Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brown-Sugar Caramel Cake

(recipe by Loren Wood in "Taste of the South" magazine)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. maple extract (or pure maple syrup)
1 recipe Linda's Cooked Caramel Icing (recipe to follow)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat brown sugar and eggs at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth, approximately 3 minutes. Add oil and beat until combined. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and extracts.
Add flour mixture alternating with buttermilk mixture to brown sugar blend. Beat well after each addition, should be 3 additions each. Pour into 3 cake pans and bake until a wooden toothpic inserted off-center comes out clean. The recipe in says 30 minutes. I would say closer to 20 minutes in a gas oven. Let cakes cool in pans 20 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Spread with icing (caramel icing or one of your choice) between layers, on top, and around sides of cake, working quickly. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Linda's Cooked Caramel Icing
4 1/2 cups sugar, divided
10-ounces evaporated milk
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
Before beginning to make this icing read the entire recipe, the two pans will be on the heat at the same time.
Place 1/2 cup sugar in small saucepan or skillet. Set on stove.
Place remaining 4 cups sugar, evaporated milk, and butter in a large saucepan. Set on stove.
Cook sugar in small pan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until caramelized or amber colored, approximately 4 minutes. (The sugar melts, then changes color, so don't panic)
At the same time, if not slightly before, bring ingredients in large pan to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly. The goal is that it comes to a boil, while the sugar in the saucepan changes to amber color.
When milk mixture begins to boil, carefully add caramelized sugar, stirring constantly.
Cook mixture 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, let cool for 1 minute. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Use immediately.

I spread the caramel on the layers and stacked it, but did the icing on the top, but the caramel just wouldn't thicken up, so I let it sit at room temperature for a while, until spreadable consistency.
Optional: before icing the cake, use a simple syrup, to moisten the layers. I cut off the uneven portions on top of the cakes first. Bring 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, (optional add 1-2 tbsp. rum), 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup just to a boil. Drizzle over cake layers, or brush on, then proceed with frosting the cakes.

If desired, garnish cake with chocolate shavings/curls.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baked Pasta and Roasted Veggies

So I was watching Food Network's Rachel Ray and she was making a baked baked pasta. It sounded really good, so I did my version of it, but not quite so heavy with some garlic and olive oil roasted new potatoes, zucchini and onion, like I had the other night. It was delicious.
I'm working on finding a good apple danish bar recipe. I'm not sure when i'll get around to making it, but should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caramel Temptations

2 cups granulated sugar
2 blocks butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1 can Eagle Brand/sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Butter a 13"x9" pan. Mix sugar, butter and syrup in large saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. I usually do this over medium heat, don't go much more over that. Add the Eagle brand and cook, stirring constantly (be very careful not to burn the caramel). Cook until soft ball stage on the candy thermometer (240 degrees). To test this, spoon a little of the candy into a glass of cold water. If it is set up enough for you after testing, stir in the vanilla. Pour into buttered pan. Sprinkle caramel with nuts if desired. Cool the caramel completely, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Wrap the candies in purchased candy wrappers, or use cut pieces of wax paper.
These caramels are soft and chewy. My grandma has been making these candies for as long as I can remember, every Christmas. They are so yummy :) You can always cook the caramel longer for a harder set.

Poppy Seed Tea Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
(variation: 1 cup powdered sugar, will make the cookies even more melt in your mouth; granted they will be slightly flatter, but it's worth it)
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. milk (optional); I use to bind the dough a little better
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
extra powdered sugar for decoration

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and add almond flavoring. Add milk if desired. Mix in the sugar and make sure well blended. Mix in the flour a little bit at a time until dough is well mixed. If dough is too sticky to work with, it may not hurt to refrigerate it until workable. This never deters me.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, 2-inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned on bottom. Cool on wire rack. When completely cooled, roll cookies in powdered sugar, sometimes I roll them twice. These are so good, you won't be able to stop eating them :)

(This is my personal version of Russian Teacakes/Mexican Wedding Cakes)

The Midnight Hour

Ok, so i'm still awake and should be sleeping by now, but since that's a lost cause, i'm going to add some recipes that are tried and true. Just 2 tonight. I at first tried to submit these recipes on, but they probably will be forever up for review and not show up to the public. So I got impatient and decided to post them here instead.

