Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lemon Layer Cake

I have varying layers of cakes that are my favorite.  There is the cake that takes all day, which is my absolute favorite.  There is the cake that I have literally made during a commercial break, which is wonderful for just about every occasion at home, so it's my favorite.  And I have a "going out" cake.  The cake that I make if asked to bring dessert to a baby shower.  The cake I made when asked to submit a cake to a charity auction.  The cake that I make if I'm trying to impress, but have a realistic time frame. This is that cake:

Remember a few hundred days ago when I told you that Lemon Curd goes everywhere?  Well, looks like I was totally right (AGAIN!) because we're going to bust some out for this cake as well.  Here's the recipe for those who haven't memorized it yet. Lemon Curd.

Moving on...

mmmm... lemon.  When I brought this cake out at my baby shower, I can't tell you the number of people who said "I love lemon!  It's my favorite behind chocolate!"  Well, friends, I say lemon done right is better than chocolate.  Let's do this.

Let's pretend those are all the ingredients.  I feel like it's close...

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 2 8" round cake pans (or 9" if you're like my mom and haven't gotten around to buying 8" pans ever) and line bottoms of each with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess. Sift/mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir together milk and lemon juice (mixture will curdle).

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour, mixing at low speed until just combined.

Divide batter between pans, smoothing tops. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes
out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks,
remove paper, and cool completely.

Meanwhile: make the frosting.

Beat 1 cup cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Add powdered sugar (and vanilla).  Mix.  Fold one third of whipped cream into lemon curd to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream.

Now to put together the cake.  In these pictures, I was going somewhere "extra special" (it was my baby shower... now you know that I do think about blogging... even when I don't do it), so we cut the cakes in half to make 4 layers. 2 are perfectly adequate.  Unless you're feeling fancy.

 Top with second layer, rounded side up,
and keep with the cake/frosting until it's assembled
You may need to add some toothpicks for stability

Garnish to your hearts content.

• Cake can be assembled a day ahead and chilled, but please let it stand at room
temperature 30 minutes before serving.
• I recently made these as cupcakes for my baby's first birthday party.  They were fantastic.  And looked like this:

Lemon Cake:

2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 2 8" round cake pans (or 9" if you're like my mom and haven't gotten around to buying 8" pans ever) and line bottoms of each with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess. Sift/mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir together milk and lemon juice (mixture will curdle).

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour, mixing at low speed until just combined.

Divide batter between pans, smoothing tops. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes
out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks,
remove paper, and cool completely.

Lemon Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup (ish) powdered sugar
Lemon curd, chilled

Beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix.  Fold one third of whipped cream into lemon curd to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream.

Assemble cake: Put 1 cake layer on a plate and spread with one fourth of frosting. Top with second layer, rounded side up, and spread top and sides with remaining frosting.  Garnish to your hearts content.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brunch Saver Casserole

In the not-too-distant past, I got a text from a friend asking what she could bring to brunch on Saturday.  I wasn't sure what she should bring... because I didn't know I was hosting brunch on Saturday.  It turns out that, thanks to a series of mis-communications, someone had told someone else that they were coming over on Saturday morning (true.  I knew about this.) and someone had told a third person about it, and somewhere in the middle there was mention of food.

Obviously I decided this meant it was a sign I should host brunch, and made blueberry muffins (YUM!  Why have I never made these from scratch before???) and a new recipe from the well-loved and sometimes referred to on this blog, Best of Bridge series.  Except that my mom was here... and since she is physically incapable of making a recipe the way it stands, we made some changes.  (but thanks to the idea that you should give new things a shot, I tried to keep it down to under 10 things.)

And... it was a hit.  It was, by far, the best breakfast casserole I've eaten.  It had flavor, it was a nice texture, it made everyone go back for seconds, and everyone asked for the recipe.  Hence the revival of the blog.  (now that the baby is almost ONE, I should be back here anyway.)  I'm not joking - it is the BEST breakfast casserole I've ever eaten.  (did I already say that?)

YUM!  Okay, assemble your ingredients.

First, brown two lbs of Hot Italian Sausage.  (if you're using real sausage, remove the casing.  if you're using breakfast sausage like I did, carry on.)  And to that meat add about 1/2 c of diced onion and cook it with it (this is a "do as I say and not as I do" moment, because I forgot to do this when I took pictures, and it's too bad).  Drain the sausage.

