For as long as I can remember, I have loved making from scratch birthday cakes. One of the first ones that comes to mind is a chocolate hazelnut birthday cake for my brother’s (and my) birthday. Unfortunately, I somehow measured the wrong amount of hazelnuts in that cake, and it pretty much ruined Nutella for me for at least 5 years (don’t worry, I’ve now come to my senses). There were other times in college, where cooking in a small dorm kitchen that literally had no cooking utensils seemed like a great idea. There was freshman year, where I figured I had nothing better to do than to make a 3 layer meringue cake with whipped cream and fruit. There were several $50 german chocolate cakes, since they required buying not only the ingredients, but also pans, bowls and something to stir with. There were multiple coffee cheesecakes that served as birthday cakes, pies that served as birthday cakes and then of course the most recent Malted Chocolate and Marshmallow Six Layer Cake.
So last year, when John’s only wish for his birthday cake was boxed chocolate cake mix with simple whipped cream as the frosting, I was slightly appalled. I made the cake, I even ate a piece, and I was glad he liked it, but seriously – how boring! As his birthday approached this year, I was almost afraid to ask what kind of cake he might like, because I knew that no matter what I suggested, he would come back with the same chocolate cake with whipped cream. Then this cake popped into my mind, or rather popped up on my google reader. I had seen it earlier on Annie’s blog, but it was way back in January when I wasn’t thinking about October birthdays. I immediately knew that this would be the perfect birthday cake for John because it’s basically a dressed up of version of his favorite. The flavors are still simple, but the ganache adds just that oomph it needed to make it not only more delicious but also quite stunning. The strawberries are obviously optional, but they certainly add to the presentation. I sized down the original recipe because everyone mentioned how it was such a tall cake, and I felt a little guilty putting 4 cups of sugar in a cake (but of course, in my head, 3 was fine). I thought it came out perfectly with a slightly downsized recipe, and so that is the version I have included below. This cake is definitely a keeper and I’m really glad I was able to find something that both I enjoyed making and John enjoyed eating. Happy Birthday baby! I still love you no matter what kind of birthday cake you want :-)!
Yield: 3- 9 inch layers
For the cake:
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup canola oil
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
For the frosting:
4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the chocolate topping:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the cake layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour the inside edges of the pan, shaking out the excess flour.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, water and canola oil; heat until the butter is melted. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and flour; whisk to blend. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the baking soda, salt and vanilla to the bowl and whisk just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake layer and invert onto a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting, at least 2 hours.
To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until thoroughly combined and stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat!
To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake platter and spread a layer of the whipped cream frosting over the top. Top with a second cake layer, more frosting (and the third cake layer, if using). Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake. Refrigerate until the frosting has stabilized, at least 1 hour.
To make the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes. (Do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake.) Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides.
Refrigerate the cake until the glaze is set and the whipped cream frosting is firm, at least 1 hour. Slice with a long, sharp knife, wiping the blade clean between slices.
Welp, it’s happened. The first recipe on the blog made almost entirely by John. I don’t mean to belittle his cooking talents, but I think the fact that I trusted him with making this dinner should tell you something about it’s complexity. I had set the ingredients (all 3 of them ) out on the counter the night before, and planned on throwing them in the crock pot before I left for school, but as I mentioned last time, normally I barely get 2 of the same shoes while I’m running out the door, let alone make dinner 8 hours early. Despite my best intentions, if I wake up a few minutes early, then I simply diddle-daddle around longer until I am once again rushed to leave. So John was nice enough to make this for me in the morning.
While this is certainly not a complicated or gourmet cooking dish, it is definitely something worth keeping in your recipe arsenal. Also, I should mention that there is really nothing “French” at all about this, other than the fact that it uses American’s version of “French Dressing”. Nevertheless, this dinner is delicious and I had trouble saving my second piece of chicken for lunch the next day. I found myself eating every last piece rice that the scrumptious sauce had touched. Plus, its so easy you really have no excuse not to make it – it’s 3 ingredients that you put into a pot. You can adjust the cooking time to fit your schedule so it’s ready when you get home. For example, Nikki mentioned that you could use 6 frozen chicken breasts and cook it on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours, or use 4 fresh chicken breasts and cook it on high for 3 hours. Since I think one of the best things about crock pots is coming home to them being ready, I prefer to cook things for a longer period of time on low, which I have indicated below. I think next time I am going to at least 1.5 the recipe because this really made great lunch leftovers (especially when compared to the hospital cafeteria).
“French” Apricot Crock Pot Chicken
– Serves 4 (or 2 with great leftovers the next day)
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup french dressing (I used Newman’s Own)
- 1 cup apricot jelly or preserves
- 1 packet onion soup mix
- salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for a minimum of 7 hours, but longer is fine. Serve over rice.
Source: Pennies on a Platter
You can really ask anyone who knows me – I’m not much of a breakfast person. It used to be the standing joke that John would go out to breakfast with our friend Amanda and order and entire platter of biscuits plus other breakfast monstrosities, while I would go on a 20 mile run. It’s not that I don’t love breakfast food, I just don’t like eating it in the morning. Sometimes I wish that people went out to brunch for dinner. I would most certainly order a plate full of pecan waffles, slather them with syrup and not feel guilty at all about eating what is basically a dessert and counting it as dinner. However, I just don’t like doing this for breakfast.
On any given weekday, I’m franticly trying to get out the door, half dressed and planning to put my makeup on at stoplights on my way to school. Breakfast is usually a granola bar I grab as I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. So the fact that I have eaten a warm breakfast everyday for the last 2 weeks must tell you that something is up. I don’t want to go so far as to say this oatmeal has changed my life, but after all they do say a good breakfast is the start to a good day and I have had a very good past 2 weeks.
