Blackberry Verbena Gin & Tonic

Blackberry Verbena Gin & Tonic

Blackberry Verbena Gin & Tonic

Good morning!

Yes, I know that it is 11:30 am on a Sunday morning. And, yes, Virginia, I do know that it is a tad too early for most folk to be drinkin’ gin and tonics.

When I mentioned to Mr. Birdcage that I was shooting a recipe for a gin and tonic, he snickered and said it was too early.

But, seriously, guys.  Why are mimosas acceptable brunch fare but gin and tonics apparently aren’t? Is it the bubbles in champagne? Is that the “bling” necessary for an alcoholic drink to be A-Okay at brunch time?

Well, gin and tonics have sparkling water/soda water in them. Let’s just call that DIY champagne and get over ourselves. This Blackberry Verbena Gin & Tonic would make a fab partner for some French Toast.

I had gotten a jar of Lemon Verbena Sugar from Spaulding’s Specialty Spices and I’d gone around and around with what I was going to make with it. I, being partial to craft cocktails, decided to make a gin and tonic with it.

Sugar! Fancy Sugar!

Sugar! Fancy Sugar!

I don’t have a problem with Gin & Tonics at brunch time (obviously), but my wallet has a problem with going out to brunch and dropping $10 on a “craft cocktail”. I think the fact that most of these artisan cocktails are served in mason jars automatically means a $4 raise in bar prices.

Damn you, pretentious mason jars.

Make this recipe and save considerable cash making your own damn craft cocktails in the luxury of your own home. In your pajamas. French Toast Crumbs on your shirt optional.

Berry puree is added to a glass.

Berry puree is added to a glass.

Followed by the Lemon Verbena simple syrup.

Followed by the Lemon Verbena simple syrup.

Add your Gin. No, I haven't been drinking...yet.

Add your Gin. No, I haven’t been drinking…yet.

Bottoms Up!

Bottoms Up!

You can use this recipe to keep all the gin and tonic fixings in your fridge to make cocktails one at a time. Throwing a party? You can also mix everything except the ice and sparkling water in a pitcher the morning of. Just stir in the ice and sparkling water immediately before serving to your guests, in mason jars of course.

Then, just for giggles, slip your party guests a bar tab for $10 per drink. 😉

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Blackberry Verbena Gin & Tonic

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Blackberry Puree:

1 pint blackberries

2 T. water

Directions:

1. In a small food processor (or blender), combine rinsed berries and water. Process until smooth. If desired, strain mixture to eliminate any seeds or large pulp.

2. Store puree in a small jar, refrigerated for up to two days, in the refrigerator.

Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup white sugar (or 4 oz. jar of Spaulding’s Specialty Spices Lemon Verbena Sugar)

2 leaves lemon verbena (if using Lemon Verbena Sugar, omit)

1/2 cup filtered water

Directions:

1. In small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to boil.

2. Stir in sugar and lemon verbena leaves (if using). Keep stirring until sugar has dissolved.

3. Immediately remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes until cooled. Remove leaves. Store syrup in a jar, refrigerated.

Cocktail Directions:

Ingredients:

1 T. blackberry puree

1 T. lemon verbena simple syrup

1 ounce gin

4-5 ice cubes

4 ounces soda water, sparkling water, or club soda

thin strip of lemon zest, about 3″ long

Directions:

1. In a glass, combine blackberry puree, simple syrup, and gin.

2. Add ice cubes.

3. Stir in soda water.

4. Top with lemon zest strip.

5. Serve immediately.

 

Banana Espresso Bread

banana espresso bread title pic

Chow down.

Chow down.

Spotted bananas are the fruit of the Devil.

But…..they make really, really good banana bread. So for this, they are redeemed in my eyes.

Truth be told, I’d never cared much for banana bread until I was in my teens. And it HAD TO BE my Mom’s banana bread. Especially the end piece.

Sorry, mom. But the one thing I did NOT like about your banana bread were the large chunks left in the loaves. (You guys know, the baked slimy bits that turn black?)

*gag*

Suddenly facing a severe surplus of spotty bananas, I decided to whip out Mom’s recipe. However, I decided to give it a bit of gussying up with some Espresso Sugar I had in the cupboard made by Spaulding’s Specialty Spices. Check them out on Facebook here.

Sugar? Check. Espresso? Check.

Sugar? Check. Espresso? Check.

Flecks of happiness.

Flecks of happiness.

I made a few changes to Mom’s recipe. Aside from the addition of espresso to the banana party, I added a tsp. of baking powder to give the loaf a little extra lift in texture as well as some vanilla and Saigon cinnamon to add depth to the banana and espresso flavors.

Oh! And I made this a “one bowl” recipe. Less dishes? Freaking awesome. You pretty much mix all the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl then sprinkle the dry ingredients over. I also eliminated the traditional step of adding already mashed bananas to the quick bread dough and used the hand mixer to puree them into oblivion.

Good-bye nasty banana bumps!

I hate mashing. Let's make the mixer do the work.

I hate mashing. Let’s make the mixer do the work.

Butter, sugar, bananas, beaten to oblivion.

Butter, sugar, bananas, beaten to oblivion.

