Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lobster Carrot Birthday Cake

Since the theme for Popie's 80th Birthday Party was Seafood, and my mom had lots of lobster elements, we decided a lobster cake would be perfect. I thought it would be hard to make a cake shaped like a lobster, and it would be smaller, so I decided to make a sheet cake, and then top it with a lobster. I made the lobster out of rice krispie treats and covered it in fondant. I used random things to help mold the parts, like bowls and wine glasses. I thought it would look cute if I made the lobster a party hat and then had his claws holding the 80 candles.

Grandma told me his favorite cake is carrot with cream cheese icing - which is also JJ's favorite, so I used my favorite carrot cake recipe. We tried out 4 different ones last year before out wedding and decided that we don't like vanilla and any other spice besides cinnamon. We also like a higher carrot ratio, and a bit of sour cream for tenderness!

The party was SO fun, we had a blast. The only thing is - I don't like seafood, so I was the designated bartender and waitress!

Carrot Cake

2 c. granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. sour cream
2 c. all purpose flour
4 cups freshly shredded carrots
1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a stand mixer, beat sugar, oil and sour cream. Add in eggs one a a time. When combined, add flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Fold in carrots and nuts. Pour into a greased and parchment lined pan.
Bake for 1 hour.

Popie and Mom cooking the Mussels and Clams

The tables set for dinner

Popie with his lobster head....he can't open his eyes in photos... seriously!

It took him 2 tries to blow out 2 candles!

Lobster Lemon Sugar Cookie Place Cards

For Popie's 80th Birthday, we had a seafood themed party. He was a shellfish business owner in NYC, so when my mom asked me to do place cards, I knew they had to be place cookies. We found an adorable lobster cookie cutter at Sur La Table, so I made my Famous Sugar Cookies like always, but flavored them with more lemon zest and extract to match the seafood theme. I used royal icing so they would travel well, and silver drages as the eyes. Thanks to Dan and JJ for modeling them :)

My Famous Sugar Cookies!

1 1/2 cups butter1
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
Add in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
Add in lemon, almond, and lemon zest.
Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time.
Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Allison! (German Chocolate Cake)

Last Saturday was my friend Allison's birthday. She was out of town, so I asked her to come over for dinner this weekend, secretly scheming to have a little birthday party! The best part of having only 1 friend is you get to be a really good one! I texted her husband and asked him what her favorite kind of cake is, and he said German Chocolate - perfect! It's my favorite too! So I found this step by step recipe for the cake and icing. For dinner, he said anything with artichokes, so I made Greek Pizza (see next post).

The cake was delicious and we had a fun night! Happy Birthday, Allison :)

(Pumpkin's always got to be in the

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream

For the bakesale, I decided to go with varaiants of chocolate, vanilla, and a seasonal cupcake, so I chose to do a spice cake with my signature pumpkin buttercream. They are so easy to make, but look so adorable and seasonal!

Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses stirred together with 1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking soda, the spices, and a pinch of salt.
In another bowl, with an electric mixer cream together the shortening and the granulated sugar, beat in the egg, and beat in the flour mixture alternately with the molasses mixture, beating well after each addition.
Divide the batter among 12 paper-lined 1/2-cup muffin tins and bake the cupcakes in the middle of an oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Turn the cupcakes out onto a rack and let them cool completely.

Pumpkin Buttercream:
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp.
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 lbs. confectioner's sugar (more or less)

Cream butter, pumpkin and spices. Slowly add sugar until the buttercream is no longer seperated by the pumpkin. Use or keep chilled for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas Craft Fair Bakesale!

This past weekend, my mom organized a craft fair at my church featuring Fair Trade products, as well as local vendors and their crafts. I went with the intention of promoting and selling my mail order packages (which are available for pick-up in Cincinnati on Dec 20-21 as well). I decided last minute to bring along some baked goods so customers would be able to try before they place an order. I sold out of the cupcakes, biscotti, pumpkin chocolate chip loaf cakes, and ginger cookies! I will have all of the recipes available in the coming days, but here is a viewing of the table and baked goods!

