Vegan in Oxford

Waaaaay back in March (it feels SO long ago – we’re due for another vacay), when Kyle and I were visiting a friend studying at Oxford University, we visited a quaint little pub.

A vegetarian/vegan pub that our friend claimed has the best vegan burgers – and he isn’t even vegan! After the first taste of my vegan burger smothered in a chutney over a thick bed of fries, I had to agree. I was hooked!

The Gardeners’ Arms has old record covers lining the walls, a cozy fireplace, old tables with armchairs as well as bar stools and there’s a little outside brick area to have a beer – eclectic and awesome. People trickled in and out. I think there was even a couple on their first date the next table over. TGA was the type of place where I could see myself becoming a regular Friday night patron. That’s a hell of a commute, though.

Oh!

Here are some more random photos from Oxford! =)


The tree in New College where they filmed the “ferret” scene from Harry Potter!


A candle for Uncle Jeff in Christ Church Chapel.


The Divinity School inside the Bodleian Library, the oldest library in the world. They also filmed all of the infirmary scenes from Harry Potter here.

Oh Oxford, how I miss thee. I hope to visit again someday!

Happy Wednesday!

Pierogies with a side of Cupcake

I’m a bad blogger.  Don’t hate me.  I would cry.

Its hard to make myself leave the house early in the morning to do that gym thing before work.  Its too cold.  I’ve been going after work instead.  It works for me, I’m happier in my nice warm bed for longer periods of time in the morning.  Unfortunately it leaves no time for me to tote my computer over to Starbucks or the B&N to abuse the free interwebz.  My weekends have been crammed with events, making me dizzy just trying to keep up.

I have created.  I have measured, mixed, whipped and baked.  I have rolled, stuffed and boiled.  I have made two fantastic creations.  Homemade pierogies with my Polish side of the family’s recipe and guinness cupcakes topped with a whiskey whipped cream cheese frosting.  Deeeee-lish!

Holy Cupcakes, Batman!

Starting with those cupcakes:  my sister in law turned 30 this year!  She’s so pretty, I love her!

What? You don't like the way we dress??

I made her these cupcakes.  These super-rich chocolate ones.  She wanted me to make something crazy and weird because, well, she knows I love to do that.  She helped me frost them.  Isn’t that swell?  I thought so too, seeing that there were 69 of those mini suckers to frost.  I returned the favor by painting her face on for her costume.  Did I mention these cupcakes were for her birthday party/first annual Halloween bash??  Oh it was a blast.  Oh was there food.

Even more food showed up after this picture was taken..

The sweet side.. including my sis-in-law's awesome rice krispie treat "caramel apple" creations!

Oh did I get a stomach-ache!  Totally worth it though.  (Not shown: the beer dip that created the stomach-ache.  Eaten with pretzels.  No, not eaten.  Devoured.)

Look how cute my niece is!  She was a strawberry butterfly.  What makes a strawberry butterfly?  I’m glad you asked.

A strawberry that’s mated with a butterfly, of course!  I love my family!

Guinness Cupcakes with Whiskey Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
(cupcake recipe via cupcakeproject.com; frosting recipe via tastykitchen.com)
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons whiskey (next time I’ll add more, you couldn’t taste the whiskey)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins with liners. I made mini cupcakes but you could make the big ones if you prefer. Combine the Guinness and butter in a large pot, heating to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. In a separate bowl, whisk sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Add this mixture to the slightly cooled beer mixture (you don’t want the eggs to cook in there – YUCK. This is why we cooled it first =).. )

Combine the flour and baking soda, then fold gently into the wet ingredients. Spoon or pour batter into the liners and bake for 13-15 minutes (25 if you’re making the big guys), allow to stand in the tins for 5-10 minutes, remove from the tin and cool completely on a cooling rack overnight before frosting.

Speaking of frosting, this frosting is fantastic. The taste is divine, the texture is perfection and you can make it the night before, refrigerate it, drive it an hour unrefrigerated up to your party destination, stick it back in the fridge for an hour, frost the cupcakes and still have it look nice at the end of the night! How’s THAT for awesomeness? You want to know how to make it? Just beat the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla until its smooth, then gradually beat in the heavy cream until its light and fluffy. That’s it! Yum!!

*****

Pierogies you say?  Pierogies I say.  Those little potato filled doughy dreamboats are heaven.  But let me tell you: if you decide to make this recipe, enlist some help.   I had somehow forgotten the fact that when my Aunt Judy had our family over to learn to make pierogies, there were a ton of us rolling and stuffing.

