Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beer and Brownies for the Super Bowl

The day when Americans consume large quantities of chicken wings, guacamole, and beer is just around the corner. Is your menu ready for the Super Bowl?

Once again my bon appetit magazine came to the rescue. This time it is the February issue with it's "Quick and Easy Super Bowl Feast." Since we are already serving beer at our Super Bowl viewing, let's add it to our dessert in these Chocolate-Stout Brownies.

Chocolate-Stout Brownies

1 cup stout (I used Guinness as suggested)
16 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking pan with foil hanging over the edges. Boil stout for about 12 minutes until reduced to half the amount. Set aside and cool.
Place 12 ounces of the chocolate and 1 cup butter in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Stir until smooth.
Whisk sugar, eggs and vanilla. Slowly add chocolate mixture and 1/4 cup of the cooled stout. Fold in the flour and 1 1/4 kosher salt until blended. Spray pans with nonstick spray and pour batter into pans.

Bake brownies until surface begins to crack and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, 35 - 40 minutes (mine were done in 35 minutes). Transfer pan to a cooling rack and cool for at least 20 minutes.
Stir 4 ounces of chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water until smooth (just like before). Whisk the remaining 1/4 stout, 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 kosher salt into the chocolate. Pour glaze over the brownies. Let stand at room temperature until glaze sets.

Using the foil over the pan, lift and remove brownies. Cut into squares and enjoy!

These are chocolaty fudge goodness! The stout and chocolate complement each other well. If you'd like you can also add walnuts. I divided the batter into two pans, 8"x8" and 6"x6", and mixed nuts into one batter. It was also yummy with the nuts.

Hope some of you try these chocolate-stout brownies! Who are you rooting for Super Bowl XLVI? Giants? Patriots?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Visit to Firestone Vineyards

A few weeks ago I visited the Santa Ynez Valley with my dad. My dad delivers fertilizers to growers around the Santa Maria area, which includes vineyards. So when I proposed for us to visit a winery while we were visiting the Santa Ynez Valley, my dad knew where to take me.

We drove to the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail which is home to more than 15 wineries. The first stop from the South end is Firestone Vineyard. Firestone is also a popular stop for visitors. As soon as we drove up, the parking area looked as if there was a special event occurring. Inside the tasting room, there are souvenirs along the sides for purchase. A square shaped large bar is located in the center of the room where guest taste wines. An area is set up by a long window to take in the vineyard view.

During a tasting visit, you may choose from a white and red wines list for $10 or an all reds list with their higher end wines for $15.

$10 Featured Wines (bottle price $14-$25)
2009 Gewurztraminer, Santa Ynez Valley
2009 Chardonnay, Santa Ynez Valley
2010 Rose, Santa Ynez Valley
2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County
2007 Merlot, Santa Ynez Valley
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley

$15 Reserve Flight (bottle price $24-$60)
2008 Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez Valley
2006 Merlot, Chairman Series
2007 Lineage, Chairman Series
2007 Ambassador
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chairman Series
2007 Ambassador, Cabernet Sauvignon

I tasted the red and whites. The bottle I purchased was the Pinot Noir. The aromas were strong enough for anyone to pick up, including my dad who has trouble smelling. :) This was also his favorite.

"The 2009 Pinot Noir has an exotic nose that is smoky and spicy. Fresh strawberries, rhubarb, rose petals, cloves, and sundried tomatoes race across the palate. Hints of earth and mushroom create a velvety texture on the finish. Allow time to breathe for optimal drinking!"

I also enjoyed their Chardonnay with 90 points Wine & Spirits. It has aromas of apples, citrus, pineapple, butter, warm toast and vanilla.

It may get crowded in the tasting room but by joining the Firestone Cellar Club you receive exclusive access to the Wine Club Lounge and other excellent benefits. With membership, you and five guests receive complimentary tasting from Firestone and six other tasting rooms:

  • Lincourt (Solvang, CA)

  • Foley (Lompoc, CA)

  • EOS (Paso Robles, CA)

  • Sebastiani (Sonoma, CA)

  • Chalk Hill (Healdsburg, CA)

  • Three Rivers (Walla Walla, WA)

  • You will also receive the latest information about Firestone Vineyards and its wines, discounts on merchandise, 20% off Firestone wine, and 30% off reorder featured club wines. There are various packages you may choose to receive wine quarterly. The "Cellar" package includes three bottles and "Double Me Up" includes six bottles. Then you may choose a "Red" package with three bottles average price of $55 and $110 for six bottles. Or you can choose the "White" package with three bottles average price of $37 and $74 for six bottles. The "Mixed" package is also available with selections of all varieties; three bottle shipment prices average $51 and six bottle shipment averages $102, plus shipping and taxes.

    Basically, if you join the club and gather five friends to taste wines at one or more of the featured tasting rooms, this is a great deal! :) Next time I'm headed back to the coast with some friends, I know what I'm doing.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Welcoming the Year of the Dragon

    Tonight China celebrates their New Year to welcome the year of the dragon. China goes by the lunar calendar, which uses the moon to determine dates. Every time we get a full moon, it's the 15th of the month. In my opinion, it would be more accurate because the seasons are affected by the moon, sun, and other natural factors. That would explain the late rain this year. Instead of having a leap day, the calendar has a leap month. When this occurs the month is repeated. Imagine your birthday falling on a leap month, you get to celebrate twice in one year! :)

    In honor of the Chinese New Year, I made fried bananas as I've seen at Chinese buffets. They came out delicious, soft and not too sweet.

