Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Homemade Hot Chocolate

What a treat!  I can't think of anything better to drink on a rainy, winter afternoon than a cup of hot chocolate, the homemade kind.  If you know how to heat milk on a stove, melt some chocolate, add a dash of salt and whisk all this goodness together, then you can have make some delicious hot chocolate.  Last spring I made frozen hot chocolate which was delicious with some melted caramel.  But for a cold day, sipping chocolate is perfect. 

For one cup of hot chocolate:

1/4 cup chocolate chips.  Feel free to get creative with the kind of chocolate you use.  I had a little bit of milk chocolate chips left over from my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies I made last week.  I think half white chocolate and half dark would be oh so good, too.  If you want your cocoa really chocolaty then you can use 1/2 cup of chocolate. 
1 cup milk
dash of salt

Melt chocolate in the microwave in fifteen second increments until melted and smooth.  Warm milk in a saucepan on high heat until its just about to boil.  Whisk melted chocolate and salt until blended together.  Top with marshmallows if desired. 




I loved how the salt sunk to the bottom of the mug so the final dregs were really tasty and brought out the flavors of the chocolate. The homemade version is so much better than the mix stuff and it didn't take too much more effort. Cheers!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Peach Crunch Cake

I found a peach dessert recipe that I love even more than peach pie.  Peach Crunch Cake is super easy to make and oh so good, especially with some vanilla ice cream.  I found the recipe on Bakerella, an incredible dessert blog with beautiful photos and incredible things to bake.  This dessert is so simple.  Its almost scary how easy it is to throw together and put in the oven.  Just take some canned peaches and put them in a pan with a yellow cake mix, butter, brown sugar and chopped nuts, then bake for forty minutes.  That's it.  Then enjoy warm with ice cream. 

You can find the recipe for Peach Crunch Cake here




Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Visit to Oddfellows Cafe and Bar

This was my kind of meal.  Good red wine from Italy, a cheese plate with three different cheeses, macaroni and cheese and french fries.  My husband and I hadn't had a night out in a while and our meal at Oddfellows Cafe hit the spot. 

This was our first time at this cute place on Capital Hill.  Funny how we've drove past but not noticed it and stopped in for a bite.  But better late than never, right?

We got there right around 5:00 when the January light was fading.  The hostess sat us right by the front door but since huge windows lined the front of the restaurant, I was happy to have a tiny bit of light for some photos I wanted to take.  I started out with a glass of the house red wine which was light yet pungent and flavorful.  My husband ordered an Old Fashioned, a cocktail with whiskey, which was strong and well mixed. 

A few sips into our refreshing drinks, our cheese plate arrived.  Along with a bleu cheese, a goat cheese, then a cheese from Spain, there were blueberries, walnuts and a small dollop of jam.  A baguette was served along side the cutting board of goodness and all of the flavors of above blended perfectly for the perfect bite to accompany my red wine. 

Next to arrive to our little table for two in the fading light was our french fries with aioli.  My husband and I are fry fiends.  We can never get enough fries.  These came in a cute can with aioli and ketchup in a separate dish. 

Now, the macaroni and cheese.  Wow.  This was the best I've ever eaten.  There were at least four different cheeses- sharp cheddar and Gruyere being two of them and I can't recall the other two.  But it doesn't matter, I loved this mac and cheese.

After eating and drinking all of this and feeling a little full, that was a lot of cheese, it was time to call it a night. 














                                You can see their website at http://www.oddfellowscafe.com.


Oddfellows Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

I need to eat dessert everyday.  How about you?  Even if its just a few bites of something sweet, I'm satisfied.  Luckily I love to bake, so "something sweet" can be mine if my cabinets are stocked with the right supplies. 

Plus you can forget your problems when you're mixing butter, brown sugar, eggs and peanut butter together.  When your kitchen starts smelling like something promising and possibly delicious could be coming out of your oven in about fifteen minutes. 

When I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chips with Sea Salt I knew I struck gold.  You simply can't go wrong with a recipe like this.  You take the classic Chocolate Chip cookie that everyone knows and loves, then add peanut butter and one of my favorite things in the kitchen, sea salt. 

The sea salt makes an appearance twice in this cookie but I just used it once.  I don't know about you, but I think sea salt is strong and mighty stuff.  You're not going to forget its there.  The recipe calls for sprinkling in on top after the cookies are baked.  I used sea salt inside and chose not to sprinkle any on top and the flavor of salt is still there, mingling perfectly with the chocolate and peanut butter. 




