My Cake Decorating Gallery

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Martha's Key Lime Bars

I made these for a fun dinner night with some of The Husband's coworkers where we were also doing flank steak fajitas and mojitos so I thought they would go along with the somewhat island/cuban theme. This is another recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies book and I've been wanting to try this recipe for a long time. It took a few packages of key limes and a ton of time with the juicer to get all of the juice out, but real key lime pie is one of our favorite desserts so I knew it would be all worth it.

Well... these were extremely tart. I followed the recipe to a T and you really need some kind of sweetened whipped cream or a meringue would be good on top but really, the lime part is soo pungent that it will turn some people off.. it needs more sugar to balance out all that tart lime juice. They also didn't set up very great for me but I don't think I gave them enough time. I probably wouldn't make this recipe again and just wanted to post my experience in case some one is wondering if this is a great recipe or not. I believe there were other reviews on her website saying it was too tart also so that's just something to keep in mind. I think I would just adapt my Blue Heaven original key lime pie recipe that I love so much, if I ever wanted to make key lime bars again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ina's Panzanella


It was in the thick of tomato season here in Michigan that I got an opportunity to try out Ina Garten's recipe for Panzanella. I had seen a few of her shows where she has made it and I had always wanted to try it - a salad without lettuce and giant croutons! It was pretty tasty and a nice little fresh salad that you might want to try if you're looking for something different. I have seen some other recipes with feta cheese which I know I would really like but I left it out due to The Husband partaking in this salad.


Panzanella
As seen on foodnetwork.com and Ina Garten's show 'Barefoot Contessa' 
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Directions
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.


For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.








Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Surprise Cookies



 This is another recipe from one of my favorite cookie books, Martha Stewart Cookies. I made it a few times in a short period of time this summer because they were a big hit!

The main idea is to make a chocolate cookie which is soft and cakey but not too crumbly. Then close toward the end of baking you put a half of a large marshmallow (or I also did this with several mini marshmallows) and pop the cookies back in the oven for a few minutes to melt the marshmallows and finish baking the cookies.

Last but not least, after the cookies have cooled a little, you make a quick chocolate buttercream frosting that is rich and delicious - and spread that on top of the marshmallow area so that you can't see it. I love marshmallows so that's just the kind of surprise I like in a cookie. This is an another great recipe from this book so if you love chocolate and marshmallow, definitely give it a try!


Surprise Cookies
Recipe seen here on MarthaStewart.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Taste of Buffalo, New York


The Husband decided to run the Buffalo Marathon over Memorial Day weekend this year and his parents and I made a weekend trip of the race and got to see a little bit of Buffalo. I had only driven through the city but it was interesting to see a closer look. We stayed at the Hyatt which was fine, I'm a fan of any place that gives me cookies upon arrival. We hit up the Pearl Street Brewery for dinner the night before the race, which was pretty tasty. Having just cleared the 1st Trimester, I wasn't sampling the beer but I think everyone else enjoyed theirs pretty well.

Race morning, The Husband was off running and he and his parents and I had some time to walk around the city and take a few pictures. After the race, we made sure to go to the Anchor Bar for the original buffalo style chicken wings. We had been wondering if we should try to go to both the Anchor Bar and Duff's, both of which have been featured on The Food Network and Travel Channel for having the best wings in town and quite a rivalry. We were feeling sorta behind schedule and The Husband was (obviously) tired so I remember telling him "we can just go to this one place, I don't feel like eating too many wings anyway" .. I ate more wings than anyone else at the table, hahaha. They were so good! We got an order of 20 originals and yes I've had Buffalo Wild Wings before but there was something about these that really set them apart. They were crispy, the sauce was classic buffalo sauce, and it was just delicious. The Anchor Bar was pretty neat on the inside and it is definitely worth a stop if you are in Buffalo. I remember reading reviews saying the wings weren't so good and they might be soggy and service was bad and none of that seemed true from our point of view, so definitely give it a try!



We also tried the famous sandwich known around this area as Beef on Weck, where you have sliced mid rare roast beef piled onto a "kummelweck" roll (bun with caraway seeds), dipped in au jus, and served with fresh horseradish. It was decent, nothing too exceptional and tasted exactly as we expected, so it was interesting to try that too. It's a Western New York specialty apparently.


Anchor Bar
Home of the Original Buffalo Chicken Wings
http://www.anchorbar.com/

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sandwiches for the Boys

The Husband had a "boys weekend" and I thought they might need some snacks before I left for some girl time myself. I left work a little early and ran over to Nino Salvaggio's and got one of those big ciabatta loafs, some sliced meats, fresh tomatoes, and other goodies needed. It's been a few months but I think the basic makeup of this sandwich was the following:

* 1 ciabatta loaf (like 15in long and 6 inches wide), sliced in half lengthwise and extra bread on the inside dug out

* Spread  the inside of breads with your favorite mustard, such as dijon or that fabulous Honeycup honey mustard with that sharp horseradish bite to it

* Stack up your meats on the bottom layer of mustard - sliced ham, smoked turkey, genoa salami, or anything else your meat lovers enjoy

* Top with your favorite cheese - swiss, provolones were chosen here since they are favorite for The Husband

* Top with thinly sliced onions, roma tomatoes, and some fresh lettuce or spinach

* Drizzle sandwich/sub dressing (sorta like italian dressing) on top of the lettuce and I like to also sprinkle some italian seasoning on top of that

