Tag Archives: Megan from Country Cleaver

BlogHer Food Conference 2013

If total sensory overload is the purpose of any good blogging conference, then BlogHer Food last weekend in Austin can be declared a raging success. In fact, I think it will probably take the next few weeks for me to totally absorb it all. My synopsis right now is that there was just SO MUCH to take in.

For now, I’ll just say that I met some truly fabulous people (both bloggers and sponsors), picked up great tips on food writing & photography, and basically had the time of my life. Hopefully, you will start to see some of that information reflected in future posts, but for now I’m going to focus on some of the events I attended. Here is but a fraction of last weekend’s activities.

Bites & Bloggers ATX Event at Whole Foods Market
sponsored by the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance & Whole Foods

Clockwise: Party on the rooftop terrace, Becker Vineyards wine tasting, Foreign & Domestic food sampling & Katie the Hill Country Cook

Clockwise: Party on the Whole Foods rooftop terrace, Becker Vineyards wine tasting, Foreign & Domestic food sampling & Katie the Hill Country Cook

The party on the roof at Whole Food’s flagship store was fun, blazing hot and super windy but the food provided by local chefs was fabulous and the people were warm & friendly. One stand-out was Becker Vineyards (including Richard Shelton, Assistant Winemaker & Enologist) who took the time to really speak to us about the wines and the science behind them. Do I remember all the chemistry mentioned? No, I do not. But I can tell you that Richard loves what he does and it shows in the wine. We sampled a Claret, Viognier, and rosy Provencal – all of which were spectacular.

For me, the best bite of the night went to the ladies from Foreign & Domestic (including chef & co-owner Jodi Elliott), who put together a creamy custard parfait topped with peaches, honey, thyme & a graham cracker crumble. So simple, yet rich and bursting with peach flavor. It was amazing.

Foreign & Domestic's Peach Parfait - I could have eaten the entire tray!

Foreign & Domestic’s Peach Parfait – I could have eaten the entire tray!

To see more great photos from this event, click here.

Between sessions on food writing, photography and social issues, I was fortunate enough to be invited to some truly special off-property events. The first of these was the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Dinner held at Springdale Farm in east Austin. Aside from being surprised to find such a large farm inside the city, I was stunned at the oasis they had created.

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Dinner at Springdale Farm
sponsored by USFRA, held at Springdale Farm, emceed by Chef Danny Boome

Springdale Farms in Austin, Texas - farm, produce stand & Eden East restaurant

Springdale Farms in Austin, Texas – farm tour provided by Glenn Foore, owner

As part of the event, we were treated to a tour of Springdale Farm as well as a dinner with local farmers and ranchers where we were given the opportunity to discuss issues around food sourcing, organic vs non-organic foods, and the importance of supporting local farms and ranches. Our group was fortunate to be paired with Jason Peeler, a cattle rancher from Floresville, Texas who attended with his lovely wife, Marianna. He raises cattle, she raises free-range chickens, and together they raise their children with a focus on quality over quantity. While our conversation became fairly spirited debating corn-fed vs grain-fed beef, Jason was open and honest and made the evening as informative as it was fun. Speaking of fun, our host chef Danny Boome was charming, despite struggling to pull off a Texas drawl with his British accent. A heartfelt thanks to our hosts and owners of Springdale Farm, Glenn & Paula Foore and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. It was a magical evening.

Clockwise - rustic place settings, rancher Jason Peeler & guest, host Danny Boome of the Food Network, and our lovely outdoor dining tables

Clockwise – rustic place settings, rancher Jason Peeler & guest, host Danny Boome of the Food Network, and our lovely outdoor dining tables

Private Dole Luncheon
sponsored by Dole Foods & hosted by Susan of Doughmesstic.com

Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon with Dole Foods hosted by Susan of Doughmesstic.com. A bus picked us up from the Hilton and whisked us away to a modern mansion in the hills overlooking Austin. The house and views were amazing, but the focus was on Dole’s line of fabulously fresh foods, which were served for lunch. The meal was anchored by last year’s Taste of Dole California Cook-Off contest winner – Island Pork Sliders (so moist & juicy). We were also treated to a cooking demo by Chef Ben Ford, who has again partnered with Dole for this year’s cook-off competition.

