I am a wife, a mom of three, and the kitchen is my favorite place in the house. I read cookbooks in my spare time and enjoy getting kitchen appliances for presents :) I love preparing delicious and healthy food for my family and here are a some of what graces our table each week.

Email Me for any of the recipes :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - November 08 - Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting



This is my second Daring Bakers Challenge and I waited until the last possible night to do it. I had intended to bake it early so that my mom and sister could help me test it out, but my nights have not been my own lately...(see evidence below) and that's why I love taking the time out to do the challenges. I can't wait till the next month!!

The recipe came from Shuna Fish Lydon and her blog can be found here: http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006/12/24/caramel-cake-the-recipe/

The challenge was hosted this month by Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/), Jenny of Foray into Food (http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/) and for assitance with alternative baking, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/).

I followed the directions exactly, except for one tiny substitution of Smart Balance Light for the unsalted butter, those baby pounds dont go away on their own. As Danny and I were tasting it (as I type), we were worried it was a bit dense, but when I looked at Shuna's page, it looks exactly like hers and the taste is pretty good. In terms of preparation, it was easy and I would definitely make it again. Yum!

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CARAMEL SYRUP
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Danny was out with the big kids...and this was how Macie looked when I started the recipe. I brought a chair over and nursed her while I watched the stove...


...and this is how she looked after 2 minutes of nursing - milk coma

...and this was her until the kids came home!


CARAMEL CAKE
10 Tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER, ROOM TEMP
1 1/4 Cups SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon KOSHER SALT
1/3 Cup CARAMEL SYRUP (recipe above)
2 EGGS, ROOM TEMP
splash VANILLA EXTRACT
2 Cups AP FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER
1C MILK, ROOM TEMP

Preheat oven to 350F, Butter one tall 9" cake pan.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.
2. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
3. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl.
4. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
5. Sift flour and baking powder.
6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dries.
7. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time.
8. Add another third of the dries, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dries. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, drry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
9. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds. making sure batter is uniform.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days unrefrigerated.



CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING
12 tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER
1 Pound CONFECTIONER'S SUGAR, SIFTED
4-6 Tablespoons HEAVY CREAM
2 teaspoons VANILLA EXTRACT
2-4 Tablespoons CARAMEL SYRUP
Kosher or sea salt to taste

1. Cook butter until brown.
2. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
3. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
4. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.



I took some of the frosting and mixed it with my favorite Wilton dyes - brown - and made some cute designs. That is the extent of my frosting abilities, but I think it works.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

In the cooler months, I make alot of muffins. Zucchini, banana, and pumpkin muffins are the favorite in this house. When Danny came home the other night with a large can of pumpkin puree, I knew that I had to get crankin with the muffins again. Here is the recipe I use, which is modified from the one in the Panache cookbook.
Mix together y hand or in stand mixer:
2 1/2 c. sugar (it calles for 2 3/4 c.)
1/3 c. oil (calls for 2/3 c.)
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce (doesn't call for it at all)
3 eggs
2 c. solid pureed pumpkin (freeze any extra from the large can)
In a small bowl, mix together:
3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (calls for 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
In two additions, mix flour, etc. into pumpkin batter.
Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes (I never time it, I just just watch them). Makes 24 muffins and a small loaf. The kids love them :)


Peanut Butter Sauce

Peanut Butter Sauce: Mix everything together, I do it on the stove so the PB melts nicely...
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c. sugar (brown or white)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp minced ginger, optional
6 drops tabasco sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 c. cold water

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sweet Potato/Turkey Peanut Butter Dumplings

Before Danny and I were married, he ate out ALOT and Montreal has some really good eats. One of Danny's favorite appetizers when eating Chinese food out was peanut butter dumplings. Apparently, alot of Montrealians enjoy them because there is a recipe in Noreen Giletz's Meal-Lean-I-Yumm cookbook for them. I usually make a simple chinese dumpling, filled with everything from ground turkey to tofu and seasoned up with soy sauce, scallions, ginger and whatever else I have around. What makes this dish over the top (I think I have been watching too much Food Network) is the peanut sauce which comes straight from the cookbook and will be posted later. For the dumplings, I used some mashed sweet potatoes I had in the fridge (1 1/2 c.), 1 lb of ground turkey, some fresh ginger, dried chives, shredded carrot and thats all. They were really good, except I found the filling a bit mushy and I would have liked the meat to be a bit firmer. I have left over filling and wrappers and I am going to make them for a Shabbat dinner side dish. Before filling the wrappers, I am going to sautee some onions and garlic and then brown the filling a little before using it. I think it will come out a bit firmer and will contrast nicely with the soft won ton wrappers.

Some additional info: After I saw the post, I realize that some people have never made dumplings before. There are a couple of ways to cook them, the leanest of which is to boil them, 3-4 minutes and then are done. Dont pile them on top of each other (like I did). Lay them out in a single layer once they are cooked until you are ready to heat them with the sauce. In a large skillet, layer the dumplings with the sauce and then they wont stick when you are ready to serve them.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Cold outside, Warm inside

It was just a few weeks ago that we had record high temperatures in Chicago. November and 70F, thats my kind of weather. Today, things got back to normal and I am not so thrilled about it. Running errands with three kids and snow in your face is not my ideal day out. So, to make myself feel better, I came home this afternoon and made some soup. I was planning on following a recipe for Corn Chowder that I found online, but ended up making it something of my own.

Yummy Corn Soup:
2 small (cheap) onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
2 small white potatoes, chopped
pinch of thyme
5 c. water
1 Tbsp instant chicken soup powder
3 c. corn
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions, carrots and pepper until soft. Add potatoes, thyme, water and soup powder and simmer until potatoes are soft. Puree soup. Add 2 c. of the corn and puree some more - leaving some of the corn. Add the rest of the corn and salt and pepper to taste.





To have with the soup, Macaroni and Cheese (see September recipes). I only had Campanelle pasta in the pantry and I will never use anything else. I also used half crushed corn flakes and dry bread crumbs, mixed with the parmesan and some extra cheddar. Amelia, Danny, and I scarfed down one of the pans, the other is in the freezer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sesame Ginger Stiry Fry with Chinese Egg Noodles

Take-out has nothing on this dinner...


Monday, November 3, 2008

Talapia Shows Its Face Again

When I told Danny that I took out Tilapia for dinner, I could tell from his face that he had a special request. Lucky for me, all Danny wanted was some sort of "middle eastern lemon rice". I looked it up and there were many varieties, but I liked Rachael Ray's recipe for Lemon Rice Pilaf the best. I followed the recipe pretty much, except for subbing cooking wine for the real stuff and using only water in stead of chicken stock, dried thyme instead of fresh, and adding 1/2 a lemon's juice and sesame seeds for a little crunch. I also used my rice maker. Ok, so I kind of modified every aspect of it, but it came out pretty good. For the tilapia, I sprinkled lemon-pepper on top and a little salt and baked it at 425F for 10 minutes. I made a sauce with 2 tbsp Smart Balance Light, a few red pepper flakes, 1/2 lemon's juice and salt and pepper. It was yumms :) the kids even ate it up (after a little convincing, of course).