Monday, August 31, 2009

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

Back in July I was asked to make a sheet cake for a sweet little boy's first birthday. Around 7:30 the night prior to the party I pulled the cake from the oven. It stood about 1 inch high. I nearly cried. I had researched the amount of batter to use for a sheet cake this size and thought I had done everything correctly. At 8:00 I started to make another sheet to top this one, he would just have a two layer sheet cake. Around 8:45 I pull the cake out and it is perfect. Standing a little over 2 inches high. What had I done?...opened a new can of baking powder. I've heard stories of baking powder losing its power to help things rise but didn't think it had ever happened to me. Now I wonder what all those cakes would have been like if I was using fresh baking powder!!!

So now, at 9:00 at night I have two sheet cakes. One perfect and one a bit dense. I couldn't just throw it away! I cubed it and froze it for another time.

Now, remember all those blackberries that I found in my backyard? I ended up picking about 5 quarts and froze about 3 quarts. I knew they would come in handy at some point! My mother in law needed a dessert to bring to a gathering of 6 friends. It was the middle of the summer and hot. I didn't feel like baking a cake, or cookies, no one wants brownies when it is 90 degrees and humid. I have berries and dense frozen cake. Hmmm. The perfect summer dessert...berry trifle! It is cool and requires no hot stove. The bonus, it is best when left to sit overnight so you can make it before bed and enjoy it the next day!

This trifle has lemon mousse between the layers of cake and berries. As you may have noticed throughout my summer blogging, I love lemons in the summertime.

Lemon Mousse and Berry Trifle
Source: Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: About 8 servings

1 package (3.4 ounces) instant lemon pudding mix
2 cups milk
1 half-pint whipping cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Berries of any sort
Pound cake (or whatever you have on hand)

In a medium to large bowl, mix instant pudding mix and milk; stir thoroughly and set aside. In another medium-sized bowl, beat whipping cream and sugar on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form. Working in thirds, gently fold whipped cream into pudding mixture until thoroughly combined. If necessary, whip combined mixture again until thickened.

To assemble the trifle, layer the mousse, berries, and cake. I added a bit of lemon flavor to mine by dabbing the cake pieces with a lemony simple syrup.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to show you care.

One of my favorite times to bake is when I'm baking to make someone feel better. It could be that they are sick, they had a bad day, or they just look like they need a treat. Baking is my way of showing that I care. I bake with love and when I share my treats I share my love. There isn't much that is better than surprising someone with a goodie and watching their face light up.

My father-in-law has been sick lately so I asked my husband what I could make that would make him feel good. He hasn't had much of an appetite so I didn't want to go overboard. My husband said that he remembered his father liking the eclairs at MacDonald's Bakery in Gardiner (weep weep, sniff sniff, how I miss you). I think I made eclairs once in high school but it was my mission to make the very best for my FIL!

Of course, I pick one of the hottest days of the summer to make these. Of course, the pastry cream didn't set up properly so I had to heat it back up. Of course, the chocolate glaze didn't thicken and I had to give it an ice bath. All of it was worth it! Including the look on his face when he bit into that eclair. I knew...for the briefest moment that he forgot how sick he was.

Source: Butter Sugar Flour Eggs by Gale Gand
Yield: 8

2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed (I needed it)

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons water
Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Pastry: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.

Egg Wash: In a bowl, whisk the egg and water together. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps of points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet. Fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair (or just use your fingertip). Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don't stuff them full).

Glaze: In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. The glaze can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, and rewarm in a microwave or over hot water when ready to use.

Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a sheet pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wow Your Friends with Pizza

I used to have friends. I swear. Apparently something happens when you get married and then people think you don't need friends anymore. I don't think I stink. I have a lot to offer, I mean, I can cook and bake. I have a lovely home and a husband that is easy on the eyes. But still, I have no friends. I guess my husband is going to have to continue listening to me talk about fall fashion!

