Oh these bars…Banana…Brown Butter…

Brown Butter Banana Bars

Well hello there friends and Happy New Year!  I can say that for another three days, right?!  Then we flip the calendar to February already!  Eek!

This past month has flown by…I’ve been trying to keep my New Year “intentions” going (I like that word better than resolution…doesn’t feel as stressful to me!), along with getting myself organized for another busy year in Real Estate and for once, starting my taxes early!  Crazy right?!

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One of my “intentions” for 2016, is to get out each month, to a restaurant in the Twin Cities that we haven’t been to.  This month we visited Ox Cart Ale House in Lowertown St. Paul, and it was great!  We started with a few appetizers, Crab & Artichoke Dip, Chicken Wings (that’s about as brave as I can get my son to be with food) and the above Smoked Pork Rillettes…it came with tiny & super crisp crostini, pickled veggies (that’s carrots & golden beets…sorry for the weird lighting) and this amazing Beer Mustard! Oh my ❤️

Then each of us had a sandwich of sorts…my non-adventuresome kid had the Bacon Cheeseburger, my daughter tried her first ever Coney Dog (I think they used smoked hot dogs which made it SO much better!) I had the Fried Chicken sandwich and my husband tried the house-made Chicken, Roasted Garlic & Apple Sausage with Caramelized Onions & fresh Herbs.  Everything was SO good!  My sandwich came on a “Milk Bun” which for obvious reasons, made it sound so much better and it was!  We had a sneaking suspicion that they come from a local bakery legend, Danny Klecko at Saint Agnes Baking Co. and we were right!  I am going to get my hands on some again soon!

Lake Superior

I have been itching to get back on here, if only to share a quick recipe with you.  I hope that 2016 will allow more time for this blog, because I really enjoy it.  But, my day… (night, weekend etc.) job in real estate comes first.  Mama’s got to put the bread on the table!  Speaking of which…you have to try this recipe!  It’s like super moist banana bread, topped with a sweet but unique frosting!  If you are like me, you’ll need to put the pan under lock & key, otherwise I will eat the whole pan myself! 😍

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I found the recipe here=> Banana Bread Bars with Brown Butter Frosting  and pretty much followed it to a tee.  I stockpile my overripe bananas all year, and this is one of my favorite things to do with it!  Not that you need to improve on this recipe, but it would be fun to add peanut butter chips or even espresso chips to the bars.  And of course you can always add the walnuts, but I am not a big fan of those.Brown Butter

Browning butter is one of my favorite things to do…it makes cookies, sauces, mashed potatoes & these bars SO much more delicious! Take a stick of butter, place into sauté pan, turn heat to medium high and melt…the butter will then start to boil, (turn the heat down a tiny bit if you feel it’s too high)…whisk continuously until you see the butter begin to foam up and start to turn brown.  Keep a very close eye on it at this stage, because it can burn quickly!  I usually cool mine down a bit for use in cookies and such.

Me & Gabby

Not sure if I’ve shared this yet, but my oldest is considering a career in the Culinary Arts!  We are super excited and over the holidays, got her a few beginner cookbooks and hope to start cooking together on the weekends.  I thought it would be fun to blog when we do that, so stay tuned for some fun posts there.

Thanks for following along, wishing you a great end, to the first month of 2016! 😎

Cheers,

~Shawn

Are you considering a move soon?  I would love to help you!  Visit http://www.shawnaugustine.com for more info!

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Birthday Brûlée!

Birthday Brûlée

So the hubby’s birthday rolled around again this year…we have a week of celebrations in February, with my husband beginning the fun, my daughter in the middle and then Valentine’s Day.

Last year I made him this Coconut Custard Pie, so this year I was hoping to make him this Boston Cream Pie but time was not on my side, so I made a family favorite, Creme Brûlée!  It’s way easier than you think, trust me and you don’t have to have any fancy equipment, including the torch.

I followed a different recipe this time, Alton Brown’s recipe from the Food Network which was pretty good.  It’s interesting though, reading through the comments, as many people suggested the dish needed longer to cook.  I followed those suggestions and went a bit longer than he said.  You can carefully test the brûlées to be sure they are cooked through with your finger.  See directions below for what I mean…

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 The really, really important thing to keep in mind, when making Cream Brûlée is to use fresh whole Vanilla Bean, not just extract.  It’s a little more expensive, but it’s totally worth it!  Seriously, the bean is where it’s at!  Above are a couple of pictures of how to get those little jewels out of the bean itself…split the bean down the middle, use the back of a knife to scrape out the goodness!  Oh and don’t throw those beans out!!! Break them into little pieces and put them in your sugar caddy…your morning coffee will thank you! 🙂

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The recipe calls for cooking the heavy cream with the vanilla bean, but you want to really watch this step…do not let it boil, at all.  Remove it from the heat as soon as you see it started to stir a bit in the pan and then watch that it doesn’t get a “film” on the top while it cools slightly, stirring every so often.

