My Cake Decorating Gallery

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

My First Daring Bakers Blog

The Daring Bakers is a food-blogging "club" with over 1000 members (and growing) who love to try new recipes and blog about them! Each month, a challenging baking-related recipe. I mean.. challenging. Like 4 pages of instructions (at least for this recipe!) -challenging! I'm definitely the "dress up a box cake" type of person, but I thought it would be a good experience to learn a few "from scratch" tricks.

I found Daring Bakers just from stumbling along other blogs... some very beautiful desserts and other baked goods would pop up and I noticed - other people would be posting about the same recipe. Finally I checked into it and went ahead and followed the steps to join. I was surprised to see there are.... a LOT of rules! This is a strict little club. Mostly - there are rules for following each recipe (pretty much to a T), and there are participation requirements to stay in the club. Nothing too crazy... but it was funny at first sight. :)

After digesting the recipe for a few days, I tried to explain it to my mom when I got home from my camping trip but apparently the raccoons got to me, and I told her it was a "Gilbert Gateau".. and to make matters worse, she heard "Gilbert Ghetto" (but I know I didn't say that, in reality. Gilbert yes.. Ghetto, no.). Anyway, I had never heard of Filberts but - turns out they're just hazelnuts! Oh, and a gateau is like a genoise (which is a sponge cake.. see notes in my Yule Log post), except a gateau is more dense because of the nuts ground up into the flour. As a side note, it was sorta funny to see the past recipes of the Daring Bakers. In December 2007, they were making a yule log too!

The recipe for this cake was seriously long. When everyone else posts their posts (We all have to post on the same day!!) - I'll link to some one else who typed out recipe. (Here it is - thanks to our host this month - Mele Cotte) I wasn't exactly very excited to try this recipe, to tell you the truth .I just did a ganache cake last month for Chris' birthday, and here we go again - another ganache. Still, I wanted to make sure I could hang with these "Daring Bakers" so I went along.
I'm glad I did!

In case you didn't peek at the recipe, there were several different steps, which I will point out. You know this is a darned tricky recipe if the top recipe has 5 additional recipes hidden inside of it, i.e.:

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream <--- (this also had a hidden recipe for Swiss Buttercream in it!) ½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks 1 recipe Apricot Glaze 1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using 3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

. . .

I split this project into 3 evenings after work during the week where The Husband was on his fishing trip, so it worked out great - no one was there to wonder where dinner was. Plus he doesn't even like nuts... so he would not have seen all the trouble as "worth it" - for him. :)

The first night, I had to search all over to find hazelnuts.. they're expensive.. I spent $15 at Whole Foods and did have some extra. This was a pretty expensive cake to make, with the nuts, cream, chocolate, and eggs. Still, I had fun learning some new techniques.

That night, I had to "toast" and "peel" said hazelnuts. This was quite annoying and took an hour and a half. About 20 minutes to toast on a baking sheet in the oven, and the rest of the time standing at the counter hoping to rub off the stubborn skins, getting the skins all over my freshly-tidied kitchen. Turns out, I probably didn't have to get them as "perfect" as I did but I was really trying to follow the recipe 100%.

The next night, I needed to make a hazelnut praline paste. Oh, you've never done that? ME EITHER. This included heating sugar in a pan slowly and then when it melted, adding the nuts to coat. I turned it out onto a greased pan (see below) and let it dry into a brittle.

At this point, I tasted a few stray caramel nuts and... yummo! as Rachel Ray would say. I was starting to get excited about this "Praline Buttercream". One thing that was really neat about this challenge was that it forced me to get out my big food processor, the Cuisinart that I got for our wedding. It was the last gift that was still in its box. It wasn't that I didn't want it, I knew I'd be using it and it'd last my whole life, but I had avoided it thus far. There was no other way to pulverize nuts and brittle into a smooth paste without this baby, and I was happy to finally take it for its inaugural test run.

Here you see (above) the processed brittle which was coming into a "paste" form. This is the "Praline Paste" which was to be used in the Praline Buttercream (you mix it into the Swiss Buttercream).

