Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Locally Grown Dinner Is The Best Dinner

Just when I thought I couldn't be more surprised of what Chattanooga has to offer, it surprises me again.

The farmer's market season has recently started back in the last two weeks. And one of the best finds I've come across is Riverview Farms. I was walking from vendor to vendor and found this amazing booth that had Polenta and Grits.I was surprised to find it was locally grown and milled.

I'm a victim of the powdery fine instant polenta that I struggle to find at the local grocery stores here. When I made this REAL polenta I couldn't believe how wonderful it could be.

So I decided to pair it with some locally made Lamb Sausages from Williams Island Farm It was the most wonderful dinner ever. And the beauty of it all is that it all came from where I live.

Lamb Sausages with Tomato Wine Sauce over Polenta
1 1/2 cups polenta (corn meal)
3 cups water
1 lb lamb sausages
3-4 whole peeled canned tomatoes in their juices
1/4 cup Malbec (whatever you're drinking)

Boil the water and add the polenta stir constantly and drop down to a simmer. Stir constantly until thickened (about 20 minutes)  Fry sausages in olive oil until browned and cooked through. Remove them and crush the tomatoes by hand and add to the frying pan along with the juices and the wine. Reduce by half.

Serve sausages on top of the polenta and ladle the sauce over... Enjoy the texture of real polenta and look forward to the weekend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Its time to "Green" Your Smoothie

I realize I've been on a health kick lately.

My husband met his weight goal recently which was a huge accomplishment for him....I did not. That is a problem.... This plateau thing is for the birds...

Anyways, while weight loss isn't the only reason - I've had a wonderful time at the farmer's market recently - sometimes you do indeed need a little chocolate in life. We'll save that for Chocolate Friday. For now - its time to green your smoothie. I've recently come to have a lot of leftover fresh local spinach in my possession. You can only eat so many spinach salads, sauteed spinach and spinach in omelets.

So I tried adding it to my smoothie for breakfast. All of the iron with really little of the spinach taste. Its like adding a vitamin into your actualy smoothie. You don't really taste it.

Try it if you have any leftover spinach. More nutrients in your smoothie can't be so bad. Consider it your own Vitamin Booster free of charge.

1 cup spinach
1/2 cup low fat vanilla (or banilla my current favorite) yogurt
1 cup strawberries
1 cup skim milk

Blend all ingredients. (Depending on how thick you like your smoothies you may want to add more milk)

Enjoy all your newfound energy and conquer your day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Make a Colorful Salad Recipe

Lettuce is the blank canvas for all salads.

Since the party this weekend (and there is so little left in my cabinets) I decided to finish the job and find some ways to get rid of my frozen organic vegetables. With the beginning of the farmer's market season there is no reason to keep those frozen veggies on hand.  And since I'm not afraid to add anything to a salad I sauteed a veggie mix of corn, diced carrots, peas and green beans along with some frozen peppers I also needed to use. Then I added some chicken sausage and cheese and found that I had a really, really good salad in front of me with a lot of substance.

Salads never get old when you aren't afraid to throw just about anything in them. 

It's a long summer so it's time to mix up your salads...
To recap:

1 head of romaine lettuce
1 16 oz package of frozen vegetable mix blend
1 cup of cheese
1 cup frozen peppers
2 Chicken sausages cooked

Saute all frozen vegetables togethe until cooked through but not overcooked. Grill or fry up the sausages and slice. Toss with romaine and cheese. (Makes two healthy portioned salads)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Celebrating Chattanooga's Earth Day

This morning I was standing at the sink washing all the dishes from my party last night. Dishes are a great way to re-play all the details from the night before. You replay the good things, good conversations and the things you would do differently.

On Saturday I hosted a party in honor of Earth Week and Chattanooga's environmental progress. In 1969, due to the manufacturing industry, Chattanooga was named by the EPA the dubious honor of "The Dirtiest City in America" Since then the city has made a remarkable turnaround. Now in the downtown area you will find zero emission electric buses, a Tennessee River that was reclaimed and now host to a walking bridge and greenway.