Sprinkling the dry ingredients helps ensure no nasty baking powder lumps in your bread.

Sprinkling the dry ingredients helps ensure no nasty baking powder lumps in your bread.

Smooth.

Smooth.

Eeeeek! Glazed greatness.

Eeeeek! Glazed greatness.

Furthermore, after the cake cooled, I drizzled it with an espresso glaze and topped it with some hazelnuts I’d roasted. This is purely an optional step. You could always mix in your nuts of choice (1/2 cup) into the dough.

I roasted hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes, shaking the pan every 3 minutes until fragrant.

I roasted hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes, shaking the pan every 3 minutes until fragrant.

After they'd cooled, I vigorously rubbed them between two cloth napkins to remove the skins.

After they’d cooled, I vigorously rubbed them between two cloth napkins to remove the skins.

I highly suggest the glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar, though. This bread isn’t crazy sweet like other recipes, due to the espresso calming down the sweetness from the sugar.

Don’t have Espresso Sugar? No worries. Add in 2 tsps. instant coffee or espresso. Don’t like coffee? Leave it out! (Just add in 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon to compensate for the flavor.)

Please note that you will be baking the cake for only ten minutes at 350. Due to the addition of extra leavening to my mom’s original recipe, this bread would brown too greatly baking the whole time at a higher temp. Lowering the oven to 325 ensures that the cake won’t over-brown, but it will still have a nice rise to it.

Queue the eye candy:

Oh, mama.

Oh, mama.

Banana Espresso Bread

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. instant espresso (omit if using Espresso Sugar)

3 very ripe bananas

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour, all-purpose

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Directions:

*preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9″ round cake pan.

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar for approximately 2-3 minutes.

2. Add bananas to the bowl and mix until no large bumps remain.

3. Add in eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined.

4. Sprinkle flour, soda, baking powder, and cinnamon over wet ingredients; mix until just combined. (I switched to a spatula at this point.)

5. Pour batter into prepared 9″ cake pan; smooth top with spatula. Bake in 350 degree oven for ten minutes. THEN LOWER THE HEAT TO 325 DEGREES; bake for an additional 40 minutes or until cake tester or knife inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

6. Let cool on a baking rack for ten minutes. Turn out of pan and let cool for another half hour. Glaze, if desired, or top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Espresso Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 T. hot water

1 tsp. instant espresso

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup

DIRECTIONS:

1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Use immediately to drizzle over cooled cake.

2. If topping cake with additional nuts, do so before the glaze sets.

 

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Vegan Spiced Coconut Pudding, Mango Compote, and Orange Macadamia Gremolata

I just love seeing my name written in chalk.

I just love seeing my name written in chalk.

I feel compelled to rat myself out on this one: The recipe and photographs for this post were taken back in August. Yes, as in summer.

*hides face*

Between the farmer’s markets, special bakery orders, being a mom to kids AND puppies, plus a full time job that involves a 2-4 hour daily commute I’ve just been tired exhausted.

Yes, I have let things slip. All work and no play makes JC a dull girl.

But let’s not pretend I’m the only person with a laundry basket full of clean, yet wrinkled and unfolded clothes and a case of the “I’ll do it Laters”, yeah?

My friend, Prit, graciously took myself and a few of her other friends to a local Indian grocery store for a personalized tour. I’m a huge grocery store nerd, anyways, so I had to fight off the urge to skip through the aisles. It was so much fun seeing all the different snacks, ingredients, and veggies I’d never even seen or heard of before.

Ladies, I'm gonna need you to go about your shopping duties while I skulk behind you and take "natural-looking" pics, mmmmkay?

Ladies, I’m gonna need you to go about your shopping duties while I skulk behind you and take “natural-looking” pics, mmmmkay?

I saw these cute, little veggies called tindora. So cute! So tiny!

I saw these cute, little veggies called tindora. So cute! So tiny!

Woah! Not so cute! Not so tiny! But, oh how colorful!

Woah! Not so cute! Not so tiny! But, oh how colorful!

Prit took us throughout the store, explaining in detail what many items were generally used for in Northern Indian cooking. We were going to her home for a meal afterward, so she filled our shopping cart with all kinds of fresh veggies and such. As did I, except…umm….well you can say I went a little crazy on the Cadbury just by looking at the pic below:

I like English chocolate, okay?

I like English chocolate, okay? It tastes different than its American counterpart, I swear!

Back at Prit’s home, she prepared a number of dishes while explaining what spices she was using, the preparation method, etc. I’d never had Indian food prior to meeting Prit and I really had no idea about traditional preparations or such. It was so much fun watching her make foods that I’d never tried before. The most surprising dish that I enjoyed was Guju Mango relish, made of green (unripe) mango, grated onion, and fresh toasted spices. It was more of an accompaniment and it was all at once fresh, lightly fruity, spicy, and cool.

Knock, Knock.

Knock, Knock.

Green mango is peeled and then finely grated.

Green mango is peeled and then finely grated.

Shred white onion, not knuckles.

Shred white onion, not knuckles.

Squeeze the juices out of the green mango. This is a GREAT stress reliever.