Lunch with Dole Foods, including a blind food challenge, food demonstration with Chef Ben Ford, and a fabulously fresh lunch from the Taste of Dole California Cook-Off

Lunch with Dole Foods, including a blind food challenge, food demonstration with Chef Ben Ford, and a fabulously fresh lunch from the Taste of Dole California Cook-Off

In a surprising twist, we were treated to a blind tasting of a date-topped appetizer and challenged to name as many ingredients as possible. The blogger who came closest to identifying all of the ingredients would be flown to California in late June to sit on the judges panel for this year’s Dole California Cook-Off. And the winner was…. Liz from The Lemon Bowl. Congratulations, Liz!

BlogHer Food 2013 Closing Party at Stubbs Bar-B-Q
hosted by The Pioneer Woman, Steamy Kitchen & Simply Recipes

Lastly, the conference was capped with a closing party at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Austin, hosted by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), Jaden Hair (Steamy Kitchen) and Elise Bauer (Simply Recipes). There was barbecue, live music, cold beer and dancing and despite the oppressive heat, a good time was had by all. It was a perfect end to an exhausting but exhilarating weekend.

The sun sets on the BlogHerFood'13 Closing party at Stubb's Bar-B-Q

The sun sets on the BlogHer Food’13 Closing party at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q

One last peek at the week’s excess: the swag. I’ve heard tales of bloggers coming home from conferences with bags full of freebies from vendors and sponsors, but I really had no idea. No baseline, so to speak. Now that I’ve seen it in action, I am stunned. Here is just a portion of what I received over the weekend.

Swag Aftermath – this is only two-thirds of what I received at BlogHerFood.

Swag Aftermath – this is only two-thirds of what I received at BlogHerFood.

And that’s part of what was left after I gave some away. The most surprising thing is it’s REALLY NICE STUFF! Kitchen utensils, glasses, cookbooks, you name it. There was so much food, I actually gave the valet guys at the hotel a bag of snacks when I checked out. I was one of the lucky ones who drove home. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to get all of this on an airplane. But I guess I’ll have to figure it out because I’ve got the bug now and really hope to attend BlogHerFood again next year, wherever it may be. I figure I’ve got one year to plan, scheme, save & beg… but I think I can do it. Who’s with me?!? One thing is for certain – I can always count on my homegirls!

Megan (Country Cleaver), Katie (Hill Country Cook) & Lauren (Grier Mountain) at the closing party

Megan (Country Cleaver), Katie (Hill Country Cook) & Lauren (Grier Mountain) at the BlogHer Food 2013 closing party

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OKMH – The Spring Edition

One Kitchen Many Hearts – a small, close-knit community of bloggers from all across the country sharing boxes of love, laughs and local goodies every other month. This month’s theme was Spring Fling, and my box came from Madelyn of La Petite Pancake from the southern regions of Cal-eye-FOR-nigh-aye. Here’s what she sent:

OKMH - April 2013 - Mmm, Candy

Leftover Easter candy for the win! I love coconut & chocolate, so Mads was definitely on a roll here. And the dark chocolate chili by Lindt is a favorite. Our friends Kaki & Donny introduced us to it with the recommendation that it pairs beautifully with red wine… which we just happen to have in the pantry. How convenient! It’s like she was reading my mind. Sometimes you feel like a nut.

OKMH - April 2013 - Flower Spatula

Y’all, it’s a flower spatula! As a lover of all things Kitchen Gadgety, this was awesome. It’s long enough to flip things on the grill. I can’t wait to make The Complete Package use it for burgers! We’ll have to see if he can channel his inner diva enough to take it outside where other male neighbors might see him. If not, it’s also perfect for pancakes and cookies. So springy!

