Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

The length of the title of this recipe takes longer to say than the recipe takes to make. I promise. I also promise that these little delights are dangerous. I don’t mean you’ll eat one and feel horribly guilty afterward, I don’t mean they’ll destroy your diet, and I certainly don’t mean you wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with them. What I mean is this-you’ll pop one into your mouth and love it, and then you’ll try another, and then…”What?!? I ate 7?!?”

They’re two-bite-sized, and they have a crispy texture that fools you into thinking they’re a light snack. They’re certainly not so it may take a little effort to exercise some portion control. Luckily, the recipe doesn’t make that much ;-)

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 10 tablespoon-sized balls

  • 1/2 cup good quality natural chunky peanut butter
  • 1 cup chopped salted pretzels
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate or 1/2 cup carob, nondairy chocolate chips
  • Baking sheet, parchment paper, small ice cream scoop (optional)

How to Do It 

  1. Begin by mixing the chunky peanut butter in a metal mixing bowl. Stir it just briefly to evenly distribute the peanuts and oil, and place the bowl in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Line the pan with parchment paper, and remove the peanut butter from the freezer. Fold the chopped pretzels into the peanut butter, and use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to remove chunks of the mixture. Roll them into tablespoon-sized round mounds. If the mixture begins to get too sticky to work with, place it in the freezer for another 5-10 minutes to rest.
  3. Place the baking pan with the peanut butter balls in the freezer for one hour to freeze.
  4. Before removing the tray, melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler, and place in a small, deep cup or bowl.
  5. Remove the tray from the freezer, and dip each ball into the chocolate. Move it around with a fork until the entire surface is covered in chocolate. Place back on the parchment paper. Freeze the balls until the chocolate has hardened, approximately 30 minutes. Move to the refrigerator or the counter to get to room temperature before serving…and watch how many you eat at once! They’re tricky!

Recipe adapted from Delish.com.

Mintnight in Paris

It’s awards season, and of course, the creme de la creme, the Oscars, was on last night. What better way to celebrate watching beautiful celebrities look their best and be honored for their talents than to gorge yourself on delicious foods that are named after the nominees? The answer is: there is no better way. I’ve been hoping to get an invite to an Oscar party with this type of theme ever since I fell in love with the kitchen a few years ago, but everyone I know who throws the idea around usually abandons it before the Academy can say “And the nominees are…”.

But this year was different. My boyfriend works with a group of women who annually throw an Oscar party that’s planned months in advance, and it gets bigger and better each year. Each guest chooses or is assigned a nominee that he or she must creatively turn into a dish, like  “George Blue-ney” (blue cheese), “The Brie of Life”, “Brad Pitt-ed Olives”, etc. To top it off, the best dish (voted for by the party guests) wins a prize. So without further hesitation, I now present…

…the award-winning Mintnight in Paris brownies. :-) That’s right, I won the “Best Food” honor for my first year in attendance! This could be the start of something new for me. Perhaps I could win contests at parties all over the place-Grammy parties, Super Bowl parties, birthday parties…I mean, I did win while celebrating the biggest event of the year. It could only get bigger from here.

The funny thing was, I wasn’t terribly impressed with these brownies. I had a plan to make gorgeous, layered brownies and then whip up some green mint meringue kisses on the side. It would all be so beautiful, but what really happened? I forgot ingredients on my shopping list and had to push my baking time back by two days, my peppermint patties melted into the brownies instead of keeping their shape, and my meringue was, at best, a frothy mess. I was nearly embarrassed to bring them. Of course, I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself, and normally, people love what I make. If I didn’t put that kind of pressure on myself, I would question how much I really loved doing it. Luckily, I have no doubts.