Also, agriculturally you will find 1,000 farms within 100 miles of the city. There are a number of local organic farmers markets every week where residents can purchase locally grown meats and produce. Its time to celebrate how far this city has come. Which is why I had the inspiration to have our friends and family over to celebrate.

Date:  April 24, 2010
Time: 5 p.m.
Where: Our Home

Menu: The one hitch to my planning this soiree was that I would only purchase locally made meat and produce. I would start at the local farmers market on the Wednesday before and try to get most of my supplies and then follow up at the organic market to round out anything I needed.

I did well on Wednesday. I bought a Filet of Beef from River Ridge Farms, Shitake mushrooms & Leeks from Crabtree farms and I received a wonderful gift of whole wheat flour from Sonrisa farms. And not only did I get wonderful local meat and produce but I got to talk to the vendors about their farms, their history and their stories.

On Friday I followed up with a visit to the organic market. I found strawberries from a North Georgia farm, eggs from Sequatchie Cove Farm and from Crabtree Farm I got turnips.  There was also milk and potatoes. Then I found locally made lamb and chicken sausages made with meats from Sequatchie cove farm.

Need a map of all the farms in the Chattanooga region? Start here

All in all this lead to my menu:
Leek and Shitake mini fritatas
Pasta with cream, spinach and shaved gouda
Lamb & Chicken Cilantro Sausage in Puff Pastry
Filet of Beef with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Turnip and Potato Mash
Strawberries two Ways: Strawberry Ice Cream & Macerated Strawberries atop Pound Cake

Then there was the wine pairings:  We pared wine with each dish and allow each person to sample each dish with a different wine.

We had the Nobilo Savignon Blanc with the pasta, spinach  and cream sauce
Died in the Wool Savignon Blanc for the chicken sausage with cilantro
Leese Fitch Pinot Noir with the lamb sausage in puff pastry
Leese Fitch Cabernet Savignon for the Filet of Beef
Prosecco with the strawberries two ways: ice Cream and pound cake

So on Saturday the preparation began. And by 5:00 P.M. our friends arrived. And we had a wonderful time celebrating with friends.

Its amazing to know that you can create an entire meal and dinner party with food that is locally grown and made. As I wheeled my cart in our organic grocery store I saw foods as far as Costa Rica, South America and farther. As far as Chattanooga has come from their poor air quality and pollution, we need to continue to support our local farmers by buying local whenever possible and eating food that is in season.

Its important for our health and the environment.

A big thanks to all the vendors at the Wednesday Market on Main, my husband who supports and dries dishes with the best of them, and my best friend Varinia my blogging support group. And to all my friends who came and celebrated - I enjoyed the time we spent!

Recipe Index:

Lamb Sausage & Chicken Sausage in Puff Pastry
2 lbs Lamb Sausage
2 lbs Chicken Sausage
1 package Puff Pastry

Boil the sausage for about 10 minutes or until it holds it shape (will be med rare in the middle)
Roll out the Puff Pastry and cut into roughly 2 in squares. Then cut each sausage into thirds and wrap the puff pastry around it diagonally. Brush with an egg wash (one egg and 1 tbsp water) and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes

Strawberry Ice Cream
Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream (from my Epicurious Iphone App)

Yield: Makes about 5 cups
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb strawberries (3 cups), trimmed and quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Special equipment: an ice-cream maker and an instant-read thermometer
Cooks' notes: To cool custard quickly after straining, set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until chilled. Ice cream keeps 1 week.


Combine cream, zest, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and discard zest.

Whisk eggs with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking. Pour back into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F (do not let boil).
Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, overed, at least until cold, about 2 hours, and up to 1 day.

While custard is chilling, purée strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice in a blender until smooth, then force through fine sieve (to remove seeds) into chilled custard. Stir purée into custard.

