December 19, 2011

Holiday Tamale Party

When I saw tamales, the real deal and not the generic Mexican restaurant version, for sale at Christmastime in Birmingham thanks to HICA (The Hispanic Interest Organization of Alabama), I thought one thing: tamale party.

Thanks to my friend Brianne, a tamale dinner party we had!

And thanks to gathering two Cooking Light editors, one Cooking with Paul Deen Magazine test kitchen professional, and two former Southern Living/ editors, our spread was quite festively colorful and delicious. We might not all work together anymore, but fortunately, some of our original Southern Progress potluck crew can still reunite, over a meal of course.

Tamales, Citrus and Jicama Salad, Cranberry Christmas Salsa
Tortilla Chips
(Traditional) Salsa
Pork Tamales, Poblano Pepper Tamales (from HICA)
Citrus and Jicama Salad
Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie (from Cooking Light)

Merry Christmas Eating Season!

December 13, 2011

Christmas Gifts: Chocolate-y Brownies and Buttery Cookies

I baked for Christmas.

I baked buttery, nutty Wedding Cookies and my favorite fudge-like brownies from scratch, two recipes each, meaning ridiculous amounts of butter and sugar.

I baked for the wonderful people who put up with my crazy editing habits every single day, that means at work and in everyday life for those poor people who know me well enough.
I put my baked goods in the freezer.

I bought tins, treat boxes and mini cupcake liners from Hobby Lobby.

Then I put it all together all pretty-like each day that I saw a person I felt needed a sugary "Merry Christmas," Madoline-style.

Oh, and I also stuffed mini Oreos in chocolate chip cookies to gift and cookie-exchange, but they weren't quite as ridiculously good as the ones I stuffed with full-sized Oreos.

What are you making to give this season?

December 6, 2011

Cakes and Carols

According to magazine covers, it's the season to bake a festive layer cake, even if you are not typically the kind to devote so many hours to the art. So, because I am a strange person who enjoys laboring over such a cake more than once a year, I bring you my favorites this holiday season.

Christmas music not the cheesy stuff on the radio but the kind with rich theology of how much awe we should be in awe of Christ's birth is speaking particular wonderful words and emotions to me this year. I blame the number of times I have listened to Sojourn's Advent Songs and my church's new album (check it out!). So I've interlaced parts of my favorite carols with my cakes. Believe it or not, I do believe in more than just sugar to celebrate the season.

Let's get our priorities straight: chocolate first.
Statement maker: that purdy oreo cream

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

And chocolate second:
Statement maker: The drizzle of peanut butter-chocolate ganache on top 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born…

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Choco-latte third:
Statement maker: Oh, that buttercream
(Yes, I realize I just blogged about this cake, but it is just that worthy of emphasizing.)

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

On to the second best thing after chocolate: Caramel!

Statement maker: Caramel icing from scratch+caramel filling

Adeste Fideles
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte
Regem angelorum
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum*

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord. 

*I love the beauty of the Latin. This is the first verse of "O Come All Ye Faithful"; it's fairly easy to see the connection to English here even if you don't know the dead language of Caesar and old church music.

Caramel again, with a twist:
Statement maker: Can't-stop-talking-about-it icing with a nutty filling

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And an obligatory seasonal-type spice kind of cake, but only because it's a family recipe and the maple-flavored icing really is quite phenomenal:
Statement maker: maple flavoring in the cream cheese icing

Carol Sidenote:
As I am typing this, my roommate is introducing me to Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God, a concept album that tells the whole story of Christ's coming. It might become a new favorite.

Last year's round up of sweet treats for the holidays:
6 Cookies for Christmas

What carols and sweet treats are you celebrating with this season?

November 28, 2011

Chocolate-Buttercream Cake

This was almost a true Nancy cake.
If it were* a true Nancy cake, its maker would have followed the directions to a tee instead of trying to bake the cakes without lining the pans with parchment paper (result: not-so-pretty cake innards; fortunately icing covers most any mess-ups, and speckled icing is more than okay).

If it were* a true Nancy cake, it would have about 15 more accessories and 7 more colors.

But because it is still a Nancy cake, it is homemade chocolate.

And it is covered in buttercream. Mother Dearest is to credit for why I know how to make the beauty of chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

And it was delivered to the honoree during Thankslakecabinfest 2011 because, among many other things, I am quite thankful for the one who taught me to love to bake and eat well (and pretty much everything else I value in life).

