Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge #1

Awhile ago while searching through food blogs, I kept comming across the Daring Baker's logo and wondered what it was. So, I clicked on the link and found a community of food bloggers looking for a challenge. Every month the group is given a recipe that is chosen by a predetermined host. The whole group is to make the recipe as listed only making changes as allowed by the host. Then the group all posts their results on the same day. I had been looking for some way to turn my love of cooking and baking into more of a challenge. I knew that this was the group for me. I quickly e-mailed the group organizers and here I am with my first Daring Baker's challenge.

This months challenge was a "Perfect Party Cake" by Dorie Greenspan. And may I say that it really was a perfect party cake. The cake was light and sweet and the swiss meringue buttercream was smooth and silky. I brought it over to our Easter dinner wondering how it would go over. I knew that there would be one of those death-by-chocolate cakes there and was worried that people would go for the classic. I couldn't have been prouder, my cake was gone in a flash with rave reviews while the chocolate cake sat there with few slices gone. This definately was a delicious challenge. I have even received requests to make this cake again. Thanks Morven for picking this wonderful recipe.

We were allowed to fill our cakes with our choice of filling so I decided to make a bavarian cream using coconut milk and whipping cream. I really wanted to use some fresh berries in the filling but I had to make the cake the night before and was worried that it would make the cake soggy. I skipped the lemon extract in the cake and substituted almond and vanilla extracts since that is what I had on hand. I topped the cake with shavings of bittersweet chocolate and a few fanned strawberries. It looked as good as it tasted.

I can't wait to make this cake again with some other variations. The frosting is a keeper and goes on smooth and light. The cake is sweet and spongy and would lend itself to any flavor willing to be joined with it. It truly is the perfect party cake and will now become a staple in my house.

Here are a few pictures of the process.
Here is one of the completed cakes. They don't rise as much as the typical cake but are light and delicious. I ended up makeing four cakes altogether and using three of them which I torted, giving me six layers.

Here is the beautifully whipped meringue for the swiss meringue buttercream. If you look carefully you can see a face in the meringue on the right hand side of the whisk. :)

Here is a completed slice of the cake. Doesn't it look delicious?!

The Perfect Party Cake
by Dorie Greenspan

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Coconut Bavarian Cream

1 can coconut milk
less than 1/4 cup whipping cream, enough to equal 2 cups when added to the coconut milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 pkg. unflavored gelatin (about 1 Tbs.)
3 Tbs. water

1. Put the coconut milk, whipping cream and extracts into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until it thickens and forms a ribbon. Still beating, slowly add the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture. Do not add it too quickly or you will scramble the eggs.

2. Pour the water into a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to "bloom" until needed.

3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over low to medium-low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and leaves a trail on the back of the spoon. Do not let the mixture boil. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture whisking to combine until smooth.

4. Move the pan to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and to cool. Pour slightly cooled mixture into a bowl and cover with platic wrap, pressing it onto the surface of the cream. Refrigerate until chilled and thickened.

*to give it a lighter texture, once cooled you can fold in some fresh whipped cream.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What do you get when you cross Alias and Baking...?

...Really strange dreams.

I have to tell you about the funniest dream I have ever had. I was laughing all day yesterday and decided that I should share. My husband and I have been watching the Alias DVD's at night before we go to bed and I have been baking a lot lately so I guess that is what sparked this crazy dream. I can only remember parts of it but the jist of it is that I was on some secret spy mission where I had to save the world. I needed to recover a secret message that would help me in my efforts. When I was finally able to find this all important secret message, it was written on a cupcake liner. Now here is the funny part, when I was able to decode the secret message it said, "Don't trust the ricotta!"

Aren't dreams hillarious. This one made my day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

I have to tell you that I love brownies. Not the cheap from the box kind, but real homemade brownies that are full of bittersweet chocolate. I love to keep them cold in the fridge and break off little pieces throughout the day. (It doesn't count when you don't eat it all at once, right?!) I love to add things to my favorite brownie recipe whether it be oreos, nuts, cream cheese or in this case peanut butter. Whoever thought up the winning combo of peanut butter and chocolate should be awarded a prize. The two just go so well together. I am not sure if you've been able to tell or not, but I have been on a bit of a chocolate and peanut butter kick lately. It seems that most of the desserts that I have made lately contain the combo and they have been delicious. This one is no exception. If you love peanut butter and chocolate, you've gotta try these.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
(adapted from a recipe from Everday Food Magazine)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter cut into pieces
1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips, I prefer bittersweet
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
6 Tbs. creamy peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, stir with a fork to combine and set aside. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Stir occasionally until melted. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Once mixed, add the eggs and mix well. Add the flour mixture stirring only until combined. Don't over mix.

