Thursday, August 28, 2008

Whip It Up week 8: Shaker Pineapple Cake

First of all can I just say, OMG I LOVE BARACK OBAMA. Please vote for him. Thank you.

OK so I know, I know, I promised Key Lime Pie. But Paul tried it on Saturday, which was too soon, and we're going to make another one on Sunday, which is too late (but, luckily, just on time for my dad). Thus, Shaker Pineapple Cake.

In need of a recipe, today at work I said aloud to the general cubicle population, "Does anyone have any good dessert recipes?" and lo and behold, my fellow Project Controller and next-door cubicle neighbor Michelle said her sister had recently e-mailed her some favorite dessert recipes. She printed them out for me, and here we are. The other two are banana-y, but the one that sounded great to me is this one:

Shaker Pineapple Cake

2 eggs, beaten
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple in juice (not syrup - mine has no sugar added)
2 c flour
2 c sugar (this is where the sugar is added, haha)
2 tsp baking soda
1 c chopped walnuts

Mix ingredients. Pour into a 9x13 pan. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool.

Cream Cheese Icing (this is where the fat comes in)

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix. Beat until smooth. Ice cake.

I made my cake in two round cake pans and did a layer of frosting in the middle as well as around the outside. It was delish. And best of all, it looked nice in my cake carrier, which I plan to use to take it to work with me tomorrow (after Paul and I have each had a piece tonight).

Actually, the icing was rather runny - not sure why, plus I kept adding confectioner's sugar to try to thicken it up, but with no luck. Still delish, though, so no real complaints.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Uh, yup. And since I scraped out the batter bowl into the cake pans, I just re-used it for the icing, so there were minimal dishes for a typical baking episode.

Did it taste good?
Yup. Quite rich, but I think I'll be more in the mood tomorrow at work when I haven't just had a big dinner. The cake was nice and moist, and the icing was super tasty (despite the runny-ness).

Would you make it again?
Yes. I might even play around with some flavors, like I thought of adding some shredded coconut to the frosting, or maybe even to the cake. Mainly to the frosting though - I think that would be very tasty, and would add some fun texture to the frosting.

Additional tip:
I went to the trouble, for the first time, of cutting out circles of parchment paper to go on the bottom of the cake pans. Worked like a charm - just ran a table knife around the edge of each pan, the cake popped right out, and then the parchment paper peeled right off. Very nice.

Fresh out of the oven:

Cake disguised as The Blob:


Well, it's been fun. Hope everyone enjoyed Whip It Up as much as I did. More later on why my life is going to get very busy in the immediate future (has to do with job, not personal life - no babies, so don't freak out), so I'm relieved this is the last week. But yay for my first communal blogosphere experience.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Whip It Up weeks 6 and 7: Steak Salad and Red Potato Oven Fries

Steak Salad base recipe here

My recipe:

In your big salad bowl, whisk together...
1/4 c Olive Oil
1/8 c Red Wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp Honey
Salt & Pepper to taste
Place sliced leftover steak in dressing to marinade while you prepare the rest of the salad.

1 bag of your fav mixed greens (I used baby romaine)
Thin-sliced red onion
1 tomato, cubed
Pimento-stuffed olives
1/4 c crumbled bacon
1/4 c crumbled blue cheese

Remove steak from dressing, add prepared salad ingredients except bacon and cheese, toss salad together until coated, top with steak, bacon, and cheese.

Red Potato Oven Fries recipe here

I pretty much followed that recipe exactly. Only change: I find EVOO burns too quickly for high temps, so I used light olive oil, which has a higher smoke point. I used salt, pepper, and the herbes de provence that I got while I was visiting my lovely sister Hannah IN FRANCE, so you know they're good. We also added some garlic powder.

The Results:

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Yes on both counts, very easy. No issues.

Did it taste good?
Oh yes, both were DELICIOUS.
The fries were rather dumb in that they stuck to the pan and didn't crisp up evenly, but I was excited to use my new mandolin again, and despite appearances, they tasted great.
The salad was even better than I expected, and was just super awesomely yummy! I have a theory I'm developing that lime juice makes everything taste better...I seriously love it lately. Started with guacamole, and have graduated all the way to salad dressing, and I must say it is the most amazingly wonderful citrus flavor I have ever tasted. I am in love. In addition to the lime, the olives added a nice tartness, the blue cheese added a nice sharpness, and the bacon added a wonderful crunch. Red onion is my other newfound love of the summer, and it worked very well in this salad too. Oh, and another important note is that soaking the leftover steak (so it was already cooked) in the citrus/vinegary dressing really made it tender and yummy, so definitely don't skip that part. And I did the whole drizzle-the-oil-while-whisking-vigorously thing, and successfully emulsified the oil I think, because it didn't separate, which was pretty cool too.

