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Posts tagged ‘bars’

Okay, I’m not gonna deny it. I didn’t make a Valentine’s-Day-specific dessert this year. Bad Kitchy Cooker. Bad. But while I was hanging my head in shame I realized I’ve made plenty of desserts for the blog and some of them have even been chocolate. (Who am I kidding? Most of them have been chocolate.) And since I’ve seen plenty of Valentine’s Day roundups this year, I thought why not do one of my own? I mean, I’ve always been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. And no, it’s not because of the cards… although getting cards and presents are always nice. It’s because of all the chocolate.

Yes, my name is Jennifer Richmond and I’m a chocoholic. So of course I live for the one holiday a year where it’s all about chocolate. The only thing that makes chocolate better? Why adding fruit to it of course. And if you can combine those two things while adding a splash of pink… oh my god, I’ll do whatever you say.

But if you’re not the chocolate fan that I am, I won’t hold it against you. There are plenty of Valentine dessert options out there that don’t have one ounce of chocolate in them.  (I’ve even made a few. Please don’t tell anyone.) Below is a list of some of my favorite sweet treats perfect for the upcoming heart-shaped holiday. I even included one that isn’t chocolate but is just as tasty because I am trying to venture outside my comfort zone. Really… I swear.

  1. Maraschino Whoopie Pies
  2. Black Forest Brownies
  3. Chocolate-Port Cake
  4. Chocolate Potato Cake with Raspberry Frosting
  5. Blood Orange Valentines
  6. Strawberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

As you all know I love to cook. Not just because it gives me the opportunity to create delicious food and eat it, but because I get to share those creations with friends and family. That’s what cooking has always meant to me – a way to connect with friends and family through one of my favorite things. There really is nothing better than pulling something out of the oven, smelling those sweet or savory smells and then diving into it with both hands. (C’mon, you know nothing beats eating with your hands. Forks and knives may be proper, but licking batter off your fingers is awesome!)

Look at all the cookies!

So you can imagine how much joy I get when I join other foodies to create edible delights. And that’s why I love Food Bloggers Los Angeles. It not only gives me the opportunity to cook up something delicious for this wonderful group of foodies, it also allows me to savor all the yummy treats they create. So, you can imagine how excited I was to attend the third annual FBLA cookie swap. Don’t get me wrong, savory recipes can be delicious, but a table or two full of cookie platters is pure heaven.

I chose not to create something new for this event. Instead I went back to one of my old standards for this festive time of year. I made my Sweet Potato Marshmallow Bars with White Chocolate Chips. I mean, if you can have sweet potato pie, why can’t you have a sweet potato bar? So, if you’re looking for something a little different for your next holiday cookie swap, mix up a batch of these babies. They’re rich and gooey and perfect for this merry and bright time of year. Best of all, you can get the recipe right over here.

If you’d like to see (or sample) some of the other cookies that were on display at the swap, below is the entire list and the bloggers who brought them. I dare you to try each and every one because they were all delicious!

FBLA 2013 Cookie Exchange Recipes

Non-Cookie Items

You know what I love about this time of year? All the citrus available.  I’m such a huge lemon and orange fan, I’d love to have a tree or two of my very own.

Actually we do have a lemon tree, but for some weird reason it’s never taken root. I don’t know why, we’ve tried everything from planting the tree in two different spots, to fertilizing it and pruning it back. But for whatever reason, the tree refuses to grow. So, I’m forced to do what most people do and buy my lemons, limes and oranges at the market.

Lucky for me, my farmer’s market is overflowing with citrus so I don’t have to suffer the long winter months without a daily dose of vitamin C. But what to do with all that citrus? Juicing is an option, however I prefer using these wonderful orange and yellow spheres in things I can eat. I don’t care if it’s an entrée like this blood orange beef stir fry or a dessert like these tangy lemon/lime bars.

Anyone who knows me though, knows I’m a baker first and that I especially love cookies and bars. So, when I saw a recipe for blood orange bars I thought why not make some of my own? It’s true they’re not nearly as tart as the lemon version but they’re just as tasty. And since the juice is a beautiful fuschia, I figured the bars would be a lovely pink – perfect for Valentine’s Day.

I was wrong.

I made two batches of these bars and both pans were nowhere near pink. They were orange, dark orange. Not to worry, though, a few drops of red food coloring made them the pretty salmon color you see in the photos.

Once I was done trouble-shooting the color, I had to decide how to cut them. If I were serving them at a Valentine’s Day party, I absolutely would have cut them into squares because you get a lot more bang for your buck. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and there’s nothing sweeter than a heart-shaped treat, especially if you want to do something extra special for your honey.  Besides, taking that extra step guarantees your sweetie will be tickled… pink.

Blood Orange Valentines

Ingredients:

For the Crust

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of flour
  • pinch of salt

For the Filling

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 Tbsp blood orange zest
  • 2-1/2 cups of blood orange juice.
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4-6 drops of red food coloring

Directions:

For the Crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until they’re a pale yellow.  In a separate bowl combine the flour and salt.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until just combined.
  3. Press the dough into a 9×13 pan and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Cook the crust for 15-20 minutes or until it’s light brown in color.  Let crust cool, but leave the oven on.

For the Filling

  1. Whisk the eggs, sugar, zest, juice and flour together in a large bowl.  Add the food coloring and stir until you reach the desired pink color. Strain through a mesh sieve, pour over the cooled crust and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Dust with powdered sugar.
  4. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut into hearts and serve.