Squeeze the juices out of the green mango. This is a GREAT stress reliever.

Add some fresh spice, and mix it up.

Add some fresh spice, and mix it up.

Here's a random picture of a tiny eggplant that Prit later sautéed. Why can't produce this cute be more readily available in mainstream American stores?!

Here’s a random picture of a tiny eggplant that Prit later sautéed. Why can’t produce this cute be more readily available in mainstream American stores?!

Northern Indian cooking, aside from bountiful use of produce, relies heavily upon fresh spices, herbs, and infused (usually on the stovetop during preparation) cooking oils. Prit had a pull-out drawer next to her stove into which a silver spice holder-thingy (gosh dang it! I can’t think of a descriptor word) was nestled. This had been Prit’s mother’s and had been in use for several, several years. Check out how cool it is:

Prit simply removes the spice tin from the drawer and all her frequently used dried spices are right there!!!!

Prit simply removes the spice tin from the drawer and all her frequently used dried spices are right there!!!! Here, Prit has heated some cooking oil and is quickly infusing it with flavor by sprinkling the spices into the pan.

I don't recall that anyone knew the proper name for this spice, but they sure are neat looking!

I don’t recall that anyone knew the proper name for this spice, but they sure are neat looking!

I want a magical herb tree in my kitchen! I can't even grow basil!

I want a magical herb tree in my kitchen! I can’t even grow basil!

So much fresh, flavorful food!

So much fresh, flavorful food!

Afterward, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Afterward, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Yep.

I somehow managed to take that picture with one hand while holding my wine glass with the other.

Seasoned professional over here. No, not professional photographer…..

Prit’s good friend Jan (pictured in the mango and grocery store pictures) is vegan, so I offered to bring in a loosely Indian-inspired, vegan, dessert. No, it is NOT traditional Indian fare, but the flavors fit right in. This sounds like a pain in the butt recipe. Yes, and no. All the ingredients are inexpensive and most of them are pantry staples. All your prep and all your assembly can actually occur the day before you plan on serving. Also, the prep methods used are pretty basic.

PLUS: It’s freaking delicious. The coconut pudding is mild yet richly creamy. The spiced mango compote is tangy. The Orange Gremolata is crunchy and adds nice texture and an interesting complement to the pudding and compote. Don’t inhale this dessert. Eat it slowly to really appreciate the flavors and textures. It’s definitely an experience.

Enjoy!

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Vegan Spiced Coconut Pudding, Mango Compote, and Orange Macadamia Gremolata

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Pudding Ingredients:

3 T. cornstarch

2 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk

1 vanilla bean

2 whole cloves

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/3 cup sugar (I used a certified vegan, organic sugar)

2 T. vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), softened

Gremolata, for topping (see recipe below)

Mango Compote (see recipe below)

Pudding Directions:

1. Combine 1/2 cup coconut milk with cornstarch. Whisk vigorously until combined and smooth, with no lumps remaining.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add remaining 2 cups coconut milk, vanilla bean, whole cloves, nutmeg, and sugar. Whisk to combine.

3. Cook until mixture begins to steam; whisk in cornstarch mixture.

4. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for about 3 – 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Lower heat to Low and continue to cook until thickened, about another five minutes or so.

5. Pull saucepan off heat and stir in softened vegan butter. Remove whole cloves from pudding. Remove vanilla bean and, when cool to the touch, scrape the seeds back into the cooked pudding and stir to incorporate. Discard vanilla bean pod.

6. Pour pudding into individual ramekins and let cool slightly. Refrigerate pudding for 2 hours prior to serving.

Spiced Mango Compote

2 cups frozen mango cubes

Squeeze of orange juice (about 1 T.)

1 T. water (if fruit begins to stick to bottom of pan)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

pinch each of cloves, nutmeg, cardamom

Mango Compote Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mango is softened. Use wooden spoon to break up mango chunks.

2. Once mango is softened, sugar has dissolved, and mixture is thick and bubbly, set aside to cool.

Orange Macadamia Gremolata

1 cup raw, unsalted Macadamia nuts, chopped into small pieces

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut shavings (you can find these at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Natural Grocers)

2 tsp. orange zest

1 T. olive oil (I used Texas Olive Ranch Rio Orange Olive Oil)

Gremolata Directions:

1. In a 375 degree oven, roast macadamia nuts on a rimmed, parchment paper lined baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Stir every 2 minutes or so.

2. Once fragrant, add unsweetened coconut shavings and add back to oven for two more minutes, stirring every minute, or until browned.

3. Mix toasted nuts, coconut, orange zest, and olive oil in a small bowl until combined.

 

Is that toasted coconut....or sharkfins???

Is that toasted coconut….or shark fins???

Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Rose Compote

Feelin' fancy?

Feelin’ fancy?

To say that I’ve taken a bit of a break would be a fair statement. The month of September FLEW past. It’s not that I haven’t been working on any new recipes; in fact, I have three posts just begging waiting to be worked on and posted. Birdcage Bakeshop has been keeping me on my toes; lots of fun, yet utterly exhausting weekends filled with baking, selling, and making new friends at the Four Seasons Market in Richardson.