OKMH - April 2013 - Manicure Goodies

Next up, Mitts & Paws – because nothing says “I’m ready to take off my flannel PJ’s and get outside” like a mani/pedi. I love this vibrant hot pink. And it came with foam spacers (for accident free piggies) and a sparkly glitter nail file. How spectacularly girly, Mads!

OKMH - April 2013 - Polish Close-Up

In case you’re curious, that shade is called Folly. If that doesn’t snap you out of your winter funk, I don’t know what will. Am I right, ladies? And when your mitts & paws are perfectly painted, it’s time for this:

OKMH - April 2013 - Olive Body Butter

After a few months of running the heater in Houston, my skin is crying “yessss!” Madelyn says she hoards this body butter and now I know why. Haven’t tried it yet? You need to. Your hands will thank you. Your shins will thank you. Your crusty elbows will thank you. Your significant other will thank you.

Lastly, Mads included something that said in the most gentle of ways “You’ve scarred me for life.” It made me laugh out loud (the items, not the scarring).

OKMH - April 2013 - Mads' Mouse Supplies

It’s a bag of leftover craft supplies from The Mouse Project when my OKMH buddies crafted 50 felt mice to celebrate my 50th birthday. It was a hoot for me because it was based on my felt mouse tutorial, but mildly traumatic for those who, in their own words, were not born to craft. To see their glorious creations, you can click here. It was Madelyn’s note that made me laugh out loud.

OKMH - April 2013 - Mads' Craft Memo

Those feathers! They are too much. And the glittery sunglasses – so fun! Yes, Mads. I will put it all to good use. There’s no telling whose OKMH box they may make it into next. So many potential victims, so little time.

OKMH Collage 2013

Speaking of victims, my April Spring Fling box went to Kat at Tenaciously Yours. To see what I sent, CLICK HERE. To be honest, I love getting these boxes but I love giving them even more. I think most if not all of the girls in our group feel the same way. We have so much fun collecting the perfect items to send in each box, hoarding cute things like squirrels until it’s time to ship. Or canning homemade goodies. Or tackling handmade crafts. There’s so much squee-ing.

Lots of love goes into every box. To see the rest of this month’s boxes, visit:

Rebeka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic
Megan @ Wanna Be A Country Cleaver
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World

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Flourless Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Biscoff Cookies {that’s a mouthful!}

Peanut Butter Cocoa & Biscoff Cookies - Inside NanaBread's Head

Try saying that three times fast. It’s a mouthful of title, but it’s also a mouthful of cookie. I thought about naming them “Pantry Cleaner Cookies” because that’s what I was doing when I thought of these. I found a half-empty jar of peanut butter and half a jar of Biscoff. Could they be combined? Is that legal? After a quick tweet to my Biscoff guru Megan, I decided to go for it. And if you’re going to combine peanut butter with Biscoff, why not throw in some dark chocolate because that’s how my mind works. And because more is… MORE!

For these cookies you will need:
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cups Biscoff cookie butter
1 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1 package (5 ozs.) vanilla instant pudding mix
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

The vanilla pudding mix may seem odd, but my friend Beka put it in her peanut butter cookies for Sweets Week and they looked amazing, so I went for it. Using the paddle attachment (if you have a stand mixer), combine the peanut butter, cookie butter, brown sugar, dry pudding mix, eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated. Stop and scrape down the bowl, then turn the mixer to medium high and beat for 5 minutes more, or until the brown sugar is no longer gritty.

Stop the mixer; add the cocoa, baking soda & salt. Beat until all dry ingredients are thoroughly blended. Stop the mixer and check your cookie batter. It may seem a little dry, but should hold together when you pinch it into a ball.

Remove the beater and pour the dough out onto your work surface. I dumped mine onto a sheet of waxed paper, forming a line of dough about 18″ long. Using your hands, smash the cookie dough into an even log and wrap it in the waxed paper. Secure each end by twisting; you can secure it with a chip clip or rubber band. Once wrapped, roll the cookie dough log as if it’s a rolling-pin, making sure the entire roll is uniform in circumference. Pop the roll of cookie dough into the fridge for 1 hour or freezer for 30 minutes to make it easier to slice.

