Bacon and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Have you ever had a cookie that had bourbon and bacon included in the recipe?

From the two hotels I’ve worked in, both pastry departments had cookies made fresh from scratch daily. Every few days when the pastry chefs would swap out the old cookies for new, they would give the leftovers to the employees in the cafeteria. I would look forward to this day once a week. If i had a craving and I couldn’t wait another day I would occasionally sneak into the pastry shop and ask the chef if I could steal one. Of the 3 varieties they produced, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin, my favorite was always the oatmeal raisin.

Waking up one morning I had a craving for an oatmeal raisin cookie. The only problem was I had the day off so I wasn’t able to go to the pastry shop and steal one. I figured it’s time to make my own batch. After looking up a couple of recipes and seeing all the same repeating ingredients that I’m guessing were all taken from the Quaker oats tube, I decided to take the original recipe and make it better. Thinking to myself and talking to my boyfriend Brandon, I decided to add bacon, soak the raisins in bourbon, and toast the oats. After making the batter I did a test cookie just to make sure my extra addition of fat didn’t mess up the ratio of all other ingredients. The only thing I needed to adjust was the cooking time and add in more cinnamon. Everything else turned out correctly. The final result was a cookie with crispy edges and a soft center, the way all cookies should be.

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Ingredients:

-1 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature

-1 Cup Brown sugar, packed

-1/3 Cup Granulated sugar

-2 Each egg’s

-1 Teaspoon vanilla

-1 ½ Cup All purpose flour

-1 Teaspoon Baking soda

-1 Teaspoon Salt

-3 Tablespoons Cinnamon, ground

-3 Cups Oats, toasted

-1 Cup raisins, soaked in Bourbon (optional)

-4 Strips of smoked bacon, cooked, chopped up

Method of Prep:

1.)    Heat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

2.)    In a medium bowl, beat together butter and both sugars until creamy, about 3 minutes.

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3.)    Add in eggs while still beating.

4.)    Add in vanilla and bacon bits.

In a Separate bowl:

1.)    Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

5.)    Add dry ingredients slowly into wet ingredient beating medium speed.

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6.)    Stir in oats and raisins. (Make sure raisins are drained of the soaking liquid)

7.)    Using a medium scoop, line cookies on a sheet tray about 2 inches apart and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. (The time may vary depending on your oven) check after 5 minutes and rotate the tray.

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8.)    Let cool for 5 minutes and then transport to a cooling rack.

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If you don’t like raisins you can substitute cranberries or dried cherries. This recipe also works well if you wanted to add in nuts or chocolate chips.  If you don’t have butter available you can use shortening. I prefer butter as it gives a creamier cookie.

Enjoy!

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Vanilla Extract

 

If your one of the people who bakes often, vanilla extract is probably a staple in your kitchen. I used to fly through the little $3-5 bottles from Publix from how often I was using it.  Working in a kitchen, you pick up on little tips and tricks with through cooking and baking with the use of recipes. One trick that I learned was vanilla extract is super simple to make from home! It only uses 2 ingredients and takes 1 month! I prefer it to the store brought because I get a lot more yield and find it cost efficient.

Now that fall is here, everyone should be at least baking pies. If your going to be spending some time baking this fall, I recommend you start a batch of your own vanilla extract asap so it will be ready for you next month!   If you’re having trouble finding inexpensive vanilla beans you can find them online at top vanilla.

 

Ingredients:

-1 bottle of Vodka. The type doesn’t matter, cheap vodka is best to use. (For this recipe I used Skyy vodka.)

-4 EA vanilla beans split open and seeds scraped. (For a stronger flavor use up to 16 vanilla beans)

-1 empty glass bottle or jar of your choice to store the liquid in. (I found a $3 olive oil bottle from Marshalls that works well.)

 

Method of prep:

-Split open each of the vanilla beans and scrape the insides into the container you are going to use. Add vanilla beans into container.

-Pour bottle of vodka into jar up to the top. Put the lid back on and place in a cool dark spot.

-Every other day, shake the bottle around to get the vanilla moving.

-Let sit for up to 4 weeks before using or until the color is dark.

-You can remove the vanilla beans at the end or leave them in. I will keep my beans in and eventually incorporate them into cooking which is a good way to utilize the product before throwing it away.

Enjoy!

**Note: Your extract will begin to darken in color the longer it sits.

Agua Fresca

Agua Fresca

One good thing about working in kitchens is the amount of diversity you come across with your co-workers. It is typical that in most kitchens there is someone of mexican discent working. since working at the Greenbrier, I have worked with many passionate and food driven chefs and I have never worked anywhere else where I have seen so much creativity. One of the chefs in our kitchen is crazy about making this fruit drink just about every day for our family meal. I finally went up to Armando and asked him what the deal is with him making these delicious and refreshing drinks. He told me that this melon water or Agua Fresca is a very popular drink in Mexico. Traditionally when they drink water they add any fruit of choice preferably watermelon  for a delicious flavor. I did some research on this tradition and according to the Hawaiidiner.com, this beverage literally translated as “fresh water” is a drink made from what ever fruit is in season and usually has a sweetener such as sugar added to it. You will find these drinks all over Mexico on the street or in restaurants and the distinct fruitiness balances very well amongst Mexican cuisine. This beverage can also be see in the Philippines.
I watched Armando prepared this tasty beverage one day and asked if it was okay to copy the recipe and add it to my blog.  You can use any fruit you like, we prefer to use compressed melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. We compressed them due to the fruit we received this year not being as sweet as it should be therefore compressing it in simple syrup added great sweetness to it.