Thanks to my mom for buying me the apron I fell in love with at Sur La Table! Everyone at the fair loved it, and asked if I was selling them! I wish, I'm awful at sewing!

And PS - the key to a sucessful bake sale - SAMPLES!!! I was cutting up cookies all day and people LOVED them! I also handed out my business card for a few potential wedding and birthday cakes, and got lots of orders!

Pumpkin Butter Pecan Thumbprints

I love thumbprint cookies, and when I found pumpkin butter, I knew it would be great with a pecan based thumbprint cookie. These were a big hit!

Pumpkin Butter Pecan Thumbprints

2 c. flour
1 c. pecan pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 c. butter
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. pumpkin butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.
Beat butter in a large bowl until smooth.
Gradually beat in brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Beat in vanilla until blended.
Beat in flour mixture until just blended.
Form dough into 1 inch balls.
(At this point, I dip the top of the cookies into the chopped pecans because it is hard to get them to stick when you just sprinkle them on.).
Flatten slightly and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Press down with thumb in center of each ball to form a indentation.
Pinch together any cracks in dough.
Fill each indentation with generous 1/4 tsp of jam. Sprinkle filled cookies with remaining 1/2 cup of pecans.
Bake 14 minutes or until just set.
Let cookies stand on sheets for 5 minutes and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Cookies are best the day after baking.

Almond Sour Cream Cupcakes with Buttercream

I used this recipe for a shower cake I made back in August (which I'm still hoping to get a photo of, it was beatiful), and it was great. The sour cream makes it so tender and I love almond flavor. I adapted this a bit from Paula Deen's recipe, adding baking powder to make the cupcakes rise more, and omitting the orange and upping the almond. I iced these with basic buttercream and sprinkles to make turkeys!

Almond Sour Cream Cupcakes
adapted from Paula Deen

2 sticks butter
3 c. sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
6 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar together and then add sour cream.
Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture, alternately with eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add extract and stir to combine.
Pour into cupcake pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Cool cupcakes in pan for about 10 minutes and then unmold and cool completely on a wire rack. Frost cupcakes when completely cooled.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yorkshire Pudding

I was so excited to make Yorkshire pudding because they look so cool, and the science of food is so fun. How egg, flour and milk can make little puffy omelette/muffin like rolls is amazing! I found a very basic recipe that I'll be able to remember for the rest of my life, 1:1:1 milk to flour to egg. Now I had no idea how many eggs make 1 c., so I decided to use 3 eggs, and use the same amount of flour and milk. These are so cute, as soon as you take them out of the oven they're super puffy, but as they sit they lose a bit of the puff. They were perfect for sopping up lots of gravy!

Yorkshire Pudding

3 eggs (a little over 3/4 c.)
3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. flour
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place muffin tin in the oven while it preheats with meat grease drippings or EVOO grease in the cups.
Whisk together eggs and milk. Add the flour and salt, whisk until just combined. Refrigerate mixture while pan heats up.
When oven is hot, add mixture 1/2 of the way up each muffin tin (do not take pan out of the oven, open the door and lean into it to fill the cups).
Close the oven door and cook for 20 minutes, do not open the door during cooking!
Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Country Challenge: England!

The history of England is so engaging and rich in information, it's hard for me to just list a few key points. I highly recommend looking into it further after reading this small piece.

One of the landmarks England is most famous for is Stonehenge, which is believed to have been erected around 2500-2000BC. Stonehenge is in southern Engald, where people were believed to have first lived as the climate was more hospitable during the end of the ice age. From the years of 2500 to 50 BC, the English lived a life of farming.

Julius Caesar invaded southern Britain in the year 54 BC. After Caesar left, control fell in the hands of the Britons until 43 AD when the Roman empire spread and gained control of England. After the Roman empire fell apart, the German group called the Anglo-Saxons gained control of England. After the Roman period ended, Smallpox and the plague broke out in England and the population saw a dramatic decrease.