Would you make it again?
Yes to both, especially the salad, which was so amazing and would probably also work with other leftover meats. The potatoes I would probably go back to just cubing them instead of the fries, but I will most definitely use the herbes de provence again, that was really delish. And I thought the light olive oil did a good job giving some of that yummy olive oil flavor but without burning in the really hot oven.

Some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

The meal (I trust you can tell which is which):

The pics I owe you of the black bean burgers:

That's Paul's hand in the background, and just for fun, here's all of Paul after dinner tonight:

He loved the steak salad as much as I did. However, he thinks I'm a huge weirdo for randomly taking his picture at 10:30 PM. I just wanted to show you my dining room, and you can also see the awesomely retro wallpaper in the kitchen, which I think I nicely minimized by painting the dining room that nice deep yellow color.

For WIU Week 8: Key Lime Pie! I hope there's some left over for my dad, or he might never speak to us again.

Today I will...

1. Pick two recipes to make for dinner to cover last week and this week's "Whip It Up," make both for dinner, take pictures, and post the results here.

2. Find my driver's license, lost somewhere in the bowels of my laundry, so that I can get free foot at Isaac's on Monday evening.

3. In the process of looking for my DL, I will fold and put away all laundry, and put in a new load of darks.

4. Organize and put away all the stuff I got at JoAnn Fabric's closing sale in Harrisburg yesterday (magnetic purse clasps!)

5. Get a shower and go to bed by 11:30 at the latest.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Whip It Up week 5: Black Bean Veggie Burgers

More coming soon, but in the mean time here is the recipe I used (and actually followed pretty closely this time!):

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

We ate them open-faced, sitting on a whole-wheat pita with lettuce, guacamole (also home-made: recipe below), lettuce, and salsa. It was pretty darn tasty! My hubby, sister, and friend all enjoyed them.

My fav way to make guacamole:
(doesn't count as an official recipe because I have definitely done this many time before)
- 2 ripe avocados, pitted and cubed
- juice of 1 lime
- kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
Put it in a bowl. Toss it together. Eat it with a fork or a tortilla chip. If you're using it as a topping (like for a burger), it might be more manageable if you mash it up, but when I just eating it with chips (or a fork, like I said), I like it in about 1 cm cubes.

Pics and additional details coming, but I wanted to get this posted so I could send the permalink.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Whip It Up week 4: Whiskey Sours, Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing, and Chocolate Sorbet

Three things! My hubby and I were planning to cook today anyway, and this is what we ended up with. However, I'm not sure if something he helped to make counts for the contest, but never fear: the Chocolate Sorbet was made completely by me, and is completely new to me.

Whiskey Sours I've also made before, trying a few different recipes and various combinations of store-bought mixes and fresh lemons. This is the first time I've used all fresh fruit, included limes as well as lemons, and thought ahead enough to make simple syrup in time to cool it down in the fridge.

Paul and I have made Cornish Hens before, but have never mad Cornbread Stuffing.

And as I said before, the Chocolate Sorbet is completely new!

All three recipes came from Barefoot Contessa At Home, which we got as a wedding gift in a cool basket of kitchen gadgets from our pastor's wife. I guess it was from both of them, but she obviously thought of it all.

So anyway, here we go:

Whiskey Sours (makes 4):
- 3/4 cup Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
- 2/3 cup simple syrup (2/3 c water + 2/3 cup sugar over low heat just until dissolved, then refrigerate)
- Maraschino cherries

Combine whiskey, juices, and syrup. Filla cocktail shaker halfway with ice and fill two-thirds with cocktail mix. Shake for 30 seconds and pour into glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold.

Notes: I used 3 lemons and 4 limes and got a total of 1 2/3 cups of juice, so it was lucky I had made more simple syrup. So be prepared. We also used Knob Creek bourbon, which is extra yummy. And finally, I prefer my whiskey sours on the rocks, so I skipped the shaker and just poured it all over ice in a tall glass. Yum.

Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing (serves 6):
For the stuffing
- 1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 1/2 cup medium-diced celery (3 stalks)
- 3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 5 cups (13 oz) coarsely crumbled cornbread (say that 5 times fast!)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
For the hens
- 6 fresh cornish hens (1.25-1.5 lbs)
- 2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 2 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat over to 400 degrees.
For stuffing, melt butter in medium saute pan, add onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until onion is translucent. Off the heat, add celery, parsley, cornbread, and chicken stock and mix well. Set aside.
For hens, rinse them inside and out, removing any pin feathers, and pat outsides dry. In a roasting pan that's just large enough to hold the hens loosely, first toss in the onions, then place hens on top, breast side up. Sprinkle the insides of the hens with salt and pepper and loosely fill the cavities with stuffing. (Bake leftover stuffing in a pan until heated through.) Tie the legs of each hen together and tuck wings under the bodies. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 50 to 60 minutes, until skin is browned and juices run clear when you cut between a let and thigh. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve a whole hen per person.

Notes: There's only 2 of us and we didn't have dinner guests, so we just made 2 hens. Since we like stuffing, we made the whole recipe and just baked the rest in a casserole dish - there's a lot left over! I made cornbread earlier in the day, using the recipe off the Quaker Yellow Cornmeal canister, which was super easy. A few other tweaks we made: we're ambivalent about parsley, and we have fresh sage growing in a box on our porch, so we scrapped the parsley and added 4 finely chopped sage leaves. We also both like some sausage (the breakfast kind that comes in a plastic tube so it's easy to crumble) in our regular stuffing, so since we were just using regular store-bought chicken broth and not home-made chicken stock (which would have much more fat), we cooked a little bit of sausage and added that. It was yummy, plus then there was some grease left in the pan, which we used to fry some of the remaining corn bread, and that was really delish.

Chocolate Sorbet (makes about 2 quarts, serves 6):
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup very good cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brewed espresso (2 shots)
- 1 T coffee liqueur

In a large saucepan, mix sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in 4 cups water and espresso. Cook over low heat until ingredients are dissolved. Off heat, stir in coffee liquer. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until very cold.
Freeze mixture in 2 batches in an ince cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions. The sorbet will still be soft; place it back in the container and freeze for an hour or overnight, until firm enough to scoop.

Notes: I just used plain old Hershey's cocoa powder, and it was delicious, so no need to shell out a bundle for the expensive stuff from Williams-Sonoma like Ina tells you to. But what do I know, maybe if I tried the expensive stuff I'd never go back to plain old Hershey's. Ina also suggests buying a double-shot of espresso from Starbucks (can you say "product placement"??), but I made Turkish coffee, because I knew it would be very strong and I have the stuff to make it. If I didn't have any fresh Turkish-ground coffee on hand, I would have gone to the nearest coffee shop and gotten the espresso from them. Also, I counted the espresso as part of the water measure, because I felt like the recipe was calling for too much water, and no one wants runny sorbet. And finally, I didn't feel like messing around with 2 batches, so I halved the recipe.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
A resounding YES on all three counts - nothing tricky here!

Did it taste good?
Another resounding YES! The Whiskey Sours were a little too sour, and I had run out of simple syrup, but they were still delish. The Cornish Hens were great, and especially the Cornbread Stuffing. And the Chocolate Sorbet was to die for - there's no milk in it, if you didn't notice, so it's just pure chocolatey goodness in every bite! So yummy. It would make for a good Gelato sometime too, if I ever wanted to try making vanilla custard. Or I could just buy some.

Would you make it again?
Once more, yes for all three! Whiskey Sours are one of my fav drinks, plus I bet I could use the same recipe for Amaretto Sours. Next time I'll use fewer lemons & limes, and I'll use a higher ratio of simple syrup. The Cornish Hens were so delish that Paul and I were talking about making them for guests this fall before we'd even eaten them (we could tell they were going to be yummy, and they weren't that difficult to make for how nice they look!! So who wants to be our fall guests?). And the chocolate sorbet, well, who wouldn't make that again? Pure chocolate! Rich and concentrated! Frozen and spoonable! YUM!!

All in all, a successful evening, if I do say so myself. And I finally got a presentable picture of one of my recipe results - can you almost taste that chocolate sorbet?? I know you're jealous.