Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer so far . . .

For weeks, Middle has been very concerned that it's not actually summer yet and she was so excited to learn that today is the summer solstice and technically the season of summer has begun.  Despite that, we've been on summer vacation from school for 2 weeks and have filled them with some local adventures.

A visit to the CA Science Center

S'Mores and a poolside movie

Wonderful tea at Chado Pasadena with a friend (and no kids!)

Our first visit to SkyZone in Covina

Picnic lunch

Floating in the pool and new pool toys

First week of Tennis & Mini Camp

I have never made cheesecake with great success but last week I attempted it again for a friend's birthday and hit upon a recipe that I really liked.  It's light and not too heavy and the lime flavor is more subtle.  A traditional graham cracker crust would work fine too but I thought the vanilla almond one here was delicious.  It takes some time so plan ahead - I put the cream cheese and eggs on the counter the night before and made it in the morning to serve the following day.  Juicing key limes can be a little tedious - I really like the "Nellie and Joe's Famous Key Lime Juice" which is just the juice and can be found at major grocery stores.

Key Lime Cheesecake (12 servings)
adapted from Bon Appetit May '06

1.5 cups finely ground Nilla wafers
1.5 cups finely ground almonds (almond flour)
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. melted butter

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c. sour cream
3/4 c. sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh key lime juice
2 tsp. finely grated key lime peel
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray (or butter).  Place 3 large sheets of heavy-duty foil on the work surface.  Place the pan in the center and wrap foil snugly around the side of the pan.  

With a fork, mix together the first 4 ingredients until well combined.  Press in the bottom and about an inch up the side of the prepared pan.  I used a measuring cup to press it down evenly.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in sour cream, then sugar.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Beat in lime juice, lime peel, and vanilla.  Pour bater over the crust.  

Place the wrapped cheesecake in a large roasting pan.  Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pan.  Cover the cheesecake pan (not the roasting pan) loosely with foil.  Place the roasting pan with the covered cheesecake in it (carefully!) into the oven.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and continue to bake until just set in the center when the cake pan is gently shaken, about 15-20 minutes more.  Turn oven off and open the door and let it cool for about 20 minutes.  Remove to counter (taking pan out of water bath) and cool for 30 minutes more.  Place uncovered in the refrigerator and chill overnight.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

So, this is the second new recipe I made for the flip flop party.  I saw these on Pinterest (where else?) and, like the pancake pops last year, thought, "Of course I can do that!"  They weren't as pretty as the Pinterest photo and a little messy to assemble, but I was happy with the end result and they were really tasty.  And let's face it - everything is more fun on a stick! I can imagine these being fun for a tea party or a summer dessert in addition to serving them at brunch.

A couple of notes:  I used the lollipop / cake pop sticks from Wilton instead of wooden skewers but I think either would be fine.  I made the biscuit rounds the day before and sealed them in an airtight container and they were fine the next day.

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers (makes about 20)

2 cans of biscuit dough (I used both Pillsbury & Trader Joes)
1 egg white
20+ strawberries
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 jar marshmallow fluff
3 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll a biscuit into a 5 inch circles.  Use a round cutter (mine was a biscuit cutter about 2 inches across) and cut out as many circles as you can get before re-rolling the dough (I set aside scraps until I had enough to make another circle).

Whisk together the egg white and water.  Brush on each biscuit and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.

While the biscuits are baking, prepare the strawberries.  Cut two 1/2 inch slices from each strawberry.  I cut the top and bottom off and then cut the strawberry crosswise to make rounds.  

Once the biscuits are baked, transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before assembling the skewers.  

For the cream, use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and combine the heavy cream and sugar and beat until firm peaks form.  Add half a jar of marshmallow fluff until just combined.  

Assemble the skewers - I put a biscuit, cream, strawberry, cream, strawberry, cream, and another biscuit on top like the photo above.  You could do more biscuit layers (every other) but I didn't have enough to make as many skewers as I wanted to.

Serve right away.  Mine lasted a couple of hours on the counter before getting soggy / runny.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pecan Roll Bundt

Last weekend, I hosted an annual Flip Flop Exchange and brunch for friends and their little (or not so little anymore!) girls.  We had a blast and I wish I had better / more pictures to share but I was busy enjoying the company and conversation.  I love making breakfast and having friends for brunch gives me an excuse to try some new recipe ideas.  Someday, if my dream of owning a bed and breakfast comes true, I'll get to do it all the time!  Anyways, I digress.  

This time around I made two new things  that I want to share.  The first is a pecan roll bundt cake.  It's like an easier version of monkey bread and I was initially skeptical about the method of using whole biscuits so I gave it a test run a few weeks prior when BFF and baby girl were here.  It turned out fantastic and really easy.  I love pecan rolls / sticky buns and everything of this genre so I ate waaayyy too much.  

Layered in the pan

Just out of the oven before inverting it

Pecan Roll Bundt 
original recipe here

1.5 cans refrigerated biscuit dough (I used Pillsbury Grands Original)
3 T butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped pecans

Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray.  Combine melted butter and syrup in a small bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and pecans.  

Place about half of the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle about half of the sugar and cinnamon mixture on top.  Lay the biscuits in the pan overlapping the edges (like the photo above) to form a ring.  Sprinkle with the rest of the sugar cinnamon mixture and pour over the rest of the syrup mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for a minute or two in the pan before running a knife around the edges and inverting onto a serving platter.