Need Inspiration

Work went quick today, but it was kinda stressful. I really have no time for cooking/baking tonight, too bad. Someone else is cooking for me, i'm thinking chinese food. Sorry, i'm not real energetic today, so this entry is going to be rather short. I could not sleep last night, it was probably around 2am before I did. Should be making a luscious confection within the next few days though. And I found a new blog that definitely inspires. Check it out, awesome pictures, recipes and anectdotes. Maybe i'll get more sleep tonight, we'll see...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Peach Turnovers

Nothing real exciting today. Had to get groceries, and I don't know why, but I went to Wal-mart. This always turns into an 'lets buy some other crap I don't need outing'.  And I wonder where all my money goes. Hmm...I also had the always fun and enjoyable laundry night. At least I have enough clothes, that laundry is only once every 1-2 weeks. Depending on the week I have at least.
I did make turnovers though. Turned out pretty well. The peaches were so good.
Quick Puff Pastry
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup. sour cream
Cut butter into flour until dough is size of small peas. Use fork to mix in sour cream, just until moistened. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. If you did what I did, its quicker to freeze the dough for 20-30 minutes and then put in refrigerator until ready to use, at least 20-30 minutes more. When ready for it, roll dough on floured surface about 1/8". Use in whatever recipe you want that calls for puff pastry.
Peach Filling
2 1/2 cups sliced peaches (I used fresh, much yummier)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. minute tapioca
1 dash nutmeg
Place peaches in bowl, and mix in all ingredients, make sure evenly coats the fruit.
Cut circles out, 3-5 inches in diameter (I did 5 inches), with floured biscuit/cookie cutter, making sure to re-flour each time. Place filling in center, don't over do it. Wet edges of pastry down and fold dough over filling, press edges together with your fingers. Use fork tines to press along edges, which makes it decorative and also seals the dough better. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg, plus 1-2 tsp. water. Brush turnovers with egg wash lightly and sprinkle with sugar. Use a fork to make vent openings in pastries, 2-3 times. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or depending on the oven, at least until its golden brown on top, and lightly browned on bottom. Let these cool for a little bit, they will be very hot. Use metal spatula to remove from pan, be careful, they do sometimes stick because of the filling running out of the vents.
1 1/2 tbsp. of your favorite tub butter
1/2 capful of almond extra
Mix butter and flavoring together, add a spoonful of powdered sugar to start with and mix well. Add powdered sugar and milk alternately until you reach drizzling consistency. I like mine slightly thicker than thin (that made sense right; this is rhetorical).
Sorry, no pictures tonight. I didn't make them at home this time. Perhaps a cake is next on the menu. I'll keep you informed. :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Funny Bunny

I ate supper at my parent's house tonight, and before we ate I swear what I saw should have been taped for America's Funniest Home Videos. I hope they don't read this. My parents and sister, were trying to rid the garden of a pesky bunny and they were trying to shoo it out of the fenced in garden area (just wire fencing). I don't know how long it took, but one person would scare the rabbit to move it (in hopes it would run out the fence opening and be gone) and then it would just run to the other side of the garden, and the hilarity would just continue for a while. Finally, and on a sad note (tear), in trying to shoo the rabbit out with a broom handle, they stunned it, not sure if it made it...

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Today was a typical drag on Monday. It didn't stop me from cooking when I got home though. I made Bran Muffins (I know, sounds healthy right). They weren't bad, but not my cup of tea. I also felt like making some kind of Zucchini bread and chose a recipe for it that sounded yummy. I have yet to taste it, so we'll see. Even so, i'm including it below. (I made some changes to it to try for a lighter version than the usual with vegetable oil, changed the sugar amount, plus added more chocolate of course)

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
2 one ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
1 cup Fat Free Yogurt
2 cups grated Zucchini (feel free to make it a heaping 2 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cocoa
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, packed (has half the amount of granulated sugar)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda (I did 1 1/2 tsp.)
1 tsp. salt (just realized, I must have been in a hurry, totally forgot the salt, oh well :)
1 tsp. cinnamon (more is better)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease and flour two 9x5 bread pans. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix eggs, yogurt, zucchini, vanilla. Melt chocolate and mix in. The chocolate is not going to mix in smoothly, because of the cold batter, but it will melt when baking. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients, and chocolate chips (prevents sinking). Add to zucchini batter and mix until just combined.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake 60-70 minutes. Toothpick test to make sure the bread is done.

Ok, i've made myself hungry. I'm going to taste test some.
Chocolate is awesome!!! Even minus the salt, which I will make sure to add next time, it was beautiful. I darn near cried. Ok....not really, but you get the picture. Tomorrow i'm making Peach Turnovers. YEAH!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Poppy Seed Tart

So, I did photos of my niece and nephew today. Too bad I only got a few decent shots out of the bunch. But, that's usually the way things work, beautiful day=cranky kids and vice versa.
And it was totally a non-diet weekend. I've been so bad :( After going to the state fair yesterday, which is never healthy eating, and then today I did some cooking, which turns into more of the same thing. But it turned out so good, how can you complain about that??? I made a Sunday dinner for myself, which is not always easy to cook for 1 person.
Today's menu
Tilapia drizzled with olive oil, a little bit of lemon juice, minced garlic, seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Pan roasted quartered new potatoes, 1/2 inch sliced garden fresh zucchini, sliced onion, minced garlic, fresh pepper, and kosher salt. Then topped with some melted fresh grated Parmesan for the last few minutes of baking.
Honestly, that wasn't the bad part. It's always dessert that kicks yah in the end.
I was in the experimental mood, so I made 1/4 of a Poppy seed tartlette recipe.