Once chilled, remove from the fridge or freezer and pre-heat your oven to 350F. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll of dough into 1/2″ slices. Note: I like my cookies thick and chewy. If you like yours thin & crispy, slice them thinner. If you intend to glaze yours like I did, leave them in smooth slices. If you’d like to skip the glaze and eat them plain, you can use a fork to make traditional hash marks on the top of each cookie. To glaze or not to glaze? That is the question.

PBCB Cookies - Slice & Bake - Inside NanaBread's Head

Lining your cookie sheets with parchment or Silpat mats; place cookies 1″ apart. Pop them into the oven while the dough is still very cold and bake for 10-14 minutes depending on how crispy you want them to be. As I said, I like mine thick & chewy, so I baked each batch for 12 minutes. They were still soft in the center and just beginning to crack around the edges like so. If you like them thin & crispy, watch them starting at 10 minutes, and check often so they don’t burn.

PBCB Cookies - Baked to a Crackle - Inside NanaBread's Head

Can I just take a minute to say that one of my favorite things about baking cookies is when I have them all out on the counter, in all stages of ‘in progress’. There’s something about seeing them out there, with all the steps visible, that makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

PBCB Cookies - Cookie Station - Inside NanaBread's Head

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheets for at least 5-10 minutes before moving them onto sheets of parchment to cool completely. Because these are flourless, they are more fragile when warm. Move them too soon, and they may crumble. Now – glaze or no glaze? I vote glaze!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Glaze:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate syrup
2-3 tablespoons milk

Place the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high power for 30 seconds to soften it. Sift in the powdered sugar and whisk until incorporated; add the chocolate syrup and whisk until smooth. If it gets too thick too quickly, pop it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds. At this point, it will be too thick to pipe, so add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until the mixture is glossy and the texture of a thick caramel sauce.

I like to put a quart freezer bag into a drinking glass (folding the top over the edge of the glass) and scrape the glaze into the bag using a spatula. To glaze the cookies, press the air out of the bag and twist the bag to press the glaze into one corner. Snip the tip off the corner and pipe immediately onto the cookies.

PBCB Cookies - Inside NanaBread's Head

I push mine close together and use a straight line motion, moving back & forth over each row. But if you’re feeling frisky, you can always:

PBCB Cookies - Swirled Glaze - Inside NanaBread's Head

Allow them to sit for 1-2 hours, until the glaze is firm to the touch. Store in airtight containers. Kept in the fridge, they should last up to 2 weeks; un-refrigerated, they should be good for 5-6 days (if they last that long). If you’ve got a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, these will be all kinds of dangerous.

PBCB Cookies - Finished - Inside NanaBread's Head

PS: These are for our annual ‘ladies only’ spring fling weekend, Hoegarden. I’ll get back to you next week and let you know how these went over, if I survive it. Want to find out more? Click on ‘Hoegarden Weekends’ on the right sidebar under Tidbits You Can Choose From. We are THAT family. No apologies. None.

PPS: If peanut butter is a no-no in your house due to allergies, you might try swapping Sun Butter for peanut butter. My friend Kisten does it often, and she swears by it. And I would give Kirsten a kidney, so if I can trust her so can you.

PPSS: I don’t really have a third one; I just wondered if you’d keep reading. :D

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The Mouse Project

You guys… I thought the 50th birthday shenanigans ended on Thursday when my blogging besties threw me a virtual birthday party, but no. They upped the ante with what has been known on Twitter as #TMPWatch2013. When it first popped up in my Twitter feed, I admit – I ignored it. I have goofy friends and there’s always some kind of ‘watch of the week’ going on. But when they started mentioning crafts, injuries, cat-tastrophes and swearing, it got my attention. Eventually, I wailed “I WANT IN!” Bet that got a laugh.

Kat stepped up and explained that it was a craft project. A “stitch & bitch” of sorts. She even produced a photo of an apron she was working on. There was embroidery of cilantro. (Yes, cilantro.) But she was a deceiver because that apron was distraction bait. They were scheming behind my back. My suspicions were confirmed when six boxes arrived, all with the same taunt written across the outside – “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL ALL PACKAGES ARRIVE”.