This dish has taken the reigns as the best oatmeal I have ever eaten, and this is coming from someone who usually eats oatmeal all winter. It’s moist, flavorful and filled with fruit. The flavor of the toasted pecans really come through, so don’t try to save yourself a step by tossing them in un-toasted. It’s a well balanced meal and it keeps you full a lot longer than a granola bar. I think that perhaps the best thing about this oatmeal is that you can make a batch and easily reheat it for breakfast for the rest of the week. Since I have no desire to get up earlier than necessary to make myself food, I have made this on Sunday night the last 2 weeks and then reheated it throughout the week. I ate it 5 days later and it still tasted great. I plan on making this many more times as the weather gets colder, and I can’t wait to experiment with an apple or pumpkin flavor. I’ll be sure to share those with you as soon as I’ve got the recipe down :-)!
Baked Oatmeal with Fruit
– Make a 1 & 1/2 quart casserole (4-6 servings)
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1/3 cup pecans, light toasted then chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup milk (I used skim)
- 1 large egg
- 2 T. butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup blueberries and/or raspberries
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a 1 & 1/2 quart casserole with butter or cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl toss together oats, pecans, baking powder cinnamon and salt (dry ingredients).
3. In a small bowl whisk together the liquid ingredients reserving 1 T. of butter (maple syrup, milk, egg, 1 T. butter and vanilla).
4. Line the bottom of the baking dish wish sliced bananas. Then top with about 2/3 of the blueberries and/or raspberries.
5. Spread the oat mixture over the fruit. Drizzle the milk mixture over the oats, trying to distribute as evenly as possible.
6. Bake the oatmeal for 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining 1 T. of butter.
7. Dish can be served straight from the oven and topped with additional toppings if desired. (I didn’t find this necessary). Alternatively, this can be made, refrigerated and individual pieces can be reheated in the microwave for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes.
I promised you that there would be more raspberry recipes to come, and I don’t lie. I made this as part of the dinner part I had with my family over labor day weekend, but the truth is we ate so much of it for dinner that I felt the need to make another pie the next day :-). I’m planning on making a 3rd one, likely today, that’s how much I love this pie.
Now to give you an idea of why this must be the best ever raspberry pie, you should know that I am not much of a fruit pie fan. I’m not one to turn down any dessert, but fruit pie would never be my first choice. This pie is an exception. I really think it is the best recipe ever created for raspberry pie. I have never met a person who didn’t love it, and my mom has been making it every year since I can remember. Now there are a few keys to this pie that make it so delicious. First of all it really does help if you use good quality raspberries. I’ve bought a few of the store bought variety this year and have been sorely disappointed. This could be because I bought them before they were truly in season, but still I think raspberries are best either hand-picked or bought from a farmers market. Second, it uses crème de cassis or blackberry liqueur. I know that it’s a pain to buy one bottle of liqueur that you only use for one recipe, but that bottle will last you through several years of raspberry pie making – so it’s totally worth the investment. And third, there is butter and lemon slices in the pie filling itself – how can you go wrong.
For a while I have tried to avoid the realization that homemade pie crust is about 7864 times better than store-bought, mostly because I have been trying to avoid the extra work that comes with making homemade pie crust. However, I have (somewhat remorsefully) come to my senses. Homemade pie crust is just so much better. Its flakier, it melts in your mouth and it doesn’t have artificial taste that hints through in store bought crust. Since I learned the trick about rolling the pie crust out between 2 pieces of parchment paper, it has become infinitely easier to make. I think it is totally worth the extra 10 minutes, but I won’t tell if you still want to use store-bought :-). I haven’t included a recipe for pie crust here because it seems that everyone has there own favorite. I used a recipe from the pioneer woman, but I can’t say I’ve tried enough to really say it is the best ever. And really, if you are trying to save time my mom has made this countless times with store bought pie crust and I have still loved it. I also would guess that you could easily make this into a blackberry pie but I have never tried this since I love raspberries. If you do, let me know how it turns out!
Best Ever Raspberry Pie
– Makes 1 standard 9 inch pie
- 5 cups raspberries (2 1/2 pints)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup Crème de Cassis or blackberry liqueur
- 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons butter sliced paper thin
- 3 paper thin slices of lemon (a mandoline would be best for this)
- Top and bottom layer of pie crust
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Toss raspberries and sugar gently together in mixing bowl.
- In a measuring cup, whisk liqueur and cornstarch together until smooth.
- Stir Cassis mixture, lemon juice and salt gently into berries.
- Line a standard 9 inch pie pan with crust. (Do not use a deep dish pie unless you significantly increase the number of berries) Spoon in the berries, and arrange lemon slices and butter over the berries.
- With the top pie crust layer, cut it into about ½ inch strips, preferably using a pastry cutter like this. Arrange over berries in a lattice pattern, alternating under-over. Crimp the edges of the pastry together. (This was the first pie we made)
- Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. *Then lower heat to 350F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.
Slightly adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook
Last weekend, John and I came back to b-ville to spend time with my Mom and brother who just returned from Alaska. We didn’t have any big plans for the weekend, but we all usually try to get together for dinner with family. Luckily both my grandparents, my cousin Johnny and his girlfriend Val were able to make it over. Of course I think of this as a great excuse to make a fancy meal I wouldn’t normally make for just the 2 of us and to have 8 guinea pigs to try it. It happens to help that my brother returned from Alaska with over 12 pounds of halibut for me to put to use!