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Look at this bright & sunny egg yolk!  I love how, in the dead of Winter, you can make something in the kitchen that actually helps to brighten your mood!

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Here’s the whole mixture in the ramekins waiting to head to the oven.  I bought these ramekins at Target in the Dollar Spot years ago and we use them for everything.  You might be thinking you don’t want to purchase yet another dish, but trust me…this size ramekin can be used for pudding, candies, taco bar night, crafty supplies…etc. etc.!  If you can’t find any at the store, use any tall (but not huge) bowl that can go into the oven.  Be very careful when placing the pan into the oven that you don’t slosh the hot water into the ramekins…not saying I ever did that…lol! 😉

So, when you want to test the Brûlée to see that it is done, dip your finger into a bit of butter or water, (this will help your finger to not stick to the top of the Brûlée) and touch the top of the Brûlée.  It should bounce back and be slightly firm.  Pop these little beauties into the fridge to chill out for a couple of hours or even a day if needed.

Now, the recipe says, to pull out your custards twenty minutes before you want to caramelize them.  I actually like my custard to be a little cold still, afterwards, so I don’t follow that step.  When you are ready to torch them, top (as the recipe dictates) with sugar, and evenly distribute.  Here’s my fun little video using my handy kitchen torch.  Video credit to my youngest 🙂

Fun, right?  I love the smell of burnt sugar!  If you don’t have a torch, you can always use the broiler option on your oven.  Raise the rack to the highest setting that will allow you to put the ramekins on a cookie sheet directly under it.  Watch them and turn the pan as needed.  You are trying to caramelize the sugar on the top, so that it creates a shell that when cracked, reveals the creamy goodness underneath!

Hope you’ll try this and let me know your thoughts or share a picture with me on my Facebook page!

Until next time, Happy Valentine’s Day!

OXOX, Shawn

Perfect Pumpkin Bars~

Pumpkin Bars

~Pumpkin Bars~

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can of Pumpkin
  • 1 cup of oil
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

  • 3 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 (+/-) tablespoon of milk
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional but delicious)
  • (also optional, you can decorate the top of the bars with candy corn!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 16” pan. Mix together all wet ingredients. Slowly add in dry ingredients until batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan, bake for at least 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While bars are baking, mix together the cream cheese, butter and sugar. Slowly add the powdered sugar until mixture is the consistency you want! Once bars have cooled good, spread the frosting over and enjoy!

Happy Fall Y’all! 🙂  Shawn

S’mores Brownies~

S'mores Brownies

What’s more synonymous with Summer than S’mores? It’s the simplest of things really; marshmallows…chocolate…graham crackers all gooed up together!  My kids would eat them everyday, if I let them 🙂  so they were super excited when I told them I was making these!

The bottom is a basic graham cracker crust, that you bake brownies on top of.  Now, I can see this going many different ways…chocolate chips in your brownie batter…caramel somewhere…but today, I am making it per the recipe, which I found on the Food Network website.  (Note: this recipe shows you how to make the Brownies from scratch, but if you have a favorite “shortcut” for your brownies, that should be ok)

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S’mores Brownies:

For the Crust:   6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted ~ 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers ~ 2 tablespoons sugar ~ pinch of salt

For the Brownies:   8 tablespoons unsalted butter ~ 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped ~ 1 cup packed light brown sugar ~ 3/4 cup white sugar ~ 1 1/2 teaspoon fine salt ~ 4 large, cold eggs ~ 1 cup all-purpose flour

Topping:   4 cups large marshmallows

Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 8 x 8 inch (square) baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about an inch.

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Crust:  Lightly butter the foil, (including up the sides) with some of the melted butter, using a pastry brush if you have one, or fingers work great too!  Mix together the crushed graham cracker crumbs, sugar, pinch of salt and melted butter.  Attempt NOT to eat this immediately. 🙂  Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan, and place in the preheated oven.  Bake about 20 minutes, or at least golden brown all over.  (more so than when you started…as the crumbs are already golden brown!)

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Brownie:  Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl and melt on 75% power for two minutes.  Stir and repeat, until melted.  You can also make yourself a double boiler and melt the chocolate that way.  Continue by stirring together the brown and white sugars and vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Add the salt…then the eggs and beat vigorously to make a thick and glossy batter.  Add the flour and stir until just incorporated.  Pour batter over the graham cracker crust and bake until top is crispy and a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out mostly clean.  Will be approximately 40-45 minutes total.  Place brownie pan on a surface that won’t burn.

