You Say, “Expresso” and I Say, “Shut Up.”

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PrepOkay, I could have chosen a much more inappropriate version for this post title but can we talk about the mispronunciation/misspelling of the word, espresso, for a hot minute? This is not the expressway. This is not the express lane at Walmart. This is not Madonna’s, “Express Yourself.” This is coffee. This is espresso, not expresso. I have a friend who cringes every time she hears this, among other grammatical sins. Typically sipped and enjoyed at Starbucks and preferably other local cafes, those who need it for culinary purposes often use this:

Espresso

This is the only time I use instant coffee. It’s perfectly acceptable for baking and will last you for years. So now that I’ve gone off about the proper spelling and pronunciation of espresso, let’s get back to baking, shall we?

A couple of weeks ago I got blinded by some chocolate packaging in the baking aisle at Wegmans. I had heard of Guittard but could not find any locally (I generally play with Scharffen Berger bittersweet). So this made its way into my cart:

Guittard bittersweet

I was attending a Super Bowl party last night (much like the rest of the nation) and decided brownies would be a fun addition. I generally like my chocolate snacks dark, rich, and slightly bitter. Yeah, you can interpret that sentence any way you like. However, since my friend has three children I figured I should lighten up a bit and make my dessert a little more family friendly. Inspired by memories of eating coffee ice cream with crunchy Heath bar topping as a kid (I swear that’s how I learned to like coffee), I came up with this idea. I even made them easier to say.  No “espresso” in the recipe title below, especially (yes, it’s ‘especially’ and not ‘expecially’) since it only accounts for a small portion of the recipe.

Lady Sensory’s Coffee Toffee Brownies

Adapted from this recipe on CHOW for the chocolate purists (weirdos like me). I beefed up the espresso a bit and added a few extras.

6 oz package of Guittard 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or any brand bittersweet – 60-70% cacao preferred)

1 cup of Heath (or any milk chocolate covered toffee) bars, coarsely chopped

1 stick of unsalted butter, plus an extra tbsp for greasing the pan

2 eggs, beaten, and at room temperature

1 cup vanilla sugar (see how to make this and your own extract here)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp brewed espresso (I used instant but if you have an espresso maker, go ahead and use it!)

1 cup flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt

1/4 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon

Brownies 2Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 ” square pan with butter and line bottom with a greased square of parchment paper (trust me – these get sticky and this will make your life so much easier). In a large saucepan, melt the stick of butter over low heat and combine the dark chocolate chunks until completely melted and smooth. Handy tip: I used my 4.5 qt Le Creuset which doubled as the mixing bowl. Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.  Once the chocolate/butter mixture is at room temperature whisk in the vanilla sugar, extract and coffee, followed by the beaten eggs. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until combined. Add half of the chopped Heath bar chunks and spread into the pan in an even layer. Top with remaining Heath bar chunks. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once. Start checking at 25 minutes. My brownies were done right around the 30 minute mark (an inserted toothpick came out clean). Insert a spatula around the edge of the pan to release some of the toffee sticking to the edges while still warm. Allow to cool for at least an hour, if not more. When cooled, remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares. They look a little strange at first because the toffee melts in the oven. When cooled, the topping becomes a delicious, slightly crunchy texture that will please even the most discerning palates. Dare I say they’re almost as good as that random Prince appearance on New Girl?

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I Am What I Ham

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Meet "Spootch."

Meet “Spootch.”

Holiday Greetings from Florida. Over here to the left is my new friend, “Spootch,” that I found at the Coconut Point Art Festival (along with those nifty chopsticks made by the same artist). This was my favorite booth and purchase from the show and I’m super excited to put my Spootch to use in the home kitchen upon my return.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re about to head down to the beach so this will be a quick post.  I am not a big ham person but we had it for Christmas dinner. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I bought ham from the deli since it gets so slimy. However, I do enjoy a nice cooked ham, and particularly because I know what to do with the leftovers. In addition to making lovely breakfast sammies, you can totally make the best split pea soup ever. So I took over the kitchen to make this:

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Pea on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining Soup

See what I did there? I love me some quality Judge Judy quotes. You will need:

1 16 oz bag of dried split peas

7 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (This is a lot of garlic, but it tastes delicious. So if you aren’t cool with that, reduce to your desired level.)

1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped

About 6 ribs of celery, finely chopped

3/4 bag of baby carrots, chopped

1 ham bone (used the leftover Christmas ham, but you can get one from a butcher)

1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked ham, cut into bite size chunks (again, Christmas leftovers)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cracked black pepper, to taste*

6-8 cups of water

1-2 tbsp olive oil

*You can add salt if you like but there was more than enough in the ham and the bone so I did not add any.