The history of England from the middle ages until now is packed with so many notable wars, Kings, Queens, and documents.
-In the 1000's, Norman England produced the Domesday Book, which surveyed the land and population for tax purposes. It was also during this time that modern English was created.
-In the 1100's, King Henry II led crusades to take over parts of Scotland and Wales
-In 1215, King John (Richard, the Lion Hearted's sucessor) was forced to sign the Magna Carta, which limited the King's powers
John's son, Henry III became King at age 9, which led to many rebellions
-In 1349, the bubonic plague or "Black Death" killed around 1/3 of the English population.
-The Hundred Years' War was lost in August, 1453, and King Henry went into a mental breakdown. He was unable to control nobles, and civil war began - the War of the Roses.
-In the 1520's, Henry XIII wanted his marriage with Catherine of Aragon annuled, which led to a split with the Catholic church and the English reformation.
-Queen Elizabeth gained the throne in 1558, where she put to rest the problems with Henry XIII by creating the Church of England. Elizabeth died in 1603 with no heirs.
-In 1607, England constructed Jamestown in America.
-Civil War broke out in 1642, a reslut of tension between Charles I and Parliament. In 1660, monarchy was restored when King Charles II returned to England.
-In 1666, the capital was struck by The Great Fire, which lasted 5 days and destroyed 15,000 buildings.
-In 1800, the United Kingdom was formed.
-During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution spread throughout England.

About the cuisine:
English food was popular during the middles ages, but later was found to be unsophisticated by neighboring countries - often using plain ingredients, beef, chicken, lamb, root vegetables, and dairy products. Due to a large influx of Indian and Chinese during the 1950's, English food has adopted many of their culinary influences.

I have chosen this week to make a few traditional English dishes, as well as one Indian influenced meal.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

I chose to make this Pumpkin soup from Martinique because I had some pumpkin puree and coconut milk on hand, as well as most of the spices and seasonings in the soup. The flavors in this soup were so complimentary, spicy, sweet, acidic, and earthy...

Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

1/4 c. butter
1 c. peeled, chopped onion
1 lb. pumpkin, seeded, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. ginger
2 tbsp. curry powder
1 28 oz. can coconut milk
1/4 c. sour cream
1/3 c. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. pepper
1/4 c. grated coconut
2 tbsp. grated lime peel

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onion, cook for 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with ginger and curry powder.

Cover with 1 c. of water, simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Blend the soup until smooth and creamy, stir in the sour cream and lime juice, season with salt and pepper.

Turn into a soup bowl, sprinkle with coconut and lime peel.

Country Challenge: Martinique


This week I am cooking a dinner from Martinique, an overseas region of France.
I chose this country for two reasons. One is because in keeping with clean out the fridge week, I found 2 great recipes using things I already had on hand, and another is because I didn't have time to stop by the library, but had copied these recipes a while back for future use!

Now, a little about Martinique...
The official language of Martinique is French, but inhabitants mostly speak a form of Creole. The currency used is the euro. Around 400,000 people live on the island of Martinique, it is very small and in the Caribbean Ocean just north of St. Lucia.

The island is made from 5 non-active volcanoes, that are now covered in lush, tropical rain forest. The most famous volcano, Mount Pelee, has created beautiful beaches with ashy black sand. The south contains most of the population and tourism, as it has roads and establishments.
Martinique's culture is a blend of French and Caribbean. Most of the population is decendant from slaves brought from Africa to work the sugarcane plantations.

You might also recognize mention of the country in the Beach Boy's song, "Kokomo"..."To Martinique, that Montserrat mystique."

I have to say, after reading their main tourism ad, I'd sure love to go there....

"The Caribbean Island with French Flair, The Isle of Flowers, The Rum Capital of the World – by any one of its many names Martinique remains one of the most alluring and enchanting destinations in the world; as unforgettable as a summer romance or a first kiss. Martinique is an overseas region of France, and in keeping with its traditions, this vibrant island stirs the passions with awe-inspiring natural beauty, a rich cultural history, distinctive culinary delights, warm smiles and so much more. Napoleon’s bride, Empress Josephine, was born and raised here. The Pompeii of the Caribbean, St. Pierre, is found here. The finest French products, from Chanel fashions to Limoges porcelain, are readily available here. La Route des Rhums, a tour of the world’s finest rum distilleries based on France’s famed Route des Vins, is offered here.
A special place, to be sure, with so much to offer Martinique c’est magnifique!"