This is my wow 'em meal. If people are coming over in the summertime, I grill pizza. They all love it! I use dough from Portland Pie which I brush with EVOO and plop it on a medium heat grill. Let it go 5 or so minutes, brush the other side, and flip. You can top it with sauce, cheese and veggies right on the grill. The heat will melt the cheese and cook the veggies. Get creative with toppings...don't be scared!

I like to serve this with a chopped or Greek salad for balance.

Enjoy, my virtual foodie friends!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pretty in Pink!

I love pink. My kitchen is mostly pink. The Komen Kitchenaid line; I have most of it on display for all visitors to see. I used to hate pink. Black was my favorite color and it is still one of my favorites. Pink, to me, represented little girls and immaturity. It was the color that you put your baby in to identify its sex. The color of sticky sweet annoyance. Now it represents something completely different for me, cancer. Power. Hope.

I've heard cancer survivors and cancer patients express their hatred toward the pink ribbon. I get it. It is overdone. It’s everywhere and after awhile doesn't it start to lose its meaning? Sort of like saying I love you or I'm sorry over and over again. To some it probably does. To me it doesn't, I still notice every pink ribbon. When a company has a pink ribbon on their packaging, I notice it. I read it to see which organization they support and I think it is cool.

I sport pink because I want everyone to know that I have a passion for breast cancer education. I want people to ask. I want to tell my mother's story. I want to educate people and I want to answer questions. Pink is my power. It is me showing that after all that my family has been through; I have hope for the future. I will succeed. I will be healthy. I am educated.

Let’s talk pink cupcakes.

It has been extremely humid in Maine lately. We had a few nights where it cooled down and it was so comfortable to sleep. Now we are back to this muggy weather. I attribute my cravings for something lemony to the humidity. I was Googling lemon cupcakes and lemon buttercream when I came across these. Lemony AND pink!!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Source: Simply Sweet Bake Shop
Yield: 9 Cupcakes

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 egg whites
1/3 c. thawed frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate
1/4 c. buttermilk
Pink food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin pan with liners. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, egg whites and lemonade concentrate. Alternately whisk in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of buttermilk, beating until just smooth.
3. Add just enough food coloring to turn the batter a light shade of pink.
4. Scoop batter into liners (fill about three-fourths full). Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting (see below).

Lemonade Buttercream:
3 c. + 3 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. pink lemonade concentrate
Pink food coloring

1. Add the butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt, lemon juice, and a few drops of food coloring to the stand mixer and mix on low using the paddle attachment until combined.
2. Turn the speed to med-high until the buttercream is fluffy and uniformly pink. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reverse Whoopie

I love whoopie pies. The combination of the cakey outside with the sweet creamy inside makes me melty. And if I get too melty, I stick the whoopie pies in the freezer! Perfect for slicing off a piece when you need a quick fix!

My mother loved whoopie pies as well. In the family cookbook that she started she left notes with some of the recipes. For the whoopie pie recipe she said it was a good idea to double the recipe in case of, "major pig outs." I am totally my mother's daughter.

I've never had a reverse whoopie pie. I will have them again! This chocolate filling is wonderful. Perhaps one of my favorite chocolate frosting/fillings. I think I may use it for filling cakes and cupcakes. It is fluffy due to the marshmallow but don't let that fool you. It is thick and rich and sweet. Oh so good. Enjoy my friends!!