Split Pea Soup

As I mentioned, this was a kitchen takeover. I think the pot I used was roughly 4-5 quarts (it’s similar in size to my 4.5 pot). So, warm the olive oil in a heavy stock pot or fancy pot over low heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and continue to cook until slightly golden (another 5 minutes). Add the celery and carrots and com for about 5 more minutes and then add all of your dried herbs: the bay leaves, crushed red pepper, black pepper and Herbes de Provence and cook for about a minute or two. Now add the ham bone and dried split peas (you don’t have to soak them) and cook for a minute or two. Raise the heat to high and begin to add the water, 1 cup at a time, until bone is submerged and water is about an inch and a half from the top of the pot (so it doesn’t overflow). Add the chopped ham and cook until boiling. Skim foam and fat off the top (this is a personal preference and it won’t compromise the flavor). Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hr – 1.5 hrs (until peas have softened and soup has thickened). Serve and enjoy with a nice crusty baguette or roll and some dry white wine. We enjoyed trying three different kinds while waiting for the soup to cook – an Italian dry white blend, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre. Oops!

May your New Year’s Eve be fun, safe, and filled with similar wine indiscretions!

Oh Lawd, Yeezus. It’s a Video.

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'Bound 2' video screen shot from www.ellentv.com

‘Bound 2’ video screen shot from http://www.ellentv.com

The Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic of the day is about television. I’m not a big television-watcher and I thought I covered that a couple of days ago with my “newsflash” post. Now I have to dig deeper for what I witnessed on my telly long after Kathie Lee and Hoda passed out from their Skinny Girl cocktails.

Ladies and gentlemen, I watched the Ellen show. I love Ellen DeGeneres. A personal favorite of my mother’s, Ellen has been a part of my life since I was a kid. This post has no bearing on my opinion of Ellen, whatsoever.

So Ellen invited Kanye West on her show to present his new ‘Bound 2’ video to the world. I watched it. Then I went straight to the Twitter to find out if I was crazy or if everyone else thought it was as nutso as I did. As it turns out, my feelings were validated. By many.

Words can’t even describe the ridiculous display of weirdness in this video. We had mountains, galloping horses, deserts, flannel, tie-dye, Kim sans top, and bumpy rides on motorcycles. I sat there waiting for the punchline the entire time. I don’t even know how Ellen kept a straight face. I actually wanted to see a Dr. Phil episode after Ellen for cathartic purposes. Does anyone ever really want to see a Dr. Phil episode? WTF?!

Truth be told, I am glad Kanye seems to have found happiness with Ms. Double-K. I generally like his musical offerings and will have a “toast for the douchebags” any old day of the week, but this song isn’t even a song. In the words of Kanye himself and his buddy, Jay-Z, “That shit cray.”

In addition to my Twitter reaction analysis, I decided to test the waters at dinner last night and see what my friend (who blogs over here) thought about the whole thing.  Here are just a few of her musings:

Where is the sidecar for North West? My boyfriend enjoys that song and said he likes the whole Bajeezus album. I may have to take back my words when I said we listen to the same music. When that album dropped, I was convinced Kanye was a closet Beverly Cleary fan. And now I want to re-read Beezus and Ramona and Ramona Quimby Age 8.” 

That pretty much sums up my television experience for the week. If you haven’t seen it yet, please watch it for yourselves here and feel free to comment.

A Different Kind of Sixty Minutes

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Hoda and Kathie Lee screen shot from www.huffingtonpost.com

Hoda and Kathie Lee screen shot from http://www.huffingtonpost.com

The Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic of the day is “Newsflash.” Basically we’re supposed to talk about something happening in the news. I already covered the dramatic #roofbreakup yesterday and the upcoming local Breakfast with Krampus event was covered last week. I don’t feel like writing about the Affordable Care Act or local shootings and robberies because those stories are kind of depressing. Today, I decided to do something I’d never done before. After catching Kelly Ripa sipping on Sauvignon Blanc while making her Brussels sprouts this AM, I determined I would watch that Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford hour of the Today Show in its entirety because I would like my news provided to me in the most inebriated manner possible. And yes, I realize the show, 60 Minutes, is on CBS, not NBC. Just bear with me as I power through this hour.

The show started out with a little chat about Kmart commercials with each hostess having a giant glass of red wine at her fingertips. We covered: Ship My Pants, Big Gas Savings, and the latest one inciting controversy, Show Your Joe, (referencing the Joe Boxer underwear line). Honestly, these ads were the best part of the show. Well played, Kmart!

They then moved on to laughing about Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, and discussed how people probably can relate to his “authenticity.”  In referencing his recent media interviews Hoda commented, “I don’t think he realizes he’s funny.” Have you seen this guy in action? Total loose cannon. I’d hate to be his publicist. Watch this. And this. Yep, I could use a little of Hoda and Kathie Lee’s wine after viewing those hot media messes.

