Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Mediterranean' Layer Dip

Mediterranean is in quotation marks in the title because I had to make a few changes with this recipe and without feta or olives, its not all that Mediterranean to me. Note to self: grocery shopping the day after a holiday weekend at a chain grocery store is not a good idea. The grocery store was out of tzatziki (or I couldn't find it) and feta cheese so I changed it to garlic hummus and mozzarella cheese. I also chose to leave the olives out as I've never liked olives.

This recipe comes from Melissa at I was Born to Cook.  I figured I'd be the only one eating this, so I scaled the recipe way back and now I'm kind of regretting it. Its delicious!

'Mediterranean' Layer Dip
Source: I was Born to Cook
Servings: 3/4 cup 
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Ingredients:
    • 2 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/3 cup garlic roasted hummus
    • 1/4 cucumber, chopped
    • 1/4 tomato, chopped
    • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 1 tsp. oregano

Directions:
1. Mix together the cream cheese and hummus (or tzatziki) and spread onto the bottom of a small dish.
2. Top with cucumbers, tomato, mozzarella and oregano.
3. Chill for 20-30 minutes before serving.

I snacked on this with carrot sticks, celery and Special K cracker chips. I wish we weren't tracking calories so I could eat more of this, but I've met my limit for today. I can't wait to have some tomorrow for lunch.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Parmesan Herb Bread Sticks

Almost every time that I have pizza for dinner, I end up wanting bread sticks instead. I have no idea why. So when I came across the recipe from Closet Cooking for Pizza Dip I realized this was the perfect combination. I could have pizza in dip format and still have bread sticks.

Parmesan Herb Breadsticks
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 16
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Ingredients:
    • 1 packet Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast
    • 2 cups AP flour, plus extra for dusting
    • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
    • 3/4 tsp. salt
    • 2/3 cup very warm water
    • 3 tbs. vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil 
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 2 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 2 tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2 tbs. fresh oregano, chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. 
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the yeast, flour, sugar, salt, water and vegetable oil. Mix on low speed until a slightly sticky dough forms.
3. Lightly sprinkle flour onto a flat surface. Remove the dough ball and knead for 4 minutes adding more flour as necessary.
4. Stretch out the dough and place onto a baking sheet.
5. Drizzle the olive oil over the dough and brush to the ends. Season with the garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, parsley and oregano.
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the dough has cooked and is lightly browned on the edges.

These went perfectly with the pizza dip and we even had some left over that I had as a snack for the next day.

Pizza Dip

When I came across this recipe I thought, "Now why didn't I think of that?" We eat pizza pretty frequently and I'm always looking for different toppings to give us some variety. But I never thought about turning pizza into a dip. The original recipe doesn't specify if any reduced fat or fat free items are used but I made mine this way and thought it turned out great!

Pizza Dip
Source: Closet Cooking
Servings:  4
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Ingredients:
    • 4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup fat free sour cream
    • 1/4 cup light mayo
    • 3/4 cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese, divided
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    • 1 cup pizza sauce
    • "Toppings":
    • 8 slices pepperoni
    • 3 tbs. red pepper, diced
    • 5 oz. mushrooms, diced
    • fresh parsley and oregano 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir until combined.
3. Spread the cheese mixture onto the bottom of a 9" pie plate.
4. Spoon the pizza sauce over the mixture and then top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and any toppings of your choice.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and browned.

I served this with homemade bread sticks. This is definitely a hearty dip that can double for a meal. Tom and I were each only able to eat 3 small bread sticks with dip before we were completely full.

Shrimp and Veggie Kebabs

A couple of weeks ago we decided to have a cookout at work. I visited the wonderful farmers market near work and picked up flank steak, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, shrimp, corn on the cob and fresh salsa. We had a delicious lunch of steak, green pepper, mushroom, onion, and shrimp kebabs with grilled corn on the cob and salsa with chips.

