Monday, December 31, 2012

Recipe Monday: Cheddar-Topped English Muffin Bread

     During the winter season I really enjoy having fresh, hot bread in the house. There's something comforting about a slice of freshly made bread with a nice soup or stew. I found this particular recipe in the Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals Cookbook.  It's fairly simple, and with a few minor changes to the recipe, is a great addition to most meals. Anything I've added to the recipe will be marked with an asterisk.
"Asterisk," not "Asterix." This is an important distinction. 
The wife asks for this bread a lot during this time of the year. So here it is for your enjoyment:

Cheddar-Topped English Muffin Bread

  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal 
  • 5 cups all purpose flour 
  • 2 packages quick rise yeast 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda 
  • 2 cups warm milk 
  • ½ cup warm water 
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons bacon bits*
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions*
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil* 
  1. Coat two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with cornmeal 
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda, bacon bits, onion and basil. Add milk and water, beat until smooth 
  3. Stir in remaining flour 
  4. Transfer to pans, cover and let rise for 30 minutes 
  5. Sprinkle with cheese, bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes 
  6. Remove from pans to cool on wire rack 
About 150 calories per slice

Happy New Year and good times!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Recipe Monday (on Wednesday) Fried Polenta With Mozzarella and Shrimp

     Well I missed my Monday post and nobody noticed, which is sort of discouraging. However, for the two people who actually read this blog, I shall plod ahead and post a recipe that I threw together for an appetizer for Christmas dinner. It went over pretty well. Nobody spit it out or got sick, so I'm calling it a success. Here  it is:

Fried Polenta with Mozzarella, Shrimp and White Truffle Oil

  • 1 tube firm polenta
  • Mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • A dozen or so shrimp, peeled, cleaned and de-tailed. 
  • White truffle oil
  • Olive oil
  1. Slice polenta into 1/4" slices, set on paper towel to absorb excess water
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Heat some olive oil in a pan
  4. Fry polenta in oil until lightly brown on both sides (about 3-5 minutes per side)
  5. Put polenta on greased cookie sheet.
  6. Put a slice of mozzarella and a shrimp or two on each slice of polenta
  7. Drizzle white truffle oil over the top of each piece
  8. Put sheet in oven and bake until cheese is melted (about 10-12 minutes)
  9. Optionally you can put a dollop of marinara on each slice as well before heating
Good times and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the Importance of Soup

     Winter is technically upon us, and even though we haven't seen but a quarter inch of snow, and I was able to have a cigar on my patio because it was 54 out, I think we need to talk about soup.  Soup is a big thing in my house. We wait all year for it to get cold enough to start cranking out soups. I don't really dabble in cold soups because soup should be hot. At least that's my opinion. Before we go any further, I never watched Seinfeld, so you won't see any of his soup-related jokes.

I can't say the same for the Three Stooges
     Why is soup such a big deal? It's comforting.  For me it brings back childhood memories. Chicken soup with matzoh balls and kreplach was a big deal in my family. My grandmother used to make it, my mom made it, and now I make it. There's something reassuring about a large pot of soup simmering away on the stove. Soup is also generally easy to make. Yeah, there's some complicated soups out there, but that's not what my kitchen is about. Sometimes on a cold Sunday I'll drag out the triple slow cooker and set up three different soups for the week. They'll end up as lunches and dinners for the week. Whatever's still left gets frozen for later use. 

     There are a few big favorites in this house when it comes to soup. Chicken is always a classic. New England Clam chowder is a great winter soup. The wife is a HUGE fan of avgolemono, Greek egg, lemon and rice soup. I'll probably put up the recipe for that Monday. It seems like it would be vomitous, but it's actually really nice. We first had it at a restaurant up in Waukegan that we fondly referred to as "The Roach Motel." My favorite soup of all time? Hot and Sour. I generally only get it at restaurants because it calls for a lot of hard to find ingredients and is a colossal pain in the ass to make. 

     Provided the Mayan Apocalypse doesn't turn the Earth into a blistered wasteland, fix yourself a nice, hot bowl of soup and try to convince yourself that, despite all of the horror of late, the world's still not a bad place.

Good times!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Recipe Monday: Jewish Apple Cake

     I don't know how I let this recipe slip by, seeing as we just celebrated Hanukkah. I picked this up from Relish.  This cake is absolutely wonderful and super easy.