2. Heat the peanut butter in a small dish for about 15-30 seconds until slightly melted. Do not overheat. If the peanut butter is too runny it won't swirl well with the brownies. Drop the peanut butter by tablespoon in about 6 seperate spots. Swirl the peanut butter and brownies mixture with a butter knife.

3. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the edges have crisped and the brownies look cooked through. Cool in the pan completely and then refrigerate until cold before cutting (This allows for a nice perfect cut.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lasagna Primavera

I love when I get my cooking magazines in the mail. I can't wait to sit down and browse through them and think of all of the yummy things that I want to make. There are many times that I mark several recipes but never make them. When I received this months copy of Everyday Food, I knew that I needed to make this lasagna. The only question was how I would pass it off to my kids and particularly my husband. As before mentioned, my husband does not eat anything green or that grows in the ground so how does one pass off a dish that contains a healthy dose of the two? By covering it with a bechamel sauce and lots and lots of cheese!

My kids actually loved the dish and ate a good size plate of it. My son even had seconds or maybe even thirds. My husband lovingly ate it without complaining although I did see a pile of the carrots on his plate that he had picked out. It was nice to have a meal that I could eat for a change and it was delicious. I served the lasagna with the Garlic Knots that I also found in the Everyday Food magazine. It was all so good that I hope to be making it again soon.

I did make a few changes to the recipes, but they are printed here as they appear in the magazine. I made the bechamel sauce for the lasagna with 1% milk rather than whole milk but I did add about 2 oz. of regular cream cheese to replace the creaminess lost by the 1% milk. I also replaced one layer of mozzarella with havarti cheese as I had some in my fridge that I needed to use up. I reduced the spinach to only 1 package since I knew that the green stuff was going to be a battle with the family. I am glad that I did though because there was a lot with only one package and I can't imagine the amount if I had used both. With the garlic knots, I replaced half the oil with butter because I prefer the taste of butter to oil. I also topped the knots with some sea salt and some fresh grated parmesan cheese before baking. They were a big hit and were gone before they could even cool off completely.

Lasagna Primavera
(From Everyday Food magazine)

Serves 8.

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for foil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups whole milk
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
1/2 pound carrots (4 to 5), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta (about 2 cups)
1 large egg
1 package (9 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles (12 to 16 noodles)
1 pound part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium; add flour and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes (do not let flour mixture darken); whisk in milk. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add spinach, peas, and carrots; season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper.
In the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, spread a thin layer of vegetable sauce. Layer noodles, half the remaining vegetable sauce, another noodles, half the ricotta mixture, half the mozzarella, and half the Parmesan; repeat.

3. Cover dish with lightly oiled aluminum foil, and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes, uncover, and bake until bubbling and browned, about 20 minutes more. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Garlic Knots

All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 16-by-10-inch rectangle; with a knife or pizza cutter, cut crosswise into 16 strips. Tie each strip into a knot, and place on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Brush knots with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat garlic and remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium until garlic is fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour garlic oil over bread knots in bowl; season with salt and pepper, and toss.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy easter everyone. I hope you had a good day and were able to spend time with your family. My easter every year consists of a family gathering of about 40 people. My mother-in-law buys all 16 grankids matching outfits and then we go to church with her to show them off. Then we all crowd into my mother-in-laws house and have a huge easter egg hunt for the kids and then a nice big buffet style dinner. My kids look forward to it every year and I will admitt, so do I. I grew up in a very small family so I love the huge get togethers that my husbands side of the family has. My mother-in-law is an amzing planner and we always have great food and a wonderful time. I am so glad that we are able to make all of these memories and that we are all able to live so close so that we can have these big events often.

I had big plans full of all of the yummy desserts that I wanted to make for todays dinner, but I found out late yesterday that we already had several so I only made a few things. One of those things were the chocolate dipped strawberries. I'm sure that you don't need a recipe, but I'll give you one anyways as these were delicious and were gone in a flash.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 bag(12 oz) bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 - 3/4 cup whipping cream
40 large strawberries
white chocolate for drizzling

1. Rinse strawberries to clean and dry thouroughly. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and set aside.

2. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and the cream together stirring frequently adding more cream if the mixture is too thick. Once the mixture is melted, turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the water to keep the chocolate warm and melted.

3. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate and shake gently to remove any excess. Place on prepared baking sheets and let cool slightly. Heat the white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring after every 30 seconds. When melted, pour into a ziploc bag and snip the corner off. Drizzle the strawberries with the white chocolate. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator to cool and harden.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I hope that everyone has had a great week. I have been baking up a storm, but didn't have a chance to take pictures of much of it. I have so many more things that I need to make for Easter this weekend and hope to take pictures of it if my camera will cooperate.

Today I wanted to share with you something that I have loved eating all of my life. The recipe for these"cartwheels" as my nana would call them, has been passed down for generations. Growing up, I would beg my mom to make them. In fact, I would have her make them every year on my birthday. They were made up I am sure for the sole purpose of using up leftover pie dough. Now though, whenever my family makes a pie they make extra pie dough in order to make cartwheels. So last week when my friend had a "pi" party, I knew that I needed to make a whole batch of extra pie dough in order to make these delightful treats. If you have leftover pie dough, you've gotta try these, they are delicious and disappear right before your eyes.

Sorry there are no particular measurements for the cartwheels. As a family recipe that has been passed down, there have never been any specific measurements and it will vary depending on how much dough you use and how thin you roll it. Nothing needs to be precise, just eyeball it.


Pie dough:
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 heaping cup of shortening
cold water

1. Make the pie dough: Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix to combine. Using two butter knives, cut in the shortening until it is the size of small peas. Move most of the mixture to one side. Sprinkle a Tablespoon or two of water over the small section of dough and mix with a fork to combine. Don’t over mix though. Pull a little more of the flour mixture over to the side; add another Tablespoon or so of water and mix. The dough should just come together but not be too wet or too dry. Continue this until all of the dough has been mixed with water. The amount of water will vary each time that you make it so don’t rely on any specific measure. I usually start out with a cup of cold water and don’t use all of it.
Shape the dough into 2 discs and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

pie dough
Softened butter
brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the pie dough out into a thin rectangle. Spread lightly with softened butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and rub it all over the surface of the dough lightly covering the whole surface. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon. Roll up like a jelly roll pinching the ends. Place seam side down onto a lightly greased cookie sheet curving the dough into a semi-circle. Make thin slices in the dough making sure not to cut all the way through the dough.

2. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook as they will firm up more when they cool. Let cool and slice into pieces using the slits in teh dough as a guide.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The cake is a BIG deal!!!

Happy Saint Patrick Day everyone! I hope that you all remembered to wear green today. I have got to tell you that St. Patricks day is special to me because it is also my son's birthday. (I think that he is destined to have green birthday parties for the rest of his life!) But, the cake is why I am writing. Not because it was super delicious,which it was, but because this was my son's first birthday cake.

You see, he was sick for the first year and a half of his life and was unable to eat any food. His first birthday was hard, more so for me than him. You don't really realize how much of a food centered society we are until you have to be removed from it. Every family gathering was hard because there was always a ton of food and thus stuff to tempt my son. How do you explain to a one year old that he can't eat something because it will make him sick, especially when all the other kids are eating it? Our life with food was dramatically altered for that year and a half. No more eating out, many of our meals were eaten when he was asleep and when he was awake we had to keep his highchair away from the table so he couldn't see what we were eating. We would often give him ice chips from a bowl to make him feal like he was eating. Amazingly enough, he is now eating almost everything. I have been lucky enough to see many miracles in my life but for this one I thank my Heavenly Father daily. With his diagnosis, he was not supposed to recover like this and so I am forever grateful that he has recovered and that he can eat with the rest of us and enjoy birthday cake on his birthday. I know several other children with the same diagnosis who have not been so fortunate and it pains me to see the way that they have to go through life without the enjoyment of a birthday cake among other things.

Without further ado, here are some cute pics of my sone enjoying his first birthday cake. (Which was super delicious by the way. Four layers of peanut butter frosting between chocolate pound cake and topped off with a Chocolate swiss meringue buttercream! You can't beat that for a first birthday cake! Yumm!)

Rockwell blowing out his birthday candle. Isn't he cute!

