Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Happy Easter Cake

I hope everyone had a happy Easter. What a great holiday we had - the weather was beautiful and the company, as always, was fun and filled with laughs.  All the food was delicious. I think it might have been the best Easter food in a long, long time. 
I made this cake inspired by cakes I had seen online.  I decorated it in the style of a basket (sans the handle) using a basket-weave piping tool and added grass (colored coconut) and eggs (Robin's Egg candies) and Peeps to the top.
The cake was coconut lemon: white cake, lemon icing and lemon coconut filling. It was a combination of 3 different recipes, the icing being all mine. 

As far as the blog goes, I know I have been slacking. It has been a very busy time for me but I would like to get back into it. Because of work constraints, it is hard for me to keep up as much as I used to, but I am still cooking and baking, especially on the weekends!  I hope this spring/summer to have more regular entries and I thank you for continuing to follow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Funfetti Cake Sandwich Cookies

Hello!  Long time, no posting.  It's all my fault.  Spring has been busy for me.  I know that is a lame excuse, but it's true.  But I am feeling back on my game now that the nicer weather is (finally) upon us.  And just because I have not been posting, does not mean I have not been cooking.  It's very much the opposite, actually! 

This past weekend we got together with friends who have two young kids.  I offered to bring dessert and went through my "to make" files to see what I could whip up.  I have so many things I have yet to try, but I did want to avoid anything with nuts because I know one of the kids is allergic to peanuts.  Therefore, my list became smaller and a little easier to go through.  I picked out this recipe I had seen on Serious Eats posted by Cakespy figuring it was the perfect thing to make for the kids. Kinda like cupcakes, but in cookie form.  Just as cute, but less mess. 

They came out great.  Everyone loved them (especially the kids).  I was actually surprised how much I liked them.  I will definitely be making them again!  The beauty of this recipe is that you can change it up by using different cake mixes and icing options. 

Funfetti Cake Sandwich Cookies
adapted from Cakespy

For the cookies:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 package funfetti or rainbow chip cake mix

For for the icing:
1 stick of butter, softened
3-4 cups confectioners sugar
evaporated milk (as needed for consistency)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch or two of salt
food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream the butter and cream cheese. Blend in egg and vanilla.
3. Add cake mix in two parts, mixing well (it will be a super thick batter—if it is too stiff, add a small quantity of heavy cream to the batter and mix well).
4. Form balls of cookie dough (about a tablespoon each) on an ungreased baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between the cookies.
5. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool cookies for at least 15 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire cooling rack; the cookies are very delicate when they first come out of the oven and they will break if you try to transfer them too soon.
6. Once completely cool, add a generous dollop of frosting to the bottom of half the cookies, and then sandwich the rest of the cookies on top to form something that vaguely resembles a whoopie pie, but tastes like something else entirely.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Skillet Lasagna

One of my favorite Christmas gifts I received this year was a cast iron skillet. I have been wanting one for awhile, so I had several dishes in mind that I wanted to try.  So far I have used it to make jalepeno cornbread, crab cakes, seared salmon and skillet potatoes/hash browns, all which were delicious.

My most recent experiment using my cast iron skillet was veggie lasagna.  When I first heard about this, I thought that the lasagna would be assembled in the skillet and then baked in the oven just like a regular lasagna, but that's not the case.  The cool thing is that the lasagna gets assembled in the skillet while it is on the burner and then stays there until it's cooked through.  The result was a fabulous tasting lasagna in about half the time.  
I did look at a couple recipes before doing this, mostly for technique, but as far as measurements and ingredients used, I did not follow a specific recipe. 

What you will need:
Sauce - I used a jar of low country tomato sauce from my sister in Charleston.  It's so good and adds so much flavor, but homemade or any jarred sauce will do.
Cheese - I used ricotta, parm and asiago, but mozzerella would obviously work too.
Noodles - You may use pre-boiled noodles, but I only had regular ones, so I soaked them in hot water before adding.
Veggies - I had asparagus, mushrooms and kale on hand, but any veggies would do, just make sure you par-cook them first if needed (I sauteed the mushrooms and asparagus but put in the chopped kale raw and it worked fine).

Place skilled over medium heat, add a layer of sauce, then noodles, then cheese mixture (15oz ricotta, 1 egg, parm, salt and pepper), then veggies.  Repeat layers until you get to the last set of noodles - top those with sauce and your melting cheese - in this case, asiago.  Cover and simmer lasagna on stove top for about 20 minutes.  For the last 5 minutes, take cover off and place under broiler so the top gets crispy and brown. 

It would be best to let this sit about 10 minutes before cutting into, but as usual, we could not wait a minute longer to start digging in.  I bet the leftovers will be even better!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Frittata Time

Happy almost-Thanksgiving!  It is hard to believe we have reached the busiest time of year. So, I thought it would be appropriate to post a great meal idea for any time of day that is perfect for one or for many:  The Frittata.