The next night was a big one. I started out by making the cakes (processing 1.5 cupz of hazelnuts into the batter) - I used 8in cake pans and split the batter into a 2/3 vs 1/3 proportion, so I'd only have to split the 2/3 cake in half to get my 3 layers. This worked out really well.
Then, since the cake went so well, I decided to make the Swiss Buttercream. Above you can see some slowly cooked and whipped meringue about to be blended with some butter.

This was my first time making Swiss Buttercream and it was pretty good. Light and airy. This is not my "long lost favorite white frosting recipe" I'm always looking for, so I'm glad to cross it off the list and probably never make again. Decorating buttercream is way easier, while a little more rich, I prefer it. The praline paste added to the swiss buttercream was pretty good. I think I preferred the two ingredients by themselves better, but.. it was quite a tasty frosting.

Ah-ha! I knew that if I got up to the "glazing" stage, I'd be able to wrap and refrigerate until the final steps - ganache and decorate - so I wanted to get this done and take the next night off! Here (above) you see my three layers ready to go, along with my simple syrup, and apricot glaze. Also ready were the praline buttercream and whipped heavy cream (geez, how many fillings do we need???) --- all ready to go. Actually, the fillings were necessary to keep this cake moist - it's dense and spongey which is not the same type of american-style cake that we're all used to, i.e. box cakes!

Here we are applying the praline buttercream on top of the sugar-syrup glazed layer, and then spreading a small layer of whipped heavy cream. With all these egg whites and frostings and such, you can see I had to use my KitchenAid (and wash it) over and over and over again for 1 recipe. Annoying! :) I wonder if they make "2nd bowls" to use for swapping in and out.

Here is the cake all layered up and ready to go. I was glad my 2/3 and 1/3 estimations seemed pretty good. This was the first time I split a cake. I used toothpicks to mark the "halfway" points on the 2/3s cake, and then spun the cake around against my knife. I should really invest in a turn table.

Next I trimmed the edges of the cake because I had heard it's tricky to make the sides look smooth. I think trimming it made it worse off. I covered it in the apricot glaze and it was ready to be refrigerated for a while. I tasted the trimmings and.. the apricot glaze was delish, and the cake was OK and I had no idea how the chocolate would taste with all these crazy flavors and liquors and such. Finally on Saturday, right before my mom stopped by to taste-test, I got to the ganache portion of the recipe.

I wasn't too nervous because I just did ganache, though my previous recipe was different (no corn syrup or vanilla), and it turns out - stick with the original recipe of just chocolate and cream! I hated how thin this ganache was, it didn't allow for any "fill in the blanks" for the sides of the cake, and if I were to have left it at room temperature, it would have never hardened.

Needless to say, I ended up with lumpy sides like many of the other Daring Bakers. No worries, I wasn't going to let this ganache get the best of me. I decided to use my spatula and make little spikes all along the edge of the cake to hide the lumpy layers and give it a neat little finish. Sorta like chocolate waves of the ocean.

Then since I only had about 15 minutes to make some sort of buttercream decoration on top (was part of the RULES), I pretty much just did something similar to what the recipe described. I used a #114 double ruffle tip and made a little design.. and voila! It was done.

The buttercream was very light and not super easy for decorating, and the added praline paste in the buttercream actually made for some lumps coming through and clogging the decorating tip. So, it was not as sleek and perfect as I would have liked but, the ruffles turned out OK enough.

My momma came over and had a piece and declared this to be "just like a real european torte" and she loved it. She's always been a fan of layered cakes with different extracts and jams and all sorts of interesting combinations, so this was right up her alley. Also I had some lovely ladies over for a sandwich lunch, and when given a few options for dessert they also tried a piece of cake. I think the consensus was that it was pretty good. For the piece I tried, my take was - this is pretty good, and offered a very unique combination of rich flavors. This is not my favorite style of cake nor my favorite anything so I would not request this for my birthday cake, however, it was still taste for what it was.