Jewish Apple Cake (via Relish)

  • 6 cups peeled and thinly sliced Granny Smith Apples (about 3 large)
  • 1 ½ cups, plus 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease, sugar and flour a 10” Bundt pan
  2. Combine apple slices with 5 tablespoons granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside
  4. Beat eggs with remaining granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vegetable oil, orange juice and vanilla; beat well. Gradually blend in flour mixture and mix until well blended (about 1 minute)
  5. Pour 1/3 of batter into pan. Top with half the apple slices (drain off any liquid). Pour in half the remaining batter and top with remaining apple slices. Top with remaining batter, making sure the apples are covered.
  6. Bake 55-60 minutes, until the top turns golden brown and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn out on wire rack to cool.
This cake is certainly not a lie.
Nutrition info: 16 servings. 320 calories per serving

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Middle Class Bartending: Days 6-8

     Well, Hanukkah is over, and so is the holiday party I just threw. I probably should have taken pictures of the spread, but I started drinking about 2:30pm and it sort of went downhill from there. By rough estimates, my guests consumed somewhere in the area of five gallons of assorted alcohol. A good time was had by all.  So, it appears I still owe you three themed drink recipes.  One of the traditions of Hanukkah in my home was the eating of chocolate coins. Horribly crappy chocolate wrapped in gold foil. Here's an update:

Just like this, except you end up shitfaced.

Hanukkah Gelt

  • 2 parts Godiva chocolate liquer
  • 1 part Goldschlager
  • Shaved chocolate
  1. Shake ingredients with ice in shaker
  2. Strain into martini glass
  3. Garnish with shaved chocolate
     Moving on to #7, I end up digging into the Old Testament. We are bound for Canaan, the land of milk and honey.

Canaan Special


  • 2 parts Rumchata
  • 1 part honey whiskey
  • Apple wedge for garnish
  1. Shake Rumchata and whiskey in shaker with ice
  2. Strain into a martini glass
  3. Garnish with apple wedge
     And to finish off the eight days of drinking, I figure I have done horrifying damage to my body. In honor of damage for the sake of damage, my last drink is named after a famous villainess from Jewish folklore: Lilith.
Yes, but more evil and less laugh track.
Lilith's Kiss

  • 2 parts Berentzen Apel
  • 1 part DeKuyper Hot Damn!
  • Atomic Fireball candy
  1. Shake Apel and Hot Damn! in shaker with ice.
  2. Strain into martini glass
  3. Drop Atomic Fireball in glass and give a light stir
Good times!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Middle Class Bartending: Days 4 & 5

     We are now heading into the second half of Hanukkah. It is also 12/12/12, and the Mayan Apocalypse is just around the corner. What does that mean? No clue. However, we will ponder it all with two new beverages.  The first is based on a Jewish holiday tradition. That tradition is based on where we traditionally eat on Christmas.

Jewish Christmas

  • 1ounce Maotai Liquor
  • 12 ounces Tsingtao
  1. Pour Maotai into shot glass
  2. Drop into mug of Tsingtao
  3. Drink as a Boilermaker
     This one just struck me as a fun drink to put together. You can never go wrong this time of the year with a Fiddler on the Roof reference.

Tequila Sunrise, Sunset

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces orange juice
  • 2 ounces blue curacao
  • 1 ounce grenadine
  1. Pour tequila, orange juice, and blue curacao in that order over ice. Do not stir.
  2. Pour grenadine around edge of cocktail (inside edge, don't be a dummy).
  3. Garnish with orange slice
It happens every time.
Two drinks and BAM! I'm up on the  damned roof!
Good times!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Middle Class Bartending: 8 Nights of Booze

     Normally Mondays are reserved for food recipes, but in honor of the Festival of Lights, we're doing eight drink recipes spread out over Hanukkah. I owe you recipes for yesterday and today. The first drink is a riff on the classic Zombie. I give you the closest approximation in Jewish mythology: the Dybbuk.

You'll feel like this after a couple of these
  • 1 part white rum
  • 1 part dark rum
  • 1 part gold rum
  • 1 part MD 20/20 Tangerine Dream*
  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • 1/2 part 151 proof rum
  • 1 part lime juice
  1. Put all ingredients except 151 rum in shaker with ice
  2. Shake and pour over ice in Zombie glass
  3. Top with 151 rum
*Did you know that MD 20/20 is actually made by Mogen David? You do now!

     Next up (if you're still standing) is a shot that's technically more appropriate for Rosh Hashanah, but what can you do? I'm trying to come up with eight drinks here. Cut me some slack. 