* Before topping with the top layer of bread, spread a hefty layer of olive tapanade (chopped olives in olive oil) and then place that on top of everything else

* Cut into little bites and enjoy.. this would be good for a football party or something like that. I even got out my cute little bambo toothpicks for the occasion. By the time I was home from Natalie's, the sandwiches were long gone!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fruit Topped Cheesecake

The Husband is back from his fishing trip, yay! The tradition is that they always come home late Saturday night and then a fish fry for all of the fishing camp men plus wives happens on Sunday. My assignment was to bring dessert and I decided on a cheesecake. I loved  Abbey's cheesecake recipe from a previous Daring Bakers challenge  so I used that. I wasn't sure how many people would be there so I needed to scale up the cheesecake size by a 1/3 to fit into my 10in springform pan. The 1/3 was the right scale change so that was good to know.



The main thing I was worried about was my springform pan.. I wrapped it in four layers of heavy duty extra wide foil and from what I could tell, no water seeped in from the water bath. The bottom of the crust was a little soggy so maybe that was from not blind baking like Alton Brown does? I can't remember if that happened the first time I made this recipe.. anyway the edges were crisp enough and as usual I put in a little cinnamon into the crust, and I just love graham cracker crust on cheesecake. This recipe is super creamy with a great texture and any cheesecake lover will be very pleased if you make it for them!

I used an assortment of fruit to decorate the top - strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, kiwis, and cherries. I think it would also be great with a one-fruit sauce/topping, like a sweet blueberry or strawberry topping.. yum. It's blueberry season and I was excited to be using Michigan blueberries!



Anyway follow this link for Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake Recipe  for more information, if you're interested!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks Strike Again: Homemade Nut Butters!

I have had to take some time off from The Daring Kitchen and blogging a bit due to my current condition - pregnancy! I had some major morning sickness/nausea and it took me a while to bounce back from that and get back into the kitchen. I was worried the Daring Bakers/Cooks might kick me out but when I logged in a few days ago, I still had access so I checked out the Daring Cooks' July Challenge.

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please  and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.
 
This sounded like the perfect "come back" recipe to try. This is Fishing Camp week and The Husband is 800 miles north into Canada and he hates nut butters, so it's time for me to enjoy all the things he hates all week! Indian food is next on my list! I made a fresh cashew butter since I conveniently had a jar of unopened cashews that had been waiting too long to make it into some cookies. This cashew butter was to be used for the Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing which featured some rice noodles and veggies. The ingredients sounded delicious and boy was I pleasantly surprised.
 
 
 
The cashew dressing is totally awesome! This dish reminded me of something I would order and love from a Thai restaurant so I am going to go ahead and say this is the best thai food I've ever made in my kitchen. I skipped the shrimp but went ahead with wide rice noodles and some sugar snap peas and red bell peppers.
 
 
 
I made the cashew butter in the food processor and then just tossed in the dressing ingredients which was super convenient, you don't have to dirty another bowl or blender!
 
 
 
The combination of the sugar, garlic, soy sauce and vinegar is so good, and I chopped some fresh green onions and basil from my herb garden on top. A squeeze of lime juice and then I was in heaven - so good! This recipe makes two very large portions with a lot more dressing leftover for use in something else. I hope you try it, it was one of the best and surprising things I've made recently - this could the be the perfect thing to pull you out of your kitchen doldrums!

**UPDATE** - Instead of just eating leftovers tonight, I decided to make a curried coconut cashew eggplant dish and use up the rest of my cashews that I still had in the pantry. It turned out fabulous and I have a ton more leftovers - it was a perfect dish while The Husband is gone on his fishing trip this week.. he hates coconut, eggplant, nuts, and curry... perfect time for me to enjoy! This might be the first time I did a back-to-back Daring Cook/Baker recipe night so I am proud of that. Leaving the food processor out on my counter overnight sure was handy!


Curried Coconut Cashew Eggplant with PitaNo formal recipe as I just tasted as I went, but it went something like this: I sauteed one small eggplant (which amounted to quite a lot of eggplant cubes!), one large tomato, one large onion, about half a can of coconut milk, maybe 3 tablespoons of cashew butter, 3 pressed garlic cloves, and an assortment of seasonings: ground fennel, tumeric, garam masala, hot curry powder, coriander seeds, cumin, ginger, salt and honey to taste. I served this on a pita (I was planning to make hummous this week.. something The Husband also hates!) and it was so delicious but you would also enjoy it on rice, naan or a chipati. Chicken would be great in this dish also.
   
 
Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing


Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and slivered carrots would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter. We tested the dressing with nut butters made from salted cashews & peanuts with good results.

Ingredients:

Cashew Butter:
1 cup (240 ml) cashews*

Cashew Dressing:
½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
Hot sauce to taste (optional)

Noodle Salad:
1/2 pound (225 g) linguine or thin rice noodles
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
Lime wedges (optional)


Directions:
Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)

Prepare cashew dressing: Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor or blender. Process/blend until smooth. Be sure to process long enough to puree the ginger and garlic. The dressing should be pourable, about the same thickness as cream. Adjust consistency – thinner or thicker -- to your liking by adding more water or cashew butter. Taste and add your favorite hot sauce if desired. (If the cashew butter was unsalted, you may want to add salt to taste.) Makes about 1 ½ cups (360 ml) dressing. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator.

Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.

Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add shrimp to the pan and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes or until opaque throughout. Alternately, cook shrimp in boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes or until done.

Slice basil into thin ribbons. Combine noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, onions, and basil in a large bowl. Add about ½ cup (120 ml) cashew dressing; toss gently to coat. Add more cashew dressing as desired, using as much or as little as you’d like. Scatter shrimp on top. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mother's Day Carrot Cakes and some Exciting News!

I know that Mother's Day has come and past but I never got around to making this post... mostly because of my current condition - I'm pregnant! Mother's Day was a special day because that is when we told our mothers (and the rest of our families) by showing them our first ultrasound pictures. Blogging has slowed down a bit, especially during the nausea portions of the first trimester. Anyway, I had wanted to make a carrot cake for my mother-in-law since I kept missing opportunities to do so earlier in the year. I decided to try out a new recipe which turned out really well, it was moist and had some interesting flavors in it - not just your basic carrot cake! I made a small 6inch layered cake for my mother-in-law and my mom got a set of 9 cupcakes. Toppings featured cream cheese frosting plus pecans and toasted coconut.

It was a while ago but I'm pretty sure this is the right recipe - it was basically one of the highest rated carrot cake recipes on AllRecipes.com, and it included interesting additions like buttermilk, coconut, pineapple, and walnuts. This makes delicious cupcakes also!


Sam's Famous Carrot Cake
As found on AllRecipes.com here


Ingredients

3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x12 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and mix well.

In a medium bowl, combine shredded carrots, coconut, walnuts, pineapple and raisins.

Using a large wooden spoon or a very heavy whisk, add carrot mixture to batter and fold in well.

Pour into prepared 8x12 inch pan, and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour. Check with toothpick.

Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

A Quick Weeknight Meal: Turkey Meatball Subs


Just a quick post since it's been a while! This wasn't really following a recipe but since I've been grilling food almost every day for a few weeks, this was just something different that The Husband ended up liking pretty well. I bought some meaty sauce from Nino's and a crusty football shaped bun and we had some provolone on hand. I used about a pound of turkey, some extra breakfast sausage that I had on hand, and then added in an egg, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and italian seasonings such as parsley, garlic, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc.

I rolled meatballs out, pan fried them to brown on all sides and then put them in a casserole dish with the sauce and covered with foil to finish baking through.. Then it was ready to put them on sub buns! I popped the sub into the broiler to melt the cheese and then dinner was served. Some fresh basil would have been nice, also!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slows Bar B Q - Best BBQ in Detroit

Slows Bar  B Q is in Corktown over by the rubble that used to be the old Tiger Stadium. It's not a great area but it's cute with Michigan Avenue being made of brick through this area. This area used to be largely populated with Irish people from County Cork, hence Corktown.  There isn't much that remains from those roots and in fact it was pretty desolate, empty and generally unsafe, like much of Detroit. Anyway, all that aside, Slows Bar B Q is always packed with a wait. I have tried to eat here before but the long line was a deterrent but finally for The Husband's birthday dinner we decided we'd wait it out.. which did not end up being that long of a wait after all.

It was nice and sunny out so waiting outside was no problem (the bar area inside is cramped), and it was slightly awkward because of the bum sitting on the stoop next to the door, but we had a GREAT time watching all of the customers after us walk right past the front door and try to get in through a window or non-working door.... Slows' front door is nice looking but it doesn't look like a door so it blends in all too well. I was glad I wasn't the only one who didn't think it looked like a door.

I've seen Slows featured on the Food Network... especially the Man vs Food (or was it Diners Drive-Ins and Dives?) where they talked about their various barbecue sauces and the triple threat sandwich.. which didn't look that good to me (I like juicy sandwiches) since it was just a bunch with three meats and nothing else. Anyway the sauces looked good and The Husband had been there many times and everything was supposed to be pretty good.

We weren't disappointed. I decided to try the duo of spare ribs and pulled pork and my two sides I picked were the most comforting of comfort foods that I could think of - mac 'n' cheese and sweet potato mash. I totally devoured the sides and gave 90% of my meat to Tim and we brought some home. I'm a sides kinda gal but the pulled pork was very good and the spareribs weren't bad for being spareribs (I like baby backs the best but decided to try something new).

The Husband got the trio of barbecue chicken, pulled pork and beef brisket. The chicken was not what we expected - it was a breast.. no juicy dark meat to be found so that was our least favorite. The pork and brisket were excellent. He got the green beans and waffle fries as a side.. I snuck in a few fries but missed out on the beans but I heard they were fabulous.

Anyway, if you have a hankering for real barbecue that is made by true 'que connoisseurs, Slows Bar B Q is the place to go. It's a neat atmosphere on the inside, they have some fantastic sauces that they seem to rotate (the apple flavored one was The Husbands favorite, while I liked to mix them all up), and there's a reason why it's always packed with a line out the door - the food is fabulous. Hope you try Slows and enjoy!

Slows Bar B Q
2138 Michigan Ave
Detroit, MI
313-962-9828

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Detroit Coney Taste-Off: American vs Lafayette

A recent trip into Detroit left us wondering where to have lunch and we decided to do the coney taste off, as featured on the Travel Channel's "Food Wars" and soon to be featured on the pilot of the Food Network's "Food Feud."