I’m sure by now, you all know that I work extensively with Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil Products. BIG, BIG FAN here. I’ve recently branched out and have teamed up with James of Spaulding’s Specialty Spices to use his wonderful, organic, home-grown spice blends in my recipes. It’s very rewarding to be working with a local artisan. It’s even more rewarding that I get to play around with seasonings that have already been matched for flavor pairing compatibility!

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Don’t balk at frozen fruit! It’s always in season, never bruises in your fridge, and is prepped for use!

In this recipe, I used Rio Orange Olive Oil to make a delicate, floral Citrus Olive Oil Cake; I added some sliced almonds to the top for some smoky crunch and texture. To pair, I threw some strawberries into a small saucepan with a 1/3 cup of Spaulding’s Lovely Rose Sugar and a tablespoon of cornstarch.  Depending on the sweetness of your berries, you may need to add additional sugar, 1 T. at a time. This compote is nearly impossible to mess up, but the key is to add additional sugar and/or cornstarch a little at a time.

Using a 9″ springform pan makes baking the cake so simple. You’ll need to put it on a piece of foil or on a baking sheet to catch any leakage. If you do not own one, no big deal! Just use one 9″ round cake pan instead. This cake is so good, very delicate in flavor, and is the perfect canvas to show off your Strawberry Rose Compote. It’s texture reminded me of a chiffon cake with its lightly sponge-like crumb. It’s best served warm from the oven. If you have leftovers, I suggest tightly wrapping the cake in plastic wrap.

Let’s enjoy some pictures of this cake:

Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of the unbaked cake.

Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of the unbaked cake.

Let the baked cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Let the baked cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Release the springform, and stare in wonder at your gorgeous cake!

Release the springform, and stare in wonder at your gorgeous cake!

The cake recipe was adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/almond-citrus-olive-oil-cake-recipe.html

For more information on Texas Olive Ranch, go to http://texasoliveranch.com/ or follow them on Facebook here.

Spaulding’s Specialty Spices can be found on Facebook here.

If you are in the Dallas, Texas, area, please stop by and see me and my bakery, Birdcage Bakeshop, as well as Texas Olive Ranch and Spaulding’s Specialty Spices at the Four Seasons Market in Richardson! Find them on Facebook here.

Let's get cooking!

Let’s get cooking! Let’s also ignore the knife mark in the cake. It smelled so good, I almost cut a slice before I took a picture. D’oh.

Almond Citrus Olive Oil Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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ALMOND CITRUS OLIVE OIL CAKE

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis with gratitude and appreciation

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur or Gold Medal)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 T. grated orange zest

1/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup olive oil (I used Texas Olive Ranch Rio Orange Oil)

1/3 cup sliced almonds

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brush the inside of a 9″ springform pan with olive oil. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and orange zest until pale and fluffy. Mine took about 1 1/2 minutes in the stand mixer. Take care not to beat the eggs into stiff peak stage.

4. Slowly beat in the milk.

5. Slowly beat in the olive oil.

6. Slowly add flour mixture until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

7. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top; place pan onto foil lined baking sheet to catch drips.

8. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, but test for doneness at 30. Cake is finished with a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

9. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes. Carefully remove sides of springform pan and allow to cool an additional 15 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake, slice, and serve with Strawberry Rose Compote.

 

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Strawberry Rose Compote

  • Servings: 1 pint
  • Difficulty: easy
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STRAWBERRY ROSE COMPOTE

*This recipe makes enough to serve alongside the cake. If you’d like to make more, the recipe works well when doubled or tripled.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of Lovely Rose Sugar, from Spaulding’s Specialty Spices (OR 1/3 cup sugar plus 2 T. culinary rose petals)

2 cups strawberries, frozen (hey! They’re already prepped for ya and always in season!)

1 – 2 T. cornstarch

Directions:

1. In a small pan, combine all ingredients over medium-low heat.

2. Once berries have released juices, bring to a simmer.

3. Stir often, until juices have reduced and mixture is thickened. This takes about 20 minutes or so.

4. Remove from heat, spoon onto a cake plate. Place slice of Citrus Olive Oil Cake on top. Serve immediately.

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Lavender Peach Teacake with Honey Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream

Can't you just smell the peaches?

Can’t you just smell the peaches?

Happy Labor Day weekend!!!!!!

Are you as excited as I am that the holiday weekend is upon us? Aside from a pool party, and the farmer’s market, I  am excited to spend my weekend reading and being lazy.

Pajama Day? Yep.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you probably know that I have a love/hate relationship with muffins. Or rather, the baking process of muffins. (Click here for that story.) Well, the muffins won again.

I had planned on selling the Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins at the farmer’s market today. But something went wrong. Very, very wrong. I thought the batter looked different. They came out of the oven and looked…bumpy. I decided to just take them home and eat them instead of selling them.

My youngest daughter, who happens to have a love of these particular muffins, grabbed one and took a big bite. She looked at me and said “These taste like dirt.”

EXCUSE ME?!

The other day she told me a hippopotamus bit her during recess, so I take everything she says with a grain of salt. I took a bite and….oh good gravy.

They really did taste like potting soil.