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Move your oven rack up to the highest level, that will keep the Brownies a safe distance from the burners (six inches is good) and preheat the broiler to the low setting.  Line the marshmallows across the top of the brownies, in a fashion you like best.  Place the pan under the broiler and DO NOT LEAVE.  Keep a constant eye on those little babies, and rotate the pan as you like, for even browning.  After about two minutes, or as browned as you like them, remove from oven and let cool on a rack, gently removing brownies from pan by lifting up using the foil liner.  Pull the foil liner down from the marshmallow, to keep from sticking as it cools.  Once cool, cut & enjoy!

fireSee you soon!

Cheers, Shawn

Orange Brownies…

I always like to find recipes that take something you’ve tried many times before, in this case, chocolate brownies, and switch it up a bit.  One of my favorite holiday cookie recipes does this same thing; taking a traditional sugar cookie and kicking it up with Chai spices…but more on that in a future post!

So, this recipe came from Paula Deen.  I’ve made a few of her recipes over time, that I have enjoyed.  I know, some of you may disapprove of that…but the original recipe wasn’t hers at all!  This is what Paula wrote in a note accompanying the recipe, you can find on the Food Network website here.

“I’ve had the opportunity to make so many new friends in the restaurant. Robin Wilson from Altamonte Springs, Florida, is one of those. Robin recently was one of a hundred finalists in the 39th Pillsbury Bake-off, where she won a side-by-side refrigerator and a trip to San Francisco. As she and her husband were enjoying lunch at The Lady and Sons, she mentioned her Orange Brownies, and she was happy to share the recipe. Thanks, Robin, and good luck to ya in your next bake-off! Get that gold, girl!” ~Paula Deen

The other thing I love about this recipe, is that you can use lemons instead of oranges.  Or even lime!  Imagine a “Margarita” brownie…and you can experiment with different extract flavorings too, like Almond, Cherry, etc.  It’s a great base bar recipe.  So let’s get baking!

Orange Brownies:

1 and 1/2 half cup of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened

4 eggs

2 teaspoons pure orange extract

2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup of confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons of orange juice

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease up a 13 by 9 inch pan, set aside.

Clean & dry your orange.  Carefully zest the orange; be sure not to get any of the white skin, as that will add a bitterness into the brownies.  I zested the entire orange, even though it was more than the recipe calls for.

Mix together the flour, sugar and salt.  In another bowl, add the butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon of the orange extract; beat until well blended using a hand mixer or with your stand mixer.  Once wet items have been mixed, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  (batter will be thicker than normal Brownie batter…) Spoon batter into the pan and spread evenly across pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and the batter has “set”.

To make the glaze, mix the confectioners’ sugar, orange juice & remaining zest together until smooth.

You’ll then gently pierce the entire pan of brownies with a fork.  Pour the glaze over the brownies and cool cake.

These bars are great to take with you to a Barbecue or Picnic.  Because they are so bright & fresh looking, they would even be fun at a baby or wedding shower!  You can also make them Gluten free by changing up the flour.  I should have done it that way…but was hoping most of them would get eaten by my family!

I hope you enjoy a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend!  I am thankful to my Dad, for his years of service to our country and all the others who did the same, that we remember this weekend!

If you make these, let me know how they were!  Enjoy!

Shawn

My Grandmother’s Rhubarb Pie……

My Grandmother’s Rhubarb Pies were famous…….always requested, savored & enjoyed by friends and family alike.  She had many gifts, most of which I didn’t know about until it was too late.  (she’s the one on the left holding me) She lived to be 91 years young….and during her amazing life, she raised five sons, who in turned gave her ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

She was a member of the Inter Se Club and Daughters of the American Revolution.  (how cool is that?!)  She was a volunteer at Goodwill Industeries for more than twenty years.  That one takes my breath away…  She loved to dance (I fondly remember her whipping around the dance floor at my wedding with her longtime companion Evan- at the time she was a spry 79…) she loved dogs, gossiping and crocheting friends & family members wonderful keepsakes.

My paternal Grandmother, Opal Mae Harshfield was proud of me.  Proud of how I started my own business, all the while raising my two kids, and remaining married (a small feat in my immediate family…).  Unfortunately I didn’t know this until  she was gone.  At her funeral, my cousin Holly (who I hadn’t seen since I was in grade school) came up to me and handed me this watch.  It had two incredible picture charms of my brother & I.  That moment shook my world…

How could I have let that relationship go?  Why didn’t I try to reach out more often?  I decided at that moment I would honor her by keeping one of her traditions alive.  The infamous Rhubarb Pie.  This one has no other fruits in it, just the Rhubarb.  It takes a brave baker to do that, with such a tart fruit.  Even I usually mix in some other fruit, like strawberries.  So, needless to say, I was a bit nervous as to how this was going to turn out.  After my first bite, I needn’t be……it was the perfect mix of sweet & tart.  That girl knew what she was doing alright….