                                         
                                      Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Ingredients
 
  • 11/4 cup all purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tablespoon honey

  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt or sour cream

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  •  
    Instructions
     
    In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
    With an electric mixer, mix the softened butter and peanut butter together until thoroughly blended. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Next beat in the egg, honey, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes-1 hour, or place in freezer for 20 minutes.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    Once ready to bake, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes (depends on size of your cookie) or until cookies begin to turn a tiny golden brown and crisp up around the edges. Do not overbake! Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes and sprinkle cookies generously with sea salt. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely or just inhale them like I do. Repeat with remaining dough.
    Notes
    -Cookies may appear underdone in the middle, but they will become more firm as they cool. It's important to allow them to cool a few minutes before removing them from cookie sheet. -You may require less or more baking time depending on the size of your cookie. -If you are using all-natural peanut butter, try adding in another 1/2 tablespoon of flour, as cookies tend to spread too thin when baking with all-natural peanut butter.
     
    I found this delicious cookie recipe from http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com.
     
     

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Polenta Cakes with Carmelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Honey

    Polenta is finely ground yellow or while cornmeal which is boiled with water into a porridge and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled.  Polenta's place of origin is Italy and there are many uses for it in cooking.  I had never tried it until my husband made us Polenta Cakes.  He caramelized some onions, then put a dollop of goat cheese and a drizzle of honey on top of the Polenta disks.  The flavors blended really well together.  The Polenta tasted like really dense cornbread and was delicious with the sharp onion flavors, the nuttiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the honey. 

    Here's how he made our Polenta Cakes:

    1.  Saute onions on medium heat for twelve minutes until they're brown and caramelized.
    2.  Prepare Polenta by slicing it into disks.  He used pre-cooked Polenta, San Gennaro, and it came in a tube.  Pour oil into a pan and cook it until warm, turning once on each side.
    3.  Transfer caramelized onions to cooked Polenta cakes. 
    4.  Top with Goat Cheese. 
    5.  Finally, just drizzle with some honey.

     
     

    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Greek Yogurt Strawberry Banana Bread

    I've been going overboard eating dessert again.  This is nothing new though.  A new year but not new eating habits.  But that's okay, I've been working out everyday and hopefully burning off those brownies and cheesecake slices. 

    However, I decided to be healthy and bake some banana bread for our dessert.  This banana bread is filled with bananas, strawberries and strawberry greek yogurt.  It turned out to be super moist- probably from all of the above ingredients.  I ended up baking mine for quite a bit longer than the sixty minutes the recipe said to.  I loved the smell of strawberries while the bread baked.  I think this would be the perfect breakfast along with a cup of coffee.  Oh wait, I'm supposed to be good and have this as my dessert.  Why not have the banana bread as both? 

    I found the recipe from a website called Amazing Pinterest World.  You can click here to see how to make it. 

     
     

     

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Alki Beach in January



    What another chilly day in Seattle! I had to run a couple of errands today and found myself at Alki Beach in West Seattle at sunset.  I've been playing around with the video feature on my new phone.  Here's a video of Alki Beach in January on a particulary cold winter day.  This is my first youtube video I've done and uploaded.  How fun! My hands about froze off when I was outside and you can hear the wind blowing.


    A couple of Instagram photos from Alki Beach. 

    If you'd like to see some of my photography of Alki Beach in the summertime, you can click here.

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    A Song by Owl City - How I Became the Sea



    I love music and Youtube makes is super easy to listen and watch videos.  In going with my "sea" theme, I thought I'd share this song by Owl City.  I own no rights to this song.  Enjoy!

    Warm Memories for January

    Seattle has been experiencing some cold temperatures lately.  This morning when I woke up it was 28 degrees outside.  We even had some snow flurries the other day.  Brrr...for Seattle that's cold.  I've been blasting the heat in my house and that's a bill I won't be looking forward to.  I would love to jet off somewhere warm.  Maybe to a Hawaiian island, L.A, Miami, the Bahamas.  Something like that.  But since that's not possible, I'm going to post some photos of past times in the sun. 

    A fish-eyed view of the Caribbean Sea from my hotel balcony in Cancun, Mexico.  Hotel guests swim and play volleyball in the infinity pool. 

    Enjoying a Mai Tai Cocktail in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

    The Vegas Strip pictured with the Wynn Hotel.  Las Vegas, Nevada.