The problem? Master baker *points at self* forgot to put the sugar in the recipe. D’oh! Muffins win again, those jerks.

Muffins are evil, vindictive pastries.

This Lavender Peach Tea Cake is, however, is nice and sweet and lovely. And the Honey Crème Fraiche Whipped Cream? Well, I took one bite and I heard angels singing. I think the Lavender Sugar I used made this extra special.

Spaulding’s Specialty Spices is a local, Dallas/Fort Worth area spice company and the owner grows his own organic herbs. His pest control? DUCKS! How fun is that? They eat the bugs and leave all the good, organic stuff for the rest of us. He sells at local area markets; check his Facebook page for updates and monthly offerings.

Lavender adds a mild, floral note to organic cane sugar.

Lavender adds a mild, floral note to organic cane sugar.

This Tea Cake is a layer of rich, buttery vanilla bean cake (almost a scone-like consistency) spread into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan. If you don’t have a springform, use a 9″ round cake pan lined with parchment paper.

Butter. Vanilla. Heaven.

Butter. Vanilla. Heaven.

Peaches are sliced and arranged in a pinwheel. Feel free to use nectarines or even plums. Then sugar is sprinkled over the top and gets all caramelized in the oven. During the baking process, the lavender infuses a light floral taste into the fruit.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

.

Heavy cream is whipped until thickened. Then we add in the creme fraiche and honey and continue until it holds soft peaks.

Almost too pretty to eat...almost.

Almost too pretty to eat…almost.

Lavender Peach Tea Cake with Honey Crème Fraiche Whipped Cream

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter, unsalted, and softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

2 large peaches, sliced thin

2 T. Lavender Sugar or 2 T. granulated sugar or 2 T. granulated sugar plus 2 tsp. culinary lavender

1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold

2 – 3 T. honey (depending on how sweet you want your topping)

2 T. crème fraiche or sour cream

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ springform pan with butter; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together your softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy; about two minutes.

4. Add your egg and vanilla bean paste, and beat until well combined.

5. Add your flour mixture and stir until just combined.

6. Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly into prepared pan. Arrange sliced peaches over top of cake. Top with Lavender sugar (or plain sugar).

7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and knife inserted into center come out clean.

8. In another bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the cream until just thickened. Add honey and crème fraiche. Continue beating until cream holds soft peaks. Avoid overbeating as the cream will curdle. Serve with tea cake.

 

Delicious! And Dainty.

Delicious! And Dainty.

This cake is best served the day it is made, but it also keeps in the fridge for up to 2 days. The whipped cream can be made ahead and kept in a tightly sealed jar for 2 – 3 days. Serve with a nice Earl Grey tea and enjoy!

Pretzel Pecan Chicken with Olive Oil Mash and Herbed Peas

Pretzels, Panko, and Texas Pecans add crunch and interest to a traditional dinner item.

Pretzels, Panko, and Texas Pecans add crunch and interest to a traditional dinner item.

I’m generally not a huge fan of chicken fingers, nuggets, etc. I blame childhood consumption of a certain restaurant’s nuggets – spongy, salty, and soggy are not adjectives one would like associated with dinnertime. I guess this is why I was really, really surprised that I liked these Pretzel Pecan Chicken Fingers so much.

I often marinade chicken in buttermilk. I find that the acids in the buttermilk help break down any toughness in the chicken and help to keep it very moist during the cooking process. I had picked up a bag of Providence Ranch Pecans during market day a few weeks back, and I tossed them into my favorite breading – panko breadcrumbs and crushed pretzels. Panko breadcrumbs are light and crisp, pretzels contribute a more substantial crunch, another layer of flavor, and an added punch of salt. This is why the recipe for the chicken does not call for additional salt; however, feel free to add it if you feel so inclined.

Mashed potatoes and peas are obvious choices for side dishes with chicken fingers. The key to having simple sides is to make them really, really well. The peas were fresh, shelled peas that I gussied up with a bit of butter and a pinch of minced parsley. If you have access to fresh, shelled peas from the farmer’s market by all means use those. If you don’t, use a steamer bag of frozen peas. My family probably couldn’t tell the difference, actually. And since I DESPISE peeling potatoes,  I usually keep varieties in the pantry that I can mash with the skins on; Yukon gold potatoes are my favorite.

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

And, lucky me, I had a bottle of Texas Olive Ranch’s Boom Blend Olive Oil. Boom blend is a specialty blend offered by the company which grows, processes, and bottles all their oils here in Texas. Rich, buttery, and decadent, this particular olive oil is one that you want front and center in any recipe. Use it as a dressing, toss it with some pasta, or mix it into some buttery Yukon Gold potatoes and you’re in heaven. Quality olive oil can take a boring side dish (like mashed potatoes) to somewhere outrageously glorious.

Admittedly, there are a lot of steps in this meal but none of them are difficult. Serve it with a nice, cold beer and you’re in comfort food heaven. Totally. Worth. It.

