Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas and Sour Cream Coffee Cake


Oh my god, y'all. Someone send a backhoe.

Another Christmas, come and gone. I feel like someone strapped roller skates on me at Thanksgiving and shoved me down a steep hill. And you people know you can't even use the words "coordinated" or "graceful" on the same page if my name appears anywhere. But, in checking my limbs for breakage, I do believe I've managed to survive the holiday trip.

Now it's the day after, and I'm having trouble typing this because I keep getting distracted by the screamin' orange oriole on my bird feeder and the SNOW that's falling outside. Yes, you heard me right. Snow in and of itself around here is a rarity. Snow this early in the winter is almost unheard of. I'd be beside myself if I wasn't kind of tired.



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I think we're Holiday Hungover. Pootie is still nestled all snug in our bed, and I'm chewing Mylanta and need something for my head.

Yesterday did start obscenely early. Someone in this house gets REALLY excited about Christmas presents. Hint: It's not me or the dog.



Really, Pootie? 5:00 AM? Seriously?
 I have a hard time getting excited about anything at 5:00 AM except Very Strong Coffee. But knowing we were likely to be up early, I made a sour cream coffee cake the day before to help ease the blow.

This is an adaptation of the sour cream coffee cake in Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I love this one, because it's not all that sweet. Here's the .pdf if you want to cut to the chase and not look at my beautiful pictures and find out what I got for Christmas and unlock the key to the universe, which is, of course, at the end. Your loss.

It's a little bowl-intensive, but worth it.

The cake has a nut/spice/sugar filling as well as a streusel topping. Coarsely chop pecans mixed with brown and white sugar, espresso powder and cinnamon in the food processor, then pull out a third of it for the filling, and mix butter and flour in the topping.


For the cake itself, set aside four egg yolks, vanilla and part of the sour cream.


Beat the butter with the flour (yes), sugar, baking soda and powder, salt, and the other part of the sour cream. Then add the yolk mixture and beat it to build up the cake's structure. Pour 2/3 of the batter into a parchment-lined and greased springform pan and smooth it out.



Sprinkle the filling mixture over it.


Blob the rest of the batter over that and smooth it, then top with the streusel.

Bake it at 350 (sorry Maggy!) for about an hour. Don't open the oven door, so that when your Pootie shuts off the power so he can wire a heater in the bathroom because you forgot about your baking and told him to go ahead whenever, you don't lose the heat. Then you can stand and wring your hands and tell him to hurry! hurry! my coffee cake will be ruint! Breathe a sigh of relief when he actually does finish lickety split and then forbid him to turn the power off to disconnect the heater he just finished installing because he realized he bought the wrong one (we need 120 and he bought 240 - I hope Santa was too busy loading the sleigh to hear all the profanity emanating from 305).

Take half of it to your in-laws, because there's no way two of you can eat the whole thing.

Then Christmas morning, get up when it's still dark outside, and reheat a slice.

While it's reheating, open your NEW LENS! That's right, people! Look out!

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I took it for a test drive and oh. my. goodness. I cannot BELIEVE the difference. My brother told me. He said "You will LOVE that lens". And he was right. I'm still getting the hang of it, but I love how close I can get and how much extraneous background crap I can cut out of the picture now. Wow.


WOW! Just look at how much background blur I got on that! Oh my head! I'm so stinkin' happy!


Love this from the Tuckers. Dinky doesn't like getting shot with it, but he digs eating the shrapnel.
 I can't get over how much light it lets in. Just... POW!

I'll be putting training wheels on it and using it for blog pictures. Strap yourselves in. This could get ugly.

Our Christmas really was lovely. I got some wonderful gifts, and truly, I was NOT that good this year. Besides my LENS!!! I got some pajamas from Pootie:


This was not taken with the new lens. And it was very, very dark at 5:00 AM


I got an excellent T-shirt from Pootie:




If you don't read Hyperbole and a Half, you really should.
 And our friends Dave and Christin even gave me some cleaning products to go with it!

