June 28, 2010

Monday Sweets: Strawberry Butter Cake

The occasion? Final girls weekend before two of four college roommates' weddings in July.

The idea? Cake. Layer cake. Festive, girly layer cake.

The recipe? Smitten Kitchen's Pink Lady Cake + Swiss Buttercream.

The cake is an all-natural step-up from strawberry cake made with jello and cake mix. The strawberry flavor comes from fresh strawberries and only fresh strawberries, who combine forces with plenty of butter and sugar and eggs for a batter that resembled strawberry ice cream in looks and taste.

The result? Velvety, buttery cake that doesn't even need icing. But a little white on pink looks purty. It was quite perfect served along with our special edition Mad Libs and fruity drinks as well as to nibble off of all weekend. Mmmm.

The Swiss Buttercream was way complicated; it was tasty but not tasty enough to be worth the effort. I think next time I would go with a cream cheese or plain buttercream frosting.

June 24, 2010

Recipe: Boat Church Egg Puff

Today I bring you my favorite egg casserole. It starts off pretty basic with a layer of torn-up bread and shredded cheddar over which you pour a mixture of eggs, milk, and spices.

But then it gets more exciting when you sprinkle colorful, flavorful veggies and bacon on top.

I let the dish sit overnight, and then I bake it for it to puff up into a souffle-like dish packed with egg/cheese/topping flavor.

I've made this egg casserole so many summer Sundays for boat church. "Boat church?" you might be thinking. It's a 30-minute worship service on the lake followed by a potluck breakfast. Minus the waking up at 7:15 a.m. part, rolling out of bed to worship on the still-calm lake waters and fellowship over homemade breakfast potpourri is the perfect way to start a Sunday.  Rock Creek Mission "God's Floating Church" celebrated its 25th anniversary this month; I think this dish had made appearances there for at least a third of those years.

The arrow on the photo points to the food table where everyone congregates after singing for sweet rolls, fruit, biscuits and gravy, and of course breakfast casseroles.

June 21, 2010

Monday Sweets: Goat Cheese Cheesecakes

Unlike my last venture with cheesecake, which didn't make it onto the blog because it didn't get cooked all the way, these personal-size cakes were a tasty success. That was partially due to the fact that this recipe requires zero baking, only a little stove-top and whipping action, and partially due to the fact that the creamy treats were the result of teamwork with skilled cook friends.

Uber-creamy, slightly tart goat cheese, a.k.a. the best cheese ever, gives this cheesecake a slightly different flavor, but there was enough flavor dominance from cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice that a non-goat-cheese-fan taste tester ate not one but two of the cakes. The cheesecake is creamy but not super-duper heavy like many, and it's just sweet enough and hence allows the succulent natural sweetness of the berries on top to shine.

Props to Anne Quantrano and Southern Living for the recipe.

June 17, 2010

World Cup Party

Like any significant sporting event, the World Cup calls for festive eating, and my friend Ellie, whom I was visiting in Baltimore last weekend, planned a perfect party meal for the U.S. vs. England game. Being the cooking enthusiasts that we are, we visiting friends jumped in to help prep the food.

We grilled burgers and dogs for 'Merica.

And we embarked on what was some of ours first deep frying experience for fish...

...and chips for our archenemy across the pond. Note the seething cauldron of oil...ewww.

Now, we also wanted to commemorate being in the great city of BalDimore (as I learned you say it) with our party food, so we added some authentic native beer to the fish batter. Natural Bohemian Beer "Natty Bo" has price and taste  similar to its nickname brother, "Natty Light."

My friend Lindsey got so into the Natty Bo experience that she added a bit to her wonderful guacamole. I  couldn't taste the beer, but Lindsey's taste must be more acute than mine because she could. (At this point we got off our U.S./England theme and made what sounded good—and just so happened to follow a world theme, like guacamole for Mexico.)

I was in charge of the sangria, our Spanish representation, and tragically, didn't think to pour the remainder of the beer into the mixture of red wine, lemonade mix, club soda, oranges, and strawberries. Fortunately, it was still unbelievably refreshing and fruity.

Just to be sure we had more than enough food for the crowd and because our faithful potato chopper was willing, we baked some sweet potato fries, too. At the suggestion of Lindsey and her fiance, rosemary and pepper made for the perfect complementary seasoning with a kick; no need for any honey mustard like I usually like. Sweet potatoes are of Latin American origin, but we Americans were probably the ones that decided to fry them, because that's how we roll.

Recap: Amazing fellowship over food with good friends. And we tied England.

Have you made or eaten anything special for World Cup viewing?

June 14, 2010

Monday Sweets: Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes

Today's sweet marks the one year anniversary of my first blog post. Thanks to all my unofficial blog ambassadors for spreading the food love and to everyone who has read my 103 slightly dessert-obsessed posts. I am slowly learning to describe food with more depth than using the word "tasty" over and over and over again.

Anyway, today I bring you a lovely chocolate cupcake with raspberry frosting, inspired by one I had at Muddy's Bake Shop in Memphis and David Lebovitz's recipe (via sammyw). The cake is slightly dense with a bit of fluffiness (still trying to find a scratch recipe that's fluffy like the box kind) and has a bit of coffee flavor infused in the not-too-chocolatey chocolate. The frosting tastes like raspberries and cream, very sweet raspberries and cream—a pure mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and raspberry jam.