And like her, this selfish baker also likes to eat chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate with buttercream. Apparently so does the rest of my extended family. The cake was down to this lone piece 24 hours after it first appeared for our Thanksgiving Eve spaghetti dinner.

I can't say the same about the pecan or pumpkin chiffon pie we had for actual Thanksgiving.

This cake's cousins (same moist chocolate cake layers):
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake
Chocolate Oreo Cake

Did you bake anything tasty for Thanksgiving?

*I am 99 percent sure my use of "were" is correct grammar because it is in the subjunctive mood, but if any grammar nerds out there would argue otherwise, please do assert yourselves.

November 21, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Things that make me happy:
1. Celebrations involving food
2. Getting introduced to local restaurants
3. Menu items that make me say, "Wow!"

More specifically:
1. My friend Katie's bachelorette party
2. Cabana in Nashville, which was full of Southern food with a twist
3. Tennessee Sliders: mini sweet potato biscuits with peach preserves and fried chicken

 My attempt at replication:
1. Lunch/life catch-up session with Hannah
2. My house
3. Biscuits ala Paula Deen stuffed with fried chicken from Publix and some peach preserves, served with an arugula salad

Good, but but quite as good as the original three.
Also on the list to replicate from this restaurant:
1. Lemon poppyseed bread pudding
2. Sweet potato ravioli with spiced pecans, prosciutto, mustard greens and sorghum sage butter, ohmygoodness
3. Gathering of a particularly wonderful cohort of college friends. Good news: already on the calendar for the next one in line to become an Mrs. Jackson, Mississippi, here we come; you'd better have some places worthy of celebrating a bride of this par.

(This post officially proves the strength of my love of lists, just to self proclaim my nerdiness.)

November 15, 2011

The Southern Culinary Bible: A History of Southern Living

Once upon a time I devoted hours to reading and writing about Southern food culture and Southern Living magazine. Exactly four professors read my giant final report and let me have a master’s degree (woohoo) and put it in at a nice j-library in Missouri. I am resurrecting the best parts of said giant report in a more digestible blog version.

Southern women love them some Southern Living recipes. Millions of then read the magazine. They cook from it. They write love letters to it. They trust it, they revere it, it is part of who they are as Southerners, as women, as cooks.
My mom's SL-filled kitchen bookshelf.
In the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Dianne Young calls Southern Living “one of the South’s self-proclaimed culinary bibles,” and Patricia Gantt refers to the magazine as “that great dame of southern cookery.” Food is essential to the Southern Living but is only part of the larger history of the iconic Southern lifestyle magazine.

In 1966 Southern Living was born as vehicle for emphasizing Southern identity for publisher Progressive Farmer’s non-farm circulation. Beginning in the 1930s, the region had become increasingly urban and nonagrarian with a diversification of manufacturing and of agriculture. As the region progressed toward mainstream America and a global economy, Southerners faced an identity crisis and looked for reaffirmations of Southerness. However, after the Jim Crow era, the South no longer could use the North as a strong contrast upon which to draw their identity, so they exaggerated their small differences in distinctiveness.

The magazine was launched to serve a new reader divorced from rural roots and to celebrate the white Southern lifestyle at a time when Southerners faced negative perceptions in the media and the stress of change during the Civil Rights Movement. According to Southern historian James Cobb, Southern Living became “the most convenient fig leaf” to cover Southerners’ “cultural nakedness” after being stripped of their Jim Crow identity.

November 9, 2011

Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Gouda Chowder

Slurping down the first bowl of warm cream-laced soup after jacket weather hits is like curling up under my down comforter with the first escape novel I've picked up in far too long. Hello, stay-inside-more season, I've missed the comforts you bring.

And what better way to welcome you than with mushrooms and sweet potatoes and gouda and bacon? Soup Week at The Kitchn got back in the habit reading its 1,467 daily posts if nothing else it's worth the screen time to discover links like this.

Now if only there were more time in the day to curl up and read I Capture the Castle for hours at a time with hot chocolate and soup breaks.

This scrumptious chowder is part of my seasonal kick of sweet potatoes and pumpkin and squashes. What fall comfort are you cooking up?

