3: Wedding Edition event.


Psychgrad's gettin' hitched and needs some good recipes for her reception. Although pound cake isn't really a traditional wedding food, it holds up well and can easily be dressed up to make a delightfully elegant dessert. Good luck with the planning, ladies!

read more words!

February 15, 2009

"...the answer invariably comes back: cinnamon."

"Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka. People love cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime anyone says, "Oh this is so good, what's in it?" The answer invariably comes back, 'Cinnamon.' 'Cinnamon.' Again and again. Lesser babka?? I think not."


Amen, Jerry. And amen.

Two Seinfeld references in a row? What's wrong with me? Nothing a little cinnamon can't cure. It's time for the Cinnamon Celebration round-up. I received 37 entries appropriate for any and every type of cinnamon craving you might have. We'll start with the desserts first:

Sophie from Flour Arrangements made a glorious treat that would be suitable for just about anyone--Gluten- and Lactose-Free Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Cake:


I got a gorgeous Maple-Glazed Apple Cake from Lindsey of Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings:


Butterball, the gal responsible for the fabulously-titled blog A Butter World, made Sugar & Spice & Everything Naughty Pastry Hearts:


I think chocolate and cinnamon is a wonderful combination, and Nuria from Spanish Recipes agrees. Here's her Bizcocho con Chocolate (Chocolate Cake):


The Peanut Butter Boy, also known as Nick, brought back his Pumpkin Pie Peanut Butter Pudding, and I, for one, am very happy about it:


How does a Fig and Chile Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream sound? Vera of Baking Obsession has concocted a wonderful recipe and the presentation is nothing short of extraordinary:


Judith from Shortcut to Mushrooms was inspired by a book to make her Dim and the Dark Cookies:


Karen, the DomesticMuse, raises a good point--why aren't there Apple Brown Bettys all over the place? They're wonderful:


Ivy of Kopiaste contributed a unique and undeniably appetizing treat--Glyko Milo:


Although these Chewy Ginger Wedges from Peggy of The House of Kent are ginger-centric, they still honor cinnamon:


Kat from A Good Appetite also knows a thing or two about the pairing of chocolate and cinnamon. Take a gander at her Dark Chocolate Azteca Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream:


There's no denying that apples and cinnamon belong together, and Gayle from Pastry Studio provides wonderful proof of that with her whimsically-named Apple of My Eye:


Here's another apple delight from MaryBeth of Dunkin Cooking the Semi-Homemade Way--Apple Footballs:


Donna of My Tasty Treasures sent in something I've never made myself, but would love to try--Baked Churro Munchies with Warm Chocolate Dipping Sauce:


Cinnamon makes a perfect compliment to the fruits in Abby's Orange & Cranberry Torte. Check out her blog Eat the Right Stuff for the wonderful recipe:


Jeanne, brilliant author of CookSister, contributed a glorious Spiced Pear Apple Pistachio Crisp, perfect for any day:


Here are two sensational creations sent in by Navita of Zaayeka. First, we have Sesame Sepculaas, which are completely new to me but look irresistible:


Her other treat is Vegan Banana Chocolate Bread, which can and should be enjoyed by all:


Marjie from Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet put a twist on a classic cake with her Meringue-Topped Spice Cake:


The last dessert-type dish was sent in by Sweatha of TastyCurryLeaf, and what do ya know--it's my favorite cookie. Here are her Snickerdoodles:



How about a couple of entrees? After all, meat likes cinnamon too.

