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!

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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!

Making Tamales & memories…

November 2015

Greetings fellow foodie friends!

It’s mid-November here in Minnesota and we’ve yet to really see any Winter, which is just fine by me! But, my body-clock knows it’s almost here, because I am craving soups, macaroni & cheese, any pasta dish for that matter and bread and cheese. Oof! I’ve decided that instead of being all proud of myself for knowing how to whip up a creamy béchamel sauce, that it’s actually a curse to know. At any given moment, there are at least five different types of cheese in my refrigerator and freezer, just hanging out, waiting patiently, to get all melty and gooey in a pan of hot pasta. I can have a pan of the creamy devil ready in about 10 minutes…

September 2015-blog post

The real estate market is going to end 2015 on a positive note, across the country really. Here in Minnesota, many people must have took the month of September off, because we had quite a dip in activity over that time period. A couple of my sellers have chosen to take their homes off the market until next Spring, hoping to do some nice updates to their homes over the Winter. If this past Spring is any indication of what this coming one will be, it’s going to be BUSY! And I am taking advantage of this quiet time to get myself ready for that!

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These two… ❤ This fall I had one kid start Junior High and the other started Senior High. They have both been doing really well, even with having to be out the door by 7:15am everyday! Although I despise getting out of bed that early, I do manage to have a very productive day, starting that early!  Both are taking Culinary classes this year, so there is alot of talk about Food around our house!

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One of the things I try to do with my kids, is create food-memories.  I love to make things most people wouldn’t even attempt.  And hope someday, they’ll look back and appreciate that.  A couple months ago, my daughter had a friend come over and we made Tamales together. I have always wanted to try to make them and they turned out surprisingly well! You can actually take a class locally, at El Burrito Mercado, Tamalada, that teaches you how and then you get to leave with a bunch.  Both classes for 2015 sold out already, but they have plans for bigger classes in 2016.  And you can always just buy Tamales (and LOTS more) in their Deli!  Find out more HERE.  We took a field trip there that day, for lunch & inspiration and some last minute ingredients for our recipe.

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We made two different kinds of Tamales that day; Chicken & Cheese. The Cheese ones had Havarti cheese & pickled Jalapeños in them…have you ever had those before?! I am not much for super spicy foods, but I love these and find myself putting them on burgers, sandwiches etc. all the time!

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I think if I do them again, I will steam them flat, instead of standing on the ends like you see in the picture. Doing them that way, was okay, but some of the filling started to fall out of the corn husks as the batter expanded.

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We used a Rotisserie Chicken, which made the process go alot quicker!  Costco now even sells pulled Rotisserie Chicken for you!  Can it get much easier than that?!  There are a million recipes out there on how to make Tamales.  I found a great one, and a video showing me exactly how online.  Click HERE for the video, and HERE for a link to the recipe.  I did use Lard, and wish I would have used a better broth, so don’t skip that part either.

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To go with the Tamales, I made a Tomatillo Salsa, or as she called, Green Salsa.  The girls hadn’t ever touched a Tomatillo before, so the sticky parts inside of the husk was a surprise to them!  You’ll see that salsa and those jalapeño pickles find their way onto a burger shortly after that 🙂

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My family and I are anxiously awaiting our annual trip to the North Shore for Thanksgiving…I will share some pictures while there on my Instagram feed, but mostly hope to really unplug and cuddle and eat and spend time with my sweet family.  We are still narrowing down our menu, and I’ve been relying on my Pinterest Board-Get your Gobble On, for ideas!  Looking forward to fireside chats…brisk hikes…eating…drinking wine…I can’t wait!!! ❤

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And if you are a Minnesotan and haven’t ever been up to Duluth for the annual Bentleyville Tour of  Lights event, get it on your calendar for this year!  It runs from November 21st-December 27th and you can find out more info HERE.

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Wishing you all, a warm, relaxing & delicious Thanksgiving with family & friends!

Cheers! ~Shawn

Pesto & Compound Butters…oh my!

Well, would ya look at that…only a mere three+ months since my last post!  Shame on me!  Real Estate has been keeping me busy, which is very good thing!  I am still thinking about food, cooking the best I can everyday, which is all that matters, right?!  Today I wanted to share two things I love most about Summer; Pesto & making Compound Butters.