While it got kind of late in the evening to try to photograph the whole meal, this appetizer was one of the first things we enjoyed on Saturday (of course this came after my grandparent’s favorite – Manhattans). I have to admit I overdid it on the garlic in this recipe – you would’ve thought we were trying to keep vampires away. Sometimes more is not better, so I would recommend sticking to the 1-2 cloves of garlic indicated in the recipe. I think my favorite thing about this dish was the presentation. It looks like art but truthfully takes less than 10 minutes to put together. In order to save time (and because I mis-read the recipe :-)), I skipped the step in which you blanch the basil. It still turned out beautifully but if you want a truly stunning green color, blanching would be the way to go. I also left the basil leaves in the oil but for a smoother texture you can strain them out with a fine mesh sieve. Pulsing the basil in the food processor should’ve flavored the oil sufficiently that they are not necessary in the final dish.
Parmesean Encrusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil
– Makes a 4 or 8 oz goat cheese ball depending on your preference
For the goat cheese:
1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese
¼ cup panko
Freshly ground pepper
4 -8 oz. semi-firm plain goat cheese
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp. coarse salt, plus more to taste
For the basil oil:
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. In the bowl of a food processor add the block of parmesan cheese and pulse until finely grated. Add the panko and pulse to combine. Season with pepper. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl and wipe out the bowl of the food processor.
2. With a fork, smash the garlic and salt together. Add garlic/salt to the goat cheese and sir to combine. Form the goat cheese into a ball and roll in the parmesean-panko mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. If blanching the basil: Bring a few cups of water to a boil. Add the basil leaves to the saucepan and boil for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water. Blot the basil leaves with a towel to remove all of the excess water.
4. Add basil and garlic to the food processor and pulse. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the food processor running add oil until texture is liquidly (you may need slightly more than 1/4 cup).
5. To serve, pour the bail oil onto a plate and top with goat cheese ball. Serve with baguette slices.
Source: Annie’s Eats
I know there are about 400 different recipes available for key lime pie. I have made my fair share of them, but it seems that I always go back to this recipe. It is not particularly traditional and it certainly takes some short cuts, but I think that’s why I like it. It’s easy to put together, doesn’t require a huge list from the grocery store and still tastes better than any store-bought version. In fact, I can remember making this on more than one occasion while we were vacationing at the beach without access to my usual kitchen repetoire. If you are having trouble finding key lime juice with the other drinks, try looking in the cocktail aisle as sometimes I’ve found it there. This pie also happens to be a lightened version, which no one would know, but generally just gives you an excuse to eat more than one piece :-).
I know that summer is coming to a close, but perhaps if you are looking for something to take to a labor day bbq today, you could have this ready in time. Besides, I would guess that we might be blessed with a few more hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks days before summer officially goes away. And heck, this pie is so good that no one is going to complain if you serve it in the middle of fall at thanksgiving dinner.
Quick and Light Key Lime Pie
– Makes 1 9-inch pie
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup Key lime juice (I use Nellie and Joes)
- 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
- 1 (14 oz) can reduced fat sweetened condensed milk
- 1 reduced fat graham cracker crust (6 oz)
- 2 cups lite whipped topping, thawed
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Beat eggs and egg whites with a mixer on medium until well blended. Add juice, lime rind and milk and blend.
3. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 20 minutes. Center should be almost set, but will set more as it cools.
4. Cool pie on wire rack. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for 4+ hours. Top with cool whip before serving.
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light
If I had my choice of desserts, pineapple upside down cake would not be at the top of my list. Well at least it wasn’t until I made this cake. If you think like me, you might think that pineapple upside down cake is stuck in the 1980s. While I must admit that the ho-hum yellow-tan color occasionally mixed with the bright red of a maraschino cherry is somewhat unappetizing and does indeed remind me of 1980s wallpaper, I must give some respect to the deliciousness that is this cake.
I made this for my dad’s birthday because for as long as I can remember, it has been his favorite cake. Perhaps this is because I was raised in the 80s, at a time when yellow-tan was in style. Or perhaps my dad has not ventured out into the world of other cake flavors. But most likely I think that my dad just realized that this is a simple cake base that could be eaten on it’s own, combined with a pineapple-carmel syrup that is to die for.
When I decided that I was going to make this for his birthday, I searched high and low for what I thought would be the best recipe. I have made a few pineapple upside down cakes in the past, but I wanted something that would be truly exceptional. While I am not normally one to alter a baking recipe much from the original, I had to make an exception for this cake. I ended up combining the best parts from 2 separate recipes so that I could get a rich cake that would fit in a 9-inch pan and not use the entire pound of butter. I think it turned out to be a success. The cake has a rich and nutty flavor and is so moist in part because of the sour cream and pineapple juice and in part because of the rich syrup sauce it is drenched in. Of course the pineapple itself is on the of the best parts, so feel free to use real pineapple if you have it handy. I have a feeling that I will be making this around September 1st again next year :-).
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
– Makes one 9-inch cake
- 1-20 oz can pineapple slices in juice (reserve juice)
- 3/4 stick unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cake flour
- 1/4 cup ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice
- 10 Tablespoons butter (1 stick + 2 T.)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup light sour cream
1. Heat brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbling (several minutes). Remove from heat and pour mixture into a non-stick 9 inch cake pan. Place slices of pineapple over the sauce, cutting pieces as necessary to fit as many as possible.
2. Preheat oven to 325º.
3. Whisk flours, almonds, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a mixer blend sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time and then mix in vanilla and pineapple juice. Once blended slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Batter will be thick.
4. Pour batter on top of pineapple slices in pan. Bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cool for 5-10 minutes and then invert cake on a rimmed plate to insure no juices are lost. Serve warm or refrigerate for 1-2 days before serving.
I have been wanting an ice cream maker all summer (or maybe even all my life), but I faithfully waited until my birthday hoping to get one. I did get some really wonderful presents, but an ice cream maker wasn’t one of them. I may or may not have had a slight freak out about this incident which may or may not have precipitated an emergency run to the store on my birthday to pick one up. Basically you don’t want to mess with me and ice cream. Needless to say, now I have an ice cream maker ;-).