Just as New Orleans is a great place to eat, it’s just as awesome a place to sit down and get a cocktail. And while you may be thinking Bourbon Street is the place to be, it’s not. Yes, there are plenty of bars on Bourbon, but they’re not the kind of places you can go and have a quiet conversation over a nice sazerac. If you want loud, obnoxious techno music or an awful Guns N’ Roses cover band, Bourbon Street is the place to be. But if you want a quiet bar with some serious history and a classic cocktail, there are plenty to choose from in the French Quarter; and only a few are actually located on Bourbon Street. But since there are a couple, I’ll start with those.

The oldest bar in New Orleans also happens to be on Bourbon, but it’s in the 900 block so it’s a few blocks away from the insanity. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was built between 1722 and 1732 and was used as a blacksmith shop when it was first built. Somewhere down the line it was transformed into a bar, but maintained its old brick charm. With a stone fireplace at its center and a cement floor, it’s clear that this bar has seen a lot in its almost 300 years. Their signature cocktails are the Hurricane (which you can get at just about any bar in the city) and the Voo Doo daiquiri. The Voo Doo, their own creation, is a bright purple slushie for adults. I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but I can tell you it’s the perfect way to beat the heat and humidity. Be careful though, after a few sips you may need to find a place to sit down just to regain your balance.

The other bar on Bourbon is The Old Absinthe House; and yes, absinthe is their specialty. As a matter of fact they have four different kinds. But unless you’re a serious absinthe fan, there are better bars. First off while the bar is from 1807, it doesn’t have the feel of some of the more classic bars around town. It’s really the French Quarter’s version of a sports bar and we while it was pretty empty when we stepped inside, we were told that once football season started, the place is packed.

The other problem I had with the bar was their drinks were not cheap. A simple absinthe frappe, what the bar is actually known for, was $18, more than most cocktails we had anywhere else.  The cocktail also wasn’t anything to write home about.

And since I’m being critical, the other bar to avoid in the French Quarter is Pat O’Brien’s.

I wanted to go because they created the Hurricane in 1939. So I (stupidly, it turns out) assumed they were going to be the best place to get that classic drink. Boy, was I wrong. They no longer mix up the cocktail. Now if you order a hurricane, they add the alcohol to a mix! That’s right, they don’t actually add a bunch of different juices and liquors to a cocktail shaker and shake it all up like every other bar in the city, they pour the neon red mix into a tall hurricane glass and add the alcohol. It’s soooooo awful. I mean, it actually tastes like kool aid, or some other powdery mixture. We tasted a real hurricane at Lafitte’s the next day and you can seriously taste the difference. One’s sicky sweet disgustingness and the other’s cold, fruity deliciousness. As a matter of fact, we were told (after the fact of course) by several locals that if you want a hurricane DO NOT go to Pat O’Briens. I only wish we’d known that before we walked in. Pat O’Briens does have a nice outside patio and a great dueling piano bar, but as far as their cocktails go, there are better bars to choose from.

Now that I’ve listed to the two classic bars to avoid, let me tell you about a few that you want to run to. First up is Tujague’s. As the sign boasts, they’ve been around since 1856 and it looks like it. Not only does the inside scream 19th century with its high ceiling and dark wood bar, the bartender uses only classic cocktail shakers to make all of his drinks.

I can’t tell you what Tujague’s specialty cocktail is because when we asked Paul Gastings, the bartender, he told us there were about 70. So, we told him to just mix up his favorites. I got a Rockin’ Rye Sazerac which he made with his own Rockin’ Rye whiskey and G got a switchel, which is actually a cocktail from the 1750′s. While the sazerac was a little strong for me, both drinks were awesome!

Here’s the one thing about Tujague’s. If you’re going to visit, and you must, you need to get there before 10 pm during the week because they close when they feel like it. It could be 9 or it could be 2 in the morning. Also, be prepared to get an earful. While Paul had several entertaining stories including how he threatened to break a guy’s fingers for snapping at him, I completely understand why Esquire called him “the crustiest bartender on earth“.

The Carousel Bar is the only bar G and I visited that’s located inside a hotel. Just like all the other bars in this list, the Carousel has been around for years. While it may be the newest bar of the group, it’s still over 60 years old. What makes the Carousel so special? It’s an actual carousel. That spins. It doesn’t go too fast, so you can still enjoy your cocktail without getting sick, but the bar does make a full rotation every 15 minutes. That said, the drinks are delicious and the carousel is well worth a look – it’s stunning.

The last vintage bar on my list is Napoleon House which has been around since 1812. Although the building was originally owned by Nicholas Girod, the mayor of New Orleans, the Impastato family took it over in 1914 and converted it to a grocery store. It became a cafe and bar right before Prohibition and has been that way ever since. While they offer every cocktail under the sun, they’re known for their Pimm’s Cup and Sazerac.

The trophy for best Sazerac.

As a matter of fact their sazerac is so amazing, it just won best Sazerac at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. And I can see why. After having several sazeracs from several different bars in the French Quarter, I can honestly tell you the one from Napoleon House was by far the best. It was sweet, delicious, and sooooooo smooth.

So, the next time I visit the French Quarter, I’m definitely going to take another ride on the Carousel, get a story or two from Paul over at Tujague’s and have at least one sazerac at Napoleon House. I’d recommend you do the same.