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 16 brownies

  • 8 Tbsp, or 1 stick, unsalted butter or Earth Balance buttery spread, cut into chunks
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs or 3 eggs’ worth of egg replacer
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Approximately two dozen small peppermint patties
  • 8″ x 8″ square cake pan, parchment paper

How to Do It

Mintnight Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a square pan with enough parchment paper that it provides small handles on the sides.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate in a small metal mixing bowl, and place it over a simmering pot of water on medium heat. Stir the ingredients periodically as they gradually begin to melt, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set the bowl on a heat proof surface.
  3. Add the sugar and salt to the chocolate, and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, and whisk the mixture rapidly to blend the eggs without cooking them. Mix throughly before adding the next egg.
  5. Gently fold the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture until the ingredients are just blended. You can do this with a whisk or with a rubber spatula, but do not overmix. Brownies get tough easily!
  6. Pour 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan. Cover the surface of the batter with peppermint patties, and pour the remaining batter over the candies. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in between the patties. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan, and remove them by using the parchment paper handles. Use a sharp, serrated knife to slice off the uneven edges, and cut four brownies across and four brownies down to get 16.

Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com.

Mintnight in Paris

Tip: I served mine with a horribly-gone-wrong mint meringue that I turned into a mint frosting, but don’t be afraid to add other fun, minty additions, like whipped cream made with peppermint extract and green coloring or chopped up Andes mints.

Meringue Mistake

Happy (Lazy) Winesday!

The time-taker-upper, Charlie.

Hello little blog fans, I just wanted to say hello. I’ve been absent for awhile, and I miss you. I’ve been dogsitting at a friend’s house for the whole week, and between the lack of baking equipment and ingredients (my friend only had yogurt, milk, and packaged, powdered soups in her cupboards…no, seriously), the demand of the pups (there were two, and they were very, very demanding of my attention), and the small window of time I had in between work and dog walks, I haven’t had any time to make desserts. :-( This also means I have nothing substantial to write about, and I didn’t think you’d want to read about things I haven’t actually made. So my promise to you is that I’ll be baking double-time over the next couple of weeks so I have more yummies to share. Thank you for your patience. Eat (dessert), drink (wine), and be merry (who wouldn’t be if you did the first two)! Happy Winesday, and I’ll be back soon!

Valentinesday

If you say that the way the way I’ve spelled it out rather than the traditional way it’s usually written, you’ll understand why I’ve put this post up on a WINESDAY! ;-)

I spent a lovely and romantic evening with my boyfriend last night that was totally and completely us-takeout sushi, San Sebastian Vintner’s Red wine, loving greeting cards, orchids (my favorite), and red velvet.

And it was perfect. Who needs to spend a ton of money on roses, candy, and dinner out when you can have all this?

Anyway, let’s get to that red velvet. I found the idea of the little mini cake on Pinterest, but since some of my fun pastry and decorating supplies are still locked away in storage, I had to improvise. I baked a full 13″ x 9″ red velvet cake and used the lid of a peanut butter jar to create symmetrical circles in the cake and a paring knife to cut through. Normally, I would’ve used a biscuit cutter…but that’s sitting in a bin, locked away in my very cold storage unit.

The cake recipe comes from Paula Deen, and surprise, surprise, it has no butter. Her signature ingredient is only found in the frosting recipe that accompanies the red velvet, but I decided that 1/2 lb of butter was just a little rich after a full sushi meal. Instead, I used a whipped cream that had a bit of cream cheese whipped into it and a small amount of granulated sugar. It was light enough to make you feel only slightly guilty for indulging, but it was rich enough to enhance the red velvet. To make the frosting, you’ll need to make a fresh whipped cream. If you’re not sure how to do that, check my posting on the technique.

