All about Herbie (+ a little about chili)

Generally speaking, I don’t care about football. I don’t have a team that I follow, and my grasp on the rules of the game is tenuous at best. However, there are two things about football that I like:

1. It is no secret around this house that I am quite taken with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit (or “Herbie”, as he is known to those of us in his inner circle). Why? Well, he is always impeccably dressed. He’s handsome, but not too handsome. When he talks about foreign concepts like “the BCS” it’s almost as though I understand and/or care, and whenever they have to take some injured player off the field on one of those little golf carts, I feel like the concern Herbie expresses comes from the very bottom of his golden heart.

Now, listen–I know that Kirk is probably married to some beautiful, poised woman who sits on the board of several non-profits and never eats cookie dough. I am well aware of that, and my moral compass points due north, so I will not show up at his house with a batch of freshly-baked scones and force him to resist my many charms. I will be content to admire him from afar and write creepy things about him on my blog.   

2. While watching the games (and waiting for Herbie sightings), I also enjoy cozy, football-friendly food. Here’s a charming little idea for when your next chili/cornbread craving hits. Make a pot of your favorite chili. (Might I suggest this one?)

DSCN5466

Then mix up some cornbread batter. (I used this recipe. It was good–but, as she says it’s not very sweet at all, so I added another tablespoon of maple syrup. I also added 3 chopped scallions.)

DSCN5471

Then layer the chili and cornbread batter in glass pint jars like this:

DSCN5473

I can’t be too specific on baking guidelines here, because it will depend on what cornbread recipe you use and how thick your layer of cornbread batter is. I would suggest a thinner layer than the one pictured above, because mine rose more than I expected it to and I wasn’t entirely happy with my chili-to-cornbread ratio. Live and learn, eh? It was still delicious.

DSCN5475

The jars will obviously be really hot when you go to eat out of them, so please use an oven mitt on your non-spoon hand. (OOOOH, this just occurred to me: you could make these for a football-watching party, tie some folksy gingham ribbon around all the jars before serving, and then give everyone a matching oven mitt as a party favor. A-DORable.)

I suppose that’s probably enough of my innermost thoughts for one day. I hope you all have a wonderful Monday!

Monday musings

Greetings, all! So, I have read approximately two articles in the last year about how to be a “better blogger” and they all say you should have a consistent posting schedule. I decided I would try to post every Monday (because doesn’t everyone need a little diversion at the beginning of the week?), but here we are on Monday, and I didn’t cook anything worth sharing with you last week. I thought I would be all set for my Monday blog post when I made this little take-off on spanakopita triangles with butternut squash and kale inside:

DSCN5449

I even had numerous photos of me stacking sheets of phyllo dough, so I could type out an exhaustive guide to phyllo technique. But alas, they just weren’t that delicious. So instead, Monday musings! And a craft project! Lucky you.

First, I think this is the most beautiful song ever.

  DSCN5455

(Well, my opinion on “most beautiful song ever” changes about every week, but this is the current title-holder.) I printed the sheet music off the internet a few days ago and decided I would perfect it in case I ever needed to declare my undying love for someone in song. (You never know, guys. You never know.) It’s almost ready.

Secondly, I started thinking about Halloween, because I love Halloween costumes. I had worked out in my head the perfect Ruth Bader Ginsburg costume, and then I realized I have a wedding to go to that weekend, and I think I’m supposed to just dress like myself. Bummer. Feel free to take my costume idea.

Finally, look at this crafty platter!

DSCN5462

A closer look:

DSCN5460

I got this idea because I used to put the sticker from my daily apple on my Con Law casebook, and I thought they looked kind of pretty all layered together. My mom picked up an unfinished wooden plate at Hobby Lobby and we started covering it with the stickers back in January. Now that it’s done, it just needs a few coats of decoupage glue and some sort of waterproof coating. This is the craftiest thing I have done since I was a seven-year-old at Vacation Bible School.

Alright, carry on with your Mondays. I promise pretty food next week :)

Andre Spumante, Esq.

Friends, I come to you today with flour in my hair and joy in my heart. Guess which unemployed-yet-hopeful cupcake enthusiast just found out she passed the Iowa bar exam?

DSCN5400

It was me! MEEEEEEEEEEE! (That is not my usual attire, FYI–I had some bizzzness to take care of this week.)

I got the joyous news this morning, and it was not long before I had a batch of celebratory cupcakes and a nearly depleted bottle of bargain “champagne”. (Don’t worry–some of it went into the cake batter, and I did not operate any heavy machinery, just the stand mixer.) I made up a new cocktail recipe: one part Andre Spumante, two parts Pom juice. I call it the “Paula Franzese”, after a particularly effervescent professor from the bar exam review course. Cheers, Paula. You will always have an easement in my heart.

DSCN5412

For the cupcakes, I used a champagne layer cake recipe from a cookbook, piped on a bit of fluffy frosting, and decorated each one with a strawberry slice. Then I took them to my dad’s office, where I did most of my studying for the exam, because they were all such lovely and encouraging hosts during that time and never once commented on how I probably looked sort of like death warmed over.

