Sunday, July 31, 2011

Strawberry Cake

Strawberries used to be a spring and summer treat but now we eat them all year.  Still, this tasted summery to me and fresh berries from farmer's market can't be beat!  My little helper liked slicing the strawberries, measuring and mixing, and then placing the strawberries on the batter.  No little fingers were harmed in the making of this cake!

It took a lot longer to bake than I thought it would and by the time the center was cooked, the cake seemed a little dry.  The whipped cream definitely helped but I think next time, I'd just make this version of strawberry cake.  I substituted whole wheat flour for half of the white flour and used about 1/2 cup sucanat and 1/4 cup white sugar.  

Martha Stewart's Strawberry Cake 

6 T softened butter
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (+ 2 T for sprinkling on top)
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10 inch pie plate.  Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Cream butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  At a lower mixing speed, mix in egg, milk and vanilla.  On low speed, gradually mix in flour mixture and spread the batter in the buttered pie plate.  Arrange strawberries on batter, cut sides down and close together.  Sprinkle the 2 T sugar over the top of the berries.  

Bake the cake for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.  Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch (took me about 1 hour).  Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack before cutting into wedges.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Adventures of the Chef and Sous Chef

On a rainy afternoon of our vacation, big sister wanted to make a video of her cooking.  We're off on another family adventure, so this is to hold you over until our return!

Adventures of the Chef and the Sous Chef
Part I:  "Making tea for the audience"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I like coleslaw an awful lot and it's usually a somewhat healthy choice of a side dish (as opposed to deep fried things).  I have opinions about it and don't like it to be too heavy on the mayo.  But, until last week, I don't think I've ever made my own from scratch.  This recipe is super easy, I loved all the bell peppers, and I cut (way) down on the mayo.  Next time, I might just use plain greek yogurt in place of the yogurt.  If you're gf, just check the ingredients on your mustard & mayonnaise.  

Bell Pepper Slaw (from Food Network Magazine)
6-8 side dish servings

1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1.5 tsp celery seeds
1.5 tsp mustard seeds
freshly ground pepper & salt
1-2 T sugar (optional)
6 bell peppers (2 yellow, 2 orange, 2 red) finely sliced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 head green cabbage thinly sliced and roughly chopped
3 T whole grain dijon mustard
1/3 c. mayonnaise (I probably used 2 tablespoons to start with and slowly added a little more just until the coleslaw stuck together)

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, celery seeds, ground pepper, salt, and sugar (if using).  Add all the vegetables and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Before serving, stir in the mustard and mayonnaise.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two easy summer menus

How has your summer been?  This past week, I took my girls to Claremont's Family Festival  that takes place in the summer on Wednesday nights.  It's not a big street fair but they had a blast at the petting zoo and big sister loved her pony ride.  After she said, "Run like the wind!' to the slowly walking pony PeeWee, the cowboy cracked up and let her trot for awhile.  I think the picture speaks for itself!

I'm having some trouble with being motivated to plan menus . . . all I want to eat when it's hot is salad and ice cream.  But, last week was an improvement and I made two awesome meals with some favorite recipes from the blog.  So, if you need some inspiration for making dinner, here are two menu ideas.

Teriyaki marinated flank steak on the grill with Soba Noodle Salad and cantaloupe

Chicken Enchiladas with Cilantro Lime Rice and chips & salsa (My mom made these enchiladas recently and used half salsa verde and half enchilada sauce for the sauce and added cooked artichoke hearts  from a frozen package to the filling - delicioso!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vegetable Quiche with Potato Crust

So, I'm kicking myself for not taking a photo of this because it turned out so pretty!  We had brunch with some friends last weekend and I made this recipe I saw on "Cook Yourself Thin."  Back in the day when I first had cable, I watched a lot of food TV but lately, not so much.  Awhile back, I caught this show on Lifetime and really liked the premise - you can lose weight by cooking your own food and making easy substitutions to recipes.  And, the substitutions aren't things like Splenda or weird stuff, but more veggies and protein and less sugar and fat.

This quiche has a potato crust and loads of veggies.  I changed the original recipe from the show to add the red bell pepper, zucchini and one more egg.  It's not super egg-y because the eggs basically bind together all those vegetables.  I doused my piece (okay, pieces) with hot sauce so next time I'd add some red pepper flakes or diced jalapenos but it was really good.

Vegetable Quiche with Potato Crust  serves 8
From "Cook Yourself Thin" (appx 210 cal/serving)

1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, shredded
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup diced zucchini
3 oz baby spinach
4 large eggs
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere or cheddar cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a glass or ceramic pie pan with 1/4 tsp. oil.  Toss potatoes with 1 tsp. olive oil and a little salt and pepper.  Press into an even layer in the pie dish, up the sides like a crust.  Bake until golden brown at the edges and dry, about 20 minutes.  Let cool.

Lower the oven to 325 degrees.  Heat 1 tsp. oil in a skillet and add the onion and red bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add a little more oil, the mushrooms and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid and the liquid evaporates (about 8 minutes).  Add spinach and some more salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp. each) and cook, stirring, just until the spinach wilts (about 30 seconds).  Let cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs and milk.  Spread the vegetable mixture in an even layer in the pie dish.  Top with an even layer of the cheese.  Pour the egg mixture over it all.  Bake until it's firm around the edges but a little wobbly in the middle, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pineapple & Coconut

There are lots of flavor combinations that I love . . . chocolate & raspberry, chocolate & salt, mango & chile, pineapple & coconut . . . my early pineapple & coconut food memory comes from flat tops with two holes.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you maybe never had a Thrifty Ice Cream cone.  We loved those as kids and if my dad offered flat tops with two holes, we were there!  I loved the "Coconut Pineapple" flavor.  Smooth, creamy & tasted like Hawaiian Tropic Suntan Lotion smelled.