Red Velvet Mini Cakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 11-12 mini cakes

For the Cakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  •  2 Tbsp red food coloring (which I don’t recommend) or 1/4 tsp red food coloring gel (which I do recommend)
  • 1 tsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 13″ x 9″ cake pan, parchment paper

For the Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly grease and line a cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl, and set aside. Whip the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixture, and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. When the ingredients are blended, pour the batter into the greased cake pan. Bake in the center rack for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester, toothpick, or fork come out clean when pressed into the center of the cake. Remove from the oven, and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before moving to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  4. When the cake is cooled, use a biscuit cutter (or peanut butter jar lid if you don’t have one), and gently press the cutter into the cake to cut symmetrical circles. I only made an impression of the shape when I used the peanut butter jar lid, and then I used a paring knife to gently cut through the cake. I sliced the thick cake in half so that I had two circles for each cut. Place half of the circles on a baking sheet or serving dish.
  5. Make the frosting by creaming the softened cream cheese with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. When the cream cheese is light and fluffy, switch to the whip attachment and add the heavy cream. You can use an electric hand mixer to whip this as well, but the cream cheese may not reach the same fluffy texture.
  6. Whip the heavy cream at a medium-low speed at first to incorporate the cream cheese, and then increase the speed to medium-high and then high. Add the granulated sugar as the cream is whipping, and continue to whip until it’s become thick and fluffy.
  7. Use a pastry bag fitted with a round tip or a spoon to add approximately 1-2 Tbsp of frosting to the circles on the baking sheet or serving dish. Place the second half of the cake circles on top of the frosting, and refrigerate them for at least two hours.
  8. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator, and top them with additional frosting by using a pastry bag or a spoon. If the frosting has deflated, whip it again at high speed for 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen.

Tip: I recommend gel coloring rather than liquid food coloring because the liquid can alter the texture of a cake or frosting while the gel doesn’t. However, the gel, especially the red gel, has a slightly funky taste in large amounts so if you need to alter the color of your red velvet, begin by increasing the cocoa powder. Alternate additions of that with additions of red coloring to achieve that fabulous red shade you’re looking for. I’ve heard beet juice can be used also, but…I’m not sure I want beets flavoring my cake.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries in Cake Form

Lately, I’ve been trying really hard to make healthy choices, including drinking more water, exercising more, and staying away from unhealthy foods. That’s really hard when I love to bake foods that make other people (who don’t care about calories and veggies) happy. This cake doesn’t have a single healthy ingredient in it, besides fresh strawberries, but every bite of it is worth the billion calories that are in it, especially the frosting.

If you don’t know how to make chocolate ganache frosting…well, you’re going to learn now, so pay attention.

Milk Chocolate & Strawberry Cream Cheese Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one layered 9″ cake

For the Cake

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk chocolate (Hershey’s chocolate chips are perfect), chopped and melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot cocoa mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • Two 9″ round cake pans, parchment paper

For the Filling

  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup pureed strawberries
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar

For the Frosting

  • 12 oz milk chocolate (again, Hershey’s milk chocolate chips are perfect), chopped-this is about two cups or one whole bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Small saucepan and heat safe mixing bowl
  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
  • 6-7 large fresh strawberries
  • Pastry bag with a star tip (if you want to be fancy)