November 2, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

If you send Madoline an email with a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes, she will use roommate dinner and her mom's Madoline-sweet-deprived coworkers as excuse to make them. And if she makes them, she will taste test the apple-cinnamon cake and find it quite sweet. And if she finds it quite sweet, she will only put so much uber-decadent caramel icing on top of each cake (as opposed to the Dreamcakes Bakery volume, which is about seven times more than necessary).
And if she only puts so much icing on each cake, she will have pounds and pounds of  luscious caramel icing leftover. And if she has icing leftover, she will make another half batch of mini cupcakes for a block party. And if she only bakes half a batch, she will still have icing leftover.
And if there is still icing leftover, she will set it next to the brownie bites her roommate made. And if she sets it next to the brownies, the brownies will get dunked and disappear.
And if the brownies disappear, someone clever will think to dip Tostito's in the caramel for a sweet-salty snack. And if they dip Tostitos, then they'll try pretzels. And if they try pretzels, the caramel icing will vanish.

Reference (in case you missed it): If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

October 25, 2011

Memphis Mafia Bars

It started with a doughnut in Portland. A Voodoo doughnut. A doughnut so wonderful that it became my friend Ellie's Facebook profile picture.

Commenting ensued. It looked amazing. Banana. Chocolate. Peanut butter. It was called the Memphis Mafia. Hey, Memphis, do you know how many shared college memories are there? It needed to be replicated. We were reuniting in five weeks: excuse to invent a Memphis Mafia bar.

So for those of us who didn't get to check Portland off our destination wish list, we got the goodness of Memphis Mafia to snack on at the lake house.

Banana cake.
Chocolate frosting.
Peanut butter drizzle.
Chocolate chunks.

I even made it dairy free for a friend who can't have the best food group of all for now, and to my surprise, it was still as decadently delicious as that doughnut looks.

October 18, 2011

Game Day M&M Blondies

What's a girl to do when invited to an Auburn football-watching party when she could care less about football? Whip out some butter and sugar and use her type-A specialty to sort out team-colored M&Ms from the bag.
I truthfully didn't even think to wear team colors to said party but did show up with team-themed least as far as they could see. I so thickly layered all the War Eagle colors from my package of candies that I had to put assorted remaining colors on the part of the blondies that didn't travel to the party.

In fact, I used so many M&Ms that it created a crust on top that crumbled when I cut the blondies up. You might use less than me if you want more perfected looking treats, but they stayed together well enough with the amount of chocolate I felt they needed. I choose chocolate over presentation.

I might only have allegiance to an SEC team because I lived in a state where it is forced, because I like not be ostracized from culture and because I feel I should support a sibling's educational institution. But I have decided that I like to be a fan of a team whose colors appear in standard M&M bags. This tends to coincide with having colors that are decent to wear, too. What a silly girl.

More Blondies:
Blondie Bites with Reese's Pieces Eggs
Blondies with Reese's
Chewy Chocolate Blondies 

October 11, 2011

7 Days, 7 Baked Goods

You know you might be obsessed with baking when the dessert:day ratio becomes 1:1 like it did for my past seven days. I felt was necessary to justify returning to the kitchen daily with my excuses to make sweet treats for special people.

Phase I: Hospitality House Dinner
On Tuesdays, groups from my (awesome new) church take turns cooking for a family shelter and then sharing the meal at tables family-style with the people there. Can I tell you how excited was when someone who I don't think knows how baking-obsessed I am put me in charge of my dessert? You know, so I could save the world by way of brightening a little spot of people's day with a home-baked confection.

1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Always a crowd pleaser, these guys were gobbled up by kids (and adults too) quickly.

2. Pecan Squares
Not so much the kid favorite, but the kind of bar that whose shortbread-pecan-toffee combo creates a wow factor in that first bite. A family friend once told me that they were "man bait." We'll see how accurate his labeling was if I ever feed them to single boys.

Phase II: Monthly Work Meeting
Always serves as an excuse to bake something appropriate for mid-morning.

3. Apple-Gouda-Oatmeal Snack Cookies
The Kitchn is to blame for this savory snack whom I will definitely be making again. Full post to come soon.

Phase IIIA: Lake Weekend Prep
The best part of the week came in a long-awaited lake retreat with 10 college friends and friends of friends and a baby, which of course called for an array of baked goods. I anticipated the weekend with menu planning and premixing cookie dough break-and-bake style. Because I have to learn to redirect my inner Martha and say with my actions that relationships are supreme over food, I reasoned that the weekend of I could focus less on food prep and more on people this way.