My first order of business with my new toy was a raspberry ice cream with large chocolate chunks. While the recipe stated that it made about one quart, about 5 minutes into churning there was ice cream pouring out of the top of the 1 1/2 quart machine. It really didn’t freeze and while it didn’t taste awful, I ended up having to throw it out.
However once we got back from vacation I was determined to tackle the infamous French ice cream. I poured through “The Perfect Scoop”, looking for the perfect ice cream, an I finally decided on coffee ice cream because it’s John’s favorite and I liked that it would perfectly complement some large chocolate chunks. I will warn you in advance that this ice cream is VERY coffee flavored. This is in part due to the fact that I ended up steeping the coffee beans with the milk for several hours while I was running errands, so if you want a milder flavor, steep the beans for a shorter period of time. With the chocolate chunks, I was trying to replicate the famous Grater’s ice cream, but I found that they were slightly more hard than I would’ve liked. If you are brave enough you can add extra oil to the chocolate, which will keep it softer in the ice cream. You could also try making truffles and adding them to the ice cream, but I was trying to keep it simple.
Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks
– Makes about 1 quart
- 1 -1/2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 -1/2 cups whole coffee beans
- Pinch of salt
- 1- 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coffee
For the Chocolate chunks
- 4 oz dark chocolate (60% cacoa)
- 1 T. vegetable oil
1. Begin by warming milk, sugar, coffee beans, salt and 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan. Once warmed through, cover, remove from heat and let steep at room temperature for about 1 hour. If you’d like a stronger flavor, continue to steep in the refrigerator for 2-4 more hours.
4. Slowly pour the warm coffee bean-milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly in order to temper the yolks. Then scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture with coffee beans back into the saucepan.
5. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir. The mixture should thicken and coat the spatula. If you have a reliable thermometer, the temperature should be 170-175° when the custard is done.
6. Once the custard is thick, pour it through the strainer into the cream and stir. Press on the coffee beans to extract as much flavor as possible, then you can discard the beans. Mix in vanilla and finely ground coffee and stir until cool. To cool the ice cream more quickly, you can place the bowl in an ice bath in the sink and continue to stir.
7. To make the chocolate chunks, melt chocolate and oil in the microwave. Stir to mix and then poor mixture onto a rimmed plate. Cool in the freezer until hard. Break the chocolate into chunks and keep cold until ready to use in the ice cream.
8. Chill the milk mixture in the refrigerator and then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. When there are about 5 minutes left of freezing time, add the cold chocolate chunks and allow them to mix in. Make sure to chill the bowl adequately before churning the ice cream (most machines required 20+ hours of chilling time). Store ice cream in an air tight container in the freezer.
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Wow, it’s been way to long since I posted! I have a few (debatably good) excuses though. First I finished up my family medicine rotation with a pretty tough standardized test, then John and I went on vacation to San Fran, wine country and point reyes, and this week I started a rotation in Dermatology in Bryan, OH. It’s been a busy but fun couple of weeks!
I think my favorite part about vacation had to be Sonoma. It was a beautiful but relaxed town and if it wasn’t clear across the country I could totally see myself living there someday. (I checked residency programs, and unfortunately there are none in wine country. boo.) We also had a lot of fun biking all around San Francisco and across the golden gate bridge, as well as hiking in point reyes national seashore.
Now that I’m in Bryan, I haven’t really been cooking much since it would require me to fill a whole new pantry with ingredients and transport my favorite pots and pans an hour and a half; however I do have the weekends off so my goal for the rest of the year is to post one time per week. I’ll start with this recipe for Shrimp and Grits.
We had this for dinner before we left for vacation, and I have been thinking about it off and on since then. I made this thinking it would be a nice treat for the butter, cheese and generally southern food loving member of our family, but as it turns out I ended up being the one who was head over heels for this dinner. Not to say that John didn’t love it as well, I just surprised myself by how much I could love something made with grits and bacon. The parsley and green onions really help to cut down on the heavy feeling of this dish and I think I might even add more next time. I was also surprised by how quickly this dish came together and how few unusual ingredients it required. Now that I have grits in the pantry, I think this is going to become one of my go to weeknight meals because 1) I really loved it and 2) I generally have all these ingredients around and 3) it’s pretty easy to put together. I know that you’re probably starting to think I must work for Costco or something, but I did want to mention that I found the best large, individually frozen shrimp there for the best price. Now that I have a costco sized bag of jumbo shrimp in the freezer, I have even more excuses to make this delicious dish again.
Shrimp and Grits
Serves about 4 (I made about half this recipe for the 2 of us)
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup grits (regular or quick cooking but NOT instant)
- 3 T. butter
- 1 heaping cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
- 5 slices bacon
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 2 T.)
- 2 T. coarsely chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Hot sauce if desired
1. Bring water to a boil. Add grits to the boiling water and stir. Add salt and a bit of pepper. Lower heat, bring to simmer and cover until water is absorbed. Follow the directions on your box of grits because cooking times vary.
3. Rinse and pat shrimp dry. You don’t want them dripping water when you add them to hot oil.
4. Fry the bacon in a large skillet. When cooked through remove from the pan and crumble.
In case you didn’t know, my birthday was on Monday, and our anniversary was the day before that. Needless to say it’s been a food-filled week! With my brother having the same birthday as me, it’s always felt like Christmas in July, but now with an anniversary to add to the festivities, July is quickly becoming my favorite month of the year. Unfortunately, (or fortunately for him), brother John is spending the summer
fishing working in Alaska, so I might just have an excuse to make another celebratory birthday cake when he returns in August. I know some people would view it as work to make their own birthday cake, but I view it as an excuse to buy fancy ingredients and make something over-the-top without any regrets. It’s basically like my present to myself. I had a lot of fun sifting through recipes, but with so many combinations of cake and icing to chose from, it was really hard for me to decide on one. I ended up picking this cake because Sweetapolita named it “Campfire Delight” and since I love summer and the campfires that come with it, I couldn’t resist. After making this, I don’t think campfire delight is really a fitting name (after all it’s missing the essential graham cracker part of the s’more), however this cake is totally over the top delicious.