Recipes taken from:
French Carribean Cuisine, Stephanie Ovide. Hippocrene Books: NY, 2002.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Maple Chili Acorn Squash

I wanted to make a vegetable side to go with my meatloaf. Since squash are still in season, and so delicious, I picked up an acorn squash. I love sweet and spicy, so I combined a few of my favorites to add a sweet punch to the squash.

Maple Chili Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, halved, seeded
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. pure Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp. Mexican dark chili powder

Place squash cut side up in a baking dish. Fill with 1 cm. of water. Place half the butter in the bottom of each squash cup, drizzle in syrup, then sprinkle with brown sugar and chili powder.
Roast for 60 minutes at 350.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Double Chocolate M&M Cookies

The M&M cookies I made last weekend were so popular, I thought i'd make some Halloween themed cookies for work and the party last night. I went with a double chocolate cookie because it's dark like Hallowen! I used my same recipe for the most part, just subbing some cocoa powder for flour, and adding different colored M&Ms. Everyone loved them at the party!

Double Chocolate Halloween M&M Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. dutch process cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. Halloween M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides.
Add in vanilla, turn mixer on medium, add eggs one at a time.
Add in salt, baking poweder and soda.
Slowly add in flour, cocoa powder and most of the M&M's.
Place dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls, place on a greased cookie sheet, press extra M&M's into the dough so they are on top and visable.
Bake for 14 minutes, or until golden and puffy.

Cous Cous, Asparagus and Chickpea Salad with Walnut Dressing

For my last Moroccan meal, I decided to do a giant dinner salad. I love to have salads for dinner when I know we're eating late or I just feel like I want a lighter dinner. I love this one because it's vegetarian, and has many of my favorite veggies! The author doesn't say anything about this recipe, but it does contain many traditional Moroccan ingredeints - like walnuts, cous cous, lemon, chick peas, and paprika. I hope you've enjoyed my Moroccan selections this week!

Cous Cous, Asparagus, and Chickpea Salad
with Creamy Walnut Dressing

2 bunches asparagus spears
2 1/4 oz. snow peas
1 head of butter lettuce
1 bunch of curly endive
2 c. prepared cous cous
10 oz. chickpeas
Sweet paprika, to dust

1/4 c. walnuts
1/2 c. lowfat plain yogurt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. thyme leaves (fresh)
Salt and pepper

To make dressing: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 1 minute or until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

Steam asparagus and snow peas for 2 minutes, shock in cold water, drain and set aside.
Arrange lettuces on a platter, place cous cous in the center, top with snow peas and asparagus, chick peas, and dressing. Dust with sweet paprika.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Last week, a coworker told me that bundt cakes make great pumpkin shaped cakes, so I should make one of them for the party we went to. I decided to make up a bundt cake recipe based on a few I've used in the past, and make a chocolate ganache to cover it in orange. Then I used black gel icing to make the jack-o-lantern face. It was very easy and cute, though I didn't have enough ganache and the icing layer wasn't as thick as I wanted it.
The face was eaten right away, so it's not photographed!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 c. pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup skim milk
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
Punch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 c. cream
orange food coloring
Black gel icing in a little tube

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together butter and sugar until light a fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla and pumpkin. Add in spices, salt, baking powder and soda, mix well.
Add in 1 c. flour, mix for 10 seconds, add in milk, mix for 10 seconds, add in remaining cup of flour, mix until just combined.
Using a spatula, fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into a greased bundt bake pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until puffed on top, golden brown, and cooked through when tested with a toothpick.
Invert onto a cake stand.
Allow cake to come to room temperature.

Add white chocolate chips to a 2 c. measuring cup, add in cream and food coloring. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove, stir, and microwave in 15 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Pour over bundt cake, use a spatula to guide the ganache into the sides. Cool. Pipe on face with black gel icing.