4. Malted Chocolate Cookie Dough
 Converted a friend who didn't think she liked malted things to want to make these colossal, decadent, chocolate-laden cookies. They are the best non-Tollhouse cookie I have found.

5. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough
Because it was fall and they were requested as a non-chocolate cookie. I went with the recipe from the best food blog ever, Smitten Kitchen (who else can sell prints of their food photos?) and loved how chewy they turned out.

6. Memphis Mafia Bars
The grand finale of lake preparations was special bars based on this doughnut my friend Ellie had in Portland. Full post to come soon. Hint: it involved bananas, chocolate and peanut butter.

Phase IIIB: Lake Weekend, Real-Time
There's a place for bars and cookies you bake in advance and snack on all day, and there's an equally important place for fresh-out-the-oven dessert plated and served at the dinner table as you linger over conversation and drink.

7. Apple Crisp
Marinated pork tenderloin and butternut squash and my favorite autumn spinach salad were on the menu, so an equally fall-appropriate dessert was called for, with homemade vanilla ice cream of course. I recommend recruiting a fastidious peeler/chopper sous chef for this recipe, but yours might not be as cool as mine.

I think the relish-the-moment, don't-work-too-hard part of me took over by this point in the weekend because no photos were taken. Success for life, fail for blog.

October 4, 2011

Autumn Pasta with Butternut Squash, Greens, Bacon, and Brown Butter

Tastes-like-fall butternut squash pairs well in pasta dishes, as I learned last year at this time thanks to some fancy food dinners around Birmingham.

There was the herbed goat cheese ravioli with butternut squash, onions, bacon, shaved parmigiano-reggiano, sage, brown butter and sauteed mustard greens at Satterfield's.  And then a similar butternut-bacon-greens pasta at Bottega Cafe. Both were obvious choices in my order-something-unique-while-I'm-eating-out menu quest and more than pleased my palate.

Butternut squash and mustard greens came home with me from the farmer's market a few weeks ago, and while pondering what to do with my attempts to eat like fall, I remembered how badly I wanted to make my own version of the butternut pasta delight. Delish.

September 27, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels

These weren't as buttery sinful as the Ritz Bits peanut butter sandwiches I first thought to chocolate cover, but they have the same salty-chocolate, peanut butter flavor delight and are still plenty decadent. Plus, there's nice crunch to each bite—more crunch if you can make them last more than one bite.

The ingredient list and process is super simple to make these, but they do require tedious assembly. Hence, they are either a teamwork project with good company or something to busy your hands while you become completely enthralled in a British countryside family uppercrust drama circa 1910s (What will happen to the money? Who will she marry? How will they adapt to social changes? Ooo.) a.k.a. my latest addiction, Downton Abbey.
So, if you happen to have chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels in your pantry, you should make better-than-packaged-candy while you escape into a good show or conversation at the same time.

September 20, 2011

Three Things: Farmers Market Veggies Make Easy Meals

This is a tale of my Pepper Place farmer's market veggies, some of the last tastes of summer, from last week. The idea was to prep veggies on Sunday and then make fast, veggilicious meals throughout the week.
Step one: Cook  yellow quash and pink-eyed peas. Chop bell pepper and tomatoes (they didn't make the photo).
Step two: Put 'em in a container.
Step three: Play with 'em for a little meal variety.
1. Tortilla Pizza
Crisping up a tortilla and throwing toppings on top is one of my favorite quick, one-person meals because it tastes like something from a restaurant. My veggies tasted all the better with some Parmesan and basil. No sauce needed.
2. Lunchtime Salad
Toss veggies with Greek spices, red wine vinegar and olive oil for insta-salad. I brought it for lunch at work with a half of my new PBJ cousin, Big Sky raisin bread with almond butter.
3. Veggie Scrambled Eggs
I had grand ideas of trying to make a frittata for my final meal of the week, but on a late weeknight scrambling some eggs and cheese had all the same flavor and texture. One bowl, one pan and 10 minutes later, I was eating my dinner. I need to make eggs into dinner more often.

September 18, 2011

Food Thoughts: Southern Food Documentaries

Because we are food nerds, Hannah and I spent last Thursday watching documentaries made by the Southern Foodways Alliance and eating (free!) Jim 'N Nick's tacos, including their new mayonnaise-vinegar white sauce for chicken. Birmingham keeps winning cool points for events like this as part of Eat Drink Read Write Festival, because combining celebration of food and books is just delightful.