I was set on the fact that I wanted to make a 6-layer cake, only because I had never made one before and I wanted to try something new. Unfortunately I didn’t want to be taking pictures while visiting with friends, so I have no pictures to show you of the inside of this mile-high cake. You’ll just have to trust me: 6 layers really makes a nice presentation and is definitely worth the extra effort. How can you go wrong with an almost equal filling to cake ratio? Keeping that in mind, you can’t eat very much of this cake (at least at one time). But that makes it a perfect birthday cake to share with some friends!
Rich Chocolate Cake
– Recipe as indicated is for 3-9′ inch rounds
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup + 2 T. good quality cocoa powder*
- 3 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups strong black coffee (hot or cold is fine)
- 1 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 T. pure vanilla extract
*I used Williams-Sonoma’s Dutch cocoa powder, but I think this is a better deal. A good quality cocoa powder really makes this cake.
1) Prepare 3 x 9″ pans by cutting out a circle of parchment to line the bottom, and butter and flour to coat the edges. Preheat oven to 350°.
2) Sift all dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachement, add the remaining ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium-low. (You may need a splatter guard on your mixer as batter will be liquidy).
3) Pour into prepared pans. To ensure even layers, I weighed the pans until I get the same amount in each.
4) Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate placement of pans in oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes (35 minutes total) or until a toothpick comes out clean when placed in the center. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.
5) To cut the cake layers to get a 6 layer cake, start with cold cake. Using a knife, score a line around the outside of the cake as to where you want to cut. With a serrated knife cut along the line, turning the cake as you go until all cuts reach the middle of the cake. Frost as desired.
Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
– Makes enough to fill 3 (of the 6) layers
- 24 large white marshmallows
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large (13 oz) container marshmallow fluff (or cream)
Place the marshmallows in a pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Place on the bottom rack of the oven and broil until brown. Make sure to watch them continuously as they go from brown to burnt very quickly. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and powdered sugar on low for about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix on high for 3 minutes. Finally add marshmallow cream and powdered sugar and blend until just mixed through (about 1 minute). Spread evenly onto cooled layers.
Malted Chocolate Frosting
– Makes enough to fill 3 (of 6 layers) and to cover a 9″ cake
- 4 sticks (2 cups) butter at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup Ovaltine Chocolate malt mix (in the hot cocoa aisle)
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted (I used Ghirardelli)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream*
Clean out the bowl and paddle used for toasted marshmallow frosting, and beat the powdered sugar and butter on low for about 1 minute. Add vanilla and ovaltine malt powder and beat on low to combine. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add whipping cream and beat on med-high for another minute. Use right away.
*Do not try to substitute half and half or any other milk- You will end up with a runny frosting (speaking from previous experiences).
All 3 recipes slightly adapted from Sweetapolita.
Unfortunately, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. A lot of times I will plan on putting something on the blog and after making it decide that it is just not tasty enough to share. After all, I am putting my personal endorsement on all the items on here, and I don’t want to lose your trust. Other times I will make something that is delicious but so un-photogenic that I can’t seem to get a nice picture of it, and I don’t want get some kind of ugly photograph reputation. Well in an effort to worry less about the small stuff, I decided to post this recipe even though my camera was just not cooperating with me. It should tell you something that I thought it was special enough to share even without a perfect picture.
I would describe this as a comfort food dinner. It’s especially handy to have in the recipe repertoire because it uses ingredients that I can store in my pantry or usually have on hand. I thought it was just going to turn out like a bunch of flour tortillas layered with beans, but something magical happens in the baking process. The cheese melts and the tortillas soften, and the whole thing solidifies into a concoction that actually does seem like a pie. For some reason I didn’t think about the fact that there is a lot of food going into this “pie” and it is way more than John and I could even try to eat. This is a filling pie, so I’m definitely adding it to my list of good dinners to make for company.
Speaking of company (such a sly transition :-)), last weekend our family got together to celebrate my Grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. They have certainly started a wonderful family to be a part of! Here’s a picture from our weekend:
Happy Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa!
Bean and Tortilla Pie
Makes: 6-8 servings
- 4 9-inch flour tortillas
- 2 T. Olive Oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 t. ground cumin
- 1/2 t. chili powder
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
- 2 – 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup water (or you can use beer if you didn’t drink what was in your fridge)
- 1/4 cup salsa
- 1 – 15 oz can refried beans, warmed to spreading consistency
- 2 cups frozen corn (about 10 oz)
- 4 scallions, thinly slices plus more for garnish
- 2 1/2 cups mexican style shredded cheese
- Garnish: Scallions, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, black olives
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. In a large saucepan heat oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
3. Add in the black beans, scallions, salsa and water, and stir until well mixed. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the water has evaporated.
5. Lay a flour tortilla in the bottom of a 9-inch springfoam pan. Spread the tortilla with about 3 T. of refried beans. Then continue layering by spreading about 1 cup of bean mixture on top of the refried beans. Top the layer with 1/2 a cup of shredded cheese.
6. Repeat this layering with the 3 remaining tortillas. On the top layer, cover the beans generously with cheese.
7. Bake the “pie” for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove the sides from the springfoam pan, and top with garnishes of choice. Slice into wedges and serve warm.
