Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I made these blondies to bring into work today.  They caused my VP to exclaim "Caroline, you are ready to be married!" In her wonderfully French accent.  So I guess that means they're good??
Hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!
Ooey Gooey Caramel Pumpkin Blondies
*Recipe adapted from Lauren
For the Blondies-
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour (I subbed Cup4Cup gluten free flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling-
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 jar TJ's salted caramel sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9×13 pan with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs, vanilla and pumpkin until combined. Slowly incorporate remaining ingredients into batter. Scrape sides and mix again briefly to ensure a smooth batter. Spread about 2/3 batter into prepared pan evenly. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over top.
Pour melted caramel over chocolate. Spread around evenly with a butter knife or spoon. Place dollops of remaining batter overtop of the caramel layer. Spread those dollops out to try and get a smooth layer of batter over top. {It’s fine if some of the caramel layer is peeking through.}
Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden and toothpick comes out clean when inserted. {It might come out with a little caramel on it which is fine. You don’t want batter on the toothpick.}
Cool completely before serving. Or be prepared to get a whole lot of oozing caramel if you serve it warm.
*My blondies turned out more cake-like than your typical chewy blondie.  Let me know if you try this with regular flour and get a different result!
*Original recipe also called for chopped walnuts which I chose to leave out but "go nuts" and add if you so desire!

Vanilla witch cupcakes courtesy of my coworker!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wine Wednesdays - Book Club Edition

Book club took me to Brooklyn this week, to my friend Sarah's lovely Fort Green apartment, one of the lucky few with enough space to host a crowd!

The book was James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room.  

The wine was 2011 Weinhof Scheu Spatburgunder.  
Yea, I'd never heard of such a thing either!  It was a German Pinot Noir, from the Alsace region.  As my book club comrade described it, it was a "fairy wine" so light it was like it barely happened as it passed your lips.  But not in an unpleasant way.  Maeve brought the wine from Thirst wine shop, who suggested putting the wine in the fridge for a bit to chill before serving.  After some discussion of the book, we brought the wine out to pair with dessert.  The first sips proved to be overwhelmingly "jammy" with bold, ripe, black fruit, and definitely more off-dry and sweet compared to the typical US Pinot full of spice and tannins.  But after opening up for a few minutes, the wine quickly became a favorite.  Well structured and balanced, "fairy" light, and easy to drink.  The wine paired wonderfully with Sarah's coconut-almond cake, and my pumpkin caramel chocolates.  I'd love to try again with a fall inspired pork or beef dish. 

Our spread! 

Pumpkin caramel chocolate bark
And as to the book, I really enjoyed it! Baldwin's take on conflicting morality, expats, and homosexuality in the cafe society of 1950's Paris. A quick read, I would highly recommend it, and it made for a great discussion as well!

Wine:  2011 Weinhof Scheu Spatburgunder
Purchased:  Thirst Wine shop - Fort Green, Brooklyn
Price: $14.99
Would buy again: Yes!
**I'm having some trouble locating this wine online; so best to ask your local wine shop.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Boo - Pumpkin Carving for Grownups

My friend Karen invited us over for wine and pumpkin carving on Friday night.  As Halloween isn't my favorite, I'll admit, this was a great way to get in the spirit with my nod to the holiday.  

I honestly can't remember the last time I carved a pumpkin, but it was so much fun.  Especially when Karen's wonderful boyfriend scooped, cleaned, and carried the pumpkins up her 5 flights of stairs!  The wine was a grown-up bonus of this childhood pastime!

Don't leave this girl alone with a knife!
Our hosts doing the grunt work....something's wrong with this picture!
I went old school with a classic jack-o-lantern face, jazzed up a bit with cross-hatched teeth. 

Sharpie prep before....

And after....
Serious concentration
The big reveal!
And to finish it off, home made apple pie thanks to Amanda!
Not pictured, my contribution to the dessert table, these chocolate chip pumpkin cookies.  I didn't have almond butter so I subbed PB2, DO NOT ATTEMPT!  They were so liquid I had to make them into bars, and even then they could only be eaten right out of the freezer before they started to melt!  The taste was great, but not the prettiest!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wine Wednesdays

After a blissful 4 days in Cabo San Lucas (post to come), I jetted off to Santa Barbara to meet my mom and best family friends for a few days of California adventure.