There are two famous coney islands right smack dab next to eachother in downtown Detroit. Maybe we should back up.... not everyone has "coney islands" or "coney dogs" available locally! What is a coney dog? I guess I always thought it had something to do with New York's Coney Island and that everyone had them, but Wikipedia  has informed me that it is actually a Michigan / midwest food specialty. A classic coney dog is made with an all-beef natural casing hot dog on a soft white bun with an all-meat chili on top, with yellow mustard and chopped yellow onions. It's a tasty combination and Michigan has a plethora of "Coney Islands" (which are little diner-style greasy spoon restaurants) and they all serve coney dogs, among other things like breakfast all day and Hany pita sandwiches, chili cheese fries, and many greek specialties... many Coney Islands are owned by greek families.

There are two styles of a Michigan coney dog - Flint vs Detroit. Detroit's chili topping is more soupy while the Flint topping (made of beef tongue) is dry, more like ground meat. They are both delicious and I know my mom prefers the Flint style. I like them both. I love Koegel hotdogs, which are made in Flint.

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island both claim they invented the coney dog combination. American's website says it was founded in 1917. Lafayette doesn't have a website and I don't know much about its history but it has been in Detroit for a long time, too, right next door to American Coney on Lafayette Street. Lafayette Coney is much smaller and you sit at long old-school diner tables that you will possibly share with other patrons. American is the uniquely shaped restaurant on the corner and has a lot more, colorful dining space. I believe they are both open 24/7.

We went to Lafayette Coney first. We didn't order chili cheese fries but he dropped them off anyway and who are we to turn down fries. I scarfed down my hotdog faster than The Husband could say "geez, Wife" - needless to say, I was starving. This isn't exactly how I wanted to do my hotdog taste off - I had wanted to get take out from both places and then do a side by side comparison, but The Husband just doesn't understand so I just went along. I must say that while Lafayette went down fast, I could not really taste much in the chili topping - it had a nice consistency but I just wasn't getting any flavor from it.

Next, at American coney, we ordered another hotdog. The picture below is a little more sloppy than they are usually served, but that's the general look of a classic coney dog. We both agreed that the chili at American had more flavor and tasted like a classic coney dog that you would expect. It wasn't really that it was mind-shattering.. it tasted like what you'd get at National Coney Island or at the baseball game - and it was great. So, as Food Wars and Food Feud have both voted, we also voted for American Coney. I wanted it to be the little guy, Lafayette... but American coney had a lot more flavor in the chili and it was a tasty coney dog.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Cakes

Just a quick post showing a few cakes I made around Easter. The first one is just a trial-run cake with this new frosting medium that I am using for an upcoming wedding cake for a coworker. They had a sample of Marco/Joe's nerdy birthday cake  and liked the bettercreme filling and want that used as all of the frosting - outside and in. Bettercreme is a nondairy icing by Rich's and it is basically the type of frosting they use at Walmart and Costco. I can buy a quart of it from my cake supply store for $6.99 so it is relatively pricey. It is light and airy and comes in vanilla or chocolate and then you can use flavoring like puddings, extracts, etc to embellish it. I'm not a HUGE fan .. because it's fake... but for being fake it is OK and I needed to see how it would hold up on the outside of the cake for piping and sitting out overnight. What I don't like about it is that it doesn't "crust" like real butter buttercream would, so it is harder to get a perfectly smooth finish and if you accidentally bump the cake later, you can't smooth it back over - that will be ruined.



So the little bettercreme cake was just a trial run and I used a carrot cake mix that I had leftover and brought it into work for my bride-to-be coworker to take some home and then give the rest to my coworkers. Yes, those are carrots on a vine to decorate the top and I am well aware that carrots do not grow on a vine.. get over it. :)


For Easter dinner with The Husband's family, I had volunteered to bring a carrot cake but that got veto'd by The Husband and others, so I decided to make a scratch yellow cake from The Cake Bible (which was a totally awesome recipe, best scratch cake ever!) and I used blueberry and raspberry preserves in between the layers, along with the rest of my bettercreme which was flavored with pudding. I saw this cake on Martha Stewart (which used lemon curd but otherwise looked the same as mine) and I liked the look of the cake with just filling and no frosting on the sides of the cake - sometimes too much frosting is annoying. I made a 1.5 batch of the Cake Bible's "All Occasion Downy Cake" which ended up being too much and the cake was taller than it needed to be ... another monstrosity from Kitchen Bliss. I topped it with fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. I also made some chocolate-covered strawberries since I sprung for the stemmed strawberries from Nino's, and I decorated them with white chocolate. The Husband loved the cake so that made me happy, though I am still in trouble for not making him a birthday cake. Oops!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Michigan Lady Food Bloggers Go to the Eastern Market

I've only been to the Eastern Market in Detroit twice, both in the spring for buying a bunch of flowers and vegetable plants for my garden. I hate having to water plants every morning before work and getting my sandaled feet all wet in the morning dew.. but still, I water every morning, filling and toting a watering can because we don't have a hose hooked up in the back. The garden still does poorly, (maybe because I also hate to weed?) and on top of that I'm afraid to eat any vegetables because now we get the lawn fertilized and I always picture some poison floating over into the garden. I am OK with not being a huge gardener.. it was a nice idea, but I think I'll stick to the kitchen. I am downsizing my annual flowers that I'm going to buy this year and totally nixxing the veggie garden ... I think I will just throw a bunch of sunflower seeds there and see if they grow. Anyway, instead of growing my own crappy veggies, (maybe I'll have a tomato or pepper pot on my deck but that's IT), why not leave it up to the wonderful farmer's markets? I hope to visit the Eastern Market or maybe the Royal Oak Market, which I've never been to, more frequently this summer and get inspired by fresh veggies to make some tasty foods for The Husband and I.