My friend, Lisa, who tragically is not a huge sweets fan, ate several of these because she liked the icing so much. My other taste testers, who are cupcake fans like me, were fans of the flavor combo. 

Don't let this picture fool you to think I actually know how to pipe icing. I experimented with a small hole cut in a icing-stuffed gallon baggie, but this is the only one that actually looked decent. There was also icing all over my hands (darn, icing that needed to be licked) and the counter. I need to work on those cake decorating skills one day.

June 10, 2010

Three Things: Good Ole Mayo

Oh, mayonnaise.  I can't decide if I love you or hate you. You're gross in excess, but you complement a turkey sandwich so nicely. Plain yogurt can take your place no problem in potato salad and such, but there are a few things I wouldn't consider making without including you in full force. I also never give a second thought to using your full-fat form; chemicals in lighter versions are just gross. I'd rather eat a the real thing in moderation.

These are my essential recipes whose fat content I ignore and let myself enjoy the decadence. I blame childhood memories eating each of them in the South for my steadfast devotion.

Deviled Eggs
Why Make Them: Easter and barbecues beg that they be served. Also, they make sticky hard-boiled egg yolks creamy and oh-so flavorful.  
Short & Sweet Recipe: Hard boil eggs; let cool. Slice in half length-wise. Scoop out yoke. Mix with salt, mayo, and lemon juice. Stuff back in egg white.
Full-Fledged Recipe: Consult Southern Living.
Tip:  Sprinkle with paprika for a pretty presentation.

Pimiento Cheese  
Why Make It: Creamy, sharp cheddar with a kick is the perfect snack on crackers or lunch on bread with lettuce. Also, store-bought varieties taste like chemicals (even though I thought the opposite as a kid), and friends  loved the taste while innocently having no idea it was mayo-laden. 
Short & Sweet Recipe: Shred cheddar cheese. Mix with lots of mayo and some chopped jarred pimientos, grated onion, Worcestershire sauce, and a tad bit of red pepper.
Full-Fledged Recipe: Consult Southern Living.  
Tips:  Shred your own cheese; it's worth the labor to the get right texture. Use extra sharp, smoky cheddar if you like a bite.

Artichoke Dip 
Why Make It: Anyone who ever tried this creamy, cheesy dip raved about it, even people who don't like mayo or don't like artichokes. And between my extended family and myself, we've made this dip at least 547,892 times. 
Short & Sweet Recipe: Mix together 1 can artichokes, chopped, 1 cup mayo, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until edges brown. 
Full-Fledged Recipe: There isn't one. No need to get fancy. 
Tips:  Make sure that you are around when this dip comes out of the oven, or else you might not get any. You can double or triple the recipe to make the tragedy somewhat less likely.

What about you—how do you like mayonnaise? Or does it totally gross you out?

June 7, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Sheet Cake

You can't beat the simple goodness of homemade chocolate cake. This recipe from a neighborhood cookbook became one of my mom's staples a few years ago. Both the recipe and my mother's philosophy that almost any occasion (or lack thereof) calls for a good cake have become part of my bake-and-take lifestyle. Even my self-proclaimed baking-challenged aunt conquered this recipe—after three tries of forgetting important ingredients that is.

Box mixes don't call for near enough butter to provide the moist richness of this dense yet light cake. The thick layer of icing reminds me of fudge and likewise is on a different playing field than anything you find at a grocery store. The cake doesn't require a birthday but does make for a nice treat for such an occasion. A few years ago, it was especially appropriate for a friend with has a strong appreciation for confections on her 21st birthday, nearly a year after most of our friends had hit that last all-important birthday.

June 4, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Menu

My fellow fellow (full-time intern) Lisa blogged about the Memorial Day feast we made at the lake last weekend over at You've Got to Taste This on MyRecipes.com. Check it out for a full run-down of our gouda-and-pear paninis, chocolate strawberry cupcakes, sangria, feta spread, grilled veggie pasta (pictured below), kiwi sorbet, and our attempt to burn off a few of those calories. The only thing Lisa left out in her vegetarianness was that the rest of the party put chicken on our pasta and prosciutto on our paninis    and the peach pancakes we had already polished off when she arrived.

I will blog about these recipes eventually. I tend to cook a bunch and then strew writing and producing posts them out over several weeks (and sometimes months). 

June 2, 2010

Recipe: Peach Buttermilk Pancakes

I could not have been more excited to bring home the first basket of sweet, juicy Chilton County peaches of the season last week.

After a few days of snacking on them, my friends and I whipped them up into some pancakes on Saturday morning. This Southern Living buttermilk pancake recipe  showcases the ripe peaches with a hint of cinnamon. I like them topped with more chopped peaches and a bit of Reddi Whip, but they are also good with maple syrup.

Of course chopped fresh peaches are the secret ingredient. They're a pain to peel and chop; that's why I enlisted my friends for that duty. Thanks, Colleen and Jonathan.

But the process is easy after the chopping. You just got to wait for the batter to get bubbly and flip them for golden perfection.

Speaking of peaches, you should check out the Southern Living recipe collection I compiled and this trifle recipe from my kitchen last summer. 

Regardless of whether you cook with peaches, make to at least simply sink your teeth into the fuzzy-skinned fruit delight and let the juice drip down your fingers; you won’t be sorry.