Planning your cooking order helps ease mealtime prep. I’m going to list each menu item separately, but here’s a general timeline to ensure everything is hot and ready all at once:

1. Fill a large pot with water and set heat to high; we need to bring the water to a boil.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

3. Proceed with breading the chicken. (I recommend setting the chicken in the marinade at least 30 minutes but not longer than 12 hours in advance)

3. Pop chicken into the oven. Drop potatoes into boiling water.

4. Once chicken is taken out of the oven, test potatoes for tenderness. They should be done.

5. Set chicken aside to rest, mash taters, doll up your steamed peas.

6. Crack open a beer (may I recommend a TEXAN beer, such as Franconia or Deep Ellum Brewing Company?)

7. Enjoy your fancy chicken and pity the folk eating their soggy, spongy nuggets.

Hand me a spoon. I'm gonna dig right in.

Hand me a spoon. I’m gonna dig right in.

IMG_4709

Pretzel Pecan Chicken with Olive Oil Mash and Herbed Peas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Pretzel Pecan Chicken Ingredients

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts , cubed OR chicken tenderloins

2 cups buttermilk

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

4 eggs

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup ground pretzel pieces

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

olive oil, for brushing the baking sheet

Directions:

1. Combine buttermilk and Dijon mustard in a baking dish. Add chicken cubes. Cover and set in fridge to marinade for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a foil lined baking sheet with a small amount of oil.

3 In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Set aside.

4 In a ziptop plastic bag, combine panko, pretzels, pecans, paprika, and pepper.

5. On your countertop, arrange from left to right: marinated chicken pieces, whisked egg, Ziptop plastic bag, and oiled baking sheet.

6. Working left to right, remove half the chicken and dip into egg wash. Place pieces into plastic bag and shake to coat. Arrange on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until juices run clear. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Olive Oil Mash Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. of Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced. Peeling is entirely optional.

1/4 cup fine olive oil, such as Texas Olive Ranch

2 T. butter

1/2 – 3/4 cup broth (I used vegetable) or milk

2 tsp. sea salt

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

extra olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

1. In a large pot, bring 2 tsp. of sea salt and about 6 – 8 cups of water to a boil. (Enough water come about 2 inches over potatoes)

2. Add diced potatoes and boil until very tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Drain potatoes, but do not rinse.

4. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 T. butter, and broth or milk. With the broth or milk, start with 1/2 cup and add additional liquid by Tablespoon measures until desired consistency is reached.

5. Taste and adjust salt and pepper according to preference.

Herbed Peas Ingredients:

16 ounces of peas, fresh shelled or frozen

1 – 2 T. butter

2 T. finely minced, fresh parsley

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. If using frozen peas, prepare according to package. If using fresh, shelled peas, simmer in hot water for 5 – 8 minutes until tender.

2. Toss cooked peas with butter (I start with one T. and add more, if needed) and season to taste.

French Mediterranean Inspired Saute

Twenty Minutes and a healthy dinner on the table!

Twenty Minutes and a healthy dinner on the table!

 

I’m a procrastinator and I’m sorry/not sorry about that.

I had teased this recipe about two weeks back on Instagram along with a proclamation that I was working on a series of healthy, quick, weeknight meals to be posted *soon*. Technically, I am still working on those posts. I just have a very loose interpretation of what *soon* really means.

And the irony that I am late and have taken for-ever to get this quick recipe posted is not lost on me.

I don’t like being late, but I also have the attention span of a toddler hopped up on twenty Pixie Stix.

Perhaps I should rephrase “I don’t like being late” to “I often enjoy the idea of being on time”.

Let’s get down to it, shall we? It’s really simple, really forgiving, and I make a version of this dish at least once a week when I feel like throwing random things in the pan in hopes something edible comes out.

It’s a one-dish dinner, but feel free to bulk it up with a simple green salad, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. (Psssst –  If you order three or more items from Texas Olive Ranch and have them shipped to the same address, you get free shipping.)

I’d made this dish with chicken, but please note that I have included vegetarian swaps for this recipe.

The vinegar in this recipe is a fig-infused balsamic from Texas Olive Ranch. The fig adds to the Mediterranean flavor profile of this dish, but feel free to use plain balsamic.

If at any time your food starts to stick to the pan, simply add 1 – 2 T. water to eliminate sticking and avoid using more oil. I do this to save on calories as well as to stretch my olive oil supply. 😉

Simple ingredients make weeknight meal prep easier.

Simple ingredients make weeknight meal prep easier.

 

French Mediterranean Inspired Saute

Serves four

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts, cubed (mine were about 3/4 lb total) OR one block tofu, drained and cut into large cubes

8 oz. package of sliced baby Portobello mushrooms. (I used Kitchen Pride, which is local to Texas. I bought them at a big retailer, but they sell at Farmer’s Markets all over the state)

1 red bell pepper, cut into large dice

1/2 yellow or red onion, cut into large dice

2 tsp. minced garlic

2 T. olive oil , separated

1/4 cup quality balsamic vinegar, such as Texas Olive Ranch Figalicious

2 large handfuls of baby spinach, about 2 cups

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried oregano

12 ounce package of pasta, gluten free or “regular”

1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and cut into large pieces

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

1/3 cup feta cheese

 

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. About 3 minutes before pasta is done cooking, add green beans. Once pasta is al dente, drain and toss pasta and green beans with 1 T. olive oil. Set aside.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining 1 T. olive oil over medium – high heat. Season cubed chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper; add to hot pan and cook for about five minutes, stirring every minute to ensure browning on all sides of chicken.

