November 22, 2015

Chocolate Cake Parfaits (All from Scratch, Of Course)

It started with a tragically cracked cake layer. But it's okay. I fixed it by burying it in pieces under homemade chocolate pudding. And homemade pudding elevates the status of anything by 409 percent, make that 1,409 percent when it's also layered with Kahlua whipped cream.

And who needs a three layer cake when you can have a two layer one and then parfaits for your next party that week? Right? Right.

It turned out to be such a pretty little thing in a tea cup, thanks to the genius of my roommate. She not only shares her growing teacup collection but also had the idea for the cracked cake redemption. And she assembled these creamy party pleasers with me late at night, and that's just one part of her dinner party partner skill set.

Oh, and I must give credit to my other roommate for use of her glasses when we ran out of teacups. Yes, they have cats on them. No, I am not a fan of cats. Yes, I did it any way because they were like large Seasons 52 dessert glasses. Finally, my third (yes, third) roommate gets credit for affirming the supremacy of the taste and presentation of both forms of parfait.

Note: Layering creamy things in tall, skinny glasses is more challenging than short, squatty tea cups.

Homemade Chocolate Cake+Homemade Chocolate Pudding+Kahlua Whipped Cream even wowed my favorite sugar cookie-over-chocolate chip cookie-choosing friend (what kind of taste is that?).  She even took a second one home. It also puts to shame all those brownie trifles I made with instant pudding and Cool Whip before I became such a homemade snob.

Oh, and you could sub in brownies or cookie crumbs for the cake on this recipe. I first made them with Chocolate Chip Cookie pieces because that's what I had leftover.

August 6, 2015

Greek Layer Dip

For way too long I thought there were two kinds of appetizers: 1. decadent, delicious ones and 2. less-than-exciting healthy ones, generally a veggie tray.

And then I discovered hummus. And then I discovered fancified hummus as inspired by 1990s Seven Layer Mexican Dip. Suddenly, there was a new category called Maybe Veggies Can Meet A Bit of Decadence.
Really this is all you need to know: Hummus. Simplified Tzatziki Sauce. Cucumber. Tomato. Black Olives. AND Feta.

It's a really refreshing  way to transition in between lake time and dinnertime in Alabama summertime humidity.

July 26, 2015

Summer Gratitude: 2015 Edition

This season I have been grateful for...

For grilled summer goodness salads, friends to enjoy them and sunsets to round out the perfection.
For the height of berry season and a celebratory Amaretto-and-cream-laden trifle worth repeating every year.

For composting reward system success.

For the Saturday night meal for two (or three or four) I have perfected, this time in one pan to-go.
For the best time in life to buy kitchen accessories for friends.
For coworkers awesome enough for me to want to create tedious chocolate chip typography on the best cupcakes ever.
For post-kitchen clean-out satisfaction that comes with the bitter-sweet of house transitions.

May 28, 2015

A French-Inspired Meal, A Better-than-Bachlorette-Inspired Weekend

On Friday night we went to Paris. The occasion? Bachelorette does not describe it, although we were celebrating a bride-to-be. There was no gaudy outfitting and masquerading around town. We simply ate our way through her favorite places without leaving the most peaceful party house in the woods there is.

We started with fancy cheese and a French red.

(The next night our resident charcuterie artist worked her magic in Italy, but it was so pretty I had to put it here amidst France.)

This was our menu for the weekend. From Paris we went to the bride's breakfast room for waffles and cheddar cheese (yep, you heard me right) and then to our beloved city for chicken salad and the best fresh whole wheat bread and hummus, plus Caramel Brownies. And then off to Italy for a Guiseppe's-inspired Vegetable Penne with Feta Sauce that the bride declared better (and lighter) than its inspiration. We wrapped things up in Cajun country with a frittata and these frozen chocolate croissants Trader Joe's sells that rise overnight and taste bakery fresh and therefore had me talking about their wonder nonstop all morning. No menfolk meant we carbed and veggied and desserted things up like crazy.

Anyway, back to Paris. We simplified a Salad Nicoise, which some research revealed involves placing veggies in different sections of a platter and drizzling dressing on top. We skipped the anchovies, and the tuna, and wintry veggies that would have to be boiled (potatoes and beets). And that was all we needed because our protein and carbs came from...

Housemade crepes filled with a chicken-asparagus-cream sauce mixture and topped with more of the same, only prettier. I mastered sweet crepes a while back, so I wasn't too scared to try this savory variety with my trusty nonstick pan. Ahhhmazingly delicious it was.

And now for the crown jewel that proved the bride has the best kind of friends because they all scraped and even licked their ramekins. Pots de Creme, y'all. It's a little high maintenance with the individual portions that must be bathed and baked for forever and individually covered and THEN chilled in the fridge (or the freezer to speed things up). But the decadence of chilled chocolate custard  that emerged had us all only talking about its amazingness during the duration of this course. It's kind of like a chocolate creme brulee without the torched top. Cut the richness with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and not one but three strawberries slices (thanks to Helen the hand model), and you will never eat dessert out again.