First, Julia of Grow. Cook. Eat. made an interesting beef dish called Adina Kebabi, and it looks great:


Sylvie from Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener also paired cinnamon with beef. Here's her savory Red Cooked Beef with Sweet Potatoes:



I call these the breakfast beauties:

Lisa of The Cutting Edge of Ordinary has a marvelous recipe for Cinnamon Biscuit Rolls, the ultimate breakfast treat:


Here's that lovely apple again--OhioMom from Cooking in Cleveland made some beautiful Apple Cinnamon Twists:


Katie from Salt and Chocolate sent in her Baked Oatmeal, a delicious, convenient, and completely wonderful dish:


If you want a good laugh and also appreciate the wonder that is cinnamon toast, check out The Blonde Duck's ode on her blog A Duck in Her Pond:


You absolutely can't go wrong with a batch of Apple Cinnamon Muffins from Lori of Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness:


More muffins? Giz of the ever-delightful Equal Opportunity Kitchen made an all-time favorite--Donut Muffins:


Krysta, the evil chef mom and goddess who helped introduce me to Vietnamese cinnamon, began her bread-baking endeavors with this stellar Cinnamon Crumb Surprise:


Julia's back again with a different take on Cinnamon Rolls. I personally can never get enough:


It's time for a little chocolate--here are Elle's Mexican Hot Chocolate Muffins as seen on her most enjoyable blog, Elle's New England Kitchen:


Laura from The Spiced Life made cookies for breakfast, which is a-okay by me. Look at her Cinnamon Pumpkin Oatmeal (Breakfast) Cookies:


One final batch of my favorite breakfast--these Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls were created and enjoyed by Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen:



Miscellaneous magic:

Ashley, the Culinarywannabe, made a lovely Breakfast Granola full of fruits and nuts:


Deeba of Passionate About Baking took her granola one step further and made Blueberry Oat Walnut Granola Bars:


Here's a recipe for an Apple Compote with Cinnamon, Vanilla, and Ginger Infusion from Olga of Olga's Recipes. Sounds marvelous, right?


Last but certainly not least, we have one more batch of granola a la Cathy of Where's My Damn Answer--here's her Cranberry & Mixed Nut Granola:



That's a lot of cinnamon goodness in one place. I can barely handle it all.

So, I guess you're wondering who won the shtick of Vietnamese cinnamon, am I right? Drumroll, please...

Laura! Congratulations! Not only do we share a love for "Friday Night Lights" and all things Whedonesque, but we also both appreciate the special spice known as cinnamon. Send me your info, and I'll send you some of the best stuff on Earth.

read more words!

February 11, 2009

"I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable."

Oh, George. You amuse me so. I never tire of your antics, regardless of how many times I see them.*


*My Seinfeld reference doesn't come out of nowhere. Bear with me.

Confession: I don't see Valentine's Day as a holiday, but rather as an excuse to unashamedly wear pastel pink and consume copious goodies.

In trying to decide what to bake for our monthly office potluck (a newly-instituted occasion), I considered lots of things and finally narrowed it down to red velvet cheesecake and red velvet cupcakes. The easier of the two won out (plus, the thought of pale pink cream cheese frosting excited me greatly), but I do see a red velvet cheesecake in my future.


I opted to use less than an entire bottle of food coloring, so the cupcakes turned out more pinkish-brown than red. Never fear--the frosting was lovely and effectively covered and masked the less-than-stellar hue of the cake. Who cares about color anyway? They tasted great, with just a little bit of chocolate sneaking through the tangy cream cheese. Very excellent, and gobbled up quickly. Happy Valentine's Day indeed.

Pink Velvet Cupcakes
(altered a tad from these)

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup milk + 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
15 drops red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tray with liners.
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until fully incorporated.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.
Add half of the dry ingredients and mix, then add half of the wet. Repeat.
Spoon into cupcake liners, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full (I went too far and ended up with mushrooms...). Bake for 18-22 minutes for regular-sized cupcakes, 15-18 minutes for miniature cupcakes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese together, add the vanilla extract, and mix. Add the powdered sugar until the ideal sweetness and consistency is reached.


Now, if you're the kind of person who gets into Valentine's Day and want some great ideas, check out Tiffany's Tapas on her blog The Garden Apartment...


...and Amy's Valentine's Breakfast at Eggs on Sunday:


They'll take good care of ya.

And hey, last reminder--the deadline for sending me your contribution to the celebration of all things cinnamon is Friday night. The more, the merrier.

read more words!