Flavored Butters

Every year I look for different ways to “preserve our harvest” trying to savor the bounty all year long.  I can’t even tell you what a pat of Chive Butter does to frozen Corn or mashed Potatoes in the middle of Winter…added to a juicy steak or massaged onto Chicken prior to baking.  Or a hunk of Basil Pesto thrown into jarred Spaghetti Sauce, used (with extra Olive Oil) in place of pizza sauce for Pizza night or even as simple as spread onto bread, hot from the oven…

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Tarragon

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We stock up on Butter all year round, freezing it as we go, so we have plenty on hand to make our favorite Butters.  This year, in addition to the usual, Thyme, Chive & Basil Butters, I tried a Tarragon-Mustard Butter.  Fresh Tarragon, Dijon Mustard and Butter, all whirred up together and then portioned into approximately two tablespoon packets.  One of our favorites ways to eat Pork is with Tarragon & Mustard, so now we can do this easily, with these little babies!

Butter in the mixer

It’s super easy to make a Compound Butter (the fancy name for flavored Butter!); basically you are combining your fresh Herbs with softened Butter.  No need even for a food processor like I use, just finely chop your Herbs and mix the two together.  It’s actually funny, because now instead of drying my Herbs all Summer long, I am finding ways to put them in Butter!  (funny till my jeans get too tight!)

There are many recipes for Compound Butters out there…I have a bunch I’ve pinned on Pinterest you can find here.  I’ve made this one to go on Burgers (it’s off the hook, TRY IT!) from a fellow food blogger friend and recently I found myself with lots of Blue Cheese on the verge of getting too funky, so I made Blue Cheese Butter! Of course you can make yours however you want…add salt & pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper…garlic, fresh onion, get crazy and add Sriracha or Miso…  Make it your canvas and just do it!

Thyme Butter

Chive Butter

Tarragon-Mustard Butter

Pack them into single serve portions on plastic wrap, spread onto parchment paper and roll into a log, or freeze single size servings on parchment paper, on a cookie sheet and once frozen, dump into a freezer bag.  However it works best for you!  And for those of you that live close to me, come on over and grab some fresh Herbs from my garden anytime! ❤

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Pesto has always been a favorite freezer staple of mine.  The past couple of years we haven’t grown too much Basil, so I haven’t done it as often.  Last year we had SO much Oregano, that I made a Pesto out of that.  This year, I found a recipe for KALE PESTO that I had to try!  Yes!  Hooray for Kale!!! 🙂

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I was inspired by this recipe in making this and by the fact that we were trying to eat Kale everyday so our harvest wouldn’t go to waste!  I have had too many experiences with blanching veggies only to pull them out in the dead of Winter, to find they are all mushy and gross.  I didn’t want that to be the case with our Kale so I started looking online for unique ways to preserve it.  We don’t do Kale Smoothies at our house, so I thought doing a traditional Pesto with it would be best.  You guys, I literally wanted to stand there in my kitchen and eat it from the container!!! Ha!  I totally see using this in pasta, adding to soups & stews and maybe even pulling some out to spread on bread with Brie Cheese!

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I hope this finds you enjoying a beautiful Summer!  Don’t forget to take the time to close your eyes and soak in those warm breezes!  Because, you know what’s coming…

Until next time, cheers!

oxox Shawn

 

Silver linings…

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Once upon a time, there was a girl that really didn’t know how to cook.  She met a boy, who did and decided she wanted to try to impress him, with her cooking prowess. She failed, miserably.