Freeze in ice-cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden
Filet of Beef
3 lb filet of beef
1/4 cup coarse ground mustard
Salt & pepper 
Season the filet of beef with salt and pepper and take the course ground mustard and cover the roast. Place in a 500 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out and let sit for 20 minutes before you slice.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chocolate Fridays - Honey Oatmeal Cookies

Going to the farmer's market always does my soul good.

Instead of trudging to Walmart where I'm trying to get out of there as fast as possible, I can be outside (the first time since I arrived at work) and shop in peace. I can speak to the local vendors and hear their stories.

They have great stories.

Stories of how their love of farming, bee keeping, the environment, or horticulture moved them to make it their living. And how its hard. So many people don't value local organic foods and how it helps your overall health and the environment.  But it also supports others in doing what they love.

This probably hits home closest to me. I do what I love and want others to have the same chance to make their living doing what they love. And if it helps the environment and my health in the process then that's even better.

So from now on Thursdays (yes I know its Friday) I'll write about what's going on at the local farmer's market, what's in season, the stories from the local vendors and some great recipes to go along.

But  in honor of Chocolate Friday I give you Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies made with the local honey I purchased at the market. Its from Sale Creek Honey and you can find it here and order online. Its wonderful. Its a small operation and his bees are happy and doing great. That's the beauty of bees that are local and moved very little. I substitued honey for regular sugar in this recipe and I loved the honey flavor that came through.

Oatmeal Cookies
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
3 cups Quick Cook Oats
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz unsalted butter - room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup local honey
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer and add honey and eggs. Add vanilla and then the flour and oats. Stir in the Chocolate chips and scoop onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 14 - 16 minutes.

Makes roughly 36 cookies

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Peach Gelato Recipe

Sometimes when things aren't peachy keen, you have to cook like they are - enter my Peachy Keen Gelato recipe. I've been exploring all things gelato since I found the Nutella Gelato and Strawberry Gelato recipes that were quite wonderful. So were cruising down the fruit highway to Peachville.

This Peach Gelato recipe is great because you don't have to wait until the peaches are ripe - you can use frozen peaches. And by adding a couple tablespoons of Cointreau it adds the perfect compliment.

Make this and even after a bad week it will seem a little rosier....Hopefully.

Peachy Keen Gelato
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2 cups peaches (if frozen - thaw them out)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp Cointreau

Combine thawed peaches with juices, lemon and Cointreau in a blender. Puree until smooth. In a saucepan heat milk until almost scalding. In a separate mixing bowl add egg yolks. Slowly add heated milk to egg yolks and whisk quickly to warm up the eggs. (if the eggs cook to much they will look slightly curdled. If this happens just put the mixture through a strainer before you chill it) Then return mixture to the saucepan on medium high heat stirring until it thickens (and coats back of spoon) Add puree mixture and combine. Chill mixture in refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. (Make sure its chilled through) Then put in ice cream maker.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Top Essentials for a Kitchen Garden

When I went from crafting and knitting this winter to more gardening work, my husband asked if that was the end of my knitting.

Then when I spent most of my weekend outside in the garden my husband asked if I was going to stop cooking and baking because of the gardening he got a little worried.

But they are not mutually exclusive of each other.

I have a rule. When I have a lot of things to catch up on say outside - other chores will have to take a backseat or I will drive myself crazy with the length of my to do list. That being said - its gardening time and the first thing up is:

 The Good Neighbor Garden

My neighbor and I came up with this last year. A way for us to pool our resources and share the bounty of a garden in our neighborhood. We learned alot and are rearing to go this year. So I bring you the essential components to a beginning Kitchen Garden.

1. Basil - and more basil and then more...
2. Tomatoes - We are growing Brandwine and Romas
3. Cilantro - its the essential summer ingredient
4. Fennel  - Its not just for winter...
5. Nasturtiums - For a more colorful salad experience
6. Green Peppers
7. Dill
8. Thyme
9. Lemon Thyme
10. Majoram

On the bench: We've actually tossed back and forth adding a Blueberry and a raspberry bush as well. I mean why not add fruit with our garden if possible right?