Rockwell on his first birthday, eating a popsicle made from his medical formula. Yummy!

Rockwell on his birthday this year, finally enjoying some birthday cake!!!

**For more information on Eosinophilic Disorders please check out APFED (American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Individual Chocolate Peanut Butter cakes

I needed to make a sweet treat for some ladies I was going to visit so I searched through my pantry, and this is what I came up with. A jazzed up cupcake with flavors like a Reeses Peanut Butter cup. I baked the cupcakes from the boxed mix since I was in a hurry, but the homemade frosting is what really makes them special. I say, if you're going to use a box mix for the cake, take the time to make the good frosting. It really only takes a few minutes and it tastes great.

I have two great peanut butter forsting recipes for you. The first one is what I used here. I ended up playing around with a basic swiss meringue buttercream and turned it peanut butter. I had to go against the original recipe and add some powdered sugar to get it to the stiffness that I needed to pipe it onto the cupcakes. It has a sweet smooth texture and is perfect for the chocolate cakes.

The second peanut butter frosting is a little quicker and super delicious. Like a lot of my recipes, it is from Ina Garten. If you are short on time, pull this one out and you will be a star. It looks fancy shmancy but is so simple.

Individual Chocolate Peanut Butter Cakes

Make cupcakes according to box mix and remove the liners. Cut each cupcake in half horizontally. Pipe or spread a layer of peanut butter frosting on bottom layer of cupcake and top with the top piece. Pipe or spread the top with the frosting and top with a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. Refrigerate to set the frosting.

Frosting : Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe)

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
powdered sugar

1. In a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk the egg whites and the sugar constantly for about 3 minutes or until you can no longer feel the sugar when a small amount is rubbed between your fingers.

2. Pour into mixer bowl with the whisk attatchment. With the mixer on medium-high, slowly add the butter and peanut butter about a Tablespoon at a time waiting until each is incorporated before adding more. Beat on medium-high speed for about 8-10 minutes until well whipped.

3. Add the extracts and mix well. Add powdered sugar until the frosting is to desired consistency (the frosting will set up when refrigerated).

Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 Tbs. butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attatchment. Mix on medium-low until creamy, scraping down as necesary. Add the cream and beat on high until mixture is light and smooth.

Friday, March 14, 2008

BBQ Pork Pizza

You guessed it, it was pizza night at our house again. Tonight I needed something quick and easy since my son had been sick. Luckily my grocery store carries their pizza dough already made. I picked it up and used our leftover BBQ pork to top it off. Super easy and delicious.

BBQ Pork Pizza
1/2 pound of pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
olive oil
1/4 cup pizza sauce
BBQ sauce
shredded cheese
BBQ shredded pork (BBQ chicken would be great too!)
fresh mozzarella cubed
2 TBS flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray pizza pan with cooking spray. Roll out dough to fit your pizza pan. Coat the dough lightly with olive oil. Spread with pizza sauce and as much BBq sauce as needed to coat pizza. Cover evenly with shredded cheese. Top with a layer of BBQ pork. Top the por with the cubes of fresh mozzarella. Bake pizza for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and melted. Top with fresh parlsey if using. Cool slightly before cutting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garlic Crusted Tilapia

Have you tried tilapia? A once never heard of fish is gaining popularity here in the US but has been around for hundreds of years. Tilapia is a mild white fish with little fishy taste which makes it a good canvas for any flavor that you'd like to pair it with. It is also relatively inexpensive which makes it family friendly. The couscous that I served on the side is also quick easy and cheap when bought in the bulk section. Couscous is a finly ground semolina pasta that looks like little tiny balls. It has little flavor on it's own but goes well with anything, much like white rice. This meal is so quick and easy that you can have a nice meal even when you are short on time. I served the fish with lemon parsley couscous which is another time saver, taking only 5 minutes to cook.

I decided to bread the fish in garlic croutons mixed with some panko bread crumbs. The croutons gave the dish flavor while the panko helped with crispness. I also threw in some lemon zest to give it a slight lemon kick. This meal was so quick, easy and inexpensive that you've gotta try it.

Garlic Crusted Tilapia

1 1/2 cups of your favorite croutons
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
zest of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
4 tilapia fillets

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor cruch the croutons until they resemble bread crumbs. Alternately, crush them in a sealed ziploc bag. Pour the croutons into a shallow bowl and mix in the panko bread crumbs and the lemon zest. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Place the flour in another bowl and the beaten egg in another.