Read on…

As a kid, I learned how to “feed” myself & my little brother, out of necessity basically.  My Mom was a nurse and would often works nights and long shifts.  We did a lot of fending for ourselves.  Mac & Cheese was a staple, as was Chicken Noodle & Tomato soup.  And scrambled eggs.  I remember the day my Mom bought us a electric griddle and I learned how to make really super cheesy grilled cheese sandwiches.  I was even able to make Sloppy Joes in that thing!  And Hamburgers…that I sometimes covered with the Chicken Noodle soup.  Don’t knock it until you try it! Yeah, I know, very gourmet. To this day however, nothing says comfort to me, than a big bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Oh and I could make perfect Chocolate Chip cookies!  At least they were perfect to me.  And they are still one of my favorite things to make! ❤

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Fast forward a decade or so and I met my future husband.  He grew up around many fantastic family cooks, spending weekends with his grandparents cooking & gardening. His food career began at the ripe age of 15 working in the kitchen of a neighborhood restaurant, just about an hour outside of Philadelphia.  One day, a couple of years after we had been dating, I decided I wanted to make something really special for dinner.  By now my cooking skills had improved slightly. I could make pasta, rice, potatoes… you know all the good cheap carbs a busy young girl could whip up, quick & easy.  I loved me anything you could make from a box, as well.  You know the ones, Pasta Roni, Rice-a-Roni, and yes…even Hamburger Helper.  How did I ever survive those days! 🙂

I don’t even know where I found this recipe, but it just sounded so “gourmet” and delicious.  I wanted to prove to myself, that I could make something really great.  Maybe I was also trying to win his permanent affection.  Good thing I didn’t place too much stock on that first “gourmet” meal.  It didn’t end well…the dinner, that is.

Vegetable Cannelloni

The recipe was called “Vegetable Stuffed Cannelloni with a Sherry Cream Sauce”… or something like that.  I did find a recipe on Epicurious that was very similar.  The original recipe was destroyed…on purpose…after the failed meal.  You can see that recipe here.

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I went shopping for ingredients, some of which I had never bought before (eggplant, zucchini) and then spent hours (or at least it felt that way) chopping, cooking and prepping the meal.  Carefully stuffed the pasta…poured that insanely delicious cream sauce over the whole bit and popped it into the oven.  I had some leftover sauce in a pan on the stove, that I saved in case I needed more once it was done baking.  Once the timer on the oven went off, I carefully removed that bubbling, incredible smelling masterpiece and placed it on the stove top…on the burner that was keeping that leftover sauce warm.

Those of you that have been through this kind of nightmare before, you probably know exactly where I am going…  Within seconds, the entire glass baking dish, containing that masterpiece I had spent most of the day toiling over, exploded into tiny shards of glass, all over my stovetop, counters and kitchen floor.  I was both shocked & scared and didn’t know what to do, other than fall to ground and proceed to cry like a three year old.  Apparently, you aren’t supposed to put any glass baking dishes on direct heat sources.  It was insane.  There wasn’t even one spoonful we could salvage, for just a bite to see how it tasted! 😦

My sweet future husband just crouched down next to me, telling me it was okay, that I meant well and it was just an accident.  I was devastated.  I didn’t cook anything “gourmet” for quite some time after that.

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Fast forward to about a month ago, I saw a post on Instagram from Dana Cowin, the Editor of Food & Wine magazine, promoting her new cookbook, “Mastering My Mistakes In The Kitchen”.  She was asking for people to share their biggest kitchen fail and of course, I had to share this story.  I have thought about that dish many times since, and have learned to become a much better cook…not to mention, learning that very hard lesson, that you should not EVER put a glass baking on anything hot or cold!

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A day or so later, I see a notification that I won a copy of her new cookbook!  My sad story has a silver lining!  As I sat there, excited for my luck, I thought “Shawn, you should find that recipe and make it again!”  And, this time, make it with Homemade Ricotta cheese…if you haven’t made that yet, DO IT!  SO creamy & insanely delicious!

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My hubby is returning from another fabulous work trip, this time to Brazil, so I thought I would make this for his welcome home meal.  I am also excited to start cooking from Dana Cowin’s new cookbook.  I plan to try the recipe for Sweet Potato, Coconut + Five Spice Gratin and the Chili of Forgiveness.  Oh and the Halibut with Red Coconut Curry. And the Pimento-Cheese Grits…and possibly the Pear + Brown Sugar Upside-Down Cake.  Oh my! ❤

This was a fun post…reminicing about my food journey!  I’ve come along way!  Do you have a similar kitchen failure story?  I would love to hear about it!

Until next time, Cheers! ~Shawn

 

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