Pierogie making machines. Fueled by sangria.

Doing this recipe solo was a major accomplishment.  I was SO proud of myself!  I was making pierogies for 3 days (accidentally proving the dough keeps well and still rolls out perfectly after two days of refrigeration and bringing back to room temperature).  I ran out of potato filling, so I started filling them with whatever I had on hand – raisins, dried mango, apples..  (bananas and jam don’t work so well unfortunately)

Stuffing the pierogies...

My stepdad loved them (a major compliment since his sister’s been making them for years with a recipe handed down from their mother), but he teased me about the size.  “They’re Barbie pierogies!”

Oh well, they sure were wonderful tasting.  And now I have a whole freezer full of them to take out and boil up whenever my little heart desires!  Score!!

Bubble, bubble...

Homemade Pierogies
(family recipe from Aunt Judy)

5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a stand mixer using your dough hook, add all of your ingredients and mix on low speed until the dough comes together and starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If the mixture looks too wet, add a bit of flour; too dry, add a bit of water. This is more of a feel than an actual recipe, so I apologize for the generalizations. Allow the dough to rest while you peel and boil up your potatoes. Now, Aunt Judy taught us to make the mashed potatoes using butter and cheese, then cook it on the stovetop to dry it out (your mixture can’t be too wet or your perogies will burst open). I was gun-shy on this part and decided to just mash up the cooked potatoes without anything but a bit of spice in there. It worked perfectly.

Cool your potatoes, then get to work rolling your dough. Flour your board and, with about 1/5 of the dough at a time (to keep from drying it out too much), begin to roll outward, turning and flipping the dough frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick too much. Of course, you don’t want too much flour either. (haha – sorry!) If you curse and mutter angrily at your dough for not staying rolled out on the cutting board, its the perfect consistency. No really! You want the dough to be thin, maybe a little less than 1/4 of an inch. Use a shot glass, a cookie cutter, the lid from your Pam non-stick spray; whatever you’ve got that’s round and a uniform cutting device; and cut out circles using as much of the dough as you can.

Now’s the machine part. On the stickier side of the dough circle, place about 1/2-1 tablespoon of potato filling (depending on the size you’ve made the circles you might need more. The most important thing is to not OVERfill them. You’ll get the feel to how much potato each circle needs as you go). Being careful not to get any potato on the edges, stretch your dough a bit and press it into the other side of your circle, making sure to really seal up those edges.  You can set the sealed pierogies on a cookie sheet and just keep making those bad boys until the sheet is full.  Then give your fingers a break and start the boiling process (before you have to repeat this process with the other portion of the dough…)

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then salt it pretty heavily.  The amount of pierogies you can boil at one time depends on the size of the pot, just make sure not to crowd the little guys.  Boil the perogies until they float, then continue boiling them for an additional 3-5 minutes.  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place them back on the cookie sheet.   Here’s where you can freeze them if you choose to do so.  Just stick that cookie sheet in the freezer for about an hour, take the pierogies off the sheet and throw them in a ziplock bag.  Then throw them back in the freezer.  Voila! 

If you choose to eat them right away, you can do that, too!  Either straight out of the pot or tossed in some melted butter.  You could also fry them up in some butter.  Man they just taste good no matter what you do to them.  Yum, yum, YUM! 

I know my instructions are pretty weak so if you’ve got any questions or if you think I left out a step just let me know!

Bluebeery Bread

I finally bought it!

The awesome Wild Blue beer of my dreams! Blueberry flavored beer! Mmm!!

Yeah I know, I hadn’t heard of it before either. But, you see, over at Sugar Plum, there is an awesome recipe for Brewberry Brownies. Since I read that post about a month ago, I’ve had a taste for the elusive beer. I finally discovered that my local Ultra (Skultra to those of us that live around here haha) carries it. I got the LAST CASE on the shelf.

Go me!

I wasn’t really in the mood to make brownies, so I decided on beer bread. I used a recipe from my Grandma’s Best cookbook, swapping out a few herbs for ones I thought would go best with the exotic beer.

It smells incredible while baking and turns out nice and crusty on the outside while wonderfully moist and blueberrylicious inside!

Bluebeery Bread
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 12-oz bottle Wild Blue beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with butter and set aside. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, sage and ginger. Add beer and mix well. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 – 15 minutes and remove from loaf pan to cool completely.