2. Place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. (This will allow air to flow under the fish to help it crisp on both sides.) Spray both with cooking spray.

3. Pat the tilapia fillets dry to remove any excess moisture. Dredge the fillets in the flour shaking to remove any excess. Then, dip them into the egg mixture letting the extra egg drip back into the bowl. Next, toss them with the crouton mixture, press to adhere. Place them on top of the cooling rack set over the cookie sheet. Spray the tops with a little more cooking spray to help them brown.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy and fish flakes apart.

Lemon Parsley Couscous

1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup couscous
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 Tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small saucepan, heat the broth until boiling. Add the couscous then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for five minutes.

2. Fluff couscous with a fork. Add the zest, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

When life hands you lemons...

...make lemon cake!

I never was much of a lemon fan when it came to desserts, or at least I thought I wasn't. That is until I took one look at Ina Garten's lemon cake. I love her show and when I saw her make that delectable lemon cake, I was smitten. I have been a lemon beleiver ever since.

The cake definately contains a healthy dose of lemons. The batter is filled with zest and lemon juice. Then after the cake comes out of the oven, a simple syrup of lemon juice and sugar is poured over the top. But wait, there's more. Once the cake has cooled, it is then topped with an icing made of fresh squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar. It is so delicious. In fact, when this cake comes out of the oven, the edges are slightly brown and chewy and if I know that I will be the one to partake of that cake, I'll pick off the edges and eat them while they're still hot.

Today, instead of making the cake in loaf pans as the recipe says, I made them into delectable little cupcakes. I was amazed how easily the recipe went from loaf pans to the little cakes; making 24 perfect cupcakes.

Ina Garten's Lemon cake

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest lightly packed (6 to 8 large lemons - Use only fresh lemon juice and zest)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F*. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, the key to great cakes is beating the butter and sugar until the mixture's until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

2. With the mixer on medium speed add the eggs, (break the eggs into a dish before adding to the batter to avoid a bad egg or shells in the batter) 1 at a time, and the lemon zest. Sift together the flour, to make sure there are no lumps, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

3. Separately, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

4. Cook 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, cool for 10 minutes, invert them onto a rack set over a tray and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

5. For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides. To freeze these cakes, prepare them except the glaze. Wrap them well in plastic wrap and freeze. When you're ready to use, defrost and glaze.

note*: To make cupcakes, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide batter to make 24 cupcakes. Lightly bang the cupcake pans against a counter to get any air bubbles out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Follow the steps for glazing and icing.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Apple Pie Bites

I never grew up eating apple pie; I know, how unamerican! My mom just never made it. We were a peach pie eating family, and ohh, if I can ever record my mom's peach pie recipe to paper it would be a winner. But lately I have been into all things apple and am discovering that I love apple pie.

A few friends and I got together and had an appetizer party today to say goodbye to our friend Kim who is moving away :( (We'll miss you Kim!).

I still wasn't sure of what I wanted to make while I was perusing the aisles of the grocery store yesterday until I passed the apples. The craving for apple pie hit and thus this recipe was born.

I came home with a bag full of apples and hope that somehow I could make them into little appetizing bites of pie. I found a crust recipe in a pampered chef book which I modified slightly. Then I kind of just guessed with the rest and amazingly they turned out so delicious. If you like more crust than filling, like I do, than you'll love these little apple pie bites.

Apple Pie Bites

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powder sugar
1 cup flour

3 apples,(I used pink lady apples), peeled, cored and cut into small bite size pieces.
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbs. flour

Crumb topping
1/2 cup flour
1/4 sugar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, room temperature

Crust: beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour and mix scraping down the sides until just combined. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Scoop and roll into small 1 inch balls and place in the cups of an ungreased mini-muffin tin. Here is the one tool that I recommend to make this easier. Pampered Chef sells a mini-tart shaper which is super cheap that makes this so simple. Using it you can shape the dough balls into mini pie shells by lightly flouring the shaper and pressing down onto the dough. Set aside the shells. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Filling: place the apples in a small saute pan and cover with water. Put the lid on and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. The apples should be slightly softened but still be a little firm as they will finish cooking in the oven. Pour the apples into a collander to drain. With the apples still in the collander, add the sugar, cinnamon and flour and stir to combine. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary depending on the tartness of your apples. Let them sit in the collander to drain any excess liquid while you make the crumb topping.

