Steeple Sheeple (Open Thread)

Nailed it again:

butter lamb 2016

(Explanation here for anyone who is thinking, “WTF?”)

My only other contribution to tomorrow’s Easter feast is asparagus, which I will cook in the morning before we make the trip to the in-laws’ for dinner. I plan to trim up the stalks, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them on a sheet pan. Easy peasy.

Tonight we’re just hanging out watching the chickens forage and checking out the occasional wild birds who visit the feeders and bird baths. That’s one thing I love about this time of year — observing the feathered visitors.

Other than that, I got nothing. Open thread!

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Cupcakes!

wa caucus cupcakes by dan savage

Via Dan Savage at The Stranger

Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii all hold their primary caucuses today; I know at least a couple of regular commentors are deputies in their precincts, so we should have some on-the-ground reports by tomorrow. Meanwhile, Seattle’s Dan Savage reports a charming local custom:

Terry Miller, our in-the-tank-for-Hillz cupcake correspondent, writes…

It’s 8AM and what am I doing?!! Participating in the #CupcakeCaucus! Go to @cupcakeroyale [today] and vote with your mouth! (Don’t worry! There are Bernie cupcakes too!) $1 from every cupcake sold goes to the DNC to help elect those important down-ticket candidates this November. A great way to show your support for your candidate, the DNC, and make your friend’s tummies happy!…

On the other side of the country, the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank prepares for a less appetizing meal:

… Six months ago, I made a reckless vow. With Donald Trump dominating in polls, I said I’d eat a column — 18 column inches of toxic newsprint, wood-pulp, ink and all — if Trump won the Republican presidential nomination…

… With the help of one of the capital’s great chefs — and seeking the guidance of you, the reader — I am taking the prudent step of preparing to eat my words in case Trump secures the nomination…

So I called my friend Katherine Miller, head of the food-advocacy group Chef Action Network, who put me in touch with a chef who would help me eat my words in style: Chef Victor Albisu of Washington’s Del Campo restaurant, an acclaimed Latin steakhouse. I did not discuss politics with Chef Victor, but I doubt he’s a yuuuuuge Trump fan, based on his recipes. And I sensed he was being arch when he told me: “If you’re eating newspaper, man, the world opens up to you.”…

Chef Albisu’s proposals all sound delish, but Milbank is still taking suggestions on Facebook and Twitter…

Apart from food (Easter prep for some of y’all, I’m guessing) and politics, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Friday Recipe Exchange: Cupcakes – Updated

We’ve once again reached Friday and my never ending war against dog hair has ended for another day. In fact I’ve begun to modify the lyrics of Butterfield’s Lullaby, better known as Taps, for this war:

“Day is done, dog hair has won;

On the floor and the sofa and the bed….”

Its clearly a work in progress.

Anyhow, once again, I’m donning the frilly apron and the tiara to serve as fill in food goddess while our Doyenne of Digestibles is off doing fabulous things with fabulous people – or whatever it is she’s actually doing.

Per a request from last week, we’re going to do cupcakes tonight. I’ve got two recipes – one for a dark chocolate cupcake and one for a vanilla flavored white cupcake. Both the recipes are the same as for layer cakes, so if a layer cake is your thing, or even a sheet cake, just adjust accordingly. We’ll start with the chocolate one.

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place cup cake liners/cups in the wells of four to six muffin pans (depending on how big you want your cupcakes). In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared cupcake cup lined muffin pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay). For a layer cake this would about 35 minutes, but for cupcakes it shouldn’t take as long. So check at the 20 minute mark and then every five minutes thereafter so you don’t burn them. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the muffin pans for 10 minutes. The remove onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup cooled coffee
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and mix. Add the coffee and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix until well blended and fluffy. To frost the cake, use a spatula to cover 2 of the cake layers with frosting. Stack them together. Flip the third cake layer over and rest it on the top to create a very flat top for the cake. Frost on the sides and top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
I like to sprinkle multi-color sprinkles on my chocolate frosted chocolate cupcakes, but your mileage may vary.
Caramel Cupcakes