Although we have access to the community grills in our apartment complex we never use them. Mostly because I'm not 100% sure how to grill. I mean I know you add the charcoal, light it and wait for it to heat up but I can't gauge cooking times on the grill and we don't have anywhere to store charcoal, so when we want something grilled we just use the Foreman.

Shrimp and Veggie Kebabs
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Original
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned
    • 1 lb. fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
    • 2 tbs. BBQ sauce

Directions:
1. Soak skewers in water and plug in the Foreman grill. (I'm sure its not really necessary to soak the skewers, but I do it out of habit.)
2. Alternate shrimp, mushrooms and pineapple onto each skewer stick.
3. Place on the Foreman grill and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning over once.
4. Brush the shrimp with BBQ sauce.

I served these with grilled asparagus and tomato slices. As you can see from the pictures, the shrimp kind of get lost on the skewers so next time I want to use larger shrimp. This definitely reminds me of summer!

Weekly Menu 5/31 - 6/3

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you've all enjoyed a weekend of grilled food, time with friends and family and lots of time outdoors in the gorgeous weather. If you're in MD, I hope you remembered some sunscreen!

Tom and I decided to do different things this weekend. He wanted to spend time with his parents and his brothers at the beach and three of my friends were also planning on being at the beach this weekend. We drove down together, I dropped him off at his parents near Rehoboth, DE and headed on down to Ocean City, MD to meet my friends. It would take me an entire blog post to tell you about all of the stuff we did this weekend, but lets just say our weekend was sponsored by Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events but we managed to make the best of it and still spent most of the weekend laughing uncontrollably. Oh, and getting some sun of course!

Early last week Tom and I decided that we were going to start eating healthy and losing weight. He's done a ton more exercise than me since he's home during the day but we've both managed to lose some weight! So, this weeks menu is pretty healthy options. Gotta fit into those summer clothes!

Monday - 94% fat free hot dogs with garlic baked beans and salad

Tuesday - Parmesan sesame chicken with garlic roasted cauliflower and cucumber salad

Wednesday - beef fajitas on whole wheat tortillas

Thursday - sesame scallops with Asian green been salad

Friday - shrimp fried rice

Tom and I left the beach around noon yesterday and didn't hit any traffic on the way home. When we got home, we took showers and then just laid in bed for the rest of the day. Don't you hate when after a vacation you need another vacation just to catch up? We went to the grocery store this morning and I've spent most of the day chopping up fruits and veggies.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis

I have a bit of an obsession with lemon lately. I've always loved the smell of lemons and really wish they'd create a lemon scented candle, but lately its taken over into foods. Luckily (or unluckily?) Tom only likes lemon in desserts and not in savory foods, so its kept my lemon obsession in check a bit.

When this recipe popped up on my Google Reader I knew I needed to make it right away. But I already had a ton of desserts baked so I convinced myself to hold off until this weekend. It worked perfectly because I also had a some leftover buttermilk in the fridge.

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis
Source: Good Thymes & Good Food 
Servings: 1 cake
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Strawberry Coulis Ingredients:
    • 2 cups (about 1 carton) strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
    • 3 tbs. sugar
    • 1 tbs. freshly squeeze lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup water

    Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake Ingredients:
    • zest of one lemon
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 3 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp. salt
    • 3 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and water to a blender. Puree until smooth.
2. Pour the strawberry mixture into a fine strainer over a large bowl to separate the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
3. Coat a 10" bread* pan with butter. Dust with flour and pour out the excess. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
5. While that is mixing, add the flour, baking soda and salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine.
6. Add the lemon zest to the butter and sugar mixture. Then add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg.
7. Combine the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract in a large measuring cup. Slowly pour the mixture into the stand mixer. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides and continue to mix for another minute.
8. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place the pan onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 55-60 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack for one hour. Using a butter knife, gently separate the sides of the cake from the pan and flip over. Let pound cake continue to cool on the wire rack for another hour before serving.
10. To serve, cut into slices and drizzle with strawberry coulis.

*You can either use a bundt pan to create a pound cake loaf or a tube pan. 