So, that took care of about half the cake and the other half went directly to work. If my monthly Daring Bakers projects are going to be too much to handle at home, I will be spoiling my coworkers with the rest! So, that's the end of my first Daring Bakers task. Yay!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Camping with Bliss

I partake in an annual camping trip with some of my ex-coworkers-turned-good-friends, and we always have a blast. I decided to post about a few of the foods we had on this past trip in July. It's the one time of the year where we really go all-out and get all of the camping stuff going, tiki torches and all.

Here are the specialties that I brought this year... while I didn't invent the concept of a quesadilla, I did come up with the idea of roasting pigs-in-a-blanket over a fire last summer and brought it again this year, because... it's excellent!

Campfire Pigs-In-a-Blanket
1 package of Lil Smokies
2 packages of refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury)

Keep ingredients in your cooler (in a zip loc bag because those crescent rolls are NOT water proof) and when ready, take ingredients out. Wrap little piggies with their blankets, as you would normally, and skewer onto your hot-dog / s'more roasting stick. I had up to 8 but found that 6 worked best so you could space them out a little. Cook until dough is golden brown. It's okay if you lose a few blankets. Dip in ketchup or just eat plain! This works really well on the fire and is a nice alternative to typical been-there-done-that camping food.

Camping Quesadillas

Makes 6 quesadilla (I brought 1 for each person, however)
This takes advantage of a camping propane burner and a griddle, however you could heat them over a fire if you had one of those tri-pod grates.

Make ahead of time and store on paper plates and in zip loc bags (stacks of 3 per 1 gallon bag) , keep in your cooler until you use them.

1 lb of beef
1/3 of each: yellow, green, and red bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package taco seasoning (or however you like to season tacos - garlic powder, chili powder, etc)
1 large can of refried beans, stirred with a spoon make spreadable
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese
cilantro, chopped

cooking spray

salsa for garnish (and other stuff if you want, too)

Cook beef and veggies and drain, season with taco seasoning to taste. On 6 quesadillas, spread with refried beans. Spoon beef mixture on top and top with cheese and cilantro. Hot sauce would also be a tasty addition here. Top with upper tortilla and you're finished. Store as noted above, if using for camping.

When ready to eat, start up your propane burner and place gas-fire-safe griddle on top. Spray with cooking spray and when heated, place first quesadilla on pan. Crisp on both sides, use pizza cutter to cut into 6 wedges, and serve immediately with salsa, sour cream, etc. This was super easy, worked really well in a cooler, and was a different twist for campsite food.

Taco Rio in Lupton, Michigan

On a separate note, we always camp near the Rifle River, and it is located outside of a very tiny town - really there isn't much but a convenience store/gas station that we go to for all of our supplies. Well, this year, we were shocked to see a little taco stand. Shannon and I arrived early on Friday so we decided to have some tacos for dinner and they were pretty good! Actually I think we both got fajitas. Anyway, if you see the Taco Rio near Lupton, stop on in.

Sandwich Bonanza

I decided to group all of these recipes together, since they're all sandwiches! Guess I am on a sandwich kick. I love sandwiches.

First off, we have a hearty sandwich that I brought over to Cindy's for a fun lunch where I got to spend time with my darling nephew Jackson. This sandwich was filling and reminded me of the Zingerman's/French Laundry style of making a sandwich - large and in charge. This zingy mustard is the same style they use on many of their sandwiches, as well. However, you can make several of these for the price of 1 at those places... sandwiches for over $10? Better be made of gold.

Cindy's Sandwich
Makes 2 hearty sandwiches.

2 herb focaccia loaves (smallish, the size you'd want for 1 sandwich, otherwise cut accordingly)
4 tablespoons of Honeycup or Silver Palate "Sweet and Rough" honey horseradish style mustard

5-6 slices of honey roasted turkey (I typically buy Boar's Head because they use no fillers / preservatives, etc)
5-6 slices of honey roasted ham
3-4 slices of provolone cheese

sliced tomatoes
4-5 leaves of butter lettuce
sliced onions (optional.. don't think I used them but I know I would like that)

2 tsp light mayonnaise (optional ... not sure if I used this or not, but it would be tasty)

Slice the breads in half lengthways and begin filling the sandwich. Start byspreading mustard on both cut sides and then pile on the turkey, ham, cheese, tomato, and lettuce. I like to put a little extra mustard between the cheese and tomato, but anyway - build the sandwich however you prefer! Top with the top half and slice across. Wrap in wax paper and tape ends, which makes it easy to travel with these sandwiches. These are perfect for a picnic, especially if you leave out the mayo (though mayo will last for quite a few hours).