So, when I decided to make a pineapple upside down cake after our trip to Hawaii, I knew that I needed to make coconut ice cream to go with it.  Both of these desserts were fantastic individually but together, they were amazing.  If I do say so myself :)

I was worried about how the cake would turn out after the brown sugar / butter part spilled all over the bottom of my oven and I flooded the house with smoke, but it was good (and didn't taste like smoke).  I used fresh pineapple pieces but you could use canned.

When you make the ice cream, make sure you use cream of coconut (has sugar in it and is typically used to make pina coladas so you can find it with other mixers), not coconut milk.  I decreased the sugar from the original recipe and found that it probably could be decreased even more.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe

Coconut Ice Cream (makes 1.5 qt)

3 large eggs
scant 1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
20 oz coconut cream

Whisk the eggs together in a light bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the sugar until completely incorporated.  Whisk one minute more and then whisk in the cream and milk.  Stir in the coconut cream.  Immediately pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your maker's instructions.
*Can be GF - check your coconut cream ingredients.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


When I saw this movie in the theater, I went into labor (on Labor Day) with my first baby girl.  I don't think that's why she loves cooking and food like me, but it demonstrates how even 9 months pregnant, my mind was on food.  I had a great time watching this movie with her recently.  She liked it a lot and had lots of questions about everything (as usual), one not surprising question being, "When can we make ratatouille?"  It worked out perfectly that one typical ingredient is summer squash, so after harvesting, we made ratatouille for the first time.

Ratatouille is a vegetable dish with a tomato sauce and the main vegetables are zucchini and eggplant.  Originally made in Provence, it was introduced to American cooks by Julia Child (how else?)  If you want to read it or try it, here's Julia Child's recipe.  I was going to make this recipe, but limited by time and not wanting that much oil/fat, I landed upon and used the recipe on Smitten Kitchen.  This recipe was inspired by the movie and was a departure from the traditional preparation of sauteing each vegetable before combining and baking the dish.  I followed it except for using fresh thyme (forgot).  The mandolin slicer works awesome here!

As for the result, let's just say that this is a work in progress.  It wasn't a crowd pleaser in my family but I really loved it.  Lots of vegetables, good sauce . . . I'll make it again for sure but next time I'll add more fresh herbs and possibly cook the sauce before putting it in the pan underneath the veggies to give it more depth of flavor.  We ate it as a main dish with crusty french bread and goat cheese but my husband said he would like it more as a side dish with some meat.  I think next time, I might use it as a filling for crepes.  Big sister liked making it (she loves patterns and was chanting "eggplant, squash, zucchini, pepper, eggplant, squash . . ." )

Ratatouille Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

How it looked coming out of the oven:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Harvest

Carrots from the garden - toddler hand for scale
She counted 29 squash  . . . pretty tough and overripe but she was so proud

Beautiful cherry tomatoes

My daughter was disappointed about leaving Hawaii but her silver lining was the garden waiting for her at home.  Almost every day on vacation, she talked about her garden (expressing concern that our friend who housesat would remember to water, wondering if the turtle was eating her plants) and when we were finally at the airport on the way home, she kept telling strangers, "I have to get home to take care of my garden."  When we got back home, she went running to see her plants.  And, they were huge.  The carrots were all ready, the squash was past its prime, and there were the first ripe tomatoes.  The turtle did eat the strawberry plants and the new sunflower seedlings but the rest of the garden overshadowed that disappointment.

That evening before bed, we all worked in the garden harvesting.  Every carrot I pulled up and handed to my daughter was lovingly brushed off and put into a sack as she complimented herself, "What a beautiful carrot!"  "Look at this one - biggest one ever."  It made me think of my grandfather's garden in Connecticut.  He too loved his plants and fretted over them and enjoyed bountiful yields from the sweat of his labor.  His tomatoes were beautiful and tasted better than any I've had since.  How he would have loved to have heard about big sister's first vegetable garden!  I can just hear his voice in my mind, "Would you look at those carrots?"

We talked about what to make with the harvest and her big idea was a "carrot applesauce cake." Not sure where she came up with that one, but the first thing she said when she woke up the next morning was, "Mom, since I had a good night's sleep, can we make my cake for breakfast?"  The recipe is below.  She measured and mixed and poured and the cake was moist and healthy, and delicious.

She also has big plans for making ratatouille with the squash, so stay tuned!  Any ideas for what to plant now, in the middle of summer?

Jenna's Carrot Applesauce Cake (9 servings)

1 cup flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat, half regular)
1/4 c. sugar (I used Sucanat)
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
6 T unsweetened applesauce
2 T olive oil
1 large egg
1 egg white
1.5 c. carrots, shredded

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  In a small bowl, combine applesauce, olive oil, egg, egg white.  Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix in the carrots until well incorporated.  Spread into a greased 8x8 pan or 9 inch cake pan or a loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

We iced it with a powdered sugar icing (powdered sugar, a little milk, and a little vanilla) and ate it warm!