Poppy Seed Tart (2 Servings of 4" inch tarts)
5 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cold butter (real is better)
1/2 beaten egg yolk (I know its wrong, but I don't wanna be right)
2 1/4 tsp. water
1/4 tsp. poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Stir flour and sugar together. Cut in cold butter until pieces are pea-size. In a second bowl, mix egg yolk, water, and poppy seeds.  Gradually stir into flour mixture. Use your fingers to form the dough into a ball. Split into 2 halves. Spray 2 4" tart pans and press the dough into each, evenly on bottom and up the sides.
Prick bottom and sides of tarts with fork several times. Take a rectangular piece of foil, a little over twice the width of the tart pan, and fold in half. Cover each pan with a piece of doubled foil. Bake for 7 minutes, remove foil and bake for an additional 9-10 minutes or until golden edges on crust. Let cool completely (strongly note) and this is the tricky part, turn out onto a wire rack if your brave. Otherwise fill with desired filling and eat in the tart pan.

And the topping was two-fold. I cooked about 1/4 cup wine with 1/2-3/4 cup frozen blueberries, some splenda to taste and cornstarch to thicken it up over medium heat (for one tart). I also did 6-7 dried apricots cut into quarters and about 1/4 cup water, 2 tsp. apricot preserves, a little bit of splenda, and cornstarch. Sounds decadent right. Dang, i can practically taste it again. And too top it off I whipped up a little bit of heavy cream with some splenda. So good! Of course I had to break one of the tart shells when transferring to the wire rack. Thought i'd be suave and take the shells out of the tart pans and totally split the one in half. Ah well, still tasted good. Til tomorrow. Who knows what'll come next.

Apricot Tart with Whipped Cream, yeah there is probably as much cream as tart. Just the way I like it. :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 1 Kelsey's B-day

This is the first time i've ever really "blogged" and i'm looking forward to a new way to unwind. So...i'll introduce myself. My name is Katie and i've lived in Iowa all my life, yes you can insert the excitement here... I've been out of college for a little over 3 years now, which I can't believe. I've been in the "real world" for a while now. And yes, college was more fun than the working for a living thing. A positive out of this, was that I was able to buy a house last year, which is a feat in this economy.  And i've seen no real struggles as of yet, hopefully it stays that way :) Lately i've been getting creative urges, but have really not done anything about it until this past month. So, this is where it begins...on to the cooking of fantastic foods. I absolutely love food!!! And I love to cook, a little pinch of this, a little pinch of that, and we've got something delicious. This is my entree into the world of cooking, which i'm only now becoming more serious about. I've always had a bit of a knack for it, but I guess you could say i've never really motivated myself to do anything about it. Maybe culinary school someday.....Stay tuned.
Day 1: My friend Kelsey turned *cough* 25 today, and two other girlfriends, Angi, Lynne and I celebrated with her at my house. I made a yummy dinner and dessert and we watched part of the original Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth (yummy:) Dang, that movie is long.
4:45: I arrive home from work and started getting everything ready for homemade pizzas. I used a recipe for the dough from food network, Emeril Lagasse=genius. I had to let it raise for slightly over an hour.
Meanwhile, I turned into a cooking machine and cooked the chicken, chopped up the spinach (not always a favorable vegetable, if you ask me), grated parmesan cheese...etc. We had a spinach alfredo sauced, chicken and cheese pizza, and an olive oil, garlic, cumin, cheese pizza. Both of these had melted onions on them. Now this part was not fun. I cut up 4 onions last night, which you have to simmer for around 2 hours. I cried my friggin' eyes out, could barely cut a slice or two, before having to go wash my hands and dab at my eyes as I cried a river. Can we say burn baby burn... Phew, breathe a sigh of relief and move on.
These pizzas were Ammmmmmmmazing! Definitely keeper recipes; to possibly be posted at a later date. We also had some homestyle icecream and I made molten lava chocolate cakes to go with. All of this was consistently coupled with a couple bottles of wine shared amongst us.

Pizza, wine and chocolate= awesomely happy friends and myself of course :)
After all of that, i'm exhausted. So, until next time...