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease each cake pan. Line them each with parchment paper on the bottom of the pans only, and lightly grease the paper.
  2. Beat the vegetable oil, butter, sugar, and eggs on medium speed for two minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the melted chocolate, salt, flour, baking soda, vanilla, hot cocoa mix, and 1/2 cup of buttermilk.
  3. Beat on medium speed for another minute, and scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the remaining buttermilk, and beat for another 30 seconds.
  4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when pressed into the center of the cake. Remove the cakes from the oven, and cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan, and move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. While the cake is baking, pour the 12 oz of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips into a heat safe mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Let the cream heat until it begins to gently boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and pour the cream over the chips. Let the chocolate rest for 3-5 minutes while the cream warms it, and then gently mix it with a wire whisk until it’s completely blended and smooth. Refrigerate the chocolate while the cake continues to bake and cool, about 30-40 minutes total.
  6. To make the filling, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth with a paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Add the pureed strawberries, and continue to mix for another 30 seconds. Switch to the whip attachment if you’re using a stand mixer, and gradually begin adding the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time.
  7. This cake is best served with multiple layers (you can get more cream cheese frosting in there that way) so you’ll need to cut the layers in half. Do not attempt this until the cake is completely cooled. The easiest way to do this is by using a handy-dandy cake leveler, which you can also use to level the surface of the cake when it’s rounded too much while baking. If you don’t have access to one of these, you can use a warm serrated knife to slice through the center of the cake. Cut half way through each cake, and you’ll end up with four layers. If you’re feeling especially brave, cut through the cakes twice to get six layers.
  8. After you’ve cut the layers, remove the chocolate ganache from the refrigerator. Use an electric hand mixer, or transfer the ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip the icing for 3-4 minutes. It should be light and fluffy with an appearance similar to whipped cream and a texture similar to chocolate pudding…and a taste similar to Heaven. Honestly.
  9. You can use a pastry bag with a round tip or a resealable plastic sandwich bag with a small cut in one of the corners to pipe the chocolate ganache around the edges of the first cake layer. This is an optional step, but by adding the ganache around the edges, you’ve greated a little fence for the filling so it doesn’t leak out of the sides of the cake.
  10. Spread a large dollop of strawberry cream cheese icing on top of the layer but no closer to the edges than the chocolate ganache. Place the second layer of cake on top of this, and repeat the process. Do not put cream cheese icing on top of the final layer.
  11. Frost the cake with a layer of chocolate ganache icing, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Frost with the remaining chocolate ganache, and smooth the edges.
  12. If you’d like to make the cake really fancy, hull 6-7 ripe, fresh strawberries, and slice them vertically to get even, rounded slices. Layer them to make a heart shape on the top (if you’re sappy like me) or cover the top generously with the slices (if you’re a Valentine’s Day Grinch). Use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe rosettes around the top so it’s even prettier.

Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour, ganache recipe from King Arthur Flour, and strawberry cream cheese icing recipe from The Adventures in Cooking Blog.

Winesday of the (South) West

I have to say, this was one of my favorite Winesdays. Two days before our midweek dinner, we decided to do a Southwestern/Mexican theme, and we all came up with creative pieces that made for one fantastic (and extremely easy) meal. The only thing we slacked on was the wine. :-(

The Wine

  • Prosecco “appletinis”. We’d all put so much thought into the foods we wanted to contribute that we’d forgotten to select a wine contributor. I know, very foolish and irresponsible. So we mixed a few things we had on site and came up with these-Prosecco “appletinis”. It was mostly Prosecco with a small addition of Sour Apple Pucker and a maraschino cherry. It went well with the spicy foods we were eating because it was light and fruity, but I wouldn’t rush to swirl them up again. The drink looks pretty though. :-)

The Salad

  • Michelle creatively mixed fresh iceberg lettuce with black olives, stewed tomatoes with chipolte, pepperjack cheese, seasoned tortilla strips, and a spicy chipolte ranch dressing to create this southwestern salad. It took her under ten minutes of preparation, and it was fantastic. If we’d added some avocado and tofu (or grilled chicken if you’re not a vegetarian) to it, it would have easily been a complete meal with a nice spicy kick to it.

The Entrée

  • Avocado grilled cheese sandwiches. Out-of-this-world delicious. Did you know that avocados are loaded with potassium and healthy fats? Did you know that they’re mostly grown without the use of strong pesticides (in CA), that avocado orchards can reduce the possibility of flooding, improve water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife? And that they freakin taste like a little slice of heaven? Oh yeah, I’d say that’s nature’s perfect little fruit. Well did you also know that grilled cheese sandwiches are so much more delightful when they’re smothered in avocado? They are. By using cheddar cheese, spicy mustard, avocado, and a really spectacular bread (Rye Everything), Amber created a hearty and fulfilling grilled cheese sandwich from a recipe she found on Pinterest. She used two thick slices of bread, two slices of cheddar, and a whole avocado for each sandwich. Yes, a whole avocado…and it was amazing.

The Dessert

  • Spiced chocolate doughnuts. I wanted a dessert that had a slight spice to it but nothing overboard. The doughnuts were a comforting chocolate treat, especially when we enjoyed them with peanut butter chocolate ice cream.