I was pleasantly surprised how much of the lemon flavor comes through in this cake. I had always expected pound cake to be very heavy but I guess since this doesn't involve the typical pound of sugar, pound of flour, pound of butter ingredients, it turned out very light. However, I could only eat about half of a 1/2 inch slice of the pound cake before I was full.

Oh and the strawberry coulis. Oh yum! I couldn't help but taste it before I put it over the pound cake and it reminded me of Ruby Tuesday's strawberry lemonade. I hope we have some of this left over, I'd like to add it to the lemonade I planned on making next week.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekly Menu 5/22 - 5/27

Work has been horrendous lately. Two people are no longer with us and pretty much all of their responsibilities have fallen to me, on top of the full time position I already have. Today, my "boss" (he isn't but there is no other way to describe him) suggested that we move the server to the conference room so the new admin starting on Monday had a clean office.

He suggests this after I spent the last 2 hours cleaning out the desk of the previous people, vacuuming and trying to organize files. I went along with it, even though he said that last time we moved it without using an IT person, it didn't go well. Of course, that also happened this time. I had planned on taking work home to get everything done over the weekend so I could spend the necessary time training the new person without getting behind on my work. Without any internet or server access at the office, I can't also access it at home. So now  it will be almost noon before I can even begin to train the new admin. She starts at 9. ::sigh::

When I got home today I decided I was going to plan out the menu for next week immediately because well, food and cooking makes me happy and after this week, I needed it.

Sunday - pizza dip with parmesan herb breadsticks

Monday - chicken in a garlic wine sauce

Tuesday - reuben burgers with fries and roasted asparagus

Wednesday - BBQ shrimp, pineapple and mushroom skewers with grilled asparagus and tomatoes

Thursday - gnocchi (maybe with sauce, or maybe with meatballs and sauce)

Friday - chicken bacon ranch pizza

Have you tried the Orchard Chicken Salad from Subway yet? I did the other week and I was less than impressed. I figured it couldn't be all that difficult to make at home so I'm going to try a variation of that for lunches this week.

For dessert, I found a recipe for a lemon-buttermilk poundcake in my google reader. I always seem to have leftover buttermilk so I'm hoping this will use up the rest of it. I've had a bit of an obsession with lemon lately so I'm really excited to try this out. I've never made a pound cake before so we'll see how that goes. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

really love risotto. If only it were healthier (and I had more time in a day), I'd include some form of it for dinner every night. I've included this recipe here before, but its always been part another post. Since its the first risotto recipe I made and definitely my favorite one, I thought it deserved its own post. And a better picture.


Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from: www.allrecipes.com
Servings: 2-4 as a meal
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Ingredients:
    • 4 cups chicken broth
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, roughly chopped
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, diced
    • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
    • 1/3 cup white wine
    • 2 tbs. unsalted butter
    • 2 tbs. Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Directions:
1. Add the chicken broth to a large saucepan over low heat.
2. Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the mushrooms release their liquid. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
3. Add another tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet along with the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the final tablespoon of the oil to the skillet along with the arborio rice.
4. Stir frequently until the rice has absorbed the oil and is a light golden color. Pour in the white wine and stir frequently until absorbed. Then add the chicken stock, one cup at a time, stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed the liquid.
5. With each cup of chicken stock added, the rice should become milkier looking as it absorbed the stock. After the third cup of stock, test the rice to see if it is still hard. It should be al dente at this point. If it is not, warm up another cup of stock in the saucepan.
6. After all cups of stock are absorbed by the rice, reduce the heat to low. Add the butter, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella. Stir frequently until the butter has melted and the rice becomes stringy with cheese.
7. Return the mushrooms back to the skillet and stir for one minute or until combined and heated through. Serve and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Honestly, while I was making this the first time, I didn't expect either of us to like it and I assumed I wouldn't cook the rice long enough. I was more than impressed with myself when this turned out so well. And since Tom likes it so much I can easily just write "risotto" on the menu for the week and know that he won't complain about the lack of a meat with it.