What's your essentail component to a Kitchen Garden?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes

I needed a good breakfast today.

Lot's of cleaning of unwanted vines and "Wicked Plants" in my yard and garden. Lots of inside cleaning and straightening and lists in my head. I feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland...

So I experimented with our easy pancake recipe (using self rising flour) and decided to make oatmeal pancakes with blueberries. You combine all the ingredients in the blender and then use it to pour the pancakes into the pan. They're healthier, they're delicious and they're easy to make...Pair with some thick cut bacon and a giant cup of coffee and you have one good meal. That will probably need to bring me to dinner.

Happy Saturday!

Oatmeal Blueberry Panckaes
(makes roughly 4 large pancakes. Double recipe for more)

3/4 cup quick cook oats
1/2 cup self rising flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
3/4 to 1 cup milk
1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Combine all ingredients in the blender and mix until incorporated. Use the blender to pour into the pan. Add blueberries after your pour out pancake batter to get perfect distribution (optional for perfectionists like myself)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chocolate Friday's - Chocolate Icebox Recipe

It's Friday so let's wade through more chocolate...

This is a recipe from my childhood. We LOVED when my mother would have this waiting for us when we got home from school for a snack. And when it has a chance to sit in the refrigerator and soften into a cakelike consistency its just off the charts comfort food.

Back then we used the cook and serve chocolate jello pudding mix. But a while ago I was sifting through the Fanny Farmer cookbook and found a recipe for a chocolate blanc mange. Basically its chocolate pudding and no harder to make from scratch then if you used the Jello mix.


And since I promised healthier recipes this week (1 for 4 isn't horrible) I used whole wheat graham crackers. Hey fiber in your chocolate recipe is still fiber people.

Chocolate Icebox Cake
2 cups milk
3 tbsp Cornstarch
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 box Whole Wheat (or regular) graham crackers

Take 1/4 cup milk and add sugar, cornstarch and salt. In a saucepan heat 1 3/4 cup milk until almost at scalding stage. Add the chocolate and stir until melted.  Then slowly pour in the cornstarch sugar mixture. Cook on medium for about 10 minutes until thick and to cook out the cornstarch flavor . Take off the stove and add vanilla.

Line a 8 x 8 baking dish with a layer of graham crackers. Pour a large ladle of chocolate pudding. With a spoon smooth out evenly over the graham crackers. Repeat. You should have enough for 4 layers. Crush graham crackers on the top and cover with Saran Wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Enjoy with whipped cream and sliced bananas....Then enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cinnamon Bread

I make my husband's breakfast sandwiches every day.

And unfortunately I'm going to run out of something no matter how I try. So on my way home I decided to make a grocery run. Unfortunately I found myself buying everything but the cinnamon bread I needed.

Good thing I had an easy recipe to make it from scratch. 

Cinnamon Bread Recipe:

1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet highly active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon

Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a mixer with a dough hook. Add the olive oil, flour and salt and mix until incorporated. Let rise covered in a warm place for 30 minutes. Roll out into a rectangle. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. With a pastry brush spread olive oil lightly over the surface and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangle. Starting from one side start to roll the dough all the way to the end. Pinch the ends and place in a bread loaf pan. Let rise for another 30 - 45 minutes. Put in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes

Enjoy the cinnabon smell in your house.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daring Cooks April Challenge - Brunswick Stew

I'm a big believer in trying new things. I'm not sure where I got this from. Especially my daring palette. But when I found "The Daring Kitchen" I couldn't wait to join in whatever capacity they would have me.

I'm not sure they think the same thing...

Because today was the day we were supposed to post our challenges and somehow in my mind I had it as tomorrow... SIGH. So instead of the early bird catching the worm, here I am posting at the last possible minute like someone turning in a term paper at the last minute. Great first impression Rosy.

So its good that because of the Nesting Project way -  to find homecooked recipes that are simple for us working girls, I had planned to do the easier version of this recipe.