Grease a 9x13 dish and prepare to feel like you're making "breakfast lasagna."

Layer 6 oz of mild green chilies (chopped), 3 corn tortillas (cut in 1" strips),

Continue layering 1/2 the sausage mixture, 1/2 a chopped pepper, and a little more than a cup of cheese.
 Now repeat.

In a medium bowl combine 8 eggs, 1/2 cup milk,1/4 cup (ish) cilantro, ground mustard, salt, garlic salt, and pepper.  (ooh, and I may have thrown some ancho chili powder in, too.  I bought that stuff for a chili I made, and now I throw it in everything!  Feel free to add cumin or whatever spices you like here.)  Whisk up and pour it over your breakfast creation.

Sprinkle with Paprika (smoked paprika is the paprika I have... use what you love).  Pop it in the fridge, and sleep tight.

To quote the cook book this came out of (before alterations) "Hooray - It's the following day, and you're ready!"  What a funny book.  (also note, I have made this for dinner as well, and just let it sit for 2-3 hours.)

Anyway, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If you liked cooked tomatoes, place slices over your casserole now (I tried it on half, but decided I prefer fresh, if any).  Bake your casserole for 1 hour, or until set in the center and slightly browned at edges.

Let is sit for 5 minutes while you get the rest of your meal together, and serve with salsa, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, or by its self (honestly, I don't think anyone used much of the condiments - it was so tasty alone...)

And enjoy yourself.  You've just pulled off what I used to think was impossible - you've made a breakfast casserole worth eating.  Be proud.  And go cut yourself another piece.

Brunch-Saver Casserole:

(3) 4 oz cans chopped mild green chilies
6 corn tortillas, cut in 1" strips
2 lbs hot italian sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2.5 cups cheddar jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup milk
8 eggs
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp chili powder (ancho chili powder if you've got it)
1/2 tsp pepper
paprika to sprinkle (smoked if you have it)
tomatoes, salsa and sour cream for condiments

Brown sausage and add onion.  drain.

Layer 1/2 the chilies, 1/2 the corn tortillas, 1/2 the cooked sausage, 1/2 the chopped pepper and 1/2 the cheese.  Repeat.

Mix milk, eggs, spices and cilantro together and pour over top of casserole (I know it looks like it's not enough.  It is.)  Sprinkle with paprika.

Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours, or overnight.

Add sliced tomatoes if desired.  Bake at 350 for one hour, or until set in center and slightly browned at edges.  Rest 5 minutes.

Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Pasta

As far back as I can remember, when asked what I wanted my mother to cook for my birthday dinner, I had the same answer: Chicken Broccoli Pasta. And when asked what cake I wanted, the answer was either Strawberry Shortcake (the easy answer), or Mother's Day Cake (the hard answer because it takes about a day to make). Between the pregnancy and packing to move (that's what military families do!), this is not a post about the day-long cake making. Don't get me wrong - when I get there, you'll love it. But for now, let's focus on the main course.

Chicken Broccoli Pasta was, what I thought until about a year ago, a super fancy pasta dish made mostly for impressive events like birthdays, or at least Sunday Dinner. But now? Now I realize my mother was tricking me for years... because this is one of the easier dishes I've ever made. Is it still impressive? Yes. But does it take a sizable chunk of time? NO! Does it even take a sizable amount of talent? NO! In fact, this is now my go-to girls night dinner. I generally start cooking after everyone gets there: just get people set up with beverages, and then go-to. I'd say it is a 20 minute dish. Which, considering that you have to get pasta water to boil, is about as good as it gets. Especially when it's your favorite meal we're talking about.
Compile all the ingredients.
ooh wow. Clearly I was cooking for girls night when I took this picture, since that's the worst grouping of ingredients yet. Sorry about that. Point is: less than 10 ingredients in the whole thing. That's including things like "salt" or "butter," which I assume you already have. Clearly, since I forgot them in the picture...

Step one: cut-up raw chicken breasts (yuck) into bit-sized bits. Once you've done that, wash your hands and revel in the happiness of the worst part already being over. Now saute the chicken with butter, some lemon (optional), lemon pepper, and salt and pepper until cooked through.

(oh, and put the water for your pasta on to boil... at least I have to do it now for timing's sake, but I have about the worst stove in America so it takes forever.)