Recipe Swap: Slow Cooked Curry

When I saw that the next recipe swap would be vegetarian meals I was pretty excited. I try to have at least one meatless meal each week which is pretty difficult when your husband strictly believes that dinner  = meat & potatoes.

A few years ago, two coworkers were talking about getting Thai food for lunch as a new place had opened nearby. I asked what Thai food was like and one coworker said "Thai food has a very unique flavor. For most people, either you like or you don't. So if you want to try it, you should definitely go with someone that likes it and knows your tastes so they can tell you what to order." Since I didn't know anyone who ate or liked Thai food, I never bothered to try it.

When I received the recipe for Slow Cooked Red Curry from Nicole at Baby Food Scoops, I knew I had a challenge on my hands. First I had to convince Tom to at least try it, but more importantly, I had to find red curry paste in an area where Thai food doesn't exist. Three grocery stores later, I ended up back at Food Lion staring at all of my choices in the international aisle. There were about 10 different types of curry paste but not one of them was simply called Red Curry. I stood there, reading the labels and ingredients of each of them for about 10 minutes before finally deciding to just pick one. I ended up choosing Madras Curry Paste.

I came home and immediately opened the jar and sniffed it. It didn't smell bad but it also didn't smell spicy. I stuck the tip of my finger in the jar and tasted it. I wouldn't advise this if you haven't had curry paste before. The taste wasn't bad, but I'd love to know who decided that on the heat scale it was worth two chiles and considered medium. I like spicy, but this was definitely more than I imagined. But hey, my sinuses were completely clear so it wasn't a huge mistake.

Slow Cooked Curry
Source: Baby Food Scoops
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Ingredients:
    • 1.5 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
    • 1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
    • 2 1/2 tbs. curry paste
    • 2 tbs. brown sugar
    • 14 oz. coconut milk
    • 1 tbs. soy sauce
    • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
    • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. In a bowl, combine the curry paste, brown sugar, soy sauce, and coconut milk. Place the potatoes and onion slices in the crock pot.
2. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and onions and cook on low for 4 hours.
3. Add the sweet potato, switch the slow cooker to high and cook for 2-3 hours more. Everything should be fork-tender.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I had to make some adjustments from the original recipe. It says to cook for 4-6 hours total on low. After the first three hours on low, my potatoes were still completely hard. An hour later, they were barely fork tender but I added the sweet potato and increased the slow cooker to high. A total of 7 hours later everything was tender. I also skipped the peas and didn't serve this over rice because somehow we managed to be out of both.

I ended up being the only one to eat this, but I only had a few bites. I had snacked throughout the day worrying that it wouldn't be done until really late at night and wasn't very hungry. Overall, I thought the flavors were really interesting and I'm really glad that I finally tried Thai food. I liked it, but it was too much as a main dish for me. I'd prefer it better as a side dish.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekly Menu 5/15 - 5/20

I finally decided to watch an episode of Extreme Couponers. There is absolutely no way I could become anything like those people, I hardly have enough time in my week to get the regular stuff done so there is no possible way I could spend something like 30 hours cutting coupons. But since I had to make a Costco trip for work, I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to see if purchasing anything in bulk would save me any money.

Of course, once I got to the store I found that I didn't have a pen in my purse. So I need to go back, but I was able to price out some items that we buy frequently since I know the prices. I only wanted to spend $100 but I ended up spending $124. Not that bad, overall. Here's what I got:

  • 6 boxes of organic free range chicken broth for $1.92 per box. We pay $2.19 for the non-organic Walmart brand. 
  • 44 oz. Nexxus Moisture Therappe shampoo for $14.99. I pay $9.99 for 13.5 oz.
  • 44 oz. Nexxus Moisture Therappe conditioner for $19.99. I pay $13.99 for 13.5 oz.
  • 114 Neutrogena make-up remover wipes for $12.99. A pack of 50 is around $4.
  • 1 lb. McCormick Taco Seasoning Mix for $3.59. A 1.25 oz. packet is around $1.29
  • 144 oz. Snuggle fabric softener for $7.69. 64 oz. is $3.99.
  • 102 quart sized zip lock bags and 104 gallon sized bags for $7.99. Each box of 60-100 or so is around $2.00
And a few other things that seemed like they would save money. I definitely want to look at the vanilla extract, yeast, oatmeal, flour and mozzarella cheese next time I'm there. Onto the menu:

Sunday - recipe swap meal - vegetarian

Monday - BBQ chicken with baked potatoes and corn maque choux

Tuesday - sauerkraut and keilbasa

Wednesday - mushroom risotto

Thursday - french dip sandwiches with fries

Friday - shrimp scampi

Monday, May 9, 2011

Recipe Swap: Reuben Burgers

The recipe swap category for this week was burgers. We typically don't make burgers outside of the typical ground beef and American cheese burgers. Sometimes we'll change up the cheese or add sauteed mushrooms, but its usually a standard burger. I have no idea why I haven't experimented with them more.

This recipe was the perfect chance to do so. My submission was Patty Melts from Kate at Kate's Recipe Box. When I first read the recipe I immediately though of a Reuben sandwich because of the rye bread and Thousand Island dressing. Initially I had planned on making the recipe exactly, but a burst of creativity hit me as I was forming the patties. "What if we add sauerkraut and made it like a Reuben burger?" I asked Tom. He said it sounded like a good idea so we went for it. After eating pan cooked burgers for over 2 years, we couldn't pass up a chance to make these on the Foreman grill.

Reuben Burgers
Adapted from: Kate's Recipe Box
Servings: 4 burgers
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 4 thin slices of onion
    • 4 slices swiss cheese
    • 1/2 cup cooked sauerkraut
    • 4-5 tbsp. Thousand Island dressing
    • 2 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
    • 8 slices rye bread
    • 3-4 tbsp. butter, softened

Directions:
1. Form the ground beef into long, rectangle shaped patties and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Plug in a George Foreman grill. Add the sauerkraut to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.
3. In a small bowl, combine the Thousand Island dressing and the prepared horseradish.
4. Place the patties on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile, butter one side of each slice of bread. Once the burgers are done, top with a slice of Swiss cheese and let melt over the burger (to save on clean up, we just hold the Foreman lid close to the burger but don't actually close it on top of the cheese).
5. Remove the burgers from the grill and set on a plate. Place two slices on the bread butter side down on the grill and cook for about 1 minute until lightly toasted. Repeat until all of the bread is toasted.
6. Spread the dressing and horseradish mixture on the insides of the bread, place the burger on one side, top with an onion slice and some of the prepared sauerkraut. Top with the other slice of bread and cut in half.

The result? "It's not very often that I fall in love at first bite." - Tom

Do you really need more confirmation than that? I definitely plan on making these again! Next time I think we'll try them with a heartier bread as the rye started to fall apart with the butter, dressing and the weight of the burger. So plan on licking your fingers clean. Or you know, being proper and all and using a napkin.


Maryland Crab Cakes

I can't believe I've never blogged about crab cakes before. As a resident of Maryland, known for their blue crabs, I'm a bit of a crab cake snob. Okay, I admit it, I'm a full blown crab cake snob. But I can't help it. Once you have a Maryland crab cake nothing else is as a good.

One thing in common about many of the great seafood restaurants in Maryland is that they all agree, a simple crab cake recipe is best. The crab meat needs to be the star. Everything else is just for texture, binding and color. Okay, fine, and flavor. I definitely agree with those restaurants and I've only ever made crab cakes one way; using the recipe on the back of the Old Bay can.

If you're not in an area where Old Bay is sold, I highly recommend that you head on over to http://www.oldbay.com/and purchase some. Immediately. Its not just for seafood. You can put it on chicken, pork, in burgers, on fries, popcorn, in salads, just about anywhere.
That's a piece of fresh lettuce from my mini garden!