DSCN5385

As if this weren’t enough excitement for one day, you Des Moines residents can check out Juice magazine, available on metro-area newsstands tomorrow, for a page about me and the blog, and a picture of me looking very cheerful (with cupcakes, whaddya know). If you live elsewhere, you can check it out online. To all of you new visitors….thanks for stopping by! Are any of you hiring lawyers? (Never hurts to ask.)

The recipe for the champagne cake is below. It tastes very classy. This is not health food, clearly, but it is light and fluffy due to the egg whites, and I didn’t feel the need to switch to stretchy pants after I tried one. When buying the bubbly, feel free to go up a step from the Andre–I just happen to love the “sophisticated flavor profile” and the $4.79 price tag.

Champagne Cupcakes (adapted from the Champagne Layer Cake in “The Boozy Baker” by Lucy Baker <——–This book is so much fun, by the way. Nothing but dessert and cocktail recipes. Highly recommended.)

Makes about 18 cupcakes

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. champagne
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. cake flour (This is lighter than regular flour–good for recipes with beaten egg whites–and should be available at most grocery stores.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 large egg whites

For the frosting:

  • 6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 tbsp champagne

Preheat the oven to 350, and fill two cupcake pans with paper or foil liners. Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl, until fluffy and well-combined. In a smaller bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture and the champagne to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating between the two, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer in another large bowl, until they form stiff peaks. Stir a small portion of the beaten egg whites into the champagne batter to loosen it up a bit, and then fold the rest in carefully (you want to combine everything while deflating the egg whites as little as possible). Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them just slightly over half full. Then bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

While the cupcakes cool, combine the frosting ingredients with an electric mixer–slowly at first, to avoid being covered in confectioners sugar. Then raise the speed on the mixer to incorporate air into the frosting, so it becomes light and fluffy. Wait until the cupcakes are completely cooled. Frost them with a butter knife or small spatula, or, if you want to be fancy (and who doesn’t?), put the frosting into a zip-top plastic bag, snip off a corner of the bag with scissors, and pipe the frosting onto each cupcake. Garnish with something colorful–I used strawberries.

Western Iowa (Knows How to Party)

Hey there, ladies and gents. Happy Labor Day to you and yours! I’ve been having a lovely weekend. September is my favorite month (largely because it marks the beginning of cardigan season), and so far September 2011 has been marvelous. Several reasons why:

1. That new Beyonce song, “Love on Top.” It makes me want to put in a side ponytail and go rollerskating. And–did you see her performance at the VMAs? I need to know where I can get one of those sequined business suits for my eventual debut in the workplace.

2. On Friday, I went on a little getaway with two college friends to Denison, Iowa (home to the world’s largest collection of Donna Reed memorabilia, in case you were wondering). I met up with my friend Leslie in Jefferson, my hometown, and we cruised the rest of the way through the cornfields together.

DSCN5348

DSCN5355

Our friend Heather met up with us in Denison, and we headed to our home for the weekend–an adorable little B&B with a really pretty view.

DSCN5356

DSCN5357

If you happen to find yourself in need of lodging in Denison, be sure to check out this rural gem. It was a great deal and we had a wonderful time chatting with the owner, Clarice, and the other guests, two European fellows in town on some sort of farm-y business. Clarice told us all kinds of her cooking secrets, many of which involved adding mayonnaise to things, and we discussed our mutual love of cookbooks published by churches and small town women’s organizations.

3. While in Denison, I sang for my old roommate LeAnn’s wedding, and Leslie and Heather were the personal attendants. It was a beautiful ceremony and the reception was a grand time!

RSCN5378

RSCN5377

4. On the way back from the wedding, Leslie and I stopped in Jefferson and I gave her a brief tour of the most important sites from my formative years. The tour included lunch at the ever-popular Uptown Cafe (where, for future reference, “veggie burger” = beef patty topped with pickle slices), and meeting many of my magnificent relatives.

5. I made cookie dough balls from the new Peas and Thank You cookbook to take along on our girls’ weekend (you know, for late nights talking about boys and braiding each other’s hair).

DSCN5344

If you have never made these, you should do so very soon. Each day that you don’t, you are doing a disservice to yourself and every cookie-loving individual in your inner circle. Here’s the recipe, now get to work!

A word about upcoming events before I sign off: We’re supposed to get the results of the bar exam sometime next week. My mom inquired today as to whether I want “the pink Andre or the regular champagne-flavored Andre” for purposes of celebrating what she clearly assumes will be good news. (She is such a champion.) So–if I do pass, you can look forward to a recipe featuring my favorite sparkling beverage. If I do not pass, I will probably take a short blogging vacation to, ummm, reflect on my life choices (i.e. cry and eat multiple sleeves of Thin Mints). Only time will tell. Until next time, folks–have a great week!