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

I'm not from the South and Brunswick Stew was always that side that I left on the plate at down home restaurants. It just never looked like something that interested me. Let's face it sometimes stews are not usually that sexy... But this recipe is something you need to try. Its easy, its delicious and with having chicken, ham and turkey in it - its sexy...

2 ½ lb TOTAL diced stewed chicken, turkey, and ham, with broth - yes, all three meats
3 medium diced potatoes
2 medium ripe crushed tomatoes
2 medium diced onions
3 cups/ 689.76 grams / 24.228oz frozen corn
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz frozen lima beans
4-5 strips crumbled bacon
½ stick / 4 tablespoons / ¼ cup / 56.94 grams / 2oz of butter
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / .5 oz sugar
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / .5 oz ‘Poultry Seasoning’
Dash of red pepper
2 diced carrots (optional)
Tomato juice

In large stock pot or Dutch Oven, mix all ingredients, heat until bubbly and hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato juice as desired. Cook until all vegetables are tender. Serve hot.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

After baby showers and being laid up with a serious allergic reaction to posion ivy, I got on the scale this weekend. The results were not what I had hoped.

This is why we weigh ourselves regularly I guess...To depress ourselves

Either way we've got to bring a few things in line. And it couldn't be a better time. The warm weather naturally brings me to a lighter fare in my diet.

So this week I'm going to be concentrating on some lighter options on the menu because a working girl doesn' t necessarily need to change everything. She just needs to sprinkle in some healthier options and maybe smaller portions.

This recipe I created because I love greek yogurt, I love blueberries and I love cold things when its hot. Its really not rocket science. Now, if you need me I'll be at the gym torturing myself in Step Class.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
2 cups 0% Greek Yogurt
1 cup frozen blueberries thawed (if in season use fresh)
1/4 cup sugar or Honey
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Blend the blueberries, honey/sugar and lemon juice in a blender/food processor then in a bowl mix the puree and the yogurt together and pour into your ice cream maker.

Enjoy after a hard workout or as a snack...Look forward to looser clothes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Baby Shower Saturday

Talk about baby focused.

Today was a big day for my friends and I. Because somehow three are pregnant and due within 3 days of each other with the fourth due a few weeks after that...

A lot of babies...

So the three of us who aren't pregnant (One just recently gave birth) hosted a shower for them. A triple baby shower... That is a lot of baby presents my friends....

My role was simple.. I made the Honey Lemon Thyme Ham (from Easter), biscuits and Cupcakes. The cupcakes are a funny story. When my friend and organizer, Kristen were discussing the cake vs. cupcake vs. petit fors conundrum we thought cupcakes would be a great idea. And then she called the local bakery. I was already thinking that for 50 people cupcakes would be too much to buy.

We wrote the same email at the same time that bypassed each other like ships in the night. Either way we were not purchasing our cupcakes.

So I knew the best recipe to make for cupcakes, or shall I say fairycakes. Because its Nigella Lawson's Fairycakes recipe. Its ridiculously easy and so delicious.  It took me about 30 minutes to make the cake portion and another 20 minutes the next day to make the icing. And after I made the icing  in two different colors and put it in the piping bags we decorated them after I got to the shower to prevent any damage to said cupcakes.

Everything went great and these cupcakes really saved my sanity.

Here's to a great day with old friends..

Fairycakes for 50 (Nigella Lawson's recipe)
•2 cup unsalted butter, softened
•28 Tablespoons sugar
•8 large eggs
•3 cup self-rising flour
•4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•8-9 Tablespoons milk
Icing for Fairycakes
8 oz cream cheese softened
8 oz unsalted butter softened
7-8 cups confectioners sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
For the actual Fairycakes blend all the ingredients in a blender or mixer until smooth. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes or until done
For the icing - in a mixer blend the butter and cream cheese with vanilla and then add confectioners sugar. Add desired color and put into piping bags for decorating.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chocolate Fridays - Ration Cake Recipe

Times have been harder with the economy sputtering along but nothing reminds me of what hard really is, like this recipe. Its from my Grandmother Ginny and it's a Chocolate Ration Cake Recipe. It amazes me how the cooks and bakers back in the 40's thought that if they replace eggs, butter and milk with baking soda, vinegar and vegetable oil you can get just as moist if not more moist chocolate cake.

