Friday, November 28, 2008

More Thanks: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Mama Betty made these for our Thanksgiving feast last night, and they were moist, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I am thankful for Mama Betty and also for Paula Deen.

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter. Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes. (Watch your oven: If the biscuits are browning too fast, lower the temperature.)

Here's a recipe that I found for sweet potato biscuits with bacon and thyme. Are you kidding me? Can't wait, can't wait.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Am Thankful for Bacon Pizza

Is there anything better than Thanksgiving? A delicious homemade feast with friends and family, football, several alcoholic options, holding hands and giving thanks for blessings, so many blessings, like taste buds. One simple creation that my magic flavor tasters are most thankful for is bacon pizza. I am thankful that something so yummy is so freakin' easy: already made pizza crust from TJs, or most any grocer, pizza sauce in a jar, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, fresh mushrooms, thin-sliced red onions, red peppers, and fried thick-cut bacon. It may not be the most heart-healthy meal ever, but your heart still will thank you, cause it will surely fall in love. And don't forget the wine. Trust me, now is not the time for beer. Any red will do. After all, this is not exactly haute cuisine. Just simple, delicious, sweet bacon love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crushin on My Man

Yesterday was my six month wedding anniversary, and Jon took me on a hot date, after sending me surprise work flowers. He even donned a tie for the special occasion. A perfect husband's work is never done.

On the way to the car, we were giggling like fools and for no good reason, except that Jon was taking FOREVER to hook up the GPS, which was hysterical at the time. Must have been the champagne, mixed with the giddiness that comes with husbands taking their wives on impromptu secret dates. I already had an inkling this night would be extra sweet.

Jon was saying, "Where are we?" And I was saying, "I have no idea." And, then, there we were. Eat Bar in Arlington. He'd discovered the place while dropping off some wine at Tallula, the fancier spot next door. In January last year, Tallula's loungey bar-in-the-back became it's rustic boho-chic counterpart. Jon had told me about it, said "You'd like it honey," and I did immediately. It makes perfect sense that this place is owned in part by the same guy who owns Evening Star in Del Ray.

The tabletops are like the tin roof of an old farmhouse, and the goth brothel lanterns cast a warm amber glow that made me feel cozy right away, and kind of like making out, which is probably why there were lots of couples there, who also must have been on hot dates, but there were also a few older folks, and even a young family with their two little ones. Could it get any warmer?

The service was pretty slow, but who cares? Clearly, this isn't a hurry-up kind of place, plus our waitress was cute and nice and smiley, and that's all that really matters. And my husband is even cuter and smilier, and really, that's all that matters. Even better, they had Higuerela, the red wine we served at our wedding, nothing fancy and all delicious, a different vintage, but no less nostalgic. And best of all, they poured our wine in perfectly giant bubbly wine glasses with extra skinny rims right next to good ole mason jar waters. I really do feel like I'm on the farm, a fancy farm. Maybe a farm in Napa, or maybe in a church that's in a wine cave on a farm in Italy; all this place needs is a stained-glass Jesus. Wherever the hell I am, Eat Bar oozes romance, and it smells amazing. I think it's the warm olives, house roasted, in at least eight shades of purple and green.

On the menu at next door's Tallula, the assortment of amuse-bouches are aptly titled "Amuse Yourself," but next door at Eat Bar, they are simply called snacks. A chorizo corn dog, a baby burger with truffle butter and onion marmalade, a bowl of maybe the most amazing hush puppies with honey butter I've ever tasted, rosemary fries. I wish I could snack like this everyday. We also had cheese and charcuterie: a soft goats-milk cheese from Humboldt and Grayson, a supple cow's mik cheese from Virginia, with house-cured tasso ham and salami, a dollop of sweet apple butter, and some yummy breads, one crispy and one soft.

And we were already stuffed up on food and love, but why stop there? Jon insisted on two desserts and a port, which I could've done without. Jon said it's an acquired taste, and I believe him, and I also believe I won't be doing much to acquire it. The homemade chewy molasses cookie sandwich with ginger pumpkin ice cream, heavenly. Apple pie a la mode, divine. And the best dessert of all, the rest of my life to celebrate half-year anniversaries with my precious man.

Tallula and Eat Bar are located at 2761 Washington Blvd. in Arlington, VA.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sweetest Treats

It's a miracle these little gems made it home safe and sound. Aren't they just sweet and lovely? They came from Hello Cupcake, a new joint downtown. Since I was feeling sassy, Prima Donna was an obvious choice, but mostly I just couldn't resist the chocolate puff topped with a fluffy pink strawberry buttercream cloud and sugar sprinkles like pink snowflakes. Just one, I was only going to get one, but then I had to see if the lemon was as good as my mom's, and You Tart!, this dreamy jewel with the palest buttery yellow lemon cream cheese frosting was like a burst of citrus sunshine. At $3 a pop, and nearly too pretty to eat, I thought these babies better be good, but I'd have to wait. I wanted to surprise Big J with a sweet treat. It was no easy feat watching over the little buggers on the trip home on the metro. It seemed that people could actually smell, or maybe sense, what was inside the delicate white pastry bag cradled carefully in my arms. That one lady who almost smushed them with her enormous backpack would have been in big trouble, and that man with the enormous butt who nearly sat on me – nearly sat on them! – the nerve...This little bundle of joy was causing me a lot of stress!

But hellllooo cupcake – these beauties were worth every dollar. Each cake is heavy with goodness, bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, real citrus zests. Some are even vegan and gluten-free, although I hope to never try them. Traditionalists can get plain jane ones, with chocolate or vanilla cake and chocolate or vanilla icing and confetti sprinkles. It's a party!

Looks like owner-baker Penny Karas doesn't mess around. And she may think she's Greek, but a woman who can make something this pretty and luscious has got to have some southern in her. I'll bet $3 on it.

I wonder if she could make a bacon chocolate one, topped with real, crunchy bacon bits. Oh my, I think I'm drooling.

Find it at 1351 Connecticut Avenue, NW, just south of Dupont Circle, across from the Metro.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's Not Just a Burger, It's a Bacon Burger

Cheeseburgers are a beautiful thing, especially when they're topped with super-aged cheddar, crispy bacon and my mom's homemade zucchini relish, passed along from my aunt Adele. It's good on burgers, dogs, special hot ham & cheese sandwiches a.k.a. Jim Dandys, and crackers too. It makes something really simple really special, plus my mom made it, which makes it even more special, cause it was made with love.

Aunt Adele's Zucchini Relish
5 cups grated zucchini (5 med.)
2 cups grated onions (2-3)
6 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup diced (1/8") green peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Place zucchini, onions & salt in a large bowl; mix well and cover. Refrigerate overnight. he next day, place mixture in a fine strainer. Drain well, rinse under cold water and drain again for 1 hour.
2. Place mixture in a heavy pot with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
3. Cool completely and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Or sterilize 3 or 4 pint-sized canning jars in boiling water. Fill with relish, seal and process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars with tongs. Let rest until relish comes to room temperature. Store in cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
This recipe can be doubled.
Yield: Approx. 5 cups.