March 27th was my first food-centric trip to the Eastern Market and I was lucky enough to be going with two fellow Michigan Lady Food Bloggers - Noelle of Simmer Down! and Amy of Runs With Spatula who were already pros at exploring the Eastern Market and they made for great tour guides to me, the newbie!

We started off our morning at the Russell Street Deli, which was totally awesome.  I didn't take a picture but I had a mouth watering "scramble" and since it was the special scramble of the day, I don't remember exactly was in it, but I think porcini mushrooms and shaved reggiano-like cheese and some tasty veggies.. all served with a side of flavorful fried potatoes and I had the cranberry nut bread from Avalon bakery. I would definitely go here again for breakfast, and everyone else has the same idea - I think the line is usually out the door but I think it's worth it - especially if you get there early! I'd love to go back to try some of their awesome homemade soups. Everything there is fresh, homemade and unique. I was really excited to see a breakfast meat option was Kopitko's (in Hamtramck) smoked sausage which is the "coobassa" sausage my family will drive 60 miles to get a few times a year, and have for decades.

Next we hit up Rocky's which has some bulk spices, dried fruits, and other random goods and I got several items- some madjool dates for my mom (only $3.99 a pound compared to $7.99 at Nino's!), some bulk ground cumin, and some additional Carolina Classic BBQ (Sticky Fingers) which we were out of. Next we hit up J.R. Hirt across the way which is a store with tons of interesting foods and related products. I got an oven mit that has the map of the lower peninsula on one side and the upper peninsula on the other, love it!

We stopped at a lebanese store looking for an ingredient for Amy, and then we started hitting up the market sheds and see what the vendors had in store for us. Some of my favorite finds were Kenzoil - a delicious and zesty herbed olive oil great for dipping crusty bread, such as from the Avalon bakery. I got two loaves from Avalon - one of raisin cinnamon which made some kick-butt french toast and one long baguette which didn't last long with Kenzoil!


I also stopped at McClure's pickles, which I saw featured on the Food Networks "Best Thing I Ever Ate" - they were unique in flavor and I still haven't opened my jar at home, but I look forward to eating this Detroit/New York specialty. Even though my Michigan Lady Food Bloggers tote bag was getting heavy, that didn't stop me - I got a dozen of fresh Amish eggs as well as a batch of totally killer chocolate chunk cookies from Traffic Jam and Snug. I've been to Traffic Jam for drinks and dinner before, and I didn't know they would have a cheese and cookie display at the market, and those cookies were just absolutely to die for.

I also stopped at the Spice Misers who had lots of spices for sale but I particularly liked their wide selection of $0.99 packs, or 6/$5 so I grabbed 6 that I thought sounded good or unusual to share with my mom. I like that you can try out an herb/spice before investing in a huge amount. We also picked up some blueberries and strawberries which were cheap. There was lots of produce that looked interesting though obviously it wasn't local!

Noelle was on the lookout for some goat so we went into this meat market that I never would've ventured in by myself. They had halves of pigs and such hanging behind the counter and it turns out they the GOAT Noelle was looking for! So this is where you can get your goat!

She wanted some bone-in goat pieces and the butcher guy obliged and chopped off part of the half of goat and she was pretty pleased with her find. With the goat, Noelle was successful in making her Aloo Gosht which looks like it turned out totally delicious in her post here.

So after a few hours and with a heavy tote bag, we finished up our Saturday morning visit of Detroit Eastern Market. I am looking forward to going back and thank Noelle and Amy for the fun! It was so nice to hang out with people with the same interests as me, and they also had their cameras with them (even bigger and fancier than mine!) so for once I did not feel like a freak documenting my foodie adventures!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Birthday Cake for a Few Lucky Nerds


I'm not sure why I agreed to do it, I guess I just couldn't fathom my coworker, Joe, having to go out to Milford Bakery to get a little birthday cake made for he and our other coworker, Marco, who shared the same birthday on March 19th. I said "oh, hm, well instead of that, I have no class for once this Thursday so I could probably make something..?" ... and then Marco stopped by later saying he likely wouldn't be in Friday, so "you don't have to bring anything in Friday...." which was quickly followed up with "but Monday would be good."

I guess I had spoiled my coworkers with Cookies for a Cause almost every Friday for the last half of 2009, and since 2010 has come around, there hasn't been anything like that going on from Kitchen Bliss. They're hungry and need their sugar buzzes. I also miss baking, I have been trying to keep the stuff out of the house but it's always fun to make a new cake,.. so I agreed to make one for Marco and Joe last weekend. I knew it had to be nerdy since we work in a software/electrical engineering area.

I also wanted to utilize the opportunity to try a few new things, so there was at least a benefit to me. :) I tried out a version of White Almond Sour Cream cake, aka (WASC), which a ton of people on CakeCentral use for wedding cakes and such. I also had a carton of Bettercreme which I had wanted to try as a filling but hadn't had a chance to yet. I had a box of vanilla cake mix, and the WASC recipe starts with that and adds a 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup water, some salt, 3 eggs, and some flavoring. See all of the information here. It was the perfect amount for one 10x10 square layer and I was hoping it would make the cake tall enough to torte and then fill and not have to make another layer. It worked out pretty well, it was much shorter than my cakes usually are, but my cakes are usually like 5 or 6 inches tall which is a little high.