3. Lower heat to medium. Add vinegar and stir chicken around, scraping up any browned bits.

4. Add mushrooms, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic to chicken. Cook over medium heat for about 4 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through and veggies are crisp tender. Add spinach, thyme, and oregano and cook about 1 minute further.

5. Once spinach is wilted, chicken is cooked, and balsamic vinegar has reduced slightly, add mixture to pasta and green beans. Toss gently. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve in large bowls and sprinkle each serving with feta cheese.

 

My homegirls.

My homegirls.

 

Organic Strawberry Vanilla Date Jam

This post is about jam, not muffins, those fickle jerks.

Well, howdy!

This post is about jam, not muffins, those fickle jerks. Click here to read about my previous muffin fiasco.

It’s nice to see that you’ve not yet melted to a puddle of sweaty mess during these past few days of scorching heat. After selling at the Dallas Farmer’s Market yesterday, and subsequently roasting my cajones off, I was determined to not leave the house today.

Ladies, there just isn’t anything remotely attractive about sweat mustaches. Oh, all the unattractive places we sweat. *sigh*

Moving along, I had some back and forth discussion with my friend regarding the alarmingly high amount of sugar required to can and preserve jams and jellies. Don’t get me wrong, as I am very much in the pro-sweetness camp, but my waistline is telling me to lay off the white stuff (sugar, I assure you).

In the rush of the past week, I had at some point picked up two pounds of organic strawberries. As you know, those ruby red jewels are priced as such. As always happens, I had eaten half of one container and the rest were somehow shoved to the way back nether-regions of the fridge. Blast it.

The following contributed to the creation of this week’s recipe:

1. After a full day in the Dallas heat, I decided to remain in an air-conditioned suburban bubble.

2. I haven’t done laundry this week and thus find myself without any clean pants.

3. I wanted to start eating healthier and see if I could come up with a jam recipe to convince my aforementioned friend that I am super-cool.

4. I had a ton of organic strawberries that had started to bruise and were just asking to be sugared, smashed, and pureed into jammy oblivion.

Without further ado…let’s talk about the good stuff.

This recipe makes two 8oz jars of jam. I follow the standard instructions which are printed on the container of Pectin I had. This is NOT a recipe that I recommend canning. However, I can tell you that I often freeze the second jar this recipe makes. Once thawed, we use it within one week. I suspect it may keep longer, but we are BIG toast fans around these parts.

This jam is delicious. I used four Medjool Dates in this recipe to add some natural sweetness and textural interest. I also subbed Coconut Sugar for traditional granulated sugar. Coconut Sugar is low-glycemic and contains various naturally occurring nutrients. Granted, added sugar is still added sugar, but I don’t get a sugar crash as I do with other sweeteners.

Pretty simple ingredients here.

Pretty simple ingredients here.

The most tedious task is chopping the berries.

The most tedious task is chopping the berries.

Followed closely by pouring the jam into your jar. This is were a wide-mouthed mason jar comes in handy.

Followed closely by pouring the jam into your jar. This is were a wide-mouthed mason jar comes in handy.

Just make sure you don't fill your jars and then realize you forgot to puree the jam!

Just make sure you don’t fill your jars and then realize you forgot to puree the jam!

ORGANIC STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE JAM

makes two 8-oz jars of jam

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. strawberries, organic is ideal

2/3 cup Coconut Sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup Pectin, such a Sure-Jell brand

4 Medjool Dates, pits removed

Directions:

1. Wash, remove stems from, and roughly chop 1 1/2 lbs. of strawberries.

2. In a medium saucepan, mix strawberries with coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and pectin. Let rest for two minutes. Mash thoroughly, releasing juices.

3. Add pitted dates to saucepan, and bring to boil over medium heat.

4. Lower heat to medium-low and let bubble for 15 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes.

5. In a food processor, pour jam into work bowl and process until smooth. (If additional smoothness is desired, press pureed jam through sieve into a bowl) Take care as jam is still hot.

6. Evenly pour jam into two clean, 8-oz. wide-mouthed glass jars. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before screwing lid onto jar and refrigerating.

Use this jam on anything from toast, pancakes, or PB&J sandwiches. Would even make a nice addition to homemade salad dressings.

Use this jam on anything from toast, pancakes, or PB&J sandwiches. Would even make a nice addition to homemade salad dressings.

Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins

Naked Muffin

 

What a mighty fine Sunday this is turning out to be. A far cry from how my Friday was.

Yesterday was my first market day at Dallas Farmer’s Market and aside from my granola jars and baby cobblers, I had planned on selling muffins.

Emphasis on planned.

Now, I am no mathemagician, but I’d reckon I’ve baked a gazillion muffins in my lifetime, give or take a million.

I have not the faintest idea what went down in the commercial kitchen on Friday evening, but my muffins got burnt to hell. (I suspect it was the sixteen hour workday, actually) I was so sad, because, of course they were the most gorgeously crowned, perfectly domed muffins ever. *sigh*

Muffins: 1. Birdcage Bakeshop: 0.