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I'd been telling them that I'd honestly be pretty stoked about getting a box full of cleaning stuff so I didn't have to go to Target. Score!

But I think my favorite present this year was a set of three songs I'd picked out to have Eef Barzelay perform especially for me. Oh, that was so nice! I do love him. I'd really hoped he'd come here and sing them himself for me, but I guess maybe he just ran out of travel time. Or something.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as I enjoyed mine. Now I'm going to go set the living room on fire and take an afternoon nap.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas from Cafe 305!

Cafe 305 and a few of my special blog guests from the past couple of years would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!






















May your hearth be warm, your kitchen and bar well-stocked, and your friends and family near and willing to see you.

Cheers!


Special thanks to Pootie for being my hat-drawer.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

305 Holiday Bash: The Day After

It takes a lot of plates.

Whew. There is a sad dearth of pictures from the party. It's always the way. It's hard to hostess and snap photos at the same time. And some people (my sister-in-law) get highly annoyed with picture-taking.

The weather was just awful. Cold, windy and rainy all day long. The kind of nasty day that keeps people inside, unless they have to drag coolers out of the shed and haul out trash and recycling. I saw more of the great outdoors yesterday than I really cared to.

But the show must go on! And there really wasn't all that much work left to do on Saturday besides set up. As you know, I'd already gotten the pork cubano ready, and had prepared the black beans the day after that. Friday I made Pam Anderson's Pimento Cheese with Olives that she let us sample at her cooking class a month or so ago. Oh, my goodness, that stuff is good!



It took me all of 10 minutes to put together.


Fortunately for me, there's some leftover.

I also made her spiced mixed nuts. I'm serious, people. If you need a last-minute Christmas gift for someone who is even remotely interested in cooking and entertaining, buy her latest cookbook for them.


The nuts were also super simple, and apparently pretty well-liked, because I didn't have much of these leftover at all. I should have hidden some. They're just mixed nuts, roasted and then tossed with melted butter (how can you go wrong there??), and some thyme and other seasonings. The most time-consuming part was futzing with the thyme, and you really can't complain much about three minutes of leaf-stripping.

Here's the full menu for the party:

Pam Anderson's Pimento Cheese and Olives
Pam Anderson's Roasted Mixed Spiced Nuts
White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Assorted crackers and crudites

Mixed Greens with Honey-Lime Cumin Vinaigrette

Grilled Trout with Chili-Brown Sugar Rub
Black Beans
Rice
Corn Muffins

Every last piece of nostalgic candy from Market Street Candy oh my god I'm going to be eating Squirrel Nut Zippers until my own zipper breaks from the strain.

Lots of beer
Lots of wine (thanks, Eric and Sara!)


Did I mention the weather was nasty? Did I also mention we have a pavilion? And did I mention that my wonderful parents gave us an early Christmas present, which allowed us to use the seating in the pavilion?

See half of my sister-in-law? Glowering at me? Toldja.
It was 36 degrees, windy and drizzly. But it was still cozy and comfortable in the pavilion. Notice no one out there is wearing a coat? That patio heater rocked! We're going to be able to eat outside all winter long!

We wound up with about forty people. Thank goodness I have a mother-in-law who lives close by, also likes to entertain, and doesn't mind loaning me extra plates and utensils.





I told you that this year, I decided to go casual. And I told my friend Jenn I was going for ugly Christmas sweaters. So...

Isn't she stinkin' adorable? I love her.

I kind of feel bad. I didn't put as much effort into the entire party as Jenn and David did into their ensembles.

Several ladies offered to help unwrap David.

They definitely won "Most Team Spirit".

I really want to just keep them.
For fun this year, I had my Personal Pootie Santa deliver a little party favor to our guests.


Here's what it does.


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I played cat-herder and tried to get everyone in sync...

...which didn't work all that well.

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Nice, huh? Invite people to my house, boss them around, then tell them they're incompetent! Bet you want to come to all my parties, don't you? I have no idea what my mother-in-law is doing.