My opinion of the WASC recipe was that it needed more flavoring (granted I didn't measure out my vanilla, almond, and baker's compliment exactly), and it was a lot more dense than just the cake box alone. I liked the dense part, it was more sturdy and felt less likely to crumble or crack, which is helpful for stacking cakes and traveling. The flavoring I can adjust, plus the frosting overpowers the cake flavor most of the time.

As for Rich's Bettercreme, which is also popular on CakeCentral and around bakeries everywhere, it was pretty tasty. Now I know it is not fancy, it is a non-dairy whipped topping basically, and it has been described to me as "the stuff Walmart, Costco, and Sam's club use on their cakes".. so if you like that "light and airy" whipped frosting and think that American buttercream is too sweet and heavy and greasy, you might want to give this stuff a try. My local cake store sells it by the carton in liquid form. It whipped up quickly in the kitchenaid and as recommended on CakeCentral by MacsMom and Melvira, two ladies who do awesome things with Bettercreme, I also added one box of pudding mix - Cheesecake flavor to be exact, and some milk. It tasted great, I don't care if it is fake. I am one of those people who like the light and whipped frostings as well. I like mousseline which is light and airy and very buttery too, and American buttercream as well (made with at least half of real butter), so I am not too picky I guess. Not a huge fan of store-bought frosting jars or any of that stuff.

One thing I especially liked about the Bettercreme (besides it's easy to whip, flavor, and it's tasty and light and airy) is that it keeps its volume when being pressed between two layers of cake. You can actually get that big 3/4 or 1 inch thick layer of airy filling that looks so delicious, and it didn't seep out the edges or deflate upon sitting or anything like that. I am going to do some experiments because I'll be doing a wedding cake and my friend wants to see if we can do it ALL in Bettercreme... so stay tuned for more Bettercreme news at KitchenBliss.

I used a layer of raspberry jam along with the thick layer of cheesecake flavored bettercreme, and then my cake was ready to be frosted. I used my typical 2 sticks butter, same volume crisco, and about 6-8 cups powdered sugar as my outside frosting. This is the wilton recipe for decorator's frosting, and you can flavor it with whatever extracts you want, and can add milk or water or corn syrup to change consistency. I used a little orange extract along with my usual vanilla, almond and baker's compliment, so that was really very nice.

When I was cruising around CakeCentral, I noticed a very pretty black and white cake which had this interesting lacey/flower pattern piped onto it, so I wanted to try that on this cake, just for fun. Then I had to think of a way to make it nerdy. So it was Sunday night and I finally came up with a birthday software algorithm that I thought they would like.. it went something like this:

if ((VeDAY_e_Today = 'CeDAY_e_March19th') && ((VeNAME_e_Coworker == 'CeNAME_e_Marco) || (VeNAME_e_Coworker == 'CeNAME_e_Joe)) && (VeWORK_e_Group = 'CeWORK_e_ETC_and_SafetySystems'))
{
  VeMSG_e_Wish = 'Happy Birthday You Guys';
  VeCAKE_e_Priority = 'CeCAKE_e_FirstSlice';
}
else
{
  VeCAKE_e_Priority = 'CeCAKE_e_Wait_Your_Turn';
}


I write software so this is all looking pretty normal to me and I wrote it in a style so that they'd be able to read it pretty easily, even if these guys weren't coders themselves.. and if they didn't understand it, no cake! I took out some fondant and colored it green and rolled it out and had no good ideas for the shape and just went for a starburst type of thing. It was already after 10pm on Sunday night and maybe I could've used some food coloring or piped all of this code out, but my little paint brush was not fine enough so I totally just used a caligraphy marker and knew no one would eat the fondant anyway (I'd make sure of it, plus it's Wilton and tastes gross). So the marker went on pretty fast, though I had to shorten some of the code.

So if you're looking for an idea on how to make a birthday cake for a software engineer or a computer geek or a birthday cake for a nerdy computer science person, this might be an interesting idea for you. Everyone in the group loved it - the nerdy code and also the taste and look of the cake. Joe ate probably 3 slices just so he could get more Bettercreme filling - it was a big hit!

And so this ends the description of 2010's first cake from Kitchen Bliss. It isn't the fanciest or nicest looking cake but it served its purpose and turned out well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple Pie Cake for Padma (and one for us)

Martha Stewart's Apple Pie Cake recipe that showed up in a Everyday Food magazine a few years ago (February 2003) is still one of The Husband's favorite desserts. This was my first time making it, and I did realize that my mom must have made extra streusel topping for all of those times she made it for us, but the original recipe is still quite good, and relatively easy. The most time consuming part is peeling, slicing, and coring the apples... my apples were small but my trusty crank apple peeler/slicer/corer machine did most of the work. My husband is a #1 Fan of Apple Pie Type Stuff and I also have a coworker, Padma, who is in the same boat - can't say no to a delicious crumb-topped apple pie. Yes it has to be one of those crumbly dutch apple pies - who likes those ones that don't have crumb topping, anyway? :)