These were pretty tasty and would've been even better probably, if you have a chance to toast them in the oven to melt that cheese a little. Yum! I served this with a fruit salad with 9 different fruits (strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, mango, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, cantaloupe, and bananas). This was a tasty lunch.

For the second sandwich installment, we have a "ladies lunch" where I decided to make grilled sandwiches. I was really excited to finally use all my fun outdoor dining-ware and of course, the rain started right when we were ready to hit the patio. Of course! The ladies, especially Megan, were troopers and didn't mind a few raindrops and we stayed huddled under the umbrella for lunch.

I had to control my urges to serve 4 different kinds of sandwiches "so we could all try a quarter of each style" and narrowed it down to two. We had Ham and Manchego Grilled Paninis from Martha Stewart and also we had a separate concoction - Pesto, Turkey, and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches. I liked both of them, the ham and manchego had an excellent dipping sauce and I liked the juicy Pesto Turkey combination as well, which was also very colorful. Manchego is a cheese from Spain which is becoming more and more popular. It's awesome. It's about $8.99 for a wedge at Kroger or Meijer or your specialty store, but it's tasty by itself as well as melted.

Ham and Manchego Panini with Dipping Sauce
As seen on
Serves 2

4 slices country bread (I used Marbled New York Rye which was perfect)
4 ounces thinly sliced ham
2 ounces (1/2 cup) Manchego cheese, coarsely grated (Grating got boring so I sliced some of it)
4 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Top each of 2 bread slices with ham, Manchego, and remaining slices. Brush tops of panini with 2 teaspoons oil.

In a large nonstick skillet (I used a grill pan and skipped the oil in the pan and brushed both sides instead), heat remaining oil over medium-low. Place panini in skillet, oiled side up. Cover; cook until golden brown and cheese has melted, 5 to 8 minutes per side, pressing down with a spatula 3 to 4 times during cooking.

Meanwhile, make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, mix together jam and Dijon. Serve panini with sauce on the side.

Pesto Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

1 loaf of roasted garlic rustic french bread (I purchased at Kroger)
4 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
4 tablespoons of prepared pesto (I prefer Bertolli or better)
4-6oz of thinly sliced honey turkey breast (I didn't measure)
4 slices of mozzarella cheese
1 small onion, sliced thin and sauteed ahead of time, lightly caramelized (browned) in olive oil
1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained


Slice the bread in half lengthways and scoop out some of the doughy insides to make room for the sandwich filling. Spread the mayonnaise evenly on both cut sides of the bread, and spread pesto on top of that evenly. Use more of each if you run out.
Lay turkey on top of the bottom to begin building the sandwich. Lay cheese on top, then top with flattened out roasted red peppers and then the caramelized onions. Top with the top half of the bread and cut into four large triangles. These were very filling portions, probably enough for four people.

If you want the sandwich warmed, place on a baking sheet in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees and bake until cheese melts, outside of bread is crispy (but don't let get overly browned).

I served the sandwiches with Corn, Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad and some Salt and Pepper potato chips (sorry guys, I guess I went carb-crazy!) and I also had some grilled fruit skewers which we were pretty much second choice to the Hazelnut cake. We wished this down with the Pomegranate Lime Ginger Iced Tea, which was also tasty.

It was nice visiting and I was happy to finally have guests and use all my fun patio stuff I recently bought (even though the weather didn't cooperate! Oh well...) It was fun - thanks for coming, guys!