16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3¼ cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6¼ cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1¼ cups milk
16 tbsp. salted butter
2 12-oz. cans evaporated milk
Heat oven to 350°. Making sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Place cup cake liners/cups in the wells of four to six muffin pans (depending on how big you want your cupcakes). Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together; set aside. Beat remaining unsalted butter and 2½ cups sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flour mixture and milk alternately in 3 batches, beating smooth after each addition. Divide batter between the cups in the muffin pans. Bake until golden. For a layer cake this would be about 30–35 minutes.but for cupcakes it shouldn’t take as long. So check at the 20 minute mark and then every five minutes thereafter so you don’t burn them. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes; remove cakes; let cool completely.
To make icing, cook remaining sugar and salted butter in a pot over high heat, stirring constantly, until light brown, 7–8 minutes. Carefully stir in evaporated milk; reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring constantly, until smooth, 8–10 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until icing registers 240° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; beat with a wooden spoon until thick, glossy, and spreadable, 20–25 minutes. (A dollop dropped on a plate should ooze only slightly.) Ice bottom layer of cake; top with second layer and ice the outside. Chill cake until set.
Here’s an easier, as in less complicated way, to make a caramel frosting. Take 8 ounces of caramels, remove the wrappers and place aside in a mixing bowl. Bring 8 ounces of heavy whipping cream with a teaspoon of vanilla to a boil. Remove it from the heat and pour it over the caramels. Let sit about five minutes and then whisk the melted caramels and heated cream together until smooth. You now have caramel ganache.

In a mixing bowl cream one stick of unsalted butter and a teaspoon of vanilla. Whisk in the caramel ganache until it is thoroughly incorporated and you have caramel buttercream. Then frost.

GET In Mah Belly! (Open Thread)

Made a Dutch Baby this morning using a recipe from Epicurious:

Dutch Baby

As the recipe notes, it’s like a cross between a pancake and a popover. Very delicious, and I highly recommend the recipe, only it calls for way too much lemon zest-sugar for sprinkling. About a third of what’s called for in the recipe would have been more than enough — and I’m not afraid of sugar. Also, we used Meyer lemons, which make everything better.

Another thing: We got a convection oven during our kitchen remodel a couple of years back. I like it except for one thing: If you use the convection setting, you can’t trust the recommended bake times from any recipe. And there doesn’t seem to be a common factor by which you can reduce it to apply across the board, which is kinda frustrating. Any tips on that dilemma welcome!

Open thread!

Friday Night Recipe Exchange: Saturday Night Edition

As was previously announced I’m filling in for Tamara, our Doyenne of Digestibles, as guest food goddess for the next few weeks. So before I put on the frilly apron and the tiara, I just want to make a quick apology to Betty Cracker for today’s rain in central Florida. I washed and waxed my car last night, so this one is clearly on me.

We have three recipes for you tonight. I don’t have any photos of any of these preparations that I’ve made myself, so the pictures are from a keyword search.

A request came in for an Easter(ish) recipe, so first up is a roasted leg of lamb. The seasoning is simple and works for both bone in and bone out. For the bone out, I will be including Bessie’s Cornbread Stuffing, which is the only stuffing recipe anyone in my family uses. I’ll explain the name when we get there. You can stuff a bone in roast, but its much trickier/more difficult.

For those of you not into really game-y tasting meat, the fine folks at Food Lab explain that most of that flavor is in the fat. So eliminate most of the fat on your lamb roast and you minimize the game-y flavor. They also have a nice discussion of bone in versus boneless too. I happen to like the game-y flavor so I leave the fat on and I like the ease of preparation and stuffability of the boneless as well..



1 Lamb Roast (bone in or bone out at purchaser’s/consumer’s preference) about 10-12 lbs

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Finely chopped or minced garlic to taste

Rosemary to taste

Olive Oil


Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the lamb roast from its packaging, rinse off, and pat dry. Sprinkle with kosher salt, set aside, and allow to stand for forty minutes to pull out moisture. After the forty minute salting rub the lamb roast with the olive oil to create an olive coating. Sprinkle with kosher salt (don’t go to heavy as you’ve already salted the meat), freshly cracked black pepper, and the rosemary to taste. Rub the finely chopped or minced garlic all over the lamb roast. Please note/remember: if you have a boneless lamb roast do all of the seasoning on the inside too!

If you’ve gone with a boneless (bone out) roast, before you can roast it you have to tie it up (this post’s safe word, just in case, is “mutton”). Same thing goes if you’ve stuffed the hollowed out end of a bone in roast. Get yourself a good length of butcher’s twine, roll your roast into cylindrical shape, and tie it with the twine. Try to avoid letting the roast assume its natural tapered shape when rolling or you’ll get the wider, cylindrical end cooked just right and the narrower, tapered end overcooked and dry.

