Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!  I love Valentine's Day - what better than a day about telling people that you love them?  My girls share my love and this week made Valentines for our neighbors, for far away cousins, and friends who don't go to their school.  We also made 45 classroom valentines to pass out tomorrow.

Here are some photos of making this year's valentines (I bought the brown cutouts from Amazon) and the super cute Olaf ones we made last year:

If you want to make something for someone's birthday (like mine on Saturday - hint, hint) or Valentine's Day, here's a tried and true yellow cake and chocolate buttercream combination.  I think I've written before about how much I love my 5 layer mini cake pan set.  It makes these cute cakes that are just the right size for about 4 adults and some kids to share.  You can do all sorts of things with the layers like make this rainbow cake.  The recipe below has baking times and proportions for cupcakes but you can adjust it to the pan size that you prefer.

Yellow Cake (makes 16-18 cupcakes or one cake layer)
from Sally's Baking addiction

2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk, room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat 2 egg whites on high speed in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.  You want them fluffy without liquid at the bottom of the bowl.  Set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a mixer, beat the butter on high speech until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute.  Add the sugar and beat on high for 3-4 minutes or until creamed together well.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.  Add 2 egg yolks and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speech until combined.  Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl.  With the mixer on low speech, alternate adding the dry ingredients and whole milk, about half of each at a time.  Mix until just incorporated (do not overmix).  Fold in whipped egg whites.  The batter will be smooth, velvety and slightly thick.

Chocolate buttercream frosting (enough for 1 doz cupcakes)

1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2.5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Use the wire whisk attachment on your stand mixer and whip the butter on medium high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.

Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar.  Once it's all incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla.  Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium high speech until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

Spoon into cupcake liners, filling halfway full.  Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Football Food (part 2)

Go Broncos!!  While we'll be out of town to watch Super Bowl 50 (isn't it weird the NFL dropped the Roman Numerals or am I the only one who notices such things?), I still have some ideas about your football food!  Last post was about a main dish idea but this is a new appetizer.  My friend Lisa makes this tomato feta dip and I've enjoyed it at some of our parties before, but this was my first time making it.  It went great with pita chips and veggies.  I think it would be a good addition to any greek / mediterranean menu or to your football snack repertoire.

Tomato Feta Dip

Dice three tomatoes and mix together with 4 thinly sliced green onions, and 8 ounces of crumbled feta cheese.  Add some Greek seasoning to taste (I have the "Cavender's" kind).  Stir it all together and drizzle with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, folding gently together.  Serve with pita chips or crackers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Football food!

How about them Broncos?  We had a great time with friends watching the Broncos victory over the Steelers last weekend and we have two more great football weekends left in the season.  If you need some food ideas for the big game, these mini french dip crescents are something new I made that turned out great.  In fact, they were pretty addicting and I think this sums up what happened to me as I watched the game:

I don't usually think of making french dip at home and what I liked here was using deli roast beef and making the simple au jus instead of a big roast and the au jus with the pan drippings.  I bought the horseradish sauce in the deli area at Vons but if you can't find it easily, I think a spicy mustard would be a good substitution.  You could also use a thinly sliced swiss cheese instead of provolone.  My husband's only critique was that the Pillsbury Crescent dough is a bit sweet and that something like phyllo or pie dough might be better.  I'll post an update if I give that a try.

Mini French Dip Crescents with Easy Au Jus (8 servings)
(recipe from Mama Loves Food blog)

2 T olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
2.5 cups beef broth
1 T worcestershire sauce
freshly ground pepper

2 packages crescent rolls (8 count)
1 lb deli roast beef, thinly sliced
1/2 lb deli provolone cheese, thinly sliced
Horseradish sauce

Start by making the au jus - saute the red onion in olive oil until soft and slightly browned.  Add the garlic cloves and saute another minute more.  Pour a little bit of beef broth (1/4 cup or so) in the pan and deglaze.  Add the rest of the beef broth, the worcestershire sauce, and a couple grinds of pepper and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain and return to the pan.  I left it off the heat while I baked the crescents and then heated it back up to serve.  You could also make it ahead and refrigerate it until you're ready to heat and serve.  I used the little dishes that are for soy sauce when we have sushi to serve the au jus on the side.

To make the crescents, unroll the crescents on a large lined cookie sheet (silpat, foil or parchment paper).  Spread 1-2 tsp. or horseradish on each crescent and lay one slice of roast beef and a half slice of provolone on top of the crescent.  Roll the crescents starting with the wide end and ending at the narrow end.

Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes, until crescents are lightly browned and cheese is melty.  Serve warm with au jus.  (makes 16 total).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spicy Soup

Happy New Year!  I'm looking forward to trying new recipes and feeding my family in 2016.  We started out the year with this nurturing spicy soup. Eating lentils on New Year's Day is a tradition thought to bring good luck in the new year in several cultures.  You can adjust the spiciness to your liking so don't be scared off!  And, definitely don't skip the lemon and cilantro at the end.  It's delicious!

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon (makes about 6 cups)

3 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of ground chile powder or ground cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 T chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, heat 3 T oil over high heat until hot and shimmering.  Add onion and garlic and salute until golden, 4 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper, and chili powder or cayenne (I used a bit of both) and saute for 2 minutes longer.

Add broth, water, lentils, and carrot and bring to a boil.  Give it a good stir, cover the pot, and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes.  Test and see if the carrot and lentils are soft.  When they are, taste and adjust the salt and cayenne pepper (I like it spicy!).  

Using a traditional blender or an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup so that it's slightly chunky still.  If you like it smooth, you can blend all of it.  Reheat soup if necessary then stir in the lemon juice and cilantro.  Serve soup drizzled with a little olive oil.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


The holiday season!  We're having such a fun time and the delight that the girls have in the sights, sounds, and events of the Christmas season has made it so enjoyable.  We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

My girls were both angels at the preschool Christmas program

Hot chocolate with candy canes by the fire- doesn't get much better! 

Crazy hair & Christmas PJ day at school
Still not too big for a chat with Santa Claus!
Took the big girls to their first "real play" at the Pasadena Playhouse
My cookie helper! 
One of my most favorite holiday flavors is gingerbread - gingerbread cookies, gingerbread lattes, gingerbread itself.  I made this gluten free gingerbread for Christmas last year with my family and served it with whipped cream and it was good.  I'm going to make it again this year.

Gluten Free Gingerbread

Pamela's classic vanilla cake mix
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup molasses
2 T crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 T ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk oil and molasses together.  Add eggs and ginger and combine well.  In a medium bowl, combine Pamela's classic vanilla cake mix, spices, and salt.  Add to the larger bowl and mix until throughly combined.

Bring 1 cup water to boil.  Add baking soda and mix.  Add to larger bowl until just combined.   Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool; cut into squares and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cranberry bliss bars

'Tis the season to bake!  I'm headed to my friend Ellen's today to spend the morning baking and I can't wait.  Here's the recipe for the other bars I made for our book club.  Watch the baking time - mine turned out a little dry, but still yummy.

Cranberry Bliss Bars (makes 15)
from Skinnytaste blog

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 c. melted unsalted butter
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 c. dried cranberries, chopped

8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9x13 inch pan with baking spray

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and stir to blend.  In another bowl, whisk the sugars with the butter, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is very well blended.  Fold in white chocolate chips and 1/3 cranberries.  Spread batter into the prepared pan using the back of a measuring cup to smooth (wet the measuring cup if it's sticky).

Bake 10-14 minutes until the edges are light brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Don't over bake or the bars will be dry.  Let bars cool completely on a wire rack.

Next, prepare the frosting.  In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Frost the bars and then cut into squares or triangles.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

We're in the Christmas spirit in my house!  We decorated our tree, went to see Santa and Christmas lights, and have been listening to Christmas music around the clock.  Big asked me why the song was called "Walking Around the Christmas Tree" and I hear "having a nature sing, having a nature sing" when Middle sings the chorus of "Joy to the World."

Last night, I got to host our book club and I made a few holiday desserts that turned out great.  Trust me when I tell you that you want to make these eggnog cheesecake bars - they were light and perfect cut into little squares.  I thought at first that I'd rather make a bigger pan than a 9x9 but all you need is a small bar.

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars (makes 16 bars)

12 graham crackers, finely ground (1.5 cups)
3/4 cup + 3 T sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup egg nog (not the "light" kind)
1 T + 1.5 tsp flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T brandy (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Lightly grease a 9x9 pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter.  Press into the bottom of the pan.  I use a measuring cup to pack it all evenly.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let the pan cool (about 15-20 minutes should be fine).

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.  Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust.  Place the 9x9 pan into a larger roasting pan.  Pour hot water (I boiled it in a tea kettle) in the roasting pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the 9x9 pan.  Place the whole thing in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the middle is just set.

Cool on a rack for about a half hour.  Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.  Slice and serve with a little more nutmeg sprinkled on top.