Slightly Adapted from The Curvy Carrot
I honestly had no idea what to expect from this pizza. I had a hundred different directions I was thinking of going with it and I was worried that by trying to combine too many different flavors, I would end up with a disaster. I put this on the menu for last week, but I think my fear of failure along with some good rationalization about NEEDING to have summer fun caused me to go out to eat 5 days last week. (In my defense I think that’s a personal record, plus once everyone buckles down with school, it will be at least a little bit harder to hang out :-)). Finally, I decided that I couldn’t let avocados, tomato, cilantro and limes go to waste, so I concocted this specialty.
Well as you can probably guess based on the fact that I am putting it on the food blog – I really liked this pizza! It was unique, fresh, flavorful and used up the leftover shrimp I had in the freezer. (I have a bad habit of buying shrimp and only using half the bag.) I also used some of the pizza dough I had frozen, which made this pretty easy to put together. I almost skipped adding the chipotle, but I’m so glad I didn’t because I think it made the meal. If you are a bacon lover, I think that could also be a nice flavor complement, but I felt like it had enough ingredients without it. The only part that takes some time is chopping, so I would recommend doing it at the beginning so you can just go “chop crazy” all at once. P.S. chopping veggies is a pretty awesome way to wind down!
Shrimp, Avocado and Tomato Pizza
- 1 pizza dough ball
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella and/or provolone cheese
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 2 large tomatos, chopped and drained
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce or 1 t. finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 10-20 medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 avocado, diced
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
2. In a medium sauté pan add 1 T. olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 cloves of garlic and stir until fragrant. Then add the shrimp to the pan and stir for a 1-2 minutes.
A Spice is Nice Original.
Usually I’m one of those people who remembers the 4th of July on the 3rd of July, but this year was different. Since we have some organized and adventurous friends, we had a camping trip planned about month in advance of the holiday weekend. This was a good lesson for me in the fact that “anticipation is half the fun”, because it really was exciting having something to look forward to. I even bought some red and blue marshmallow roasting sticks as well as color coordinating paper plates to take with us. And of course, I was excited to plan some of the menu. When I saw this smoked gouda pasta salad, I immediately bookmarked it as a must try, and I thought camping would be the perfect opportunity.
I’m very familiar with the Caprese type pasta salad, and while the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are tasty, I often feel that they are not strong enough flavors to create an interesting pasta salad. I’ve made that type of salad many times, and usually end up picking out everything but the pasta. That’s what I think is so great about this recipe – the pasta itself has some great flavor. It’s also really easy to make and requires pretty basic ingredients. While you might not regularly buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, they add a lot of great flavor for a small cost. The thing that used to annoy me about them is that most recipes only call for 1-2 peppers and I would inevitably let the leftovers sit in the fridge until they looked so gross that I didn’t feel guilty throwing them away- but I have found the solution. Well, actually I should say that Sara over at Our Best Bites has found the solution: freeze the peppers in individual cubes of how much you might need. See her post here to see what I’m talking about. But seriously, don’t skip the chipotles- the adobo has very little spice but adds a smokey flavor that complements the gouda nicely. Then you can make this pasta salad and eat it out of individual ziplocs like we did on our picnic (classy I know). Or don’t do that, and eat it like a normal person, out of a bowl – I’m pretty sure it will taste good either way.
By the way, we went to Mackinac Island. You should totally make the trip if you live anywhere near Michigan, or even if you don’t. I did not remember such cool places existing in Michigan – it’s kind of making me change my view of the Midwest (at least until winter comes :-)).
Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad
Serves 10-12 as a side
- 1 lb (16 oz) Mostaccioli pasta
- 1/2 cup light Mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup Milk (I used part skim, part cream)
- 5 Tablespoons White Vinegar
- 1 T. Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers
- Salt and Ground Black Pepper To Taste
- 2 pints Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
- 1/2 pound Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes
- 30 whole Basil Leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)
1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions. Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent pasta from sticking.
2. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo sauce.
3. Add the pasta, halved tomatoes, cubed gouda and basil to the sauce in the large bowl. Stir to incorporate, and add more salt and pepper to taste. Chill before serving (or keep on ice in your camping cooler).
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
When John and I took a trip out to New Mexico over spring break, in addition to skiing, hiking and visiting with my in-laws, we got to try this great restaurant called Graham’s Grill. (Side Note: it’s pretty nice to have parents-in-law that both happen to live in vacation spots :-)). The restaurant combines the traditional flavors of the southwest but puts it’s own unique spin on them. The chef, Lesley B. Fay recently came out with a cookbook called Straight From the Heart, and my mother-in-law was nice enough to surprise me at the end of the meal with my very own copy. I have looked through the cookbook so many times trying to decide what to make but I finally decided that I couldn’t pass up a recipe combining 2 of America’s greatest inventions – S’mores and Nachos. (Another side note: I used to think nachos were from Mexico – then I went there in college and searched every restaurant menu for them only to find out that they don’t actually serve nachos in Mexico… definitely an American creation.)
The original recipe called for deep frying tortillas, but after my recent frying disaster, I chose to make them in the oven instead . It was actually a good reinforcement that never again do I need to fry anything, because the “chips” still came out crisp and delicious without having to mess with hot oil. In fact, I think cinnamon-sugar chips would be a pretty great snack on their own – so next time I will likely make a double batch. The recipe itself is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll have to say Lesley must be some kind of genius for thinking up the idea of “S’more nachos” in the first place! If you really want to go crazy, you could try using ice cream as a dip for these nachos. I’m sure this would be fabulous – warm cinnamon chips against cool ice cream – but you might have to skip dinner all together if you want to try that. So if you don’t have the pleasure of a campfire this Fourth of July, make this instead….It’s definitely easier than building a fire ;-).