Maryland Crab Cakes
Source: Old Bay
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. crab meat, shells and cartilage removed
    • 2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
    • 2 tsp. parsley
    • 2 tbsp. mayo
    • 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
    • 2 slices bread, crusts removed and broken into pieces
    • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into 4-6 evenly sized patties.
3. Place crab cakes on a cookie sheet and broil for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

You can also fry them, but I think it takes away from the natural sweetness of the crab meat. Lump or jumbo lump crab meat is preferred for a really filling crab cake but back-fin is also acceptable.  

I made these for Tom's birthday and served them with Old Bay fries and corn on the cob.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Confession: I've never made a cake from scratch before. 

Growing up, cake came from a box except for the special occasion cheesecake. I have no idea why I've waited so long to make a cake from scratch. Not only is today Mother's Day but its also Tom's birthday. His favorite cake is yellow cake with chocolate frosting. So, a few weeks ago I set out to find a recipe for both that would be pretty fool proof.

I came across the Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake from Cook's Illustrated (March 2008) and decided this would be the one. Finding a recipe for chocolate frosting proved a bit more difficult. I came across quite a few recipes that seemed okay, but not quite good enough. And then I found this Triple Layer Fudge Brownie Cake from Cassie Craves. I took it as a good sign that Cassie had made this cake for her husbands birthday.

This morning, I woke up early and began to get the ingredients together to make the cake. Then I started to wonder if it was really a good idea to make a cake from scratch for the first time. I crossed my fingers and moved on.

Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake
Source: Cook's Illustrated, March 2008
Servings: 2 9" cakes
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Ingredients:
    • cooking spray
    • parchment paper 
    • 2-3 tbs. all purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
    • 3 tbs. vegetable oil
    • 2 tbs. vanilla
    • 1 1/4 stick (10 tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
    • 3 egg whites, room temperature

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two 9 inch wide by 2 inch tall cake pans with cooking spray. Line the cake pans with the parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray again. Sprinkle the flour into each pan and shake until coated. Dump out the excess flour.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg yolks.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites. Beat on medium high speed until foamy. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. This took about 4 minutes on speed 6. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
5. Clean out the bowl of your stand mixer and then add the flour mixture. On low speed (2) add the butter mixture and mix until well combined.
6. Using a spatula, gently stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until no white streaks remain.
7. Divide the batter evenly into both of the prepared cake pans. Tap the pans against the counter to remove any air bubbles.
8. Bake the cakes until the sides begin to pull away from the edges of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (The recipe says 20-22 minutes, my cakes took 28.)
9. Transfer the cakes to wire cooling racks and let cool for 20 minutes. Loosen the cakes from the sides of the pans and then flip onto the wire racks. Peel off the parchment paper. Let cool another 10 minutes.
10. Flip the cakes again and let cool completely, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Note to self: when your hands and your gut tell you that the cakes aren't ready to be turned out onto the racks - LISTEN! The recipe says to cool them for 10 minutes before flipping and putting on the racks. I did this, ignoring that they still felt pretty warm, and this is what happened to one cake.


At first I freaked out a bit and then realized that it could easily be the bottom layer of the cake and at least now I didn't have two perfect cakes to attempt to frost.
The only baking related task I hate: chopping chocolate
Chocolate Frosting
Source: Cassie Craves, from the Taste of Home Baking Book

Ingredients:
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions:
1. Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually stir in the heavy whipping cream until combined.
2. Bring to a gentle boil and then boil and stir for one minute. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. The mixture will resemble pudding.
Frosting consistency after 45 minutes in the fridge
3. Attach the whisk attachment to your stand mixer and beat the chocolate until soft peaks form.
4. Decorate the cake with the frosting and refrigerate until ready to serve.You should have some extra frosting.

The result? I was pretty impressed with the way this turned out since it was the first cake I made. It stayed together, the frosting went on relatively nicely and it wasn't too dry. 