    Fried Bananas
    1/2 cup flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    6 tablespoons lukewarm water
    4 tablespoon olive oil
    2 egg whites
    4 bananas
    juice of half a lemon

    1/4 cup of honey
    1/2 cup of water
    1/4 sugar
    1 stick of cinnamon

    1. Mix flour, salt, water and olive oil until smooth.

    2. Whip egg whites.

    3. Slice bananas and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning.

    4. Add egg whites and flour mixture together.
    5. Dip bananas into the batter and fry with hot oil until it browns. Transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb any extra oil.
    6. While bananas cool, heat all syrup ingredients on low for 5 minutes. Place bananas in syrup and remove after 30 seconds.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Frosty Lime Pie

    Do you ever find yourself buying a recipe book and never use it? I've done this in the past. Last summer I bought the cupcake and pie recipe cards books from taste of home. I am determined to try at least half of the recipes in these books. So far I've tried pie recipes but not any cupcake recipes. Maybe I should make this my New Year resolution. We'll see how far I get.

    Lately I've been hearing that this is the season for citrus. I went through my recipe cards for pies and found a "Frosty Key Lime Pie."
    I prefer recipes that don't have too many fancy ingredients and is easy to make. This one seemed to do the trick. It only involves 4 ingredients!

    1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
    6 tablespoons key lime juice (I used 2 regular limes)
    2 cups heavy whipping cream
    1 graham cracker crust (9 inches)

    1. Combine milk and lime juice until smooth.
    2. Whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Remove 1/4 cup of the whipping cream and refrigerate to use as a topping.
    3. Fold a fourth of the whipping cream with the milk and lime juice mixture. Fold until it becomes smooth. Then fold in remaining whipping cream.
    4. Pour into the pie crust. Cover and freeze overnight.
    5. Remove the pie 30 minutes before serving so that it becomes easier to cut. Garnish with the whipped cream you have saved in the refrigerator and enjoy!

    The pie is very tasty with a well balance of citrus and sweetness. Not too sweet, not too sour. It has a creamy texture to satisfy your dessert craving after lunch.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Champagne Etiquette

    Champagne and sparkling wine are different from wine in many ways. One difference is how to open the bottle. And now you will know how to properly open a Champagne bottle...

    Make sure the bottle has been chilled.
    Remove the foil from around the cork.
    Place your hand on top of the bottle and carefully twist to remove the wire cage.
    Hold on to the cork with one hand and the bottle with the other.
    Slowly twist the bottle and hold on to the cork.
    The goal is to make the least noise as possible.

    Another adventurous way to open a bottle is with a large sword. Remove the foil and wire cage. Take the sword and quickly slide it across the vertical seam of the bottle towards the cork. This should break the end of the bottle. This method is a lot messier. I wouldn't recommend trying it for the first time at someone else's home. :)

    When pouring the Champagne, tilt your tulip-shaped flute so that the Champagne falls on the side of the glass. Fill the glass half way and wait for any foam to settle. Now fill your glass about 2/3 of the way and cheers!

    Check out this video for more on how to open a Champagne bottle.

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Where's the snow?

    I live just one hour from Shaver Lake and Yosemite. When we get freezing mornings and rainy days, it usually means it's snowing up in the mountains. So far we've seen some morning frost but no rain. In picture calendars, January is seen as a snowy white month. Where is that January snow?

    I thought I'd make my own snowballs. I had in mind those yummy Hostess® Sno Balls®. Hostess changes the coconut color from their normal pink according to the season. For St. Patrick's Day they are green. They are orange for Halloween. And for January they are white.
    Chocolate cupcakes
    Marshmallow Creme
    Unsweetened coconut

    1. Spray cupcake pan with nonstick baking spray and bake cupcakes without the cupcake liner. Let cupcakes cool before decorating.
    2. Trim top off so that they will sit flat. Make a whole on the top and fill it with the marshmallow creme. Cover it with some of the cake that was removed.

    3. Flip cupcake over and frost the cupcake with the marshmallow creme.

    4. Cover with coconut and eat it! :D

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Celebrate the New Year with Champagne Cake

    Champagne bottles are popping for New Year's, so last night I thought about Madonna Inn's Pink Champagne cake. I found a Pink Champagne cake and a Bavarian cream recipe to try out. The result...oh my! These two together go so well. This is to be a repeat cake for other occasions.
    The cake is similar to a white cake with a slight champagne flavor. The cream taste great just on it's own. It is similar to vanilla pudding but a little sweeter.

    Pink Champagne Cake
    (recipe from Los Angeles Times by Rose Dosti)
    2 3/4 cups sifted flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup shortening
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3/4 cup champagne (I used a Sweet Rose sparkling wine)
    6 egg whites (save yolks for Bavarian cream)

    1 Resift flour, baking powder, and salt.
    2 Cream shortening and 1-cup sugar until fluffy.
    3 Add flour mixture alternatively with the champagne and mix until smooth.

    4 Beat egg whites on high speed until stiff. Gradually add 1/2-cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff.

    5 Fold half of the meringue into the batter and mix gently with a whisk. Gently fold remaining meringue.
    6 Pour into prepared cake pans and bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.

    Bavarian Cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 1/4 heavy cream
    1 tablespoon gelatin
    3 tablespoon milk
    1/4 cup sugar
    5 egg yolks
    1 1/4 cups whipped cream

    1 Mix vanilla and heavy cream. Sprinkle gelatin into milk and set aside.
    2 Whisk yolks and sugar together. Warm the cream mixture and slowly whisk into eggs.
    3 Place mixture over simmering water and stir until it is thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.
    4 Remove from heat and add milk and gelatin mixture.
    5 Place bowl in an ice bath and stir until it is at room temperature.
    6 Fold in whipped cream and refrigerate for 4 or 5 hours until mixture is set.

    I made three 6" round pans and 5 cupcakes with the batter. I spread some Bavarian cream in between each layer. Then covered the cake with buttercream and added pink chocolate pieces, to make it pretty like Madonna Inn's cakes. :)