Three days I waited. There was a lot of tweeting back & forth. I kept saying “I can’t stand it!” and they kept saying “Don’t you dare touch them until they’re all there!” When the final box arrived last night, it was on like Donkey Kong. I did my best to live tweet as each box was opened, but I couldn’t help but wish they were all perched in my living room drinking margaritas with me.

Side Note: Now I know why my Felt Mouse Tutorial got so many hits last month.

Here’s a photo line-up of The Mouse Project. I still can’t stopped laughing.

Collage - Kirsten
So many wonderful things in Kirsten’s box. The mice are hilarious. Old MouseDonald comes with a pig that oinks (and the eyes light up). The Ranger Mouse was a joint project with her oldest son. He sent a book to go along with it. There’s Laverne & Squirrely, a travel mouse, a pie baker, Jeanne Cash (dressed in black & an inside joke with TCP), and an adorable garden gnome mouse complete with shears. Bonus swag: Danish chocolate & girly bling. Hey, Kirsten… I think this birthday brought both Freaked Out and peeing my pants a little.

Collage - Allison
Allison’s mice are a perfect blend of sweet, touching and hilarious. Examples:
Duchess Emouska – who look a little like Cruella DeVille; she rocks zebra print
Mousy Gras – raise your hand if you know how she got all those beads
Dr. Pellet – the mousetroenterologist reminding us to help prevent colon cancer
Havarti Marti – she’s here for the party; we’re gonna get along fine

Allison always keeps me in stitches. Even her card made me laugh out loud.

Collage - Carrie
I don’t know who to feel sorrier for – Carrie or her Vlad the Impaler mouse. She had the week from hell and yet still made time to make these mice. There’s a lady mouse in pearls, a gentleman mouse in a bowtie, Little Willie who sings Texas classics on his guitar, and the mouse that was obviously the last straw. Yes – those are real sewing needles protruding from his body, and yes – she shipped it that way. I’d love to know what her post office thought. Not just for the voodoo-like use of needles, but for the toddler meltdown that went with shipping it. Despite it all, her mice are testimony to her perseverance. Thank you for hanging in there, Carrie. I am completely charmed.

Collage - Megan
Sweet Megan. She writes the blog Country Cleaver. In her blog archives, you’ll find the story about how she chose the name for her blog. It involved a photo shoot in which she did her best June Cleaver impersonation. She channeled her Country Cleaver persona into this sweet little mouse, complete with a stylish apron and pearls. I’m guessing she loves Nutella and salmon, although not at the same time. I’m also pretty sure she’s addicted to Downton Abbey and all things Royal. Her dream man can wield an ax and wear flannel like a boss. She’s lovely and has her act together, just like Megan.

Collage - Monica
Meet Leilani. She is the Spirit of Aloha, and she traveled the furthest to be here. She is sporting the latest in swimwear from the great state of Hawaii and bears the traditional greeting of a lei. This cutie is the creation of Monica, the Grommom, who shares her life homeschooling four adorable surfer dudes (groms) without seeming to rub our noses in the fact that she lives in paradise. Her tropical flair brings sunshine into our lives and her iPhone shots of sunsets and beaches inspire us. Monica is a doll, and so is her sweet mouse.

Collage - Beka
Beka of Kvetchin’ Kitchen is many things – smart, funny, strong – but I had no idea she was a crafter. She is responsible for most uses of the hashtag #AllTheSwears on Twitter while #TMP2013 was being chatted about. Girlfriend has hidden talents, and felt mice is one of them. Who knew? Beka made five mice, but one got ripped to shreds by her cats. Such a shame. We could have created a killer Walking Dead diorama for him. But let’s celebrate the survivors – a mustached gentleman with an engagement ring at the ready, a sweetie holding a pink rose who I suspect is about to say “Yes!”, a Mouscasso portrait (very creative) and The Birthday Queen, complete with royal crown & scepter.