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

These muffins are seriously camera shy. The first time I made them, they turned out semi-pretty enough for a picture, but I had misread the recipe and used the wrong amount of flour so they didn't quite look muffin like. The second time I made them, the grocery store was out of the usual frozen blueberries I use for baking so I picked up another brand. They didn't hold up to even gently mixing into the mixture and I ended up with purple muffins. This time, they're still somewhat purple and didn't quite make that muffin shape. So I figured they must be camera shy muffins. But that's not stopping me from blogging them this time.

Blueberry Muffins
Source: Pink Parsley, from Cooks Illustrated, May 2009
Servings: 12 
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups frozen blueberries
    • 1 cup, 2 tbsp and 1 tsp. sugar
    • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    Lemon-Sugar Topping:
    • zest of 1 lemon
    • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray.
2. Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the blueberries and the 1 teaspoon of sugar. Once the blueberries are soft, mash them and continue cooking until the mixture has thickened. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir until combined. Add the remaining 1 cup of blueberries.
4. In medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until thick. Then whisk in the buttermilk, oil, melted butter and vanilla extract. Use a spatula to gently fold the mixture into the flour and blueberry mixture, folding just until you no longer see clumps of flour, but the mixture is still lumpy.
5. Scoop the mixture into the muffin pans about 2/3 of the way full. Add about a teaspoon of the cooked blueberry mixture and swirl with a toothpick.
6. In a small bowl, stir together the lemon zest and the 1/3 cup of sugar. Sprinkle over each muffin.
7. Bake the muffins for 9-10 minutes and rotate the pan. Bake for another 9-10 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Even though I only managed to get three semi-pretty enough muffins to photograph, even the not-so-pretty ones are delicious. The lemon-sugar topping really makes stand out from any other blueberry muffin I've made.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Menu 5/8 - 5/13

Recently a farmers market opened by work. I checked it out when they first opened and I was more than impressed with their gigantic selection of items. Imagine every homemade item you can think of and then some typical grocery store items. That's what its like. Pickles, sauerkraut, butters, cheeses, deli meats, chicken, pork, and beef in every cut imaginable, fresh produce and seafood (REAL CRAB MEAT!!!!), freshly baked pies, candies, cookies, breads, muffins and donuts. There is an entire section dedicated to spices and baking needs where you can find things like 6 lb. bags of quinoa or 5 lb. bags of cake flour for unbelievable prices. There is a 10 foot long counter of homemade candies and fudge. They even offer chocolate covered bacon, which I have to say I tried and is freaking unbelievable. There are candied green bean chips, purple sweet potato chips and real corn tortilla chips. Not only are all of those things available for purchase, but there are also sections where you can buy breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. Bagels, omelets, breakfast in a soft pretzel, fried chicken, ribs, wings, roasted potatoes and the list just goes on and on.

I only wish I could clone the market and put it right next to our apartment complex. It really is that amazing. Yesterday we had a cookout for work and picked up some watermelon. It is definitely not the season for watermelon but it was red, ripe and delicious. I stopped in today with the intent of just picking up a watermelon. $20 later I walked out of the farmers market with a watermelon, corn on the cob, asparagus, chocolate covered strawberries (for Tom's birthday), a soft pretzel, lemonade and a fruit cup. Then I went back after work and picked up crab meat.

I'm going to need a raise to cover my farmers market addiction.

Anyway, here's the menu for this week:

Sunday (Tom's birthday) - Maryland crab cakes, fries and corn on the cob

Monday - Recipe Swap - patty melts

Tuesday - chicken, roasted poblano and corn quesadillas

Wednesday - baked parmesan spaghetti

Thursday - grilled cheese and tomato soup

Friday - tacos

Desserts - blueberry muffins (this will be my 3rd attempt to make this damn things) and for Tom's birthday, yellow cake with chocolate icing. Wish me luck, I'm horrible at making icing!

Personally, I'm the most excited for the crab cakes. I honestly don't remember the last time I bought a pound of real Maryland crab meat and turned it into crab cakes. Its definitely been more than a year.