While in Santa Barbara we explored the Santa Ynez wine growing region and the local wineries.  After doing some research, I found that there were 2 options for wine tasting in the area, the first being the Urban Wine Trail.  Located 1 block off the beach in downtown Santa Barbara, there are tasting rooms for over 15 wineries all located in a 6 block radius.  The second option is to travel about 45 minutes north of SB to Los Olivos, a 2 block junction with dozens of tasting rooms.  There are also a few actual vineyard/wineries just outside of town that are available for tasting as well.  

We sampled a bit of both!  One night before dinner we walked down to the "Funk Zone" to check out a few wineries on the Urban Wine Trail.  First stop was Municipal Winemakers, thanks to the recommendation of Samantha and her SB Black Book.  Such a cool space, unfortunately they didn't have any white wines to taste and although I've gotten Mom to branch out beyond chardonnay, reds are still not in her repertoire.  So we walked next door to Kunin and I'm so glad we did.  We did the classic white tasting and I really enjoyed everything we tasted.  My favorite was the 2009 Roussanne.  A varietal that I'm not the most familiar with, it had a rich and creamy mouth feel, but was well balanced, without any particular over-powering flavor.  The wine was made in 100% stainless steel allowing the natural aromatics of this varietal shine through.  It would be a perfect wine with charcuterie and cheese or a fish dish.  Unfortunately I'm having a hard time finding the wine for sale online, but we bought directly from the tasting room.   


The next day we took the drive up to Los Olivos and made a stop at Beckman Vineyards.  They were in the middle of processing the last of the Cab so we got to taste freshly picked grapes as well as the wine.  Reminded me of home and those early mornings on the Ranch where we would watch the crews pick grapes before school.  The wines weren't great, but the setting was nice and they have picnic tables if you wanted to bring your own food and enjoy some wine with a view. 

More highlights from Santa Barbara to come!

Wine:  2009 Kunin Roussanne
Purchased:  Kunin Tasting Room
Price: $24
Would buy again: Yes!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wine Wednesdays

Welp, I missed last week's Wine Wednesday, technical difficulties as I was in Cabo for a friend's birthday, cheating on wine with margs, oops, forgive me?
This rose was surprisingly delightful.  Enjoyed during what was probably the last of the warm summer nights we experienced in NYC last week. We picked up a bottle at Bottlerocket, one of my favorite wine shops in NYC and walked across the Brooklyn bridge, setting up a cocktail hour picnic as the sun set and the lights of the city came on.  Walking the Brooklyn bridge is one of my favorite things to do in the city, I highly recommend it to anyone visiting! Once it got too dark (and the wine ran out) we made our way over to Vinegar Hill House.  We sat outside in their adorable backyard and the food was excellent!

Now back to that rose, light, clean, refreshing and most importantly that perfect shade of pink, signaling a dry rose, none of that sweet syrupy stuff for me!  We paired it with fresh figs, manchego cheese and prosciutto for a perfect picnic.

Wine:  Jolie Folle 2012 Rose
Purchased:  Bottlerocket Wine and Spirits
Price: $16
Would buy again: Yes!
**Bonus - the wine comes in a full liter bottle vs. the standard 750ml = more for sharing! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wine Wednesdays

I recently had my first experience with the NY Jazz scene, something that's been on my bucket list ever since I first saw the SATC episode where Carrie dates "Ray" (anyone??). 
Last week I ventured north to 106th and Broadway to Smoke Jazz and Supper Club.  There are 2 dinner seatings on weeknights, and apparently a great jazz brunch on weekends.
We settled in for dinner and the show, and ordered a bottle of The Messenger Red Wine #1.  The wine was very drinkable, well-rounded as evident of the blend, with the mouth feel of a younger cab.  A slightly spicy end note paired perfectly with our BBQ meals.  Produced in Napa by Art+Farm Wine, sustainably farmed, and moderately priced.  All wins in my book.
And if you're looking for a fun night out in NYC, I highly recommend Smoke!

Wine:  Art+Farm Wine The Messenger Red Wine #1
Purchased:  Smoke Jazz and Supper Club
Price:  $18 retail
Would buy again:  Yes!


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