Collage - Katie
I think it takes a fellow Texan to understand why a tie-dyed “Keep Austin Weird” mouse named Leslie would make me furiously happy, and Katie from The Hill Country Cook is just that Texan. Her mice are so reflective of her personality – fun & fabulous. There is a polka dot “Surprise!” mouse, a little sweetie hugging a birthday candle, and a trademarked Peace, Love & Baking mouse. Those symbols on the bottom of the blue mouse are a peace sign, a heart and a whisk. Peace, Love & Baking is how Katie ends each blog post, so it’s only fitting that one of her mice bears her emblem. Also stashed in Katie’s box – a mylar birthday banner & a party horn. Party on, Katie!

Collage - Madeline
I think it’s safe to say that Madeline surprised us all. We had no idea she was a closet crafter. Check out her mice. There is a sweet gray mouse in an apron with buttons, a daring hot pink lady bringing the bling, a sweetheart of a purple mouse embellished with red heart buttons (five hearts representing the fact that we both come from families with five girls), and the most adorable little aviator mouse complete with flight wings and a tiny toy airplane. Wow. Just wow.

Collage - Kat
Of course Kat, our resident fashionista, would go full-on glamorpuss. She created not one but SIX fearless females she calls the “Cougar Cocktail Conga Mice”. Here it is in Kat’s own words: “They’re all named Tammy. Naturally, they’ll paint your nails, tease your hair and cover you in rhinestones. It’s just how they operate.” Only Kat would send All The Tammys. It’s like ZsaZsa Gabor had a box of mice babies, and they are priceless! All is forgiven for the great Cilantro Apron Deception, Kat. All is forgiven. PS – they came with hooch!

Collage - Mads
Next up was Mads’ two mouse besties – Mildred & Sophie. They’re the Thelma & Louise of mice. Mildred just turned 50, and just like me she likes to stir up mischief and enjoys a good Bloody Mary. Her BFF Sophie is more inclined to pink fruity cocktails and riding in convertibles. Together, they are unstoppable and despite a few incidents involving glue they still look marvelous. Must be all that sunshine and beautiful weather on the California coast. Real Mousewives?

Collage - Anne
Anne of From My Sweet Heart blog is known for her beautiful desserts. Each of her sweet creations is a masterpiece and each will have you licking your computer screen. It should be no surprise then that she would channel that same artistic ability into felt mice, but we were still surprised. Just look at her beautiful works of art – there is a sweet berry-laden Flour Power mouse, a pie maker wielding a spatula, a cookie baker complete with cookie jar and slotted spatula, a rolling pin baker who loves her job, a sweet pink donut mouse (a girl after my own heart), a hot pink party mouse, and a sweet cotton candy confection that is as sweet as her treat. From My Sweet Heart in mouse form. Bravo, Anne. Bravo!

So much love. So much fun. So much anticipation followed by so much squeeing. And so many back stories – both for the mice and for all the secrecy, the glue gun & sewing needle injuries, and the swearing. Apparently there was a LOT of swearing. Beka’s two cats even brought violence and drama to the mix. RIP Unknown Soldier. You will not be forgotten.

To all the ladies who helped make my 50th birthday one for the record books, thank you a MILLION times over. Words can’t express not only how much I feel loved, but how much I love each of them in return. Some day we’ll all get together, and when we do it will look like one of those rugby tussles where all the sweaty men tackle each other and roll around on the ground. Except that we’ll be laughing instead of sweating. Everyone knows women don’t sweat – they mist.

PS – Special thanks to Kirsten, whom I suspect was the ringleader in all of this, but who is too modest to take the credit. Blame. No, credit. It was ALL amazing. I never saw any of this coming, so either she is a Super Sneak, or I am a mullet. Please refrain from voting out loud. Thank you.

PPS – I have no idea how I’m going to display all these mice, but rest assured that they will not be hidden away and forgotten. If I have to ask The Complete Package build a wall of shelves in my sewing room, so be it. (Right, honey? Right pookie bear? Right snoogie oogums? Right sugar booger? Honey? Hello?)