Corn, Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad

I served this as a side dish for my lovely ladies who came to a rainy patio lunch. This is a fresh-tasting light pasta salad with really good flavors. It's not your typical "italian dressing" kind you'd find at any given picnic or family gathering. I really liked it. The only things I did different was that I didn't buy enough leeks so I added some regular onion and I used crumbled goat cheese because I didn't know what the heck Ricotta Salata cheese is. I also added more olive oil, salt and pepper, and lemon juice to taste, which really made a big difference. I especially loved the red pepper (I used ground instead of flakes) with the corn - it really added just a little zing, yum!!

Corn, Tomato, Basil Pasta
As found on

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound medium shell pasta
Coarse salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 small leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, and well washed (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 cups corn kernels (4 to 5 ears) (I used frozen corn.. the whole bag)
Freshly ground pepper (use lots)
1 large pinch red-pepper flakes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (or grape tomatoes) (I used strawberry tomatoes)
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled or shaved (I used goat cheese which was DELISH)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and a generous amount of salt. Cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain, and run under cold water to cool. Drain well; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks, and cook until translucent, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add corn. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until color is set, and the corn is heated through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from heat; let stand until cool.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, corn mixture, tomatoes, basil, parsley, lemon juice, and cheese. Toss to combine. Taste, and adjust for seasoning (extra lemon juice, salt, and pepper).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pomegranate Lime Ginger Iced Tea

I am generally not big on tea, and I never had iced tea growing up as a kid so I don't typically think of making it... however, at a recent little gathering with some very lovely ladies, I thought iced tea would do the trick! I know of the "Arnold Palmer" which is half iced tea and half lemonade and I wondered if there were some other interesting combinations to try. (I need sweet tea!) Well... there are! I came across a Pomegranate Lime Iced Tea recipe from Real Simple and also saw somewhere else about adding gingerale to a juice-infused iced tea, so I decided to combine the two ideas. Well, also, I just thought the Pom-Lime Tea tasted better with a little ginger! (It was good on its own too, if you try that.)

So here is the modified recipe, and I think you will find it quite refreshing, and a pretty pink color! This is the only picture I took, I think it looked better in person.

Pom-Lime-Ginger Iced Tea
modified version of a recipe from Real Simple

8 cups boiling water
8 tea bags
2 cups pomegranate juice (i.e. unsweetented, 100% juice, like POM variety - 1 btl = 2 cups)
3 limes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar (I used splenda packets, enough to make it sweet enough for me!)

a sprinkle of ground ginger (I bet this is optional, but I did do this during my taste trials)

a large splash of (diet) vernors (the top quarter of your cup is a good start)

Pour the water into a heat-resistant pitcher. Add the tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bags and allow the tea to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Add the pomegranate juice, limes, ginger, and sugar and chill in the fridge overnight so you get a good lime flavor. If you want to serve right away, add more lime juice until you like the flavor. Right before serving over ice, add the vernors and stir.

Yield: Makes 8 servings

This was also easy to make for a one-serving helping, if you're curious and want to try it out first.

Pom-Lime-Ginger Iced Tea - one serving

Add 1 tea bag to 8 oz of boiling water and let steep to desired strength. When room temperature, add 2 oz Pom juice, a few packets of splenda (or sugar to taste), and cut up 1/3 of a lime in thin slices, and add a sprinkle of powdered ginger. Chill in the fridge overnight, and before serving, add a splash of Vernors (to equal about 25% of your tea mixture). Enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Giving Creme Brulee Another Try

During a cooking club meeting in Ann Arbor, we once tried making some kind of Strawberry Banana Creme Brulee. I had received a creme brulee set for Christmas and was excited to try out that torch. As it turned out, I didn't really like how they tasted at all! That recipe got a big X in my cookbook and I just sorta figured "I must hate creme brulee."

Then when I was making the tiramisu, I realized that eggs in a custard-like setting can be quite tasty, and suddenly I wondered what had gone wrong with my creme brulees of the past? Even in a fancy restaurant, I hadn't liked it much.. but it just didn't make sense. So I decided that "this time it will be good, and not eggy" and got out the ole creme brulee set for another try. There was a recipe on the box, which was pretty easy and fast to whip up - and I had all the ingredients.