Crumb topping: Mix the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl with a fork. Cut the butter in using two butter knives until it resembles small peas.

Place a small scoop of apples into each mini shell, filling to the top. Sprinkle on a good amount of the crumb topping pressing slightly to adhere. Place the apple pie bites in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is slightly broned and the shells are a golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 3 minutes. remove them from the pan and let them cool on a cooling rack.

They are delicious warm but also taste good once they have cooled. You can reheat them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm. Store them in an airtight container.

Makes 24.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The secrets out

I guess when you post something online you can't expect it to remain a secret for too long. Well, remember the chocolate zucchini cake that I posted a couple of days ago? Well, I served that cake to my non-vegetable eating husband without telling him about the zucchini. Today he read my blog and the secret was out. Here is a copy of the e-mail that he sent me, he is too funny!


You are too sneaky! Now you have to share your new medicine with me after I purge a few times!

Don't be surpised to find out there is chicken or beef in something you
eat soon sucker...

Love ya...even after you tricked me!

Just thought I'd share. So, if you make this for someone who's not fond of veggies in their dessert, don't show them the recipe!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Roasted Veggie Pizza

I don't really have a recipe for you today, but I wanted to show you the versatility of those yummy roasted veggies from the other night. It is pizza night at our house and I can't think of a better way to use of those lovely veggies than topped on a ciabatta-like crust and smothered in cheese! There is no sauce, just layer cheese, veggies and more cheese and bake. Delicious!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

I had to run to "Wally World" last night to my dismay, as I try to avoid that store like the plague. And a trip to the store with three hungry and tired kids is never fun, especially when you get to the checkout line. You see the stores have it down, tempt the kids with a wide assortment of candy and treats when you are inevitably at your witts end after a long shopping trip. They also like to make sure that the lines are long so that your kids will have a half of an hour to ask you for said treats. I admitt, I usually give in, I mean a 50 cent piece of candy is worth my sanity right?! So, my point of the story is that I have my own temptation at the checkout line too, and more often than not I give in to myself. I love the food magazines that they place on the racks above all of the candy. I usually browse through them while I am waiting in those impossibly long lines and if they look good, I'll buy them. Last night I found one that I had to buy. It was a Betty Crocker Cakes mini magazine. It had all of these quick and easy cake recipes using, you guessed it, Betty Crocker cake mixes. I love homemade cakes, but sometimes you just need somthing quick and easy. As I flipped through it I found this chocolate zucchini snack cake recipe that I had all of the ingredients for, (well almost all of them, see below). It was a moist chocolate cake which was lower in fat and was topped with nuts. I'll tell you, I'm a nut lover anything with chocolate must have nuts so this one hit the spot. My kids loved it and had no idea that it has zucchini hidden inside. In fact, as I was typing this, my 2 year old climbed up onto the counter and began grabbing handfuls of the cake, what a mess! At least he is cute, so I'll forgive him.

Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake
(from the Betty Crocker Cakes magazine)

1 3/4 cup German chocolate cake mix
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 cup buttermilk*
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8 in or 9 in round pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, zucchini, cinnamon, cloves, buttermilk, oil and egg with mixer until moistened. Beat on medium spead for 2 more minutes, scraping bowl ocassionally. Pur into pan. sprinkle evenly with nuts and chocolate chips.

3. bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completelt, about 1 hour.

*I was all out of buttermilk so I used 1/4 cup of sour cream and 1 Tbs. of milk. The recipe also says that you can use 3/4 tsp. lemon juice or vinager added to milk to equal 1/4 cup in place of the buttermilk. Just let it stand for 5 minutes before adding it to the cake ingredients.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Here's what's for dinner tonight...

Here's a little secret about me, I'm a Costco junkie. I often go there several days a week. I don't know if it's their cheap hot dog and drink combo or all the delicious food to look at. Probably both. I love to grab a diet coke and wander around the store. I longingly look at all of the food and think of all of the yummy meals that I can make or walk over to the Le Creuset pots that beg me to take them home each week. I bring this Costco obsession of mine up for one reason, I love their salmon. They sell these bags of individually packaged frozen salmon fillets. It makes it easy for my small family to enjoy the fish whenever we want to. I can pull ou two of the fillets, which defrost in only 10-15 minutes and have them on the table in another 15 minutes. It makes for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

Quick and easy Salmon
(by Ina Garten)

4 skinless salmon fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, pat the salmon dry with paper towels. Cover liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Place salmon season side down into the dry skillet. Cook without turning for 2 minutes. Flip salmon over (if the salmon sticks, wait another minute for salmon to form a brown crust) and place the skillet in the over to finish cooking for 5 -7 minutes.