Step two: in a food processor put in about 6 ounces of parmesan cheese (if you buy it in blocks instead of pre-shreaded or shaved, break it up and let is whirl around a few seconds). Once in pieces please add butter (in chunks), some cream, garlic and parsley. Pulse everything together. Smell. (mmm... garlic, parsley, cheese... amazing smell. Does it make you want to add some more garlic? me too... go for it.)

If you're being super-healthy, you can use milk instead of the cream. It was in the original recipe my mom started modifying way back in the 80's... but I say you should go for the gusto. It's fancy.

Step three: just before the noodles are done (about 8 minutes?), add cut-up broccoli to the water. Cook until the pasta is al-dente and broccoli is cooked, but still firm. Drain.

Step four: In a large dish add the three groups in this order: cheese mixture, chicken, and then pasta/broccoli. Add more salt and pepper than you think you might need. Place on the table. When you're ready to eat toss together and top with some extra cheese, salt and pepper.

mmm... doesn't that feel fancy and delicious? And it all happened so fast. And you now look super talented. Winning.

Chicken Broccoli Pasta

3-4 chicken breasts, cut-up
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs butter, divided
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 box fettuccine noodles
6 oz parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1/2 cup cream
1 head (or more) broccoli

Cut chicken breasts and saute in 1 tbs butter, 1 clove garlic and 1 tsp lemon pepper. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice in if desired. Saute until cooked through.

Boil fettuccine noodles. Just before the noodles are done (about 8 minutes), add the cut-up broccoli. Drain when noodles are cooked al-dente according to the box's suggestions.

In a food processor combine 6 oz chopped (or shredded) Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup butter (cut into pieces) 1 clove garlic and a handful of parsley. pulse and add 1/2 cup cream.

In a large dish add (in this order): cheese mixture, chicken, then pasta/broccoli. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss, garnish with extra cheese, salt and pepper. Enjoy like it's your birthday. Or mine.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pepperoni lasagna

So, I took a vacation. A vacation from blogging. A vacation from food. And ate nothing but waffles and macaroni and cheese from a box for about three months. All because I am going to have a baby this (late) summer.

Hooray for babies! Boo for remembering to eat interesting food.

However, there is one thing that I've been making consistently during this break... and it's lasagna. Is it because it's comforting? Yes. Is it because it's impressive (so I feel that I've done something useful)? Yes. But it's also because, even with my manly infantry husband around, there are guaranteed to be days worth of food out of this one.  Days worth of food that every meal I am excited to eat.

Lasagna is one of those funny things where everyone has their own style, and their own recipe. When I got married to my darling husband we went back and forth making his mother's lasagna, or my mother's lasagna. We've settled on this... which we call "our" lasagna. (which is pretty much my mother's plus pepperoni.) We settled on my mom's as a base not just because it's delicious and wonderful, but also because it takes about 1/3 of the time to make. And I am a sucker for easy. As seen on this blog (minus that chili recipe, which is not easy, but is DELICIOUS).

Also, once you get the rythym down to this, it really does not take that much effort. I'll explain it here, but if you just want to do it your own way, scroll down. Scroll down and be happy.
Boil a bunch of water (salted) in a big pot for your noodles, and cook them however the package asks you to. Then drain the hot water, and let them hang out in some cold water until you're ready for them. easy.

Brown a pound of spicy sausage and a pound of ground beef (note, if you have a large pan and can do them both at the same time, add the ground beef about 2 minutes after the sausage - they tend to cook at slightly different rates). Drain fat from meat mixture and add a large (#10) can of crushed tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, 1-2 cloves of diced garlic, 1 tbs Italian seasoning (rub it between your hands as you put it in if you're using the dried stuff - it'll let all the goodness out), and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Let that simmer while you finish making everything else (or you can use right away if that's how it got timed today). easy.

In between all this fun - when you're not stirring noodles, or browning meat - put together "the white layer." Add a large container of 4% milk fat cottage cheese (I used low-fat for years, but this is SO much BETTER), 1.5 cups parmesean cheese (note, I generally just add a "tub" of the shreaded stuff, but if you have the time, shread away!), two eggs and about 1/4 cup (ish) of freshly chopped parsley. Mix that all up. done. easy.