I think everyone had a good time, though. I certainly did. Pootie and I are slowly digging out from under the aftermath today. We're both tired. I had a glass and a half of wine and forgot to eat. I hope it was good. 

Now we're coasting until Christmas. Monday is Pootie's birthday, and we'll have a quiet little celebration for that with his parents at Marc and Sara's restaurant. And then we wait for Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

305 Holiday Bash: Day Two Prep

Yesterday wasn't the most productive day in terms of food for party prep. This is about all I got done food-wise:


I managed to soak a pot of black beans. Hey. I do have a day job.


And I ran the vacuum. Although I'll have to do that again Saturday...

Why, yes. I always wear pumps when I do housework. Don't you?

...because I have one of these.

I can't believe people actually ask me if he sheds.

Nothing got done last night, because Phillip's sweet parents




took us to the NC Symphony's holiday performance.



That was fun!

We did manage to make a quick run here:


Mainly to get one of these:



For this!!



Yay! An early Christmas present from my parents! Perfect timing! Hopefully it won't be raining, and we'll be able to use the pavilion!

But that's not looking good right now.


We shall see! Tune in tomorrow! Same bat time! Same bat channel!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

305 Holiday Bash: Slow-Cooked Pork Cubano

Saturday is our almost-annual 305 Holiday Bash. (We skipped a year when we needed a break. As fast as Christmas rolls around every year, I'm not sure anyone even noticed before it was time for the next one.)

Normally, we have a pretty formal soiree. I get my girl on a couple times a year and like to put on a pretty dress and some heels. When you work at home, there aren't a lot of opportunities for dressing up. Dinky doesn't especially care if I look like Myrna Loy or a bearded Joaquin Phoenix, as long as he gets fed on time.


I have never looked THIS good at our parties.

But this year, I just wasn't feeling it.  So I called it casual this year. And I'm glad I did. Because this is our weather forecast.

Boooooo!
This is unfortunate, in that our house is tiny, but we have a lovely backyard with outdoor "rooms" we normally make full use of for parties. We have a patio with a seating area around a little fire pit.


And we have the pavilion with table seating for six.



When you have 50 people who are trying to eat dinner in a 1200 square-foot-house... (144 square feet of which is taken up by the Dinky-containment room)


...it can get a little crowded.

But it's Christmas, and bustle is good!

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And I did at least pick a good year to go casual. It's not so much fun to navigate the rain in heels and stockings and ties and good coats.

The menu for the Dressy Party went along with the theme. Beef Stroganof or Beef Tenderloin, Grilled Salmon, and appetizers that were a little on the fussy side.

Dining hall at Cafe 305. Or, Buckingham Palace. Roughly the same.
Nooooot this year!

I'm in the process of cooking one of the main courses now. That's right. Wednesday. I have six hundred pounds of pork roast in the oven, slow cooking in lime juice, orange juice, rum and spices. To say that the house smells awesome is an understatement.

I've made this before many times, and the recipe is on the blog probably more than once, but I thought it would lend itself well to this year's party. It's casual, flavorful, can be made ahead, will serve well in a steamer tray, and most importantly, can be eaten with a fork and no knife. (Because I really don't have seating like the above.)



Today around lunchtime, I mixed up the sauce, sliced two onions, crushed a head of garlic, added six thousand pounds of pork roast, and put it in my Harris Teeter Roaster. (I love their giveaways.)




Then I sealed it all up and put that bad boy in the oven at 300F. Where it will likely stay all night. I'll end up with a tender mess of pork in a delicious citrus-rum sauce that melts in your mouth and goes perfectly with a pot of black beans and some rice.

If you have a slow cooker, you could certainly make it in that, in smaller quantities. Here is the recipe for a more reasonable number of people. It was given to me years ago by one of my best friends, Ronda, and I adapted it from pork tenderloin to a pork roast and vastly increased the cooking time. The product is still in the oven, so you'll have to wait for pictures of it finished.

Stay tuned for more party prep!