To make you:
-Add into a blender or vita prep any kind of fruit cut into small chunks up to the top. For this recipe we used all three melons as mentioned above.
-Add in 1 cup lemon juice
-Add 4 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, cooked down)
-Add in small handful mint leaves (optional)
-Blend together
-Strain though a fine mesh strainer or chinoise
-Serve over ice and enjoy.

You can also add in berries if preferred for additional flavors. This is a very delicious and light refreshing beverage. Goes wonderful with hot/spicy foods, and great to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Pictured above is an example of how to start the beverage with adding everything into the blender prior to blending.

Sweet Columbus

When my boyfriend and I were in Columbus, OH back in November a Chef we worked with at The Greenbrier had told us of a few good places to check out while we were there. After catching a live Bluejackets hockey game we had a few hours to spare before heading back to West Virginia. We decided to check out the food scene. There are a multitude of breweries (which I had no idea Columbus had), a quaint little German town, and a ton of other good restaurants and food locales. Brandon and I were told to check out Pistacia Vera, a dessert boutique in historic German Village for some really outstanding macaroons. I’ve never been much of a macaroon fan until I had the privilege of tasting theirs. Their signature item is Macaroon sandwich cookies with either butter cream or ganache filling. These were the freshest, softest, most flavorful cookies I have ever tasted. Flavors included: maple walnut, passion fruit, orange cranberry, pistachio, nutella, mocha, and vanilla bean. Depending on the season they do have other flavors. The flavors of each cookie just exploded in my mouth and blew my taste buds away. I think about these cookies everyday they are that good. Their menu also includes tortes, tarts, pastries, cookies, preserves, and pate de fruits having over 60 seasonal confections and pastries. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend you check it out. All desserts are made from scratch, fresh daily and they have many gluten free, dairy and vegan free products. For a Menu or more information on background of the cafe go www.pistaciavera.com

In the Picture to the left is fresh from scratch a pistachio orange fig dacquoise (Gluten free) and to the right is a Passion fruit Chambord flourless cake (Gluten free & nut free).

Most of everyone has heard of Jeni’s Ice cream and if you haven’t I suggest you do some research to locate the nearest one and go check it out. I’ve heard nothing but good things from everyone who has gone there. I decided its my turn to see what its all about. I am a home cook myself just as she was and making ice creams is one of my favorite things to do when I have the time and money. I bought her book with hopes that I would find good recipes and easy techniques on how to make ice cream better than the store . Upon reading her book and testing out a few recipes I’ve become very happy with each result. If your looking for good quality of texture and consistency I would stop by a jeni’s Ice cream nearest you. My favorite flavor of the batch would have to be the salty caramel. Perfect sweet to salty ratio. Her recipes are made specifically for at home making and are easy to follow. I bought the book and continue to use it every time I make ice cream. If you are unable get to a Jenis location, she does sell her products online for you to buy. Check out her website at http://jenisicecreams.com/ for product information and other goods.

Drunken Cheese

The fun part of working in an Italian restaurant is the use of as much authentic Italian food as possible. One of the garde manager menu items, that is common on most menus is a cheese plate. There are many varieties of cheese in the world as I’m sure most of us know, and it seems every time I’m around a cheese cooler in the store I’m finding another cheese I’ve never seen or eaten before. I was introduced to a wonderful Italian cheese the other day called Ubriacone cheese. It is translated in Italian to “drunken”. When I first picked up the cheese I was curious because the color was a pale yellowish gold and it almost looked like Parmesan Reggiano by the texture. I was confused by a cause of a dark purple rind that smelled like wine. I took a bite and sure enough the first thing that came to my mind was this would go excellent with a glass of Pinot Noir. Ubriacone (Ubriaco) is from the province of Treviso in Italy and made from raw cows milk. This young cheese is soaked in local wine, both red and white then covered with crushed grape skins, seeds or stems left after from the wine making process (wine must) and then allowed to mature for six to ten months. The cheese is then pierced with tiny holes to let the flavor and aroma of the wine permeate the cheese. As mentioned above it is covered with grape leaves to keep mold from entering the holes of the cheese. Ubriacone has a hint of pineapple and a slight nutty taste. The texture is firm and slightly crumbly similar to Parmesan. If you are a wine lover like myself, this cheese would pair well with medium bodied wines and sweet or sparkling wines such as Prosecco. You can buy this cheese online at http://www.dibruno.com for $12.99 / 8oz.