I just can't imagine not being able to have butter, eggs and milk whenever I want. (says the girl with about 8 lbs of butter in her fridge)....I get annoyed when I can't find nutella on the shelf.

The recipe is resourceful, inexpensive and very easy to make. You blend it in the dish you bake it in. It has basically no clean-up besides the measuring cups and the fork you blend it with.

The only downside? No beaters to lick. Now that really is having it tough.

Chocolate Ration Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp white vinegar
2 cups water
6 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking sodea

Sift dry ingredients into a 13x9x2 baking dish. Make three wells for liquids. Put 2/3 cup oil in the first well, vanilla in the second well and vinegar in the third. Pour water all over and blend well with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. This recipe can be made in 2 8 in square pans as well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Honey Ham Recipe - Take 2

Its very rare that an Easter recipe is the practice round for the main event.

But this past Easter that's exactly what happened. I made a Lemon Thyme Honey Ham. But the event I was preparing for is a triple baby shower for some close friends of mine who are all due within three days of each other. In fact there are only three of us who are not pregnant and one of the three just had a baby not long ago...

No pressure...

Anyway, so I'm busy making preparations for the big day.

To Do List:
Honey Lemon Thyme Ham
Pink and Orange Fairycakes
Floral Centerpiece for Food Table
Gerber Daisy Corsages 

At least I have the main course down:

Honey Lemon Thyme Ham
1 10 lb Shank Ham
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp lemon thyme

Score the ham on the diagonal all around.  Place the ham surface face down (shank up) Pour the honey over the ham in a baking dish. Sprinkle the thyme over the ham and place in a 325 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Baste the honey over the ham half way through.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Strawberry Cake

While baking cakes is nothing new to me, assembling them is still a challenge.

 I still get that moment of dread when I'm about to put layers together. I'm not that type of baker who can shave off the sides and mold it as they do on the Food Network like they're sculpting Michaelangelo.

Seriously, I'm lucky if it doesn't look like the leaning tower of Pisa...


And this cake was a three layer.Almost a guarantee that this cake will look more Picasso than DaVinci.

And now I'm out of art references.  Great.

So as predicted I started assembling this cake and then it started to slide...California mudslide slide.... It was about to be declared a state of emergency. So before it could self destruct I threw it into the freezer and prayed... Thankfully it stabilized....I added some extra icing on one side of the cake to provide the allusion that the cake was level.

 I'm at least that good.

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Hummingbird Cake
Nonstick vegetable spray
All-purpose flour, for pans
3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pureed strawberries, strained*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 large eggs, beaten

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.

- Prepare the cake batter; in a large bowl, stir to combine self-rising flour, sugar, oil, pureed strawberries, vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs.

- Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips, 26 to 28 minutes.

- Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Strawberry Icing
1 cup frozen strawberries thawed
1/2 pound butter
1/2 lb cream cheese
7-8 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add vanilla and the confectioners sugar. Puree the frozen strawberries until smooth and add to the icing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Bloomspotting

Right now the closest I can get to my garden is in photos.

The other day I went too far and started cleaning out the ivy that borders my garden. Unfortunately it wasn't just regular pretty ivy I was cleaning out. It was its evil cousin poison ivy as well. And as I yanked out all the vines and I looked onto the garden with satisfaction, little did I know that I would have it covering my arms and face.

So I've relegated myself to looking at my garden until this outbreak goes away...

But the view is beautiful....

Monday, April 5, 2010

How to Soften Butter For Baking

For a baker ready to bake, waiting for butter to soften is like watching paint dry.