The Only Good Thing Produced During the Superbowl

I can’t say my weekend was fabulous. It ended terribly. If you know me, you know that I despise the NY Giants, and I have a love for the New England Patriots that I’ve allowed to blossom and flourish over the past few seasons. Needless to say, I was heartbroken over the outcome of Superbowl XLVI, but at least I was able to enjoy part of the evening-the snacking part. I made these Oreo balls to contribute to the party I was attending because I knew they were easy and delicious. I also managed to shape them like lil footballs so that helps add to their desirable qualities.

At least something delicious came from the Superbowl.

Oreo Balls

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 30-40 cookies, depending on shape

  • 1 package of double stuf Oreos, any flavor (I used peanut butter because they’re delicious)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package of melting chocolates, usually found in the produce section
  • Toothpicks
  • Food processor
  • Parchment paper, cookie sheet

How to Do It

  1. Blend the Oreos in a food processor (or a blender with very fine blades if you don’t have access to a food processor) until they’re diminished to coarse crumbs.
  2. Add the cream cheese and blend again. Be sure to scrape down the sides as needed, and use a rubber spatula to incorporate all the crumbs into the cream cheese if necessary.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and begin breaking tablespoon-sized chunks from the mixture. Rolls these into your desired shape.
  4. Melt the chocolate according to package directions.
  5. Dip the bottom two-thirds of each cookie into the dipping chocolate using the a toothpick as a handle. Place the cookies in the refrigerator to solidify before serving.

Tip: The blended ingredients may be too soft to work with initially. Put them in the refrigerater between steps in order to keep them firm. They’ll be easier to work with, and they’ll hold the chocolate dip better.

Extra tip: To make them lil footballs, shape them into a ball, and just slightly squeeze the sides to get the angles. Use a small round tip and a pastry bag to decorate the top.

Lighten it Up! Did you know Oreos come gluten-free? You can make these sinful little delights gluten-free by just switching up the cookie.

Spicy Baked Doughnuts for the “Health Conscious”

I bought a doughnut pan several months ago unsure of what I was going to do with it other than make apple cider doughnuts, but my new obsession with Pinterest has led me to an array of amazing recipes, including these. I love using the doughnut pan, I just feel like there aren’t that many fabulous doughnut recipes out there worth making, but I think I want to do more to change that. That cute little pan deserves more use, and doughnuts are incredibly tasty little treats when they’re baked.

These doughnuts were listed as “Cinnamon Chocolate Doughnuts”, and the recipe caught my eye because I was looking for something with a little kick to it. I’m in love with “spiced” chocolate, which usually means a hint of chili powder and a dash of cinnamon have been added to kick the chocolate up a notch, but these doughnuts only had 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. I didn’t think that would cut my craving for spicy so I increased the cinnamon and added chili powder. If you’ve never tried spiced chocolate, I encourage you to do so immediately, preferably in frozen form or in frosting form, and if you’ve never baked doughnuts, I certainly encourage, no, demand, you do that immediately. You’ll get to enjoy the same delicious treat you get at the local Dunkin’ Donuts for fewer calories, and you can enjoy the fluffy, cake texture right out of the oven.

Spiced Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 6 doughnuts

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of chilli powder
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter or Earth Balance buttery spread, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  • Doughnut Pan

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and grease a six-doughnut pan.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chilli powder, salt, and baking powder in a small mixing bowl, and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or by using sturdy mixing bowl and an electric hand mixer until the ingredients are light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, and whip until the ingredients are just incorporated.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixture, and whip until the ingredients are blended.
  6. Spoon the batter into the doughnut cups in the pan. Fill the cups 3/4 of the way full.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops of the doughnuts spring back when pressed lightly.
  8. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack. If the dough has baked over the doughnut hole, it’s easy enough to poke through it to get an even edge.
  9. When the doughnuts are completely cooled, sift confectioner’s sugar over them, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from weelicious.com.