For roasting we’re going with Food Lab’s reverse sear. I liked it a lot when I did that standing rib roast back in December.  Remember to let your seasoned roast sit at room temperature for a 1/2 hour or so to facilitate roasting. Take your seasoned, rested at room temperature, and twined lamb roast, place it on a wire rack or roasting rack above a catch/drip tray and place it in your 275 degree oven. You’re going to roast for 3 hours for medium rare, so start checking the internal temperature with a probe thermometer at the 2 and 1/2 hour mark. You’re shooting for an internal temperature between 125 and 130 for medium rare, and don’t forget the 5 degree cook over increase. So when the roast reads 125, pull it out and let it rest for 40 minutes. While the lamb is resting increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees. After the lamb has rested place it back in the oven for 15 minutes for the reverse sear. After 15 minutes remove the lamb roast from the oven and let it rest for 5 more minutes. Then just remove the twine, transfer to a cutting board, slice, and serve. I like to use the pan juices juices just as they are for au jus, so I don’t turn them into a thickened gravy.

If you’re going to stuff your boneless roast: after seasoning the inside, place as much stuffing as you reasonably can inside the roast and still roll it into a cylinder. You may actually want to put a little extra stuffing on the narrower end to even out the roast’s shape when rolling. After placing the stuffing inside the roast, roll the roast around the stuffing into a cylinder and then tie it off with the twine. Then simply follow the roasting directions above. For medium rare you’re shooting for an internal temperature of 125, though it may take a little bit longer to get the meat there because of the additional material stuffed inside the roast. And remember: when using your probe thermometer to check the roast’s temperature it is very important to not insert the probe through the meat and into the stuffing! You want to check the lamb’s temperature, not the stuffings. Finally, for the reverse sear at 500 degrees: you’re still only going with a 15 minute roasting time.

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Food Open Thread: Chocolate Is Magic! (Maple Syrup Might Be, Too)

Happy dietary news, for once. The Washington Post reports on “The magical thing eating chocolate does to your brain”:

In the mid 1970s, psychologist Merrill Elias began tracking the cognitive abilities of more than a thousand people in the state of New York. The goal was fairly specific: to observe the relationship between people’s blood pressure and brain performance. And for decades he did just that, eventually expanding the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) to observe other cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, and smoking…

“We found that people who eat chocolate at least once a week tend to perform better cognitively,” said Elias. “It’s significant—it touches a number of cognitive domains.”

The findings, chronicled in a new study published last month, come largely thanks to the interest of Georgina Crichton, a nutrition researcher at the University of South Australia, who led the analysis. Others had previously shown that eating chocolate correlated with various positive health outcomes, but few had explored the treat’s effect on the brain and behavior, and even fewer had observed the effect of habitual chocolate consumption. This, Crichton knew, was a unique opportunity…

In the first of two analyses, Crichton, along with Elias and Ala’a Alkerwi, an epidemiologist at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, compared the mean scores on various cognitive tests of participants who reported eating chocolate less than once a week and those who reported eating it at least once a week. They found “significant positive associations” between chocolate intake and cognitive performance, associations which held even after adjusting for various variables that might have skewed the results, including age, education, cardiovascular risk factors, and dietary habits.

In scientific terms, eating chocolate was significantly associated with superior “visual-spatial memory and [organization], working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination.”…

And Canadians are thrilled to announce another ‘miracle food’, per the Global News:

In preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer’s disease studies…extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine,” Dr. Navindra Seeram said…

Seeram, along with Toronto’s Dr. Donald Weaver, were among about two dozen scientists who presented findings on natural products and how they could fight neurodegenerative diseases at an annual American Chemical Society meeting this week.

In Weaver’s research, he found that an extract in maple syrup could stop the clumping of proteins in brain cells, specifically tau peptides. A buildup of tau proteins has been tied to brain disease in athletes in the past few years.

In other studies presented at the symposium, doctors found that an extract in pure maple syrup stopped the tangling of other proteins in the brains of rats. The same compound also helped with protecting the brain….

Of course, further studies, yadda yadda yadda. When the red wine drinkers raise your glasses, I shall return your toast with a generous chunk of dark chocolate-dipped maple candy!

Friday Recipe Exchange: March Roundup

a nice plate full

I’m going to be gone the rest of the month, so I thought I’d put together recipes for the major events in March. Specifically St. Patrick’s day, Easter, and Spring. Lots of pictures and recipes below the fold.  Read more