Here are some interesting things I learned:
Ribs ala family Fourth of July.
1. Scott of Scott's BBQ in Hemingway, SC is really serious about smoking pigs. As in he spends all week splitting word for the pit and then slow cooking whole pigs overnight, finishing it off by mopping (literally) the pig with vinegar-pepper sauce. He also sells crispy pig skins, which does not sound appetizing to me.

2. How cows digest grass is gross (regurgitate "cud" and rechew it multiple times) but the natural way to go; how cows live in mass-meat-production facilities is even grosser. Part of me just wants to stay ignorant to our messed-up food system so I will like meat more.

3. A ridiculous number of people have a beach party each year in Florabama to toss mullets (fish) across the Florida-Alabama state line in the sand. Really. And they get really into it, which is entertaining to watch.

I left the films with my eyes opened to just how much our food is tied to our land, its vegetation and animals, something that's easy to not fully comprehend when our food comes from big-box stores.

As if Southern Foodways Alliance wasn't cool enough for celebrating and preserving Southern food traditions, they also have all their documentaries available to watch on their website.

September 13, 2011

Lemon-Raspberry Muffins

I needed muffins to go with my batch of Creamy Pesto Pasta salad and wanted something different, something sweet and fruity. Idea: raspberries. Very. Good. Idea.
I used frozen berries, and they all got smooshed up in the batter with cream cheese and lemon juice and sugar. The end result was pretty much dessert.
It reminded me of the Entenmann's Raspberry Danish Twist sweet roll that was always our special breakfast treat at my grandmother's beach condo.  We bought Entenmann's at the beach this year for old time's sake, and the memories made it taste good. But the muffins taste way better (duh, homemade always wins).

September 6, 2011

White Texas Sheet Cake

It's rare that someone expresses anything but happiness over cake, but this is the kind of cake that takes that happiness to the next level for an oh-my-goodness, sinfully sweet and buttery jubilation in the mouth that you can't stop talking about.

White cake with icing makes me think birthdays+family, a hint of almond extract makes me think weddings+friends and that combo in this cake especially makes me think of excuses to gather special people for a cake-worthy occasion, which is pretty easy to find in my book.

The cake is not tall in its jellyroll pan, meaning there is more icing-to-cake than usual for a sheet cake. And then you cut it into bars for eating with your fingers, or a fork if you like things extra tidy.

This cake's cousin also so worthy of trying in the easy-cakes-from-scratch realm: Chocolate Sheet Cake, known to some people as Texas Sheet Cake. For both you cook butter in a saucepan with other goodness for the cake and the icing; this might be the secret to why both cakes are the most moist and delicious I've made.

August 30, 2011

Pineapple-Zucchini Muffins

When I brought these little guys to a work meeting, they got eaten, and a few hours later I started getting asked what were in them after all—something sweet with a distinct (distinctly wonderful I say) texture. Answer: zucchini, which makes things fresh and summery, and pineapple, which makes them sweet and tropical, and some warm spices that give them an essence of spice cake.
Having a giant container of mini-muffins made it fun to share their sweet and summery flair, at our meeting, then leftover snacks for coworkers, then breakfast for roommates, right through snacking over a lake weekend. I had to squeeze them onto the blog before zucchini season ends, which is probably soon because ever-so-barely-cooler mornings and evenings are hinting that fall might come one day in the relative future.
The source for this ingredient mix that looks somewhat like Easter in a bowl? Bake sale goods in my grandmother's freezer...and then an internet search to replicate it of course.

August 23, 2011

Food Thoughts: Feeding People in Tragedy

Amidst the glossy-perfect food and homes in the August Southern Living,  I discovered some extraordinary storytelling about the aftermath of April's tornadoes. I loved how it so eloquently captured the comfort of food, especially in the South, in times of tragedy:

"In the South, food and tragedy are sisters. And while the instinct to feed others in a crisis may not be strictly Southern, what we prepare, and how we do it—in lovingly generous, belt-busting portions—may be our region’s finest recipe.
Chocolate Sheet Cake
It is true that some ills in this world cannot be cured by Rita Trull’s chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. But that cake, and the love and compassion baked into it, may be more beautiful than any cake that ever appeared on a magazine cover. By the look of the spread in front of her, Rita is not alone in her ability to cope, and help, through baking. When she put out a call for help after the storm, the answer came strong, and sweet.