After exchanging texts with a baker friend of mine, who assured me that stuff like this happens all the time, I decided to call it a night and plan on the muffins for next week’s market.

My new mantra: No crying over muffins.

After a long market day at the Dallas Farmer’s Market yesterday, I came home, took a nap, and then got to work on this week’s recipe: Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins.

Yep.

Chocolate Olive Oil.

My friends over at Texas Olive Ranch sell “specialty” flavors at the farmer’s markets here in Texas, chocolate being one of them. We’ve seen recipes for Chocolate Zucchini muffins before, but the addition of a fine quality olive oil takes them to the next level.

I baked them last night and let them rest until this morning. I took one bite, and nearly cried. Tears of joy.

These muffins are oh-so-perfectly tender, with a nice cocoa taste and a hint of fruitiness from the olive oil. You can certainly add in walnuts or chocolate chips to the batter, but I like my morning muffins to be cloud-soft and tender.

If you don’t have chocolate olive oil, don’t cry. Use a high quality, light tasting olive oil in it’s place.

Remember: No crying over muffins.

Take advantage of summertime zucchini for this muffin recipe.

Take advantage of summertime zucchini for this muffin recipe.

 

Use a whisk to incorporate your dry ingredients.

Use a whisk to incorporate your dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients.

Use a spatula to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Use a spatula to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

IMG_4600

Muffin batter is thicker than cupcake batter, so don’t be afraid to fill these babies to the top for domed muffins.

I like my muffins with domes. This recipe makes 10 larger muffins, but can easily be accommodated to make a full 12.

I like my muffins with domes. This recipe makes 10 larger muffins, but can easily be accommodated to make a full 12.

 

CHOCOLATE OLIVE OIL ZUCCHINI MUFFINS

 Makes 10 large muffins or 12 standard muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/3 unbleached cake flour, such as King Arthur brand

1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar, granulated

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup Chocolate Olive Oil (or light flavored regular oil)

1 egg

1/3 cup water

1 cup zucchini, finely shredded and organic if possible

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 10 paper liners or grease well.

2. Finely grate one medium to large zucchini until you have 1 cup of zucchini shreds. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (cake flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (chocolate olive oil, egg, water).

5. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour combined wet ingredients into it. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir until just combined.

6. Gently fold in shredded zucchini, taking care that no large clumps of zucchini are present.

7. Fill muffin tins with batter, about 1/4″ shy from the top of tin.

8. Bake at 400 degrees for 19-23 minutes; mine are perfect at 21 minutes, but ovens do vary greatly. Muffins should spring back slightly when done cooking.

9. Cool muffins on a wire baking rack, then store in an airtight container or plastic storage bag for several hours. (Overnight is preferable)

*Note: as with most quickbreads/muffins, I find that an overnight “rest” allows the flavors to meld and the moisture to regulate itself. Perfect if you want to just roll out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, and have your muffin waiting for you.

 

Is it breakfast? Or dessert?

Is it breakfast? Or dessert?

 

 

Quick Roasted Corn with Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper

Finished Corn

A Corn Haiku:

This is a picture of corn.

Corn on a blue plate.

Corn waiting to get eaten.

There really isn’t any super cute or fancy story about the origins of this side dish. I didn’t know what else to write, so like a boss I went with a Haiku. I’m not even sure if this qualifies as a Haiku, does it?

And as far as a recipe, this one is SO, SO easy I wasn’t sure if I was going to post it or not.

But it is really tasty, so I would be a selfish blogger if I didn’t share, wouldn’t I?

Boiled corn is fine….I guess. But broiled corn? Tossed with jalapeno, sweet bell pepper, Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil, and butter?

Freaking fabulous.

I freaking love sweet peppers.

I freaking love sweet peppers.

It takes longer to chop than it does to cook. You slice and dice the veg, toss it into a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil, butter, sea salt, and pepper before broiling for about 6 minutes or so.

This picture is corny.

Insert corn related comment here.

Done.

Plenty of extra time left to write corny Haikus. (Ha! A pun!)

Or not.

Texan Corn - Rattlesnake Bottle Picture

Quick Roasted Corn with Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper

Serves 4

 Ingredients:

4 ears of fresh corn, shucked

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, and minced

½ red bell pepper, small dice

2 T. Texas Olive Ranch Rattlesnake Olive Oil

2 tsp. butter, unsalted (optional) To make this vegan, omit butter entirely or replace with plant based spread, such as Earth Balance

Sea salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Optional additions:

Sliced green onion, Lime wedges, chili powder, queso fresco, parmesan cheese.

 

Directions:

1. Preheat broiler to 500 degrees.

2. Line a broiler safe baking sheet with aluminum foil.

3. Holding shucked corn cob vertically (with a firm grip and a sharp knife), slice off corn kernels.

5. In a large bowl, combine corn kernels with minced jalapeno, diced red bell pepper, Texas Olive Ranch Rattlesnake Olive Oil, butter (if using), and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

4. Line corn mixture evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Place under broiler.

5. Cook for 6-9 minutes, until corn and bell pepper have softened and the edges have begun to brown.