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It’s Beer Week! Wait… what?!?

You heard me… Beer Week. And I’m not a beer drinker. There, I said it. It feels good to put it out there from the very beginning. My name is NanaBread and I am not a beer drinker. I never really have been, except for this one time in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the very early 80’s when I drank half-frozen slushy beer loaded with green olives. And it was delicious. If you’re not a drinker, stay with me. There’s a cake later in this post. I promise.

When Beer Week was proposed by my blogging friends and I was intimidated. But then I made beer bread and saw a few chocolate stout cakes on Pinterest, so after some research I embraced our Beer Week with open arms. In fact, I embraced it so well I ordered and drank two beer samplers on vacation in Vancouver. Here’s what I tried (for the team, of course):

The Sampler at Granville Island Brewing Co., Vancouver

Yeah. Doesn’t look like something a non-beer drinker would order, does it? For this one, The Complete Package helped out. It was a good plan – he enjoyed the boring flavors (pale ale, lager) and I enjoyed sampling the more exotic flavors (raspberry, honey, maple cream). Check this out:

The laminated Tasting Map was the best coaster ever & so informative!

What I liked best about this Granville Island Brewing sampler was that their flavored beers were gently flavored. Raspberry beer can be obnoxious, but this one was gently kissed with raspberry flavor. And it was lovely. My favorite was the maple cream ale. Second favorite was the one placed in the “Limited Release” section of the tasting mat – Ginger. Mmmm… ginger. And third place goes to the honey lager. Hard to describe, but so very easy to drink.

Next up (and several days later, I promise) was the Irish sampler from Mahony & Sons at Canada Place in Vancouver. The Complete Package abandoned me and ordered his own beer, so I was on my own for this sampler. I did what any team player would do – I cracked my knuckles and rolled my head to loosen up my shoulders and dug in. “We can do this!” It’s our family motto. TCP’s beer:

He wanted something light to go with salmon. Tsk.

Compared to his, mine looks like a Party on a Plank. This one included four Irish classics – 6 ounces each of Smithwick’s, Harp, Kilkenny and Guinness.

Slainte! (SLAHN-chə) – that’s Old Irish for ‘good health’ or something like that

I started with the pale lager and worked my way up to the Guinness.

Light & refreshing, but still a lager. Meh.

Then the Kilkenny Irish Red Cream Ale.

Oooo… I liked this one a lot; so I set it aside so I could savor it later.

Third – the Smithwick’s.

Smithwick’s Irish Ale – it was just okay; sorry, Smithwick.

And lastly, the Guinness. It’s so dark it looks like iced coffee.

Gorgeous, if a beer can be called that; who can resist that foam?

And that leads us to Beer Week. I chose the Guinness and I paired it with dark chocolate, then smothered it in a Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream. Sounds pretty good, don’t you think? Want a sneak peek? Here ya’ go.

Dark Chocolate Stout Cake with Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream

Here’s how I made the dark chocolate stout cake:
(adapted from The Realistic Nutritionist‘s bundt cake)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces applesauce
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup Guinness stout
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment or a silpat mat, then spray with Pam for Baking or grease & flour liberally; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to combine. Add the softened butter, applesauce, eggs, vanilla extract and Guinness and beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Stop the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into the jellyroll pan and spread evenly to all edges and corners. Tap gently on the counter, then pop it into the oven. Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick just comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely.

For the Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup thick dulce de leche caramel
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Kahlua (or espresso, cooled)

In a saucepan, combine the whipping cream, espresso powder and caramel; arm over low heat, whisking until the caramel is melted and thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool; refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I put mine in my KitchenAid mixer bowl and placed the whole thing in the fridge so the bowl & cream were both cold). Once properly chilled, place the bowl onto the mixer and whip until soft peaks start to form. Add the sugar and Kahlua and continue to beat until it begins to thicken. In my case, stiff peaks did not form and that’s okay. It’s all going to be layered with cake in a minute.

To assemble:

1. Start with the cake (this is where parchment/silpat mats come in handy).

Baking it in a jelly roll pan makes the cake layers about 1/2″ thick.