Since I am in a secret divulging mood, can I share another one? This bowl of beautifully colorful veggies makes me giddy. I mean, when I see all of those delicious veggies layered in a glass bowl I just smile and it instantly brightens my day. Does that sound insane? I just love them. In fact, tonight before dinner, well maybe not just before dinner, more like all day, I was in the worst of moods. I don't know what it was, probably just girlie hormoes, (curse those hormones),but I was not the nice fun mommy today. I think my kids were thinking that their mommy had been kidnapped and replaced with Cruella De Vill. But once I cut up the veggies and saw them layered up in the bowl, I just smiled. I had to run and find the camera so that I could snap this picture. Maybe I'll use it for the screensaver on my computer that way it'll brighten up my day everytime I look at the computer.

So, what did I do with all of those lovely veggies you ask? Only my favorite thing of course, I roasted them. I love roasted veggies. Everything gets better when covered lightly with olive oil and cooked until browned. I love the way that the onions get a little crispy and caramelized and the carots get a little toasty. Oh my goodness, I am drooling all over the computer. Another thing that I love about these beautimus veggies is their versatility. I can roast up a cookie sheet or two one night and have them for dinner. The next day I can turn them into several other dishes. I have made them into a vegetable pot pie by covering them in a vegetable gravy and topping with biscuits or skip the biscuits and top with a layer of cheesy mashed potatoes and you have shepards pie. Inevitably tomorrow morning you'll find me in front of my fridge snacking on them cold. What can't these wonderful veggies do?

Roasted Veggies

1 butternut squash, pealed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into thin 1/2 in. pieces
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 cloves of garlic. peeled
4 red potatoes cut into 1/2 in. pieces
olive oil
salt and pepper
1tsp. dried thyme, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray.

2. Place cut up veggies onto cookie sheet and drzzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt, pepper and thyme, if using. Toss to combine and to coat all of the veggies. Spread between 2 cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 45-60 minutes, tossing the veggies and rotating the sheets after about 25-30 minutes. Toss with a little more salt and serve.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Apple Cinnamon Stuffed Waffles

My friend Jen asked me the other day if I ever make things from a box. Of course I do, I'm a mom and there are lots of days when the best that I can do is a box of mac and cheese. And my kids love it all the same, but I also love to change up some of the box mixes to make them better. Today I will show you my from the mix waffles that I have jazzed up a bit. These are made with a basic pancake mix following the directions for waffles. I do make a few changes like adding in vanilla and almond extract and a few tablespoons of brown sugar. Here I also stuffed them with cinnamon sugar apples and then topped them with some more of the apples. I love the sweet ooey gooey things, they remind me of when I was a kid. My mom used to make them for us for a snack and we would eat them right up barely waiting for them to cool down. And then the house would have the left over scent of cinnamon. I haven't made them for awhile and was surprised by the nostalgia that I felt when eating them today.

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Stuffed Waffles

Pancake mix made following waffle directions
4 apples, (I used pink lady apples)
brown sugar
powdered sugar
chopped walnuts, optional

1. Mix up the pancake mix following the waffle directions, set aside.

2. Peel and chop up the apples into small bite sized pieces. Add to a saute pan that has a lid and add some water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover with the lid and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until softened. Check to make sure there is still water in the bottom, you don't want the apples to burn. meanwhile, heat up your waffle iron.

3. When the apples are softened add a few Tablespoons of brown sugar (adjust depending on the sweetness of your apples) and a few shakes of cinnamon. Stir to combine. Make sure that there is still a little water in the pan and cover withthe lid and simmer for one more minute.

4. Grease the waffle iron and add a little bit of the batter. Top each section with a spoonfull of the apples and then cover with a little more of the waffle batter. Cook according to your waffle iron's instructions (it may take a little longer than normal because of the apples).

5. Remove waffles and butter. Dust with a little powdered sugar and top with another spoonfull of apples. I also like to top mine with a few chopped walnuts. Delicious!