Lighten it Up! These are easy enough to make vegan too! Replace the buttermilk by making your own animal-friendly buttermilk: Combine 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk with 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar in a mixing bowl, and whisk until the mixture is creamy. Replace the eggs by mixing 2 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp water, and 1 Tbsp safflower oil until the mixture is gelatinous. If this doesn’t work, let me know!

Why isn’t it Winesday Evening Yet?

Oh, Winesday. I’m feeling drained and overwhelmed on this Winesday because my work week has been so busy, today in particular, but now it’s finally nearing the end of the (work) day. The real Winesday is approaching, and it’s almost time to enjoy nothing but food, wine, and good company. And it’s an amazing New England Spring day…even though it’s February. So if you’re anything like me and you’re beginning to drag at work, just remember, it’s a short length of time away until you’ll be glass-in-hand-food-on-plate relaxed. Whoo whoo.

Enjoy this for a potential menu.

The Wine

  • Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay. And Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. And Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio. Whoops, we drank a little more than usual, but in defense of that statement, two of the bottles were already opened and needed to be finished while the third was brand new and still needed to be finished. The third bottle was Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay, which comes from a vineyard in Washington State and offers a slightly sweet, citrus taste with just subtle notes of oak. Apparently, grapes grown north of California are afforded more sunlight, which encourage the fruit to ripen more. Often, wines from this region of North America will have better flavor development because of this. While I’m not particular to Chardonnay, this wine had a decent citrus flavor and tasted as though it could pair well with many foods. The winemaker suggests it be paired with ginger, lemon, tarragon, thyme, crab, poultry, salmon, or scallops, but I believe it’s subtle enough to be paired with a variety of foods.

The Entrée

  • French Onion Soup. This has been part of my Winesday posts before , but I didn’t give many details other than the recipe. Below is a different recipe with a few adjustments, and keep in mind that a good French onion soup is a process. It will take several hours to really caramelize the onions, and the soup’s flavor will enhance if you wait a day or two to serve it.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large yellow onions, halved and cut in crescent-shaped slices
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cartons of vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, or approximately 1 Tbsp dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 small baguettes
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • Port and Marsala wine for deglazing
  • A large soup pot or Dutch oven that can go into the oven
  • Ramekins or small bowls that are oven-safe
  • Baking sheet & aluminum foil

How to Do It

  • Adjust the oven rack to a lower-middle position, and preheat it to 400 degrees F.
  • Spray the inside of your pot or Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray, and place the butter sections into the pot. Add the onion slices and 1 tsp of salt. Cook, covered, for one hour.
  • Remove the pot from the oven, deglaze with port and Marsala wine, and stir the onions. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven, covered but slightly open, and continue to cook for another hour. Repeat this process until the onions have cooked for approximately four hours and are soft and dark.
  • Remove the pot from the oven, and place on the stove over medium-high heat. Cook the onions by stirring frequently, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Continue to deglaze the pan as the onions cook, every 6 to 8 minutes. When the onions are very dark, stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the vegetable broth, two cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Increase heat to high, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf and thyme if you’ve used fresh sprigs, and season the soup with salt and pepper.
  • While the soup is simmering, slice the baguette into small pieces, and brush each piece with a little olive oil. Arrange them on a single baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven at 400 degrees F until they’re slightly browned and crisp.
  • Adjust your oven rack so it sits six inches from the broiler, and preheat the broiler. Arrange the ramekins or oven-safe bowls on a baking sheet, and fill each 2/3 of the way full with soup. Put one to two slices of the bread in each ramekin, and cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly around the edges.
  • Serve with a salad and a cold glass of vino.

Recipe adapted from the blog Cookography.com

The Dessert

  • Slutty Brownies. This was the perfect dessert to serve on a Winesday when I didn’t have much time to prepare anything, and it’s fitting to serve to a group of your girlfriends. It takes under 15 minutes to throw together, and under 40 minutes to bake. It also takes less than a minute to consume…so be careful.

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