After a couple more guests whose names I can’t recall, Bethenny Frankel was on deck.  Hoda and Kathie Lee kicked the wine and moved on to one of Bethenny’s Skinny Girl cocktails. They started talking about that Omarosa character from The Apprentice and some spat that went down on Bethenny’s talk show. Seriously, I can’t believe that Omarosa broad is still around and that people are wasting air time talking about her.

Admittedly, I tuned out for the rest of the show. I have to say I was little disappointed in Hoda and Kathie Lee’s lack of alcohol consumption. I know I could have plowed through at least 3 glasses of wine covering these wacky stories and frankly, I was hoping for more of a Rob Ford level of disruption, like possibly pummeling a guest. At the very least, a hysterical fit of giggles was in order. Additionally, they get paid to do this job. How does one get in on that arrangement?

Lady Sensory is signing off now. “And that’s the way it is….”

Riding the Hobby Horse

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Image from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (www.neighborhoodarchive.com)

Image from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (www.neighborhoodarchive.com)

Today I’m supposed to write about hobbies for Blog Everyday in November (#BEDN). Talking about my hobbies on here seems a little redundant to me because if you read my blog, you pretty much know my interests. I’m into food and cooking, wine and cocktails, and travel. I obviously like writing or I probably wouldn’t have a blog.  So let’s just discuss the word, hobby, and all its bizarre connotations.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the movie, The Breakfast Club, and that quote, “Well Brian was just telling me you and he are presently riding the hobby horse.” If you need me to explain what riding the hobby horse is, then we should probably move on.

The second thing ‘hobby’ makes me think of is an obscure old episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Background info is here and image is above, but basically there is a character called the Hobby Horse Express Man. That’s right up there with Mr. McFeely on my list of worst character names of all time.

The third item this topic reminds me of is Hobby Lobby and their whole, “We’re not open on Sundays” policy. Lately, I’ve been trying to get back into my artsy fartsy/ crafty hobbies. Those are things that should not have fallen to the wayside, but since Hobby Lobby is not open on Sundays I have a convenient scapegoat for why projects aren’t quite finished. Okay, so that excuse probably works better for employed people, but I’m sure you get my point.

Picking Favorites

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Today I’m supposed to tell you who my “favorite folk” are for Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN).  My mother was once an elementary school teacher and they used to tell her that she couldn’t pick favorites.  Well, when I used to work my summer job with kids at the town parks and recreation department and felt conflicted over preferring certain children, she informed me that whole “no favorites” theory was a bunch of crap. Apparently there are always a few favorites and a few assholes, but you just can’t make it obvious. She also warned me the asshole parents are usually worse than the asshole children.

Look, I get leery of public displays of affection and I know if I create a list of favorite friends and colleagues, I’m afraid I’ll accidentally leave someone important out. Then they’ll assume they are an asshole and I’ll have unwillingly hurt someone’s feelings. We have a local community of extremely talented, creative, and caring people. And a few assholes walk among us, so don’t make me choose.

Okay fine. I’ll appease you with an old favorite.

Lurky

You totally thought I was going to post a pic of Sweet Brown, didn’t you?

Nope, this is Lurky, a character from Rainbow Brite.  I have a soft spot for him and his big phallic nose and cute sneakers. He’s also a little bit dumb and gets pushed around by Murky Dismal. Lurky is kind of forced to be an asshole but secretly doesn’t want to be one. When that cloud isn’t over his head he really, really likes rainbows.

So yes, in conclusion, Lurky gives me hope for the salvation of assholes everywhere.

Pigs in Space

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I’m supposed to show you my workspace for today’s Blog Everyday in November (#BEDN) post.  Since I have no office right now and my apartment looks like the Trash Heap on Fraggle Rock, I thought I’d amuse you with what I envision as my ideal office space. And yes, that post title also bears reference to The Muppet Show as well as my stellar housekeeping. So what do you think about this as a potential workspace?

Bermuda

Perhaps this?

Paris

Maybe this?

Nevis Sunset

Oh yeah, Condé Nast, you can give me a jingle any time you like.

This is probably the most accurate workspace depiction:

Kitchen

And this probably bears the most resemblance to previous workspaces:

Monkey Nevis

Kidding.

Not really.

Okay enough about that. Here’s something even funnier. Last Friday I got a box from the old establishment – that “place that must not be named.” It contained the following items: a nail file, a perfume satchel, 12 old cough drops, an empty Archipelago reed diffuser, one Crabtree & Evelyn hand lotion sample, and one Band-Aid. All were lovingly packaged in bubble wrap like they were some kind of “Precious” from Lord of the Rings.

I found a great place for these glorious treasures from the ghost of workspace past:

Garbage

Please bear in mind this is no reflection on the kind soul who probably packaged and sent these items to me. I’m certain he had the best intentions.

But, what, what in the?!?!?!?!

Samwell

This is all I have to say about this matter.