Reverse Whoopie Pies
Source: Hannaford Fresh Magazine
Yield: 18ish

Vanilla Cakes
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Chocolate Filling
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 cups marshmallow creme, such as Marshmallow Fluff

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to mix butter and brown sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until smooth after each egg.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on medium speed until smooth, scraping down mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Add half the buttermilk mixture and mix again on medium speed until smooth and slightly fluffy in texture. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk, and mix until smooth. Batter will be thick and slightly springy when done.
4. Drop 2-Tbsp. portions of batter onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each portion to allow for spreading. Bake 11 to 13 minutes, until puffed and set but still soft when touched lightly with fingertips. Let cakes cook for 3 minutes on baking sheets before transferring them to wire racks to finish cooling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.
5. Prepare filling while cakes are baking and cooling. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar and set aside. In a large mixing bowl,use an electric mixer on medium speed to cream butter. Add milk, vanilla extract, salt and half the cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed first to combine, then on high until smooth. Add remaining cocoa mixture and mix again. Scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Add marshmallow creme and mix on medium high until filling is smooth and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Assemble whoopie pies. Spoon filling onto the flat sides of half the cakes, dividing it evenly. Top with remaining cakes, flat side against the filling, rounded side up. Serve immediately, or wrap and store at room temperature for up to two days, or in freezer for up to two months.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chickpea Burgers

I can not believe I haven't shared this recipe with you yet. I make these ALL THE TIME. I've tried quite a few variations of homemade veggie burgers. Some have nuts, some have mushrooms, some have black beans, and these have chickpeas. One of my favorite kinds of bean (but right now I am HOOKED on cannelli beans...that's another story to come later)!!

These are so much more tasty then the boxed veggie burgers. Plus you can mix up the recipe each time to give them a different flavor. Sometimes I add extra garlic or shallots. Sometimes cumin and cilantro. Whatever you add to them, they are a yummy, quick, healthy burger. (Although I like to top mine with avocado and cheddar cheese which takes away from that low fat factor)

Have fun mixing it up!

Chickpea Burgers
Source: Rachael Ray
Yield: 4 burgers

1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 4oz. can diced green chiles
2/3 crumbs parsley
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
2 T vegetable oil

In food processor pulse chickpeas, chiles, and parsley (and any other flavorings you would like). Transfer to a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in bread crumbs and egg. Shape into patties and cook in hot oil until golden on each side.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Health Nut Banana Muffins

My husband is a health nut. He runs. And runs. And runs. He eats no meat. No sweets. Not even ice cream. I envy his will power. I have none. Absolutely none. Put a cupcake in front of me and I am done. A cookie? The same. Muffins. Yep those too.

I whipped up these muffins to freeze for quick grab and go breakfasts. I used my recipe for Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins but substituted mashed banana (2) for the applesauce and added slivered almonds in place of the blueberries. These are very healthy muffins!! And tasty too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grilled Tofu Kebabs

I've been waiting to make this introduction. I've had a back log of blogs waiting to be posted. But now, I can introduce to new (to me) Canon 20D. FINALLY, I got an SLR. The difference is amazing even in the very first few shots I took you could see the crisp and clean difference from my point and shoot.

Now onto the good stuff, grilled tofu. My new favorite item of the summer. I love tofu but previously have had such a hard time cooking it at home. It just never tasted good. Now I've found that if you grill it with a little salt and pepper....oh, wonderful!

These kebabs have scallions and summer squash as well. Who knew grilled scallions would be so divine? I love it!

My tip for the recipe is a no brainer (although I forgot to do it); soak your wooden skewers prior to grilling.

Tofu Kebabs with Cilantro Sauce
Source: Everyday Food from Martha Stewart
Yield: Four servings

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for grates
1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 scallions, white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch lengths
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 package (14 ounces) extra-firm tofu, weighted and cut into 12 pieces
2 summer squash, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces

Heat grill to medium. In a food processor, combine cilantro, 1/4 cup oil, jalapeno, ginger, lime juice, and scallion greens. Blend until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Combine tofu, scallion whites, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Thread tofu and scallion whites onto four skewers, then thread squash onto four skewers.

Clean and lightly oil hot grates. Grill squash kebabs, covered, until tender, 11 to 13 minutes, turning occasionally. Grill tofu kebabs until scallions are soft, 4 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally; brush with cup cilantro sauce and grill 30 seconds more. Serve kebabs with remaining cilantro sauce.