Open up a 4c bag of shredded mozzarella cheese. That's your last later. Easy.

And now here is the optional and only slightly time consuming moment of your day. Heat a small pan to medium, and add pepperoni. Let it toast for 3-5 seconds and flip. You want it to be slighly crispy along the edge. Take it off the heat (drain it on a paper towel), and do it again! Keep going (you may have to drain the liquid once or twice). It's so tasty and awesome. Maybe you should try one... just to make sure it is safe.

Now layer noodles, white layer, cheese, meat layer twice in the pan. And then add a layer of pepperoni - and a little more cheese.

Stick your wonderful pan of creation in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Then wait 5-10 after it comes out of the oven before cutting... and enjoy. It's easy. It's tasty. It is impressive. And it makes even the fussiest baby-bellies say "oh my goodness, I'm happy."

Pepperoni-Studded Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles
1 lb spicy sausage
1 lb ground beef
Large (#10) can of crushed tomatoes
Small can of tomato paste
2 cloves of diced garlic
1 tbs Italian seasoning
Large container 4% milk fat cottage cheese
1.5 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup "deli sized" pepperoni
3-4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Boil noodles according to package direction.

Brown and drain sausage and meat. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic and Italian seasoning. Let simmer.

Combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs and parsley in a seperate container.

Brown pepperoni in a dry skillet for 3-4 seconds on each side and drain on paper towels.

Layer noodles, white layer, cheese and meat layer twice in the pan, followed by a layer of grilled pepperoni, and another layer of cheese.

Bake 350 for 35 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with salad and warm bread. Be adored.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fudge Cookies

Christmas is a time for traditions, a time for family. A time for peace and blessings and thanksgiving... and presents. Let's go ahead and put it on the table. I'm all for putting Christ in Christmas (yes!), but I'm also for giving and recieving gifts. Especially from Santa. And, as I have said before, there are things Santa needs or he will not stop.
List of things Santa loves that I firmly believe I need to leave out for him (and have for many many years) includes:
2 carrots
2 orange sticks
2-4 fudge cookies

What? What are fudge cookies? Ooh just a little thing we whip up. You know, to activate the Santa GPS. And your taste-buds. And rave reviews. It's chocolatey, it's moist and chewey. And it is delicious.

And this from a woman who claims to "not really like chocolate that much." However, I just think I don't like low quality chocolate that much. A Hershey's Bar? Please... I have much better things to be doing with my calories. Like eating almost anything with a ton of butter on it. But a nice, non-overpowering chocolate can really hit the spot. And bring the fat man a-coming.

And this hits the spot. And is easy to boot. (some things I'm happy to spend hours on. cookies, as I may have already blogged about, are not one of these things.) Plus... FIVE ingredients. Just five! Or six... but that one is optional.

pretend like there is flour in this picture.

Just heat-up your double boiler (or you can use a nice thick pan and keep the heat low) and slowly melt 9oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 2tbs butter. Don't try this with milk chocolate chips even if you totally like them better and think semi-sweet taste pretty nasty all by themselves (trust me). Nope, go for the semi-sweet.

Once it gets good and melty take the double boiler off the heat and stir in one can of sweetened condensed milk which, incidentally, is climbing the charts on my favorite things list.

Once the milk has integrated into the chocolate, add vanilla, a cup of flour and some nuts (if you're interested). We generally go for half with and half without at our house. And although the recipe I found somewhere claiming to be the "original" calls for walnuts, we have used pecans as long as anyone can remember.
Anyway, that's it. No more ingredients. No more time. Now just use two tablespoons and place small globs on your pre-greased baking sheet.

One batch will generally make about two and a half dozen, according to my mother. About 18 according to me (I have no will-power with cookie portioning. Large cookies for everyone!). Although I do suggest a rather smallish glob, if you can find the will-power.

Bake them at 350 for 10-12 minutes (please, for the love of elves, do not overbake this one). Cool, and serve. You can serve these to anyone - choco-holics, chocolate-sometimesers (not a word), your husband's platoon (rave reviews), and, most importantly, the big guy himself.

A note on beautiful cookies: if you are making more than one batch (which I suggest you do), start making the second batch when you're half way through cooking your first. Making a double batch of these just doesn't turn out right... on top of which, letting the dough get cool long enough to cook cookies and cookies before you leads to a less-attractive mess.