'I said, "I need some cakes for these people!”' she said. 'And I had 21 cakes come to my house.'”
-Southern Living, August 2011, page 97

How have food and coping with tragedy intersected in your life?

August 20, 2011

Oatmeal-Butterscotch Cookies

My brother is on his way to start a new adventure for a season of life in Jackson, Wyoming, home of those breathtaking Tetons...

where he will be capitalizing on all powder potential possible.
Rough, right? But he might not have any of these, his favorite cookies with oatmeal and butterscotch chips, for a while.
So I sent a batch of them, the cookies that make me think of my grandmother because she always made them when we were little, and some Chex Mix along for the three-day drive.

Two women the car together all day can manage to chit chat for hours on end, but two men, maybe not so much. They are probably playing on their phones and tying flies in between snack breaks at the moment.
I'm slowly learning to more fully channel my bakaholism into a love language. Maybe I'll have to ship some baked love out to Wyoming, too, or maybe I'll catch a flight and deliver them myself so I can get in on the Western wilderness action.

August 16, 2011

Mango-Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Fresh mango. Cheese. Bacon! Warm bacon dressing with lime, honey and sauteed red onions. Do you really notice any spinach when you toss it in all that goodness? Not really. It just adds color and hidden nutrients.
I am always looking for a new salad of the fruit and cheese variety, and this one from Southern Living is definitely worthy of making the weekend salad treat rotation. It even turned out delicious on my first try when the power went out just after the bacon cooked, and we ate raw onions and an improvised dressing in the dark. The warm bacon dressing on the second try made it all the better, and it looked quite pretty in the light.

August 9, 2011

Chocolate-Buttercream Cake Decadence Pie

Generally, when I bake I follow a recipe. But sometimes recipes don't turn out quite right, which is unacceptable when you are baking to thank an intern who has slaved away to help you all summer and even let you bum an impromptu ride for 8 hours.

Sometimes you think you are smart wrapping up a roll cake in a dish towel for a while before filling it with buttercream and topping it with ganache (think homemade swiss cake roll). And sometimes when you unroll the cake, it cracks in 27 place and it will not come close to rolling back up again.
Then, my friend, you must innovate because you cannot waste decadent-tasting cake. So I made cake roll I had planned for into a cake pie: luscious, thick chocolate cake crust with buttercream icing filling topped with ganache. Instead of icing being a light finish on cake, icing rules this cake. It might be the best dessert mistake I've made.
Before you start to think I think outside the box more than I actually do, let' me say my cake pie innovation has two recipe sources: Nanaimo Bars, a similar tasting dessert that layers a chocolate-graham mixture, buttercream and straight chocolate, and a Tiramisu Toffee Trifle Pie, which turns cake into a pie crust and fills it with cream.
Hopefully the passion with which all of our cake-partaking going away partygoers and contributors to the cause of not wasting leftovers spoke of the cake creation reflects a tiny bit of how awesome its honoree, my intern extraordinaire, Mia, is!

August 2, 2011

Grilled Pineapple-Avocado Salsa

If a restaurant serving all things avocado should open, as some friends and I were dreaming up last night, it would serve this fresh and fruity salsa.
Grilling the pineapple brings out its flavor and rids of that strong, acidic aftertaste that turns some people off from the super-sweet fruit. Plus, grilling fruit doesn't require you actually know if something is done right, as I have yet to master with meat, just that it looks cooked and not burnt. Also, grill marks are cool.

(The dip bowl is one antler of a moose-face chip and dip plate in case you were wondering. We like to pretend like we have wildlife like out West at my lake house.)
As I was reminded in my interview with Salsa Senorita today (which involved chatting over homecooked Mexican in someone's kitchen! side note: try their salsa), salsa is one of those things that always wows me because I get as addicted to it as I do homemade chocolate chip cookies, only it's good for you because it's veggies and, in this case, fruit (and fruit makes veggies all the better.)

With my two batches thus far, I've used it to top grilled chicken and swordfish and served with chips and salsa. I could also just eat it with a spoon.

For more fruity salsa love, see my Mango Salsa recipe or use my friend Amy's favorite shortcut and use canned tropical fruit salad for salsa something like this.

What kind of salsa do you like to make?