For the chips:
- 6-8 small (6 inch) flour tortillas
- 3 T. melted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 T. cinnamon
For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
- chocolate syrup for drizzling (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a dish. Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter onto both sides of the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 side of each tortilla with a covering of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Using a kitchen scissors (or knife), cut each tortilla into 8-10 triangles. Without overlapping, place triangles sugar side up on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges turn up.
Remove chips from oven and combine into a pile on a small baking sheet or oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and marshmallows. Turn the oven on broil, and place the baking sheet on the middle rack (too close to the heat will catch your marshmallows on fire). Watch carefully until the marshmallows are browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle chocolate syrup over the chips. Serve warm.
And the Aftermath:
– Nachos Adapted from from Straight From the Heart by Lesley B. Fay.
– Cinnamon Chips adapted from Our Best Bites
When I put this on our (new) menu board for the week, John had no idea what it was. I described it to him as crouton salad, partially because it’s true, and partially because John loves bread and I knew a salad made of it would intrigue him. I really liked this dinner because it was easy, fresh, and included more than a full serving of vegetables, but the really great thing about it was the John loved it as well. He even said, “Wow, this was a lot more filling than I expected.” I served this as a meal on its own, but I think it would also be great as a side dish for a summer picnic.
In terms of cooking, don’t be tempted (as I was) to turn the heat up on the croutons in order to make them brown faster – this actually only makes them burn faster. You do have to watch the croutons while cooking, which is why I think cooking them on the stove is better than the oven. Just be sure to use a large pan, and to toss the croutons every few minutes. Also, this makes a lot of salad (way more than John and I could finish), and unfortunately the leftovers aren’t good because the bread gets soggy. To avoid this, cook the bread and cut the vegetables, but only combine the ingredients you will actually use that day. Then you can make the salad again the next day for lunch!
- 6 cups rustic bread (about 3/4 loaf), sliced into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced (or 1 hothouse cucumber – no need to peel)
- 1 Red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Yellow pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Green pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 of a Red onion, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- 8 oz feta, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon combined)
1. In a large frying pan heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium- high heat. Once hot, add bread and reduce heat to medium-low. Salt the bread with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss the bread for about 10 minutes until crisp and slightly browned.
2. Chop vegetables, and in a large bowl combine all vegetables, feta cheese, and olives.
3. In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined.
4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. Add in the crisp bread and toss until evenly coated.
5. Clean up the kitchen while waiting for the flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper as needed and serve.
Sometimes I miss college. Well, let me rephrase. Sometimes I miss certain parts about college. Like the part where you can walk up and down the halls of the dorm and always find someone with their door open to hang out with. And the part where the most important thing on a weekend was figuring out what costume would be perfect for the theme of the next party (okay, so sometimes I still do this). But the thing I was missing this week was Torero’s – the signature Mexican restaurant in our college town. Because our meal plan was ridiculous, you could get Torero’s delivered to your dorm room anytime you wanted, on meal plan points. I had tried a variety of things from the menu, but one time someone ordered Taquitos, I tried one, and I fell in love. I’m pretty sure every time after that, I ordered chicken taquitos myself. Somehow I happened to never actually read the menu to realize they were deep fried, and although they clearly looked deep fried, I chose to ignore this little fact.
I don’t think I’ve had a taquito since college, but when I saw these baked chicken taquitos on Pink Parsley, I knew I would have to try them. Not only are they a baked version of my favorite college Mexican treat, but they also use my favorite salsa – Salsa Verde. (The same salsa I use in Chicken Enchiladas Verdes). Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, because these really don’t take that long to put together – in fact I think these are easier to make than the enchiladas. If I was a little more organized, I would’ve planned grilled chicken for dinner one night, and made sure to cook enough to have leftovers for these the next. Perhaps one of the greatest things about these taquitos is that you can freeze them (unbaked) and then bake them whenever needed. Actually, the ones in the picture were baked from a frozen state. I originally planned to post this the first time I made them – but we ate up all the taquitos so quickly that I didn’t get to snap a picture. I’ll have to say, they taste just as good from the freezer as they did the first time. This would also be a great meal for a big group dinner, because once you have the filling made it’s really simple to put together, and have you ever met a person who doesn’t like food they can eat with their fingers?
Baked Chicken Taquitos
– Recipe indicated is for 20-24 taquitos, which will serve 6-8 people
- 3 -4 chicken breasts (~4-5 cups shredded)
- 1 block (8 oz) low-fat cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup salsa verde (tomatilla salsa)
- Juice from 1 lime
- 2 tsp chile powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped scallion
- 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 20-24 small (6-inch) flour tortillas
- cooking spray
Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add chicken breasts to the water, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink when cut into. Remove chicken from water, let cool slightly and then shred. (You could also use leftover chicken, or roast the chicken in the oven)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and lay a wire cooling rack over a large cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese with the salsa, lime juice, cumin, chile powder, cayenne, onion powder, garlic, cilantro, scallions, and a pinch of salt & pepper. (Everything but the chicken, cheese, and tortillas). Once mixed, fold in the chicken and shredded cheeses.
Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly. In order to help the tortilla stay closed, you may want to spray some cooking spray on the seam. Place seam side-down on the wire rack. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
Spray the taquitos with cooking spray, then place the wire rack on top of a baking pan (otherwise the cooking spray creates a sticky residue when baked on the cookie sheet.) Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden-brown. Serve with dipping sauces such as salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. I think sour cream mixed with salsa would also be delicious.
*To Freeze the taquitos, roll them up as usual but do not bake. Place on a baking sheet in the freezer in order to “flash” freeze them individually. Wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and freeze in a freezer bag. To bake, remove from oven, and bake un-thawed for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees.