I made one as the recipe called for, in a 9in springform pan, which was going to Padma for her birthday. That's why I couldn't get a great photo of the inside of that one - I just sent the whole pan home with her for her and her family. I also made a half batch in a little square dish for The Husband and I to enjoy on Sunday after our really long workout. I was too lazy to photograph the pretty slice on my plate, where you could see all the layers of juicy apple.. go look at Martha's recipe for a better photo. A half recipe made about 6 medium sized servings.. the Apple Pie Cake name is a little deceiving.. it is more of a crumble or pie than a cake. Really you're just putting the streusel topping down, topping that with apples, and then topping it off with the rest of the streusel.. it turns into a moist, buttery, crumbly appley, cinnamonny, delicious little dessert that is sure to be a hit at your house. Serve slightly warm and if you must, it would go great with a creamy vanilla ice cream. Totally yummy! Try this recipe, it is a keeper and I'm sure it will be a favorite for any apple lovers in your family. It does get slightly mushy by the next day but it is still good.


Apple Pie Cake
as seen on MarthaStewart.com

Serves 6


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith (about 12)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Directions


In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Using an electric mixer or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture forms pea-size pieces. Press two-thirds of the crumb mixture into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Core and peel the apples. Cut into thin slices, and place in a large bowl. Toss the apple slices with the remaining teaspoon cinnamon and the lemon juice. Arrange apples in the prepared pan; they will come up over the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the apples.


Place pan on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet, and bake until cooked through and golden brown on top, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and let the cake cool in the pan to set. Serve, or refrigerate for 2 hours to set more firmly. Serve at room temperature.

Daring Cooks: Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was brought to us from Eleanor (http://geekdomaustralio.blogspot.com/) and Jess (http://jessthebaker.blogspot.com/) and they shared with us some wonderful recipes for the heart warming comfort food - Risotto!  The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I've only made Risotto one other time - alla milanese (pretty simply prepared, but with saffron to make it a little yellow, and usually served as a side dish with osso buco). The Husband ended up not liking it and at that time I thought it was because of the saffron - the recipe called for a whole tsp, and even though I skimped, it seemed to overpower the dish with this... dark, musty, saffrony flavor.. which turns out, we are not huge fans of. It doesn't bother me as much as The Husband, though.

I was excited to try risotto again and bought another $6 package of fancy risotto rice from Kroger. This time I was going to skip the saffron and go with a more familiar flavor - wild mushrooms. I know we love porcini mushrooms with steak so I thought that would be great in this dish too.

Also, part of the challenge was to use your own homemade stock for the risotto. So on a weeknight, I tried a new recipe for making stock - roasting chicken drumsticks (was my cheapest option) with aromatic veggies until nice and brown, and then covering with water and simmering for a few hours until a great broth was formed. I added some parsley and additional onions, celery and carrots into the bath, as well. After that, I strained everything and had my very own chicken stock ready for the risotto I'd be making the next night!

The broth ended up really jelly-like which is a great characteristic of good stock and I was able to get it to liquid form by quickly microwaving the stock, as needed. I follow the directions for a full batch of risotto, and I used a mixture of the water that I used to rehydrate my porcini mushrooms, plus my homemade chicken stock, to moisten the risotto while cooking. Risotto rice is great because as it cooks, it gets creamier and creamier and doesn't typically require the addition or cream or cheese to get that wonderful homey consistency. Mine wasn't the creamiest but it was still pretty good. It took a long time of periodically adding broth to the rice and stirring, then adding more broth, until the rice was finally done. I had sauteed up some button mushrooms and added some chopped fresh parsley and shaved parmesan to finish the dish. We were starving since we had gotten home from work, went to the gym for an hour, and now were eating after 9pm on a Tuesday night... not ideal, but the promise of a great dish was keeping us alive.

Well... bummer. The Husband didn't like this risotto either! As soon as I added the white wine, I noticed the rice had the same musty, dark, "saffrony" flavor we didn't quite like the last time I made risotto.... all this time I was blaming saffron, and I think it comes down to the fact that The Husband really doesn't like white wine in rice. Really, what's there not to like about flavored rice? I am totally going to trick The Husband and make this again, skip the white wine though, and make sure he knows that he too can like risotto! As of right now, I think it is banned from the kitchen and I still have a huge container of rice!

Since we're eating healthy, I didn't do any deep fried risotto balls, or arancini that others were making, so I brought in the remaining risotto to work and fed it to my Italian coworker who absolutely loved it. Thanks to Jess and Eleanor for a great challenge and I look forward to trying risotto again!

Here is the base recipe for the risotto we followed (and we allowed to add our own variation):
Risotto Base Recipe


Ingredients:
olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g
Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli.
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L

Directions:

Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).

Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.

Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.

Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.

Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.

Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step. .

Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.

Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Maui Banana Bread


I'm always searching for the "perfect banana bread recipe"... something that compares to the best banana bread I've ever had, which was at the Halfway to Hana road stop in Maui while we were on our honeymoon. Probably everything tastes better when you're on a honeymoon traveling through rainforests in a convertible and swimming in waterfalls, however, based on the zillions of reviews online of the place and its mention in the Maui Revealed book, the bread is actually really really good. I've been searching for a copycat recipe ever since our honeymoon to no avail... but last weekend, we had a plethora of ripe bananas and I searched again.