May 5, 2015

Out-of-this-World Waffles

These gridded pastries are so light and fluffy delicious that I often travel with a waffle iron so I can share them. 
My brother consumes more cereal than anyone I know, so when I visit, I find it necessary to deviate from the breakfast norm, heat up the iron to fill with a flour-milk-oil combo and watch these babes rise to life.

The older I get, the more I firmly I believe that each bite of waffle really necessitates a juicy bite of berry alongside it. This also gives me an excuse to bring fruit that needs washing and slicing (vs. apples and bananas) into the apartment.

I don't make these waffles because they are good for your health. I make them because they are good for your soul.

In addition to trips to apartment of said brother, this year Out-of-this-World made their Downton party debut alongside a bar of bananas, berries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup, and ever since I have been craving waffle dessert decadence. 

April 27, 2015

Best-Ever Berry Vinaigrette

How to make a salad taste like candy/make non-salad eaters ENJOY greens:

1. Mix up a pourable form of blackberry-raspberry jam with a hint of tangy vinegar to coat its leaves.

 2. Go berry nutty in the topping department. I like some combo of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, toasted walnuts, sugared pecans and/or avocado.

3. Toss it all together, and you might never take your salad a savory direction again.

I inherited a treasure trove in the salad recipe collection of Fancy Nancy (my mother), but this is my favorite to share with friends, mostly because then I get to keep eating off the dressing myself. No bottled or restaurant vinaigrette even comes close.

Props to my gardener roommate for the photo backdrop and my neighbor with excellent taste in kitchen wares for the dishes.

February 15, 2015

Banana Pancakes

Before Jack Johnson decided to sleep in and pretend like it's the weekend, banana pancakes entered the scene of my [breakfast] life. Twenty years later, I blame the October 1995 Cooking Light that still sits on my mom's cookbook shelf for making me think most other pancakes taste like cardboard.

These cakes are creamy and more banana-y than their bread cousins. More than most recipes I post on this blog, they have also stood the test of time and made more visits to my skillet than anything except scrambled eggs.

If you got brownin' bananas, consider smashing them up and pretending it's the weekend now.

February 2, 2015

Crepe Bar

If ever anything were worth savoring, it was this.

The barely sweet confection known is the crepe is the fresh-off-the-press tortilla of all things French and lightly decadent. Swirling its batter in a pan before it, poof, instantly cooks into a delicate final product, time and time again, is a therapeutic exercise, albeit one that requires all hands on deck. It's way worth it though, especially if you munch on crepe scraps while you go.

The whole spread of nuts, fruits and creamy spreads was beautiful to my taste buds, but what I found myself salivating over weeks later was the number one star: Nutella Mousse. Yes, Nutella Mousse, hazlenut-chocolate spread in creamy form. Spread it on a crepe, sprinkle on some strawberries and wrap it up with a chocolate drizzle on top, and you may never crave anything else again. It even transported one person back to Europe, she said.

Warning: If Nutella Mousse miraculously survives its debut and ends up in your fridge, it will quickly and frequently escape for you to violently tear off strips of leftover crepes to dip into it and unite with your tongue.

A spread such as this is perhaps best enjoyed with amongst female company. I often ooh and ahh (literally) over what I taste, but it's rare that other people have equally as expressive reactions like crepes elicit. So epic was this spread that I served it twice in one day, first for breakfast for the ladies in my new home group from church and second for our weekly Sunday evening Downton Abbey watching/face stuff gathering. A crepe bar would also be fun for a shower of some sort.

Side note: Extra Raspberry Syrup and Chocolate Syrup make excellent excuses to make cheesecakes and waffle bars, and might up your hot chocolate intake. Be forewarned in that realm too.

Crepe Bar Elements
Brown Butter Crepes (recipe below)
Whipped Cream
Sliced Strawberries
Sliced Bananas
Chopped Pecans
Sliced Almonds
Powdered Sugar

January 2, 2015

Pepper Jelly Cheesecake

I didn't want to do anything fancy for New Year's Eve, but my pepper jelly did. 

Voila, savory cheesecake.

It's almost as good as the Crabmeat Cheesecake that won me over at Primeaux Cheese & Vino at The Summit (which has a talented chef who seems much older than his 23 years (yes, 23) per my interview for a profile on him for 280 Living).

And the creamy party starter used up my supply of chesse, a find specialty similar to cheddar with an exclusive "chesse" Sharpie-written label from our work holiday party caterer.

P.S. It only took me FIVE months, but I am back to blogging in 2015. I am writing this as an accountability tool going forward.