A frittata to me means "open-faced omelette".  I am not sure if this is what it is really supposed to be, but that's how I think of it.  I have had frittatas with leftover spaghetti, chick peas, potatoes, all sorts of veggies and cheeses (not necessarily all together).  It is a great dish to make in a pinch when trying to get rid of leftovers in the fridge.  It is also the perfect weeknight meal because it is so easy to make and requires little time.  The best part about the frittata is it can be made with so many different ingredient options for 1 person or a crowd; a perfect brunch option if you have visitors this holiday season. 

Here's how it's done: Basic Frittata
1. Chop up any veggies (and/or meat) you plan to add. 
2. Place appropriate sized pan (I use a 10 inch for 2 people) on burner and melt butter under medium heat.  Add veggies/meat to (oven safe) pan and saute a few minutes until softened.
3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs (2 per person) and some milk.  When veggies are softened, add egg mixture to pan.  Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
4. Cook over low-medium heat until eggs are almost cooked through. 
5. Turn on broiler.  Top egg with shredded or sliced cheese.
6. Place frittata under broiler until cheese is melted and gets crusty on top.  Take out and cut into servings.  

The frittata pictured was asparagus, crab and brie.  A very tasty combo!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Candy Bar Brownies

Hello there.
I know, it has been a while.  This fall has been very busy so far and unfortunately, not all in a good way.  While I haven't stopped cooking or baking, I just haven't had the time to take and upload pictures or write posts (even though I don't write much!).  Hopefully this entry will be the first of many as we quickly approach the holiday season. 
My intention here is to solve a problem that we all face once a year: What do I do with all the leftover Halloween candy?  The obvious thing to do is just eat it, but even I get sick of the same ol' candy day after day. So I came up with something fantastic that literally transcends those boring candy bars into something spectacular: Candy Bar Brownies.
It's very simple: make a batch of brownie batter, pour half the batter into the pan, place cut up pieces of (chocolate) candy into the batter and cover with the remaining mixture.  Bake according to the recipe.  I like to mix up the candy and place in no particular order in the brownies; that way each bite is unexpected.  This year I used Snickers, Reeses PB Cups, Reeses Pieces and Heath Bars. 
Using a brownie mix would work fine, but while I am here I might as well share my favorite brownie recipe-and believe me, I have tried many! 

Fudge Brownies 
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I do not add chips when making Candy Bar Brownies)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish.
2. In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter completely. Stir in sugar and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow sugar mixture to boil.
3. Pour butter mixture into a large bowl or stand mixer, beat in cocoa powder, eggs, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined.
4. Stir in the flour and chocolate chips until well combined.
5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester comes out mostly clean. The edges should be set and the center should still look slightly moist, but not uncooked.  Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Favorite This Summer

Another favorite for me this summer was strawberries.  I am a huge strawberry fan and this year they seemed to be superior (I am eating some right now).  

A few weeks ago, we had dinner plans in the evening with friends.  I had an abundance of strawberries so I thought instead of wine it would be fun to bring something unexpected for dessert.  I looked online to see what I could make with the ingredients I had and when I found this recipe, I knew in an instant that was what it was going to be.   

Cupcakes seem to be the in thing right now and while I do enjoy them, I still prefer a regular piece of cake.  But cupcakes are cute, fun and more informal than cake, so they are the perfect thing to bring to a casual affair.  I will post the recipe as it is written, but I did make changes to the icing.  I could not fathom using 2 full sticks of butter, so I started with 1/2 stick and added more as I went along until it was to my liking.  Overall, I  probably used 1 stick total for the icing.  They were so good and easy to make, I made them a week later for another event!

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen

2/3 cup whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.
2.  Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about  1/3 cup of puree, add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.
3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.
4.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
5.  With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.
6.  Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

1/2 cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.  Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. 
2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat until well combined.
3.  Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.   

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Corn and Chick Pea Salad

Hello, there!  It's been quite a while since I have posted.  August came and went so quickly, I just didn't have enough time to post much.  Hopefully, this will not be the case this fall.

My first entry of September will highlight the delicious corn I have been eating this summer.  It's bicolor corn from a farm in NY and it has been spectacular.  I have been buying a surplus every week and then making this salad with the leftovers.  Try it out while the corn is still good!

Corn and Chick Pea Salad
2-3 ears corn that have been boiled a few minutes
1 can chick peas, drained
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 scallions, diced
salt and pepper
few splashes each of olive oil and red wine vinegar

Carefully cut corn off ears.  Place all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well and chill for an hour or so (to incorporate flavors).  When serving, garnish with avocado and/or feta cheese if desired.