Friday, June 22, 2012

Unicorn Poop Cookies

Okay, anyone who knows the recent history of the New Orleans Pride Celebration will get the point behind these cookies. Everyone else, just enjoy. As Dr Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory asks, "What's life without whimsy?"

Start with a basic sugar cookie recipe:

2/3 cup shortening                                     

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp orange or lemon zest             
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg                                                    
4 tsp milk
2 cup flour                                               
1 1/2 tsp baking powder                             
1/4 tsp salt                                           

Cream shortening, sugar, zest, and vanilla. Add egg, beat until fluffy, stir in milk. Sift together dry ingredients, blend into creamed mixture. Divide into several pieces, place in sandwich bags and massage in food coloring to create a basic rainbow.

As you can see from this picture, I had enough for five piles. 
 After chilling the dough for about an hour, get it out of the refrigerator and form into snakes on a flour dusted surface. The dough is very fragile, so be prepared to pinch your snakes back together.
Once you've created sets of each color for the cookies, roll each set into a snake and then loop into your preferred poop pile shape. If pieces break, just reshape and smooth out - you don't want there to be cracks.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to racks to cool. 

If you can get a hold of Glitter Gell, paint your poop. Otherwise, use  colored sugar, sprinkles, and disco dust to add that extra special touch. Resist the temptation to go overboard because you want them to look realistic!

Be sure to wipe your mouth and hands after you eat and tell all your friends that you've tasted proof that unicorns poop rainbows!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Napa Valley Grille

I'm up in Minneapolis for the Golden Crown Literary Society 8th Annual Literary Conference. No trip to the city is complete without a trip to Mall of America and we hopped the shuttle over there to eat at Napa Vally Grille. Dinner was courtesy of my publisher, Bella Books and it was a hoot spending the time with my fellow authors, enjoying good food and conversation.

The experience began with the delivery of soft, warm bread with small bowls of olive oil and red onion jam to the table. The jam wasn't harsh at all and did its job of whetting our appetite for the rest of the meal.

I started with the seafood mac & cheese. What could be better than lobster, scallops and shrimp in cheese drenched pasta? Certainly not any of the many salads that the folks around me started with, although they pretended that the beet salad with quinoa was delicious.

My main course was duck two ways that came with a marvelous fig sauce. I added wild mushrooms to the dish and that really added a lovely touch. While a portion of the breast could have used a little better searing, it was still tender and flavorful. I had a very nice pinot noir from Francis Coppola's winery that went terrifically with the meal.

I ate off of a couple of people's plates and, while the gnocchi was perfectly done, the beef stroganoff could have used a little more flavor to the sauce. I didn't try the halibut or the salmon (after having to be sent back once for proper cooking) but those who did said both were marvelous. The pork chop and rosemary grilled chicken were also said to be quite good.

I finished the meal with a Grahams 20 year Tawny Port and bites of the flour less German chocolate cake and bread pudding. The bread pudding had a structural integrity that was much better than a lot of soggy messes that pass as pudding as well as a satisfactory flavor. The German chocolate cake was a lot different that the moist, pecan-coconut concoctions that I'm familiar with--the coconut and pecans just sprinkled on the top of a dense chocolate bar. It tasted perfectly fine but the name kept throwing me.

I will confess my bias against going to a place in a mall for a high quality meal. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal and the professionalism of the servers. Orders, drinks, and dishes were taken, refilled, placed and removed swiftly with a minimal of disruption to the flow of conversation. The server was very knowledgeable of the wine list and brought out two samples for me to try of the Pinot Noir. All in all an experience I'm willing to repeat.
Me with Bella Editorial Director and Lesbian Romance Author Extraordinaire, Karin Kallmaker

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blueberry Peach Buckle

For dessert the other night, I experimented with a blueberry buckle recipe. Instead of yogurt, I used Creole Cream Cheese. This uniquely New Orleans item is like a cross between cottage cheese and sour cream. For those not in the area, I'm also including a recipe for it. Secondly, I added peaches as just blueberries alone is a bit plain.
Here is the recipe:

Blueberry Peach Buckle

Serves 8

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Creole Cream Cheese (or whole-milk yogurt)
2 cups blueberries
1 cup peaches, peeled and sliced

Crumb Topping: 

Mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Refrigerate.


Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 -inch pan. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar with lemon zest. Add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, alternating with creole cream cheese or yogurt. Batter will be very loose. Stir in blueberries and peaches. Pour batter into pan. Sprinkle crumb topping over fruit.

Bake for 1 hour. This buckle is very soft and moist so using a toothpick to test doneness will not work. If golden brown on top, the buckle is done. Let buckle cool on a rack for 30 minutes before removing it from pan.

Serve warm with ice cream. 

Dorignac's Creole Cream Cheese
A Metairie grocery store that stocks Creole Cream Cheese, Dorignac also provides a recipe for those out of the area.
              2 gallons skim milk
              ½ quart buttermilk
              ½ rennet tablet (available at cheese specialty stores)
              Half & Half optional

Combine skim milk, buttermilk, and the ½ rennet tablet in a stainless steel pot. Using a thermometer, bring the temperature of the milk to 80 degrees, stirring constantly and hold for five minutes. Remove from heat, cover tightly and allow to sit 3 hours. Drain off the whey (liquid remaining after the curds are formed) discarding this liquid. Pack the solids in 8-ounce portions topping with equal parts of half and half cream. Chill and serve with sugar or fruit. Creole cream cheese is excellent in ice creams and pastries.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Melting Pot

My Mom and I went to the Melting Pot for dinner. Our house has always been fondue fans but we have never been to a restaurant that does it.

We did the full four course menu - starting with the traditional cheese fondue with Gruy√®re and Emmenthaler. There was a selection of 3 different kinds of bread plus apple slices. There was also cauliflower and carrots but we didn't waste any belly space on them. The salad came with the entree course, or we wouldn't have bothered with it either. The spinach and mushroom salad was good but we were there for fondue, not rabbit food.

For the entree course we went for the land and sea. This was chicken, shrimp and filet mignon as well as mushrooms (again we ignored the broccoli and potatoes). The sauces that came with tasted like bottle sauces but they weren't too bad and a decent compliment to the meats. There were also a couple of tempura batters but they were a little too thick and formed an chewy overcoat, instead of a crisp crust. Next time, we will probably only get the filet mignon, as the chicken wasn't particularly flavorful.

The final course was dessert. We went for the dark chocolate with Grand Marnier. This came with Rice Krispie treats, bananas, strawberries, cheesecake, graham cracker coated marshmallows and brownies.
The drink selection is very good - I had a very lovely margarita before the meal and a nice Pinot Noir from Argentina with the meal. At dessert, I splurged on a Frozen Grasshopper (creme de menthe, creme de cacao blended with ice cream). The server brought mom her beers regularly, so she was very happy.

The service was very good. Jessica was knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor. She was around often enough for refills and moving to the next course but allowed us plenty of time for conversation.

This was a fun place for a meal but we do a pretty good job at home, so I'm not sure if I will be back any time soon.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cochon Butcher

Stopped by Cochon Butcher for lunch today and had to laugh at the Swine Bar Now Open sign.
We ordered the Mac & Cheese - there was a lot of flavor to the cheesy sauce and the little bits of panchetta were a lovely touch. We also split a BLT - the bacon is uncommonly good, the arugala gave the sandwich a nice bite and the pickled onion offered a nice tang. I also liked the homemade kettle chips and my mom loved the bread and butter pickles.

At almost $30 for the sandwich and appetizer, this isn't a place I come to regularly but it sure is a nice treat.

As the interior is small and the seating outside will soon be unbearable with the summer heat and humidity, I recommend going early or taking your meal to go.