2. Use a round metal biscuit cutter to cut the cake into circles. How big should your circles be? That depends on what you’re building your layers in. Measure your jar or glass to determine which size cutter or can to use, then cut the cake into circles. One jellyroll pan yielded 30 cake circles for me.

A metal biscuit cutter makes quick work of cutting the layers.

3. To pipe the whipped cream, I like to spoon mine into a ziploc-style plastic bag. It helps to put that bag into a glass and fold the top edge of the bag over the glass. Once the bag is full, pull it out of the glass, press out the excess air and zip it shut.

My favorite piping tool – a plastic bag; makes for easy clean up, too.

4. Using a pair of scissors, snip the corner off the bag just before you start piping whipped cream. I like to keep a small but deep mixing bowl nearby so I can set the bag down without it falling over and spilling out.

Snip the corner and start piping; when you’re done, throw it away.

5. Start by placing a cake round in the bottom of your jar or glass; top with a 1/2″ layer of whipped cream, then continue to rotate cake and cream layers.

Start with cake & work your way up to within 3/4″ of the top.

6. Finish with a nice swirl of the whipped cream.

A layer of the whipped cream goes on top.

Then a nice spoonful of caramel goes on top of the cream.

Then sprinkle with cake crumbs. Nothing goes to waste.

6. If you’re using serving glasses, cover them with plastic wrap and keep them refrigerated until just before serving. If you’re using canning jars, place a lid and ring on the top and tighten gently. Then feel free to decorate any way you see fit. I went with burlap and ribbon, and I was happy with the way they turned out.

That’s burlap held with a rubber band; rustic yet decorative.

Finish with a pretty brown satin ribbon & suddenly it’s fancy.

And that is my version of Dark Chocolate Stout Cake with Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream. My favorite thing about this dessert is… everything. I love how they look layered in jars. I love that the jars make them portable. I love that these were even better the next day, which means you can make them in advance and have more free time to entertain. It also means the leftovers (if any) will keep getting better and better until they’re gone.

Oh, yeah…there’s the money shot. Someone pass me a spoon.

Trust me, these go fast and they go down smooth – even if you’re not a beer drinker. If you are, then these are just the thing, lassie. Cures what ales ya’.

Now who’s ready for another round?
Visit these Beer Week bloggers throughout the week to see what they’re up to:

Monday:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – introduces us to a local Michigan home brewer turning passion into a business in her “Welcome to Beer Week” intro

Tuesday:
Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – shares her thoughts on Beer Week as well as a recipe for Pumpkin Beer Bread – just in time for fall
and
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – shares an overview of Gasthof’s Oktoberfest where young & old come together to celebrate what else but BEER!

Wednesday:
Anne at From My Sweet Heart – turns beer into Pumpkin Ale Pretzel Caramels; what sweet magic is this?
and
Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – tries to steal The Complete Package from me with her Pale Ale Shrimp Po’Boy; it’s one of his all-time favorites

Thursday:
Megan at Country Cleaver – celebrates her heritage and Octoberfest in style with one of my favorites – Schnitzel & Dumplings
and
Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – joins in the fun with her review of the Outlander Brewery.

Friday:
Mads at La Petite Pancake – creates a fiesta for your mouth with her luscious Beer Battered Shrimp Tacos
and
Allison at Decadent Philistines – takes Four Peaks Brewery Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale to new levels with a spicy German mustard, ale-soaked sweet potato oven fries and Maple-Ale Ice Cream; some people are just overachievers.

Saturday:
Katie The Hill Country Cook – visits the Double Horn Brewery outside Marble Falls, Texas to take in $2 pints & Happy Hour Apps
and
Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic – is back with Black & Tan Brownies
and
Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – thinks outside the box with hard cider and a fabulous Woodchuck Sweet Potato Bisque; this is why I love fall.

I’ll be your mouth is watering now, isn’t it? I’ll be updating the links above throughout the week, so stay tuned. Beer Week may just prove to be our greatest endeavor to date. Cheers!

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