In fact, when we were kids my sister and I were home for the summer and my mother agreed to bake something the first thing we would do is go get the butter out of the refrigerator. And then we played the waiting game until it was softened.

In fact most baking recipes called for room temperature or softened butter. What's a working girl to do? We don't have time or the space on our to do list to plan these things out ahead of time. It takes everything I have to make sure my pantry is stocked.

So I developed an easy way to soften but not melt butter in the microwave. You take a stick of butter and put it in the microwave. And put it on 8 seconds. Then turn the stick of butter on the next side. Another 8 seconds. Continue to do this until you have done it on all sides. Depending on the microwave you might have to do 5 sides before its perfectly softened.

It may take up to 40 seconds but its better than a couple of hours.

Take that extra time to make out the rest of your to do list...And maybe an extra cup of coffee.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekend Breakfast Series - Nests for Easter Weekend

When thinking of what I would cook for breakfast this weekend it only seemed fitting that I recreate something in honor of the Holiday weekend.

So I bring you breakfast nests. This is more about "plating" then an actual recipe. I used my mandoline to cut up some Yukon Gold potatoes into match sticks then fried them up and then fried some eggs on top.  Not difficult but fitting.

 Now I'm off to dye Easter Eggs. Wish me luck and Happy Easter!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chocolate Fridays - Chocolate Frosting Recipe

In honor of Chocolate Fridays I give you Chocolate Cake with an interesting take on Chocolate icing. I  do this to celebrate the end of every week. Unfortunately my mind is on other things...

Like being completely covered in poison ivy.

You may have noticed in last Sunday's post of "Bloomspotting" I spent a little bit of time in my garden. I also learned a valuable lesson. When you work in the garden during early spring there are secret invisible minefields. In early spring you don't see poison ivy mainly because there are no leaves yet.

That doesn't mean its not there.

Like a lot of plants the leaves go dormant in the winter but that doesn't mean its not there. The roots live on. And with poison ivy I learned the hard way, if you pull out the roots its just as bad as if you touch the leaves.


But that doesn't mean we aren't happy about the weekend. Especially a holiday weekend. I'll just be a little uncomfortable during the festivities...

I adapted this recipe from the newest issue of Martha Stewart living. I've tried lots of chocolate cake recipes. And while I love the cake recipe off the Hershey Cocoa container, the icing recipe that went along with this article is what intriqued me the most. Most icings are so sweet that you don't always enjoy them. The original recipe included creme fraiche and cream cheese but I didn't have creme fraiche so I substituted marscapone. It is a great icing that has substance. I think you'll enjoy it, but make sure you carry a big fork

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's Chocolate Frosting April 2010)
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 ounces of cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces marscapone

Melt the chocolate in the micowave for about 2 minutes stirring after a minute.  Let it cool slightly. Sift together sugar, cocoa and salt. Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar cocoa mixture and beat until combined. Pour the chocolate in and add the marscapone

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Art of Coconut Macaroons

When you are a new baker there are nuances to baking that you just don't get from a recipe. Like when you are supposed to beat egg whites until stiff but not dry....How stiff is too stiff?

I used to have a hard time with macaroons in general until I realized I was so worried about beating the egg whites dry that I wasn't beating them enough.

Problem solved.

In fact I would try over and over again to make  my boss (at the time I worked at a Bed and Breakfast) the perfect coconut macaroon. I never achieved it while I was there. It was only until a couple of years ago that I mastered it.

Better late then never...

Coconut Macaroons (Adapted from Barefoot Contessa)
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
12 ounces unsweetened coconut
14 ounces condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites won high when they start to get frothy add salt and sugar. Continue to beat until stiff but not dry (they will look like the inside of a foam  pillow when ready) In a large bowl combine coconut with condensed milk and vanilla. The mixture will be sticky but make sure its well incorporated.  Fold in the egg whites completely into the mixture. You'll see that when its well combined the mixture will be less dense then when you started.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes until lightly browned on the top.
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