Monday, October 31, 2011

S'mores Trifle

Happy Halloween!

Over the weekend, we attended Darktoberfest, where we debuted our first home brewed beer. It turned out pretty tasty. All in attendance were also asked to bring a dish or two to share. We brought out coleslaw, and this s'mores trifle. It's pretty simple to make, but you will need a brule torch.

Here's what you need: 
1 large bag of mini marshmallows
2 large boxes of chocolate pudding
Milk Chocolate morsels
1 box of graham crackers

Here's what you do:
Depending on your pudding, prepare about an hour before you want to assemble your trifle. Let chill in the refrigerator to set.

Start  by laying out a layer of graham crackers on the bottom of you trifle bowl.

Add a layer of pudding.

Now for the fun part. Top with a layer of mini marshmallows, and then light them on fire!

Now add a good amount of chocolate chips and light them on fire too. Alright, they don't catch on fire, but you do want to melt them a little.

Repeat this layering process two more times.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Restaurant Recap: Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea

As we may have mentioned, we celebrated our anniversary a couple weeks ago. We took a mini-vacation to Chicago, where we watched our favorite team trounce the Vikings, did a little shopping, and enjoyed the best coffee we've had outside Jamaica. It's good enough to have Zack walking a mile first thing in the morning for a cup of it. (If you know Zack, you know just how good this coffee is by the last statement).

Here's a little insight into Intelligentsia Coffee (taken directly from their webpage):

Intelligentsia Coffee's mission is to provide our customers, staff, and community with an unparalleled and complete coffee and tea experience in an environment steeped in understanding, knowledge, skill, service, and mutual respect.

Intelligentsia exists to provide both a fulfilling work environment for our employees and the highest quality products for our customers. Both goals are equally necessary to the success of our business.

It's a remarkable place. This trip, we ventured to the Monadnock location (above). Each cup of coffee is individually brewed by a barista. They've really turned the act of making coffee into an enjoyable experience. 

We each got a Cafe Americano and a pastry, then a cup of their house blend coffee to go. The coffee is more expensive than you would find in a diner, but much cheaper than, say, a Seattle based coffee chain.

Intelligentsia's coffees are all seasonal, so you can be sure that the coffee you are drinking is the freshest, best coffee available at the time. 

We have yet to make it to the Roasting Works in Chicago, where they have tours where they demonstrate the roasting process and then give you all the coffee you can drink. I'm sure we'll make it there someday.

We could probably go on and on about how great this place is. If you're a coffee or tea drinker, you'll love the experience of Intelligentsia. We give it four thumbs up!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Banana Nut Bread

This recipe is courtesy of The Pioneer Woman's mom. It's not your traditional banana bread.  At least, not what I was brought up eating. It is however, super duper tasty. We made two loafs the other day. By we, we mean Michelle. You can pretty much assume whenever baking is involved, Michelle is doing the cooking. Zack doesn't like precise measurements.

Here's what you need:
2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups bananas (about 4)
4 cups flour, plus some for the pan
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1/2 cup pecans (or your favorite nut)

Here's what you do:
Pre-heat your oven to  350 degrees F.

Grease and flour your loaf pan. We used 2 loaf pans, but if you have a bundt pan, you can probably just use that.

Combine your dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Mash your bananas and set aside.

Cream your sugar and butter together. Sorry for the blurry pictures, the mixer was on for most of these.

Add your eggs in one at at time. After each egg, let it go for a few seconds to combine.

Next add your bananas to the mix. 

Add about 1/3 of your dry ingredients to the mixer. Then add 1/3 of your sour cream. Alternate back and forth until all of the mixture is combined. Stop every now and then to knock the flour down from the edges of the bowl.

Add in your pecans and mix just enough to combine.

The resulting batter will be pretty thick and sticky. It's supposed to be like that.

Pour your batter into your loaf pans or bundt pan. 

Now, just pop those in the oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

We like to run a butter knife around the edge, just to loosen anything that might have accidentally stuck to the side. Now transfer the loafs to a cooling rack.

Let them cool a bit, but you want to eat some while it's still warm with just a little butter.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Caprese Two Ways

Caprese is a classic Italian appetizer. It's simple flavors that taste just beautiful together. You can make it in many different ways. We were taking these to a winery finger food, so we went the grape tomato/toothpick route. You can also slice up some Romas and build caprese stacks. We've also seen it done with beefsteak tomatoes. 

Here's what you need:
1 small container of grape/cherry tomatoes
1 small container of fresh mozzarella pearls
1 package of fresh basil
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Here's what you do:
Start reducing about 3 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan.

While your vinegar is bubbling away, build your mozzarella-basil-tomato stacks. Tear the larger basil leaves into smaller pieces.

Divide the stacks into two separate containers.

Drizzle olive oil over one container of the caprese.

By now, your balsamic should have reduced by half.

Drizzle that over the top of the other container of caprese.

And that's it! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chili Mac

This recipe comes from Michelle's sister. If you're fortunate enough to live near a Steak n' Shake, you can have this all the time. If you aren't, then this tastes almost exactly like the original. It's seriously good. (This is our youngest niece).

Here's what you need:
1 lb lean ground beef
32 oz. ketchup (we use Heinz)
1 package Chilli Man Seasoning Mix (I'm told you MUST buy this brand - it tastes the best)
12 oz. spaghetti

shredded cheddar
Kidney beans

Here's what you do:
Brown ground beef completely over medium-high heat in a high-walled skillet. Drain off the excess liquid. If you want to go a little healthier, ground turkey works just fine here too.

Start your water boiling for your pasta.

Drop your heat to medium low and add ketchup and chili packet to the skillet. We used about 2/3 of a 40 oz. ketchup bottle.

Stir that around and let it simmer until your pasta is cooked.

Salt your pasta water with kosher salt and add in your spaghetti. 

Once your pasta is cooked, drain and toss in a bowl with a little olive oil. This is just so your pasta doesn't stick together.

Plate your spaghetti, top with the chili sauce and add toppings as you like. We had chili three-way with just freshly shredded cheddar on top.


Friday, October 21, 2011

The Old Fashioned

We both enjoy a good cocktail now and again. Our new favorite drink is the Old Fashioned. It may have something to do with our obsession with Mad Men. And when we say may, we mean it totally has something to do with it. 

Of course, we had to figure out the proper way to make the drink. We're a little obsessive about getting things right sometimes. Just a little. Sometimes.

Here's what you need:
2 oz of your Bourbon of choice (or your favorite whiskey of any variety)
A couple dashes of bitters (we used Angostura)
1 orange slice (cut in half)
marachino cherry
1 sugar cube

Here's what you do:
Drop the sugar cube into an old fashioned glass. (See, the drink is so good, they named a glass after it).

Pour a couple of dashes of bitters over the top of the sugar and let it soak in for a few seconds.

Crush that up with your muddler to make a nice sugary paste on the bottom of the glass.

Top that with a splash of water.

Drop in your orange and muddle it in with the sugar and water. Crush up the sugar more as you go.

Toss a couple of ice cubes in the glass, and pour one ounce of bourbon over them.

Give that a good stir, and then add some more ice and another ounce of bourbon.

Top it off with some more ice and stir it up again.

And finally, add in your cherry and the other half of your orange. Michelle likes to add a splash of cherry juice at the end. Zack, on the other hand, is an Old Fashioned purist.