You know - they actually turned out delish! I still have trouble caramelizing the tops with a torch without either scorching or leaving some sugar granules, but all in all, this was a fun dessert to make and the custard was creamy and sweet, not eggy at all. Yum!

Creme Brulee
(from package of my Creme Brulee set from BBB)

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large or jumbo egg yolks (I used 3 large and it worked fine)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300F. Prepare some boiling water and set aside.

In a saucepan, stir together the cream and 2 T. of sugar. Cook over medium heat until bubbles appear around the edge, for 5-6 minutes.

Beat egg yolks with vanilla until light and smooth. Pour hot cream mixture into egg mixture just a little at a time, wisking the whole time. Beat continuously until blended. Strain into another bowl through a fine seive.

Pour into four 4oz ramekins. Put ramekins into a baking dish. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover (I think I forgot this part) loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes or until set.

Chill for 2-3 hours.

Sprinkle sugar (I recommend using less than the full 1/3 cup) evenly on the top of the chilled ramekins. Fire up your torch and make circling motions to melt the sugar into a golden brown color, and then that will cool quickly and harden to make a crunchy top. Serve with your favorite fresh fruits or other toppings. This was really tasty!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bigfoot's BarBQ

Okay. Mr owner needs to work on some advertising or marketing a little bit. Just check out that sign. The three bullets consist of "Bar-B-Q" .. then nothing.... then "Burritos." Even if I do a google search of "Bigfoot's BBQ" and "Michigan" there are totally zero hits. I do eventually get a listing when I simply type in "Barbecue" in Au Gres, Michigan. However, the address must be totally wrong because the Google Map is pointing to the incorrect position. (Seems to be true for many Au Gres listings).

Still, for a few nights around the 4th of July weekend, The Husband and I went up to Au Gres to go camping. We chose a campsite - Pointe Au Gres Marina - because of the sheer fact that they also were a marina and we could keep our boat in the water the whole time. That was totally convenient!

Anyway, it turns out that there isn't much of a downtown Au Gres. I know it sounds mean, and we really tried to like it, but there's an old bowling alley, a bar or two, and a few family restaurants. I think Au Gres needs to have a neat bay-side downtown, not one that centers around US-23 a mile or two north. Well, times are tough and there were hundreds of cottages/homes for sale there, as there is everywhere in Michigan.

So this isn't a city review for Au Gres, though we did have a nice time. This is a review for the one establishment that we actually went to twice! Mostly because The Husband has become addicted to smoked meat as of late. It's gotten so bad, we're considering buying a smoker. But I digress....

Bigfoot's Bar-BQ is in "downtown" Au Gres right where US-23 and Michigan Ave meet, and there is a little triangle of land as Mich Ave angles south. It may not look like much from the outside (Okay, it looks totally closed) but if the Open sign is at least illuminated, you should totally stop.

On Friday, the fourth, we stopped and seemed to be the only patrons. At least in the tiny counter area which holds a few bar stools and a few 2 person tables. I'm okay with the cute little setup, you don't need much room as long as there is good BBQ to be had. And there was!

The menu is pretty simple. You've got pulled pork or beef brisket sandwiches for a reasonable amount of cash, in three different sizes (Small, medium, and large - ranging from $4 to $6 I believe). We ordered one of each and both were delicious. The sandwiches are served with the top of the sesame bun askew and the meats are piled high, with a topping of their unique BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce is tangy, spicy, and very good! I tend to like sweet sauces but this was a nice change of pace. The meats were smokey, juicy, and exactly as they should be. One of my favorite parts of the sandwiches was that besides chips, he served them with sliced pickles. The tangy pickle mixed with a little smokey BBQ pork was an excellent combo. I will have to remember that!

They also offer a special homemade coney chili on Koegel hotdogs (I tried explaining to The Husband why Koegels are the only hotdog, but alas, he grew up too far from Flint to understand). We didn't get a chance to try that.