Gan Eden
After a few of these there's a good chance you'll be
wandering around the garden naked, too.
  • 1 part Evan Williams Apple Orchard
  • 1 part honey whiskey (I like American Honey)
  1. Combine ingredients in shot glass

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Middle Class Bartending: Drunk For The Holidays

     As tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, I figured it would be appropriate to celebrate with a beverage or eight. In honor of the Festival of Lights, I will get lit up. I can't promise you I'll get fershnickered each night, since I'd like to remain employed, but I will try to come up with a Hanukkah (or at the very least Jewish) themed drink for each night. I'll still only update on the regular days, so you'll see a couple of drinks at a time. The first one is a gimme. On the first night of Hanukkah, we only have the one candle (two if you count the Shamash candle). Not a lot of light. No light? That's dark. Tunkl is Yiddish for dark. Thus we have:

Tunklberry Cocktail


  • 1 ounce Blackberry Whiskey (I prefer Bird Dog)
  • 3 ounces Blackberry Manischewitz "wine"
  • Lemon-lime soda
  • Lemon slice
  • Ice
  • Rocks glass
  1. Put whiskey and wine in shaker with ice; shake
  2. Put a couple ice cubes into a rocks glass
  3. Strain shaker into rocks glass
  4. Top with lemon-lime soda
  5. Garnish with lemon slice

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dinner Party Fantasy Draft

     I think we've all done this at one time or another. We consider an event and figure out who we would invite if there were no restrictions. Living or dead, you could invite anyone in history you want.
There will always be a place at my table for Stephen Pastis
     My dining room table will comfortably seat six people. With myself and the wife present, that leaves me with four seats to fill. For this particular party, I'm only inviting notable figures from history. Who are my "A-List" people to invite? Let's take a look:

Benjamin Franklin
There's just no way I can't have this guy at the table. If you read his 13 Virtues you know he's a solid dinner party guest. He's not likely to get drunk or gorge himself and he will be a generally pleasant guest. I also imagine he'll have plenty of little anecdotes to keep the conversation rolling.

Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln wasn't a drinker, which might make him a bit uncomfortable. However, his story-telling and sense of humor would provide for hours of entertainment at the table.  I figure Lincoln worked hard and payed his dues; he could use a nice relaxing dinner. Plus, if anybody gets rowdy, he could wrestle them into submission.

Ray Bradbury
I once saw a video of Bradbury at his home. He was drinking Coors from a can and eating huge chunks of cheddar cheese. This is my kind of guy.  I have read a ton of his novels, stories and essays. He would be fascinating to have at the table. He strikes me as the kind of guy who talks with his mouth full while gesticulating with his silverware. Again, my kind of guy. There is no doubt Bradbury would join me on the patio after dinner for a glass of bourbon and a cigar.

portrait of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson
Horatio Nelson
This guy gets the invite because he was a total bad-ass. The Battle of Trafalgar? Come on! When your last words are "Thank God I have done my duty...God and my Country," you qualify as a true gentleman. His full title?

Vice Admiral of the White The Right Honourable Horatio, Viscount Nelson, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. In addition, he was Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Hillborough in the County of Norfolk, Duke of Bronte in the nobility of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit and a Knight of the Ottoman Empire's Order of the Crescent,Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim, Colonel of the Marines, Freeman of Norwich, Bath, Yarmouth, London, Salisbury and Exeter.

How can you not invite this guy? My only fear would be that he might try to dominate the conversation. It would be fairly amusing to watch him, Lincoln and Franklin try to control the discussion. I think Bradbury would just sit there and laugh.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Recipe Monday: Mayan Hot Chocolate with Butternut Squash (via

     With the apocalypse coming up, I figure it's only right to salute the Mayans with a classic End-Of-Time recipe. The Mayans worked hard and played hard. After a grueling day of playing Death Ball™ how did the Mayans like to kick back and celebrate a victory?

Well, yes, but that's not what I was going for.

     They had a delicious Mayan Hot Chocolate (I have no actual proof that this is true, just work with me). So as the world self-destructs on the 21st, raise a glass (quickly) and toast to not having to pay off the mortgage!

Mayan Hot Chocolate (via

•       1 small butternut squash
•       2 1/2 cups 1 percent milk, divided
•       6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
•       1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•       1 pinch nutmeg
•       1 pinch cardamom
•       Grated semisweet chocolate for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.
2.  Cut squash in half; place halves, cut sides down, in a roasting pan. Add  water to a depth of 1-inch. Bake 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. Discard seeds, and scoop out pulp to measure 2/3 cup. Puree squash with 1/2 cup milk in a food processor until smooth.
3.  In a large saucepan, mix remaining 2 cups milk, chocolate and spices. Heat over a double boiler or in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted and creamy. Remove from heat and whisk in pureed squash mixture. Reheat.

Nutritional Info (per serving)
       Calories 280, Fat 14g, Saturated Fat 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat 0g, Monounsaturated Fat 4.5g, Cholesterol 10mg, Sodium 75mg, Potassium 450mg, Carbohydrates 37g, Fiber 3g, Sugars 31g, Protein 7g