Yesterday was full of kitchen disasters. You see our friend Adam is on a whorl wind cross-country tour, and stopped by our place for a visit. Since I am on vacation for another 5 days, I figured what better way to spend my time than to make a dinner completely from scratch. I had the menu all planned out, which consisted of homemade hamburger buns, black bean burgers (for which I even cooked my own black beans), home-fried potato chips, homemade ranch dressing, DIY oreos, and pina coladas – none of which I had ever made from scratch before. Despite the best intentions, while we were sitting outside because our apartment was too filled with smoke to breathe, I firmly decided that never again will I make an entire menu that I have never tried before when we have house guests :-). I also decided that on the rare occasion that we do fry something – John is going to be soley responsible (hot oil and I are not friends).
About halfway through the disaster, I wanted to scrap it all and go out to eat, but I’m actually really glad we didn’t because the dinner was salvageable and I got 2 keeper recipes out of it- the best ranch dressing you’ve ever tasted and out-of-this-world pina coladas. Plus, it made for some funny memories (picture John running through the house wearing chemistry goggles so that his eyes wouldn’t burn from the smoke). I really wish I would’ve taken pictures of all the mishaps that occurred, but I think I was too traumatized by the billows of smoke around me to remember. Here’s John and Adam recovering by playing super mario brothers:
Despite the fact that I slightly burned my hand, and that we all suffered from some smoke inhalation, this ranch dressing really made it all worth it… it’s that good! It’s the kind of thing that will literally make you eat every last vegetable you have in your fridge, and then some. I tend to have this habit of buying veggies with the best intentions of eating them for snacks, but then somehow I forget about them and then eventually they look unappetizing. With this ranch dressing around I’m pretty sure no vegetable will ever go bad in this house again.
It is the perfect summer treat – cool, refreshing, and goes great on just about anything. While I normally think of ranch with vegetables, I actually made this dressing to go with the homemade chips (that John ended up cooking). It’s coolness was the perfect complement to the warm, greasy, crispness of a potato chip. I also think it would be great for dipping pizza crust (if that’s your thing), or pizza bites , or you could use it as regular old salad dressing (but believe me, no salad will ever taste the same).
I know dressings get a really bad rap for being unhealthy, and I’m not trying to pretend that you should drink this dressing by the cupful – but it’s quite a bit better for you than the store bought kind. It also tastes worlds better than bottled “low-fat” dressing, despite the fact that it is made with low fat ingredients. Depending on your taste, you can alter the amount of parsley, chives and dill you want to put into this. I happened to add a lot, and it really gave the dressing that cool, summery flavor I was looking for. I probably added a full cup of greens (parsley, chives & dill), but I will mention that the dill flavor came through strongly, so if you add it, tred lightly. If you add any more than what I did, you will get something closer to a green goddess dressing – but nothing wrong with that, it will still taste amazing. So make this, no picnic will ever be the same.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Makes about 2 cups. Stays good for 2+ weeks (but good luck making it last that long :-))
- 3/4 cup light sour cream
- 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
- 1 T. Olive Oil
- 1 T. Lemon Juice (or juice from 1/2 a lemon)
- 1 cup buttermilk (but you can use less if you like a very thick dip)
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- small bunch chives
- small handful parsley
- 2-3 dill springs (optional)
- pinch of salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients except for 1/2 cup buttermilk in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth (no need to pre-chop anything). Check the consistency, and add remaining buttermilk until your desired consistency is reached.
Adapated from Confections of a Foodie Bride
Believe it or not, I used to order scones from coffee shops because I thought they were a healthy option. In my defense, they always tasted so dry that I figured they must be healthy. After making these scones, I realized that they don’t exactly get the title of “healthy” but at the same time, they are way tastier than their coffee shop counterparts. Plus making them gives you the right to talk in a fake British accent and pretend you’re Kate Middleton for the day.
While these scones might you feel like British Royalty, they are great for another reason – you can freeze them unbaked, and then bake them from a frozen state. This is a great option if you want to impress some overnight guests without having to wake up at 4 am. Just flash freeze them individually on a baking sheet,wrap, and store in a freezer bag until ready to use.
The only tricky thing with making these is that the dough is a little sticky. I found that forming the dough into a rough square, and cooling it in the freezer for 10 minutes really helped the consistency. I also added quite a bit of flour, but try not to add too much or you might run into the dreaded dryness of a coffee shop scone. This recipe, as shown only makes 8 scones, so I think next time I will double it, and bake one batch to eat, while keeping the others un-baked in the freezer for a later date.
Makes 8 scones
- 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen whole
- 1½ cups fresh blueberries (slightly less than 1 pint container)
- ½ cup whole milk (or see my post tomorrow on good substitues for whole milk)
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- zest of half a lemon (or 1 heaping teaspoon)
- For Topping: 2 T. butter, melted and Sugar for sprinling
If you plan on baking the scones immediately, preheat oven to 425˚ F. Wash and dry the blueberries and place in the freezer until needed.
In a larger bowl, combine flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.
Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined. Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead with well floured hands, 6-8 times, just until the dough holds together in a ragged ball. Form the dough into a rough square, and place on a floured plate to chill in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.
Return the dough to the floured work surface and roll into an approximately 12-inch square. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down so that they are slightly embedded in the dough surface. Roll the dough up to form a tight log, so that the blueberries are in the center. Lay the log seam side down and press the the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. If your knife gets sticky, try flouring it. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles. Transfer to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
If you are going to freeze these, flash freeze on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, then wrap individually and store in a freezer bag until needed. To bake, brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18-25 minutes (slightly longer if baking from a frozen state). Let cool on a wire rack before serving.