Among other things, they definitely have ribs - a half rack for $7 or a full for $13. The Husband wouldn't stop talking about brisket all morning on Saturday so on our way out of Au Gres, we had to stop at Bigfoot's again. While the boring husband stuck with brisket, I tried the ribs and decided I'd write a review for the place. I thought I ordered a half but got a full, but leftover BBQ never seems to be a problem for us. The ribs were delicious. Smokey, juicy, and with that unique spicy sauce. I got a side of "garlic mash" with the ribs and they were awesomely super garlicky, just how we like 'em.

We spoke to the owner on the first visit, especially since we were typically the only ones there, minus a woman coming in to make sure his hotdogs were Koegels and order some take-out. I didn't catch his name but an old take-out menu said something about Bigfoot's having come from Golden, Co. Google doesn't seem to agree (no hits on that search), but his shirt also said Golden Colorado, so now I am wishing we would've asked for the story. Nonetheless, he definitely smokes the meat out in the back of the building (which used to be a drive-in restaurant clearly), and he certainly knows his barbecue. The other patron asking about the Koegels said he must not advertise much because she always forgets about the place. I think with a little TLC, this will be one of the most popular spots in Au Gres! Good luck to Bigfoot's! If you see a sign that says "Hot BBQ", stop in!
Bigfoot's BarBQ
121 WEST Huron (Google sais North)
Au Gres, Michigan

Honey Mustard Salmon and Colorful Orzo

I didn't know what else to call this Orzo dish... it was tasty.. but that's a boring adjective and applies to most food. It wasn't exactly Italian or any particular ethnicity. It was colorful and I'm sticking to that. And tasty.

I had been meaning to try a honey mustard salmon recipe because it seems I only know how to make "asian" salmon, or salmon with hollandaise. Time to branch out! I found this recipe on the FoodNetwork and it was a big bonus that this happened to be "Light and Easy" -- so we're going healthy here, too! This salmon is really good, very easy, and I highly recommend trying it. Using the Costco frozen salmon fillets makes this even easier!!! (Those are good, by the way).

Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon Fillets
From the Food Network

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 (5-oz) salmon fillets (I used three)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400. Use cooking spray to grease baking dish that will fit your salmon pieces in a single layer.

Add lemon juice, mustard, honey and lemon zest directly to the baking dish and stir to combine.

Season both sides of the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and place into the baking dish. Flip to make sure glaze covers them (I even spooned some on top just to make sure).

Either cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours or bake immediately for 10 minutes or until fish is fork-tender.
Spoon extra glaze on top of each fillet for serving, if desired. As Rachel Ray would say, "yummo!"

To go with my salmon, I wanted to try using some orzo for a change, but didn't have a game plan. That's a little dangerous, because sometimes things don't work out great if I'm not "visualizing" the flavors in my head and know it'll match. But, this turned out tasty and a little different. I didn't want to over-season it but wanted to use something from my herb garden and keep it simple. What I really wanted to do was add a tangy cheese like a goat cheese or crumbled feta which would go great with the fresh basil or even some olives. Those strong cheeses aren't favored among Husbands who frequent my kitchen, so I added tang with the pickled banana peppers and stuck with "safe" parmesan.

Colorful Orzo

(Sorry for the lack of exact measurements. )

Half of a box of orzo, or 4 servings worth
4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed and chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced (these come in handy jars)
4 tablespoons of yellow mild banana peppers (pickled), diced
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese to taste
fresh basil, chopped

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook Orzo until tender, or about 9 minutes, then drain. Add 2/3 of olive oil to orzo and stir. While orzo is cooking, chop your veggies and add one third of the olive oil to a small sauce pan and cook the onions over medium heat. Add the garlic to the onions and saute, and then add the roasted pepper. When the onions are softened, add onion mixture to the orzo and cook over low heat. Combine the chopped yellow peppers and season with salt and pepper and parmesan cheese to taste. It's sorta a tangy but fresh tasting flavor. Right before serving, add the fresh basil and stir to incorporate, or sprinkle on top after serving. More parmesan is always tasty, too!