Rhubarb Pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten plus one egg white for the top crust

2 tablespoons of milk, whisked into the eggs

1 cup of sugar plus another teaspoon for sprinkling the top of the pie

1/4 cup of flour

3/4 teaspoon of Nutmeg

2 refrigerated pie crusts

4 cups of Rhubarb, diced

1 tablespoon chilled butter

You’ll notice the recipe calls for pie crusts.  I don’t know if she always made it this way, or if it had been modified over time.  I will tell you that I have no problem using a pre made pie crust.  Don’t judge me, I just don’t have the time nor patience to make a flaky delicious pie crust from scratch.  But if that’s your thing, that will make this pie even more special!  I want to note that I didn’t stray from the recipe at all; unusual for me I know.  But the first time out of the gate I wanted make it as it was made by her.  Next time around, I might just add a few more spices, like cardamom and cinnamon.  And maybe do a crumble top…I love those!

So the first thing you’ll need to do is get your oven preheating at 400 degrees.  Grab out a cookie sheet and pie pan if that didn’t come with your crusts.  Be sure to grease & flour the pie pan before putting in your crust.  Clean & dice your Rhubarb, to the size you want.  I left mine a little bigger as I like the chunkiness of the pie that way.  Rhubarb has such a unique smell; you can smell the soil & bitterness of the fruit.  Nothing else like it, that is for sure…

Then you’ll take two bowls and combine the dry ingredients in a slightly larger bowl and the wet ingredients in the smaller bowl.  Add the wet to the dry & stir.

Then you’ll add the Rhubarb in.  Mix it all together and place into pie crust.  Dot the top of the pie with the cold butter bits.  Place the top of your crust over the pie and pinch the edges closed.  Be sure to vent the top of the crust.  Brush the top of the pie with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Place pie on top of cookie sheet and bake for up to 60 minutes or until bottom crust is done and the entire pie is a deep golden brown!

Oh my gosh this pie……..what a beauty!  Like I said before, it is the perfect blend of sweet & tart, light and flaky crust…serve it slightly warm with just a bit of whipped fresh cream or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream!

Happy Mother’s Day sweet Grandma Mae!

Thank you for passing down this recipe and many other wonderful things!

Until next time,

Shawn

Beer for a Year, month five…

Wow, I know I may sound like a broken record player, but where the heck did April go?  I can’t believe its the last day of the month and here I sit at 8:33pm trying to get this post done before May…which is tomorrow…..

Sigh.

Anyway, this month’s “Beer for a Year” choice is Summit’s Great Northern Porter.  The great folks at Summit Brewing say this beer was “originally named after London market workers who popularized this brew, then dubbed our Porter with a nod to the majestic railway stretching from St. Paul to Seattle. Roasted malts offer up coffee notes leading to a slightly sweet, chocolatey finish. This beer won First Place in the “Porters” category at the 1987 Great American Beer Festival® and Gold, at the 2003 World Beer Championships. They say to pair this beer with soft, creamy cheeses, hearty soups, stews, smoked foods, chocolate”….oh yeah.  That’s where this months post comes in; we are making Beer Brownies!!  Yea for chocolate & beer!

I found this great recipe on a blog called “The Kitchy Kitchen“.  I pretty much followed it as they wrote it, but put in more semi-sweet chocolate chips and less dark chocolate.  Here’s what you’ll need:

3 1/2 oz. dark chocolate, 70% or more

2 tablespoons of instant espresso

8 tablespoons of butter

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup of white sugar

1 cup of brown sugar, loose, not packed

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup of Summit Great Northern Porter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(the original recipe had 1 cup of walnuts, halved and toasted lightly…I don’t care for them, so I left them out)

You’ll start by gathering all your items and preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  If you are using the nuts, you can toast those for about 5 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, spices and cocoa powder.

 Meanwhile melt the chocolate, instant espresso and butter in a medium-sized bowl over boiling water.  (homemade double-boiler) Remove from heat, add the beer and vanilla extract then set aside to cool.

  

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugars until thick and shiny.  Continue beating on low while adding the flour mixture and wet ingredients, alternatively.

  

Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into a buttered and floured 9 x 13″ pan (and sprinkle nuts over top if using them).  Side note; I used two 8 x 8″ pans…

Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.  They are done when  toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out clean.  Let cool, then cut and sprinkle with powdered sugar if you so please!  (you must note the cute plate I used to showcase my brownie slice…my baby girl made that for me!)

These brownies are not overly sweet, have a rich chocolate taste and are best served still slightly warm with either a drizzle of caramel sauce (or if you are feeling really adventuresome, you could reduce the Great Northern Porter and make a wonderful syrup you could drizzle over the top!) or a big scoop of ice cream.  I had one kid who asked for more and another who refused another bite after the first, so they might be best served to those who appreciate a more gourmet brownie!

Summit gave me a special treat for my next beer…stay tuned!

Until next month…which is tomorrow…..ha!  Enjoy!

Cheers,

Shawn