Fudge Cookies
aka "Cookies that Santa likes"
2 tbs butter
9 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tbs vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. When melted, take off heat and add milk - stir until integrated. Add vanilla, flour and nuts (if using) and mix well. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy presents from Santa.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cranberry Apple Salad

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's a great time to cook and hang out with your family, you don't have weeks leading up to it with stress and who gets what present... it's just a magical time to sit down with your family, eat some great food, and be thankful. Plus, as a bonus, the next day you can start thinking about putting up decorations for Christmas. Win/Win/Win.

This will be my first Thanksgiving at my in-laws house. I am happy we live close enough to them to have this opportunity, and happy we have family to share this day with... but I am a little hesitant. After all, what are holidays but years and years of traditions you expect to be upheld. And what is another family, but years and years of their own traditions. However, I did ask if I could make this dish.  This is food from "my part of the world," and I am bringing it to wherever I am.  In this case... it's the mid-west.

It's a little tart, it's sweet, and it's made of fruit so we serve it during the meal instead of during dessert (even though there are cookies and whipped cream and something resembling a frosting in there). It is Cranberry Apple Salad, and I have been in charge of making this for the holidays for about 10 years. I wouldn't want a holiday without it.  Where it comes from? I'm not sure.  But I know where it's going (and if it has anything to do with the number of people who ask for this recipe, it's everywhere).  And also in my mouth.

One of the many things I like about this salad is that you only have to use one food processor, and you only have to clean it once. It took me a couple of years to figure out the right order, so follow along!

Step one: drain your pineapple (and keep the juice). Let it drain while you're going about doing the rest of this... it needs to drain for a terrifically long time, so start now.

Alright, step two: crush a box of Nilla Wafers in your food processor until they are a "crumb." Put them aside for later.

Next wash the cranberries, and make sure you've got only good-ones there. (I'm not sure it matters in the long-haul, but I am pretty picky about my cranberries.) Now chop them up (I generally do this in two batches, so they don't get too small or juicy) and put them in a mixing bowl. Repeat with slices of apple.

Combine chopped cranberries, chopped apples, well-drained pineapple, marshmallows and sugar together and let it hang out for a bit in the bowl. Maybe an hour. Maybe overnight.

While you're waiting for that to meld (so you can re-drain it... because nobody likes a soupy salad), combine 2/3 of your crushed Nilla Wafers and a couple of tbs of butter. Press it into the bottom of a glass-looking (or actual glass, whatever) cake pan.

Now, back to the processor, put a package of softened cream cheese and a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar. While the food processor is running, add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pineapple juice (feel free to drink the rest). You're looking for a thin-consistancy frosting-like layer. Now add it on top of the crumb base. This is starting to look good.

If your cranberry mixture is looking soupy, feel free to drain it again (this is where I generally start on day-two. Either way, this stuff needs to wait overnight.). Add it on top of the "white" frosting-like layer and spread out evenly.

Now whip some cream (and add some vanilla and powdered sugar), and add it to the top. Top this ALL off with that 1/3 reserved nilla wafers. And now you have got the most delicious and festive dish on any table. Eat it with dinner. Eat it with dessert. Eat it the next morning for breakfast (it is made of fruit...). Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Apple Salad

Crumb Layer:
box of Nilla Wafers
3 tbs melted butter

White Layer:
package of cream cheese (softened)
2 tbs. powdered sugar
1/4 cup pineapple juice

Cranberry Layer:
1 cup crushed pineapple (well-drained - reserve liquid)
2 cups cranberries
3 medium apples (any kind, but preferably firm and red)
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup sugar

Whipped Cream

  • Crush Nilla Wafers and set aside.
  • Process cranberries and apples (in batches to limit "soupyness") until medium/fine chopped and combine with (drained) pineapple, marshmallows and sugar. Set mixture aside.
  • In the same processor, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and drizzle in pineapple juice until thin frosting-like consistancy.
  • Combine 2/3 of the crushed Nilla Wafers and butter - press into cake pan to form crust.
  • Cover crust with white cream cheese layer.
  • Add cranberry layer to the cake pan (making sure it is well-drained).
  • Refrigerate overnight. (note: you can refrigerate the cranberry layer separately and drain the next day if desired.)
  • Add sweetened whipped cream and remaining cookie crumb to salad and serve.