I came across this "Maui Banana Bread" recipe, which I thought would turn out to be one of those Hawaii-esque quick breads that have coconut and macadamia nuts and stuff mixed into banana bread to give it an island taste (whcih is not what I'm looking for at all), but this recipe looked very very simple. No raisins or even cinnamon, just bananas and a few other basics. I noticed it used shortening instead of butter or oil and I thought that maybe this was how they made banana bread in Maui... I doubt that they had a ton of butter on hand decades ago and shortening would sure survive the long boat rides... maybe that's how the people at the Halfway to Hana make it. It was worth a shot! The recipe is from the Hana Maui Botanical Gardens so that was also a great sign that this was going to be authentic and delicious.

I did alter the recipe slightly by adding cinnamon sugar into the buttered loaf pan and swirling it around to coat it, and then pour the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the batter once it is poured in. I thought it was a great addition and the bread itself is totally awesome. Extremely moist, very banana-y and it is the closest thing I've had that is like the banana bread of my dreams... honestly it's been too long since Maui (3.5 years) so I don't quite remember what the bread tasted like, and this bread could really be it... or at least close. I noticed that it used a cup or so less of flour than other recipes, which I think means it is less bready and more moist and has a wonderfully strong banana flavor compared to your typical slightly dry Bette Crocker type recipe. It's so simple but absolutely fantastic.

Anyway, try it .. I think you will love this recipe. I did bake it about 5 or 10 minutes longer than it called for, I think. Yummy!

Hawaiian/Maui Banana Bread
as found as the recipe from the Hana Maui Botanical Gardens on the 1st Travelers Choice Internet Cookbook website here 



1-1/4 cup of flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 small very ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs

*I also had a few tablespoons of sugar with cinnamon in it which I swirled into the greased pan prior to pouring the batter, and then poured the rest on top of the batter before baking. Yum!
Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Blend together bananas, shortening, and eggs. Fold flour mix into blended ingredients ...don't over mix. Spoon into 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Thump once to remove air holes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool. Cut into squares.
 
I did type in the ingredients and tabulated the calories.... don't look if you don't want to see the bad news... but the whole loaf has 2700 calories in it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Daring Bakers: Tiramisu


The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen  and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.



Tiramisu is one of The Husband's favorite desserts so I had planned to make it for Valentine's day... but, things did not go as planned. In fact this is being posted a day after the reveal date, as I only finished the dessert today. The week before Valentine's day, I started getting a sore throat and it escalated into a full blown bad case of strep throat plus a bad sinus infection set in, and since the first doctor's visit amounted in an antibiotic that didn't work, by Friday I also had pink eye in both eyes and my ears hurt and I felt just terrible. It took a good week to get over and finally last week I began thinking about putting together the tiramisu. The recipe is made up of several components... a zabaglione (like an egg custard type of thing), mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, pastry cream, savoiardi / ladyfinger biscuits, and such.. many of it having to be done in advance. I began with the mascarpone cheese on Wednesday but again my plans were foiled for finishing the tiramisu on time.


The Husband had gotten the stomach flu earlier in the week and by Thursday it had spread to me... awesome.. sick again! So, with more days off work and not wanting to even look at food, even by Saturday the 27th, the reveal date, I wasn't able to put together the tiramisu in time, let alone even eat it if I had it. Still, I was starting to feel a little better, though my stupid throat still hurts due to that sinus infection that won't seem to go away and my immune system must be in terrible condition.... anyway I finally made two more components on the 27th (yesterday). I made the pastry cream which was basically milk and flour and very tasty, as well as the zabaglione, which was egg yolks, lemon, and marsala wine. I am not so sure about my zabaglione... it seemed really thick and there wasn't much of it. It tasted pretty good though and I was happy to use up some of my marsala wine.


This morning, my appetite was finally starting to come back and The Husband has pretty much totally recovered, so it was time to finish up this challenge. I made the savoiardi / ladyfinger biscuits, which actually turned out really good. You make them by making a meringue of egg whites and then folding in the yolks and flour and then pipe them into finger shapes and top with powdered sugar.. they baked up great and mine were crispy and tasty. I brewed some extra espresso and added the sugar and had that ready to go.


I then whipped more heavy cream with vanilla and sugar and was ready to incorporate that with the homemade mascarpone cheese (I think mine was a little soupy), the zabaglione (mine had to be warmed up so that it was mixable), and then the pastry cream. Then it was simply a matter of dipping my ladyfingers into the sweetened espresso, laying them in a layer in the bottom of my trifle dish, putting a layer of cream, a sprinkling of cocoa and repeating for 4 total biscuit layers. Then it was off to the fridge to chill.

I found the taste to be very rich, from all of the crazy amounts of heavy cream in this and it was heavy on the lemon flavor. I did enjoy the marsala touch, and I wished it had more of a coffee flavor so maybe I didn't dip my biscuits long enough or just needed to add more coffee somehow.. I think I would like a little more chocolate or coffee incporated in my next trial of this, maybe in the form of a chocolate/coffee liqueur which I have used in previous tiramisu recipes. This is the first time I've made my own ladyfinger biscuits and they were delicious, and I'd definitely try the zabaglione and cream mixtures again. A very tasty challenge and I know my coworkers will appreciate tasting it tomorrow and the leftovers won't last long around here.

Thanks for the great challenge and sorry it's a day late but I'm glad I finally feel well enough to finally do some baking! I missed the January Daring Bakers and I certainly didn't want to miss two in a row and risk getting the boot!! :)