    A surfer in Venice Beach, California, about to enjoy some waves.

    Just imagine yourself laying on a beach towel somewhere in the tropics.  You're covered in suntan lotion so the air smells like coconuts.  The sea glistens and sparkles like diamonds in the distance.  You just enjoyed a nice lunch and peach daiquiris were consumed.  The sun beams down on you and you can feel its warmth.  There's not a cloud in the sky.  You slowly drift off for a nice catnap.  Ahh, this is the life, you think.  Rainy, cold Seattle is far, far from your mind......

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Cherry Cheesecake

    I'm a cheesecake fan.  Always have been.  I can even remember my first bite.  It was Cherry Cheesecake and I thought, " what is this awesomeness I'm eating?".  When I was a teenager, along with cookies, cheesecake was a favorite of mine to bake.  I've always had fun using a springform pan, peeling away the sides to unveil a perfectly shaped cheesecake.  I love the taste of the graham cracker crust, the creamy, fluffy, delicate cream cheese filling and the toppings- fruit, chocolate or caramel and more.  My go to Cherry Cheesecake recipe comes from my mom. After I left for college, she created a cookbook for me and Company Cheesecake is one of them.  I don't remember where she found the recipe but I'm going to share it with you. 

                                                               Company Cheesecake
    Yield: 12 Servings

    Ingredients:

    1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
    2 T. sugar
    3 T. butter or margarine, melted
    2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese plus 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
    1 c. sugar
    2 t. grated lemon peel
    1/4 t. vanilla
    3 eggs
    Cherry Glaze (see below for instructions)

    Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together graham cracker crumbs and two tablespoons sugar.  Mix in butter thoroughly.  Press mixture evenly in bottom of 9-inch springform pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool. 

    Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Beat cream cheese in large mixing bowl.  Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until fluffy.  Add lemon peel and vanilla.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Pour over crumb mixture.

    Bake 1 hour or until center is firm.  Cool to room temperature.  Spread with cherry glaze.  Chill at least three hours.  Loosen edge of cheesecake with knife before removing side of pan. 

    Cherry Glaze

    Drain 1 can pitted red tart cherries, reserving liquid.  Add enough water to cherry liquid to measure 1 cup.  Mix 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in small saucepan.  Stir in the 1 cup liquid.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Remove from heat, stir in cherries and 4 drops red food coloring.  Cool thoroughly.

    Instead of red tart cherries I used dark sweet cherries because I grabbed the wrong one at the store.  But cherries are cherries and the Cheesecake still tasted delicious!


    Want a slice?
     

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

    Chocolate Brownies with Frosting

    Happy 2013! I went out to dinner with my husband's family on New Year's Day and the waiter greeted us with "Welcome to 2013". I felt wowed, like the future is here and we've arrived. Like no matter what this year brings I'm going to choose to be happy.

    This years' New Year like all of the others before it, left me feeling invigorated, inspired and ready to start fresh. That feeling lasted all of two days. Then I got a late Christmas gift, a cold. My throat felt like I was trying to swallow knifes, my nose was running like a faucet, my sleep schedule was off and then I lost my voice.

    I don't know about you but I needed some chocolate. Today, my cold didn't feel so bad and I really wanted to whip up a treat for my husband and I. He needed chocolate therapy too so I baked some brownies. They were pretty simple to make and there's even frosting on top. Don't tell, but I doubled the frosting recipe. As the smell of baking brownies filled my kitchen and I licked the frosting off a spoon, I thought yes, this is just what the doctor ordered.

    I found the recipe for these brownies on allrecipes.com and they're originally called Best Brownies.

    Ingredients:

    1/2 c. butter
    1c. white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 t. vanilla extract
    1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 c. all- purpose flour
    1/4 t. salt
    1/4 t. baking powder

    Chocolate Frosting (you can double this if you want for thicker frosting on the brownies, I did!)

    3 T. butter, softened
    3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 T. honey
    1 t. vanilla extract
    1 c. confectioner's sugar

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 c. butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 t. vanilla. Beat in 1/3 c. cocoa, 1/2 c. flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overbake. To make frosting: Combine 3 T. butter, 3 T. cocoa powder, 1 T. honey, 1 t. vanilla, and 1 c. confectioner's sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm.





    Want another homemade brownie recipe? Click here. Here's to another fun year of blogging!