Monday, October 21, 2013

Lost Times- Cream Cheese Pound Cake

It's been a long time. I had no idea that so many months had past since I last posted. I have started to post about various meals and events and sights and sounds I have experienced since we last met but I didn't. So much has happened since April. Things like summer and camp and Haiti and the beach and football and baseball and life. I sat down before to share some of my journal from my trip to Haiti because I know many of you out there prayed me through that journey, but my heart becomes so heavy as I reread about so many of the gut wrenching experiences I had there. Soon.
One of the fun highlights of our summer was watching one of our dear friends walk down the aisle to his bride. We have been with them through their courting and have be so blessed by their friendship. I was asked to create a couple of creations for their big day, one being a nurse themed cake for the rehearsal dinner and one being the groom's cake. We had them over one night to think about flavors and designs and settled on a half chocolate, half cream cheese pound cake, all filled with vanilla buttercream and cookie the shape of the Millenium Falcon. I try to know as little as possible about Star Wars since I live with the Jedi and Darth "Mader" on a daily basis and know first hand how it feels to be smacked upside the head by a "life saber". I knew the pressure was on for this because the Salesman talked about it constantly how it better look good. Stress. I researched and researched and the only thing I knew for certain going into it was that it would taste heavenly. This cream cheese pound cake recipe was given to me when I was in college. I was part of a Wednesday night house church with my best friend and we tended to have pot lucks quite a bit. We knew that our hosts would always have totally bizarre foods so we each did our best to bring our finest dishes to know that we wouldn't leave hungry at the end of the night. One of the girls brought this recipe and one other and the copy I have that she gave me those 13 years ago is so worn and yellow you can hardly read the writing. This is my go to recipe for brides when they want a vanilla cake with the volume turned up. This is delicious with a gooey caramel glaze and sugared pecans, fresh berries and cream, warm chocolate sauce or just a dusting of powdered sugar. I use this recipe in a bundt pan, cupcakes and cake. I love the crunchy crust it gets and the buttery goodness of it. I have made this probably 300 times and it never fails.
As stated previously, always use room temperature ingredients when baking. This doesn't rise up super high so fill cupcake liners a bit fuller then you normally would. It has been known to stick to the pan a time or two so be sure you use a spray with flour added or if cooking in 8-9" round pans line the pan with parchment for easy release. You can easily double it. Be sure you eyeball it while in the oven so you don't burn the edges too much. You will need to do a toothpick test on this for done-ness to make sure you pull it out as soon as it is set.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 Pkg Duncan Hines Butter Cake
8 oz cream cheese softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 c boiling water
1/2 c cooking oil
2 Tbsp melted butter
3 large eggs

In the bowl of a heavy mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar together until combined. Slowly add the water and oil and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure it all melts together. Add the butter and eggs and mix just until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry cake mix. It will look very lumpy, just be sure you scrape the sides and let the mixer run on medium for about 2 minutes.
Pour into prepared pan. For bundt, bake 45 minutes then text it every 5 until it a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For cupcakes, bake 12-15 minutes until spring back to the touch. For 2, 9" rounds bake 15-18 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, April 22, 2013

BFF Curry-licious Orzo

Wild, wild, wild. That word best describes the events of the past two weeks! I have been a wild woman running with a candle lit on both ends. I will post pictures soon of my adventures but I am so glad that the weather is finally taking a change for the better so that I can start making some of my favorite spring and summer time treats. Something doesn't feel right about cooking up pasta salads in the snow.
I have been a fan of Barefoot Contessa for a while now. For years, the salesman and I didn't have cable in our house, funny since I worked for a cable company. When I had my first muffin I caught my first real glimpse of Ina while working as a nanny. I was immediately drawn to her down home, no fuss meals. They are the sort of meals I strive to make. I enjoy her simplistic take on true favorites. I have several of her books and I have them memorized by which of my favorites are in each book. One of my favorite recipes of hers is her Curried Couscous found in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I love the textures involved and the simple yet sophisticated spices. I have made a few changes to the recipe over the years to suit my own tastes but keep many of the same measurements as the original. She is definitely one of those gals who I just know we will be best friends forever when we finally meet.

Brooke's Barefoot Orzo

1, 8oz box orzo pasta cooked al dente in heavily salted water
1, small container plain Greek yogurt (about a 5 oz size or 1/4 cup)
Olive Oil
1 1/2 cap fulls of apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/4 tsp curry
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Add ins:
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 -2/3 cup chopped apricots
3 diced green onions
3-4 carrots, grated
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Drain the cooked pasta. Throw in the add ins.

For the sauce, pour almost the whole container of greek yogurt  (minus a spoonful bite) or the 1/4 cup into a bowl. Fill the yogurt cup about half way up with olive oil (or 1/3 cup). Add in remaining sauce ingredients and taste to make sure it is sweet and salty enough. Pour the majority of sauce into the pasta/veggie bowl, but I typically leave out a tablespoon or two so that it is not soupy. Stir and serve immediately at room temp or chill and bring to room temp before serving.
This is great made the day ahead and is perfect for grilled chicken and veggies.

Enjoy Y'all!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

As Good As It Gets- Smokey BBQ Brisket

There are sometimes in life that I take for granted that I come from a long line of good cooks. I mean, a long line. I could probably write down 100+ recipes just from my mom's side of the family. Recipes like Nana's fried pies and chocolate pudding, my great grandmothers German cookies that we use to make every Christmas eve growing up, my Aunts delicious sugar cookies and on and on. Several years ago my sister compiled a few of her favorite recipes and a few from our family and passed out mini cookbooks for Christmas. I have many of the pages so stained with oil and flour, pages like her pizza dough and pumpkin bread, that I have a hard time reading them. There are so many treasures in that tiny book that it would be on my list of top ten things to grab in case of a house fire. One of the recipes in this treasure came from our Great Aunt. I, like my sister, took way too long to cook this recipe. I grew up in "Where's the Beef?" country so I was very familiar how glorious brisket could be. Brisket is a staple on all Texas tables but at this stage in my life I don't have the time to sit around a smoker for 15 hours and entertain like we use to do growing up. This recipe is perfect for those who love the smokey goodness of a beautiful brisket with a fraction of the work. I like to pop this baby in my crock pot and let it cook overnight so that I wake up to the smell of heaven in my kitchen.
Before you start there are a couple of things you should know.
1. Don't change a thing on this recipe. Trust me.
2. Double wrap the brisket in foil if cooking in a crock pot and don't add any water as it will make it's own juice.
3. The addition of the BBQ sauce is optional. I typically don't add it at all.

Aunt LaVera's Smokey Brisket

1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp onion salt
2 tsp Celery Seed
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1, 3-4 pound beef brisket trimmed

1. Mix all of the above ingredients into a bowl and pour over your brisket. Be sure you rub it in a bit. Wrap it up and 2 layers of foil and marinate 3-4 hours or overnight.
2. Bake at 300 degrees for 3-3 1/2 hours wrapped in foil or place in a crock pot on low and bake 8-10 hours.  If you want to coat it in BBQ Sauce, open the foil, spread 1 cup of your favorite sauce on the brisket, wrap it back up and continue to cook for 1 hour.

This is great sliced and served with a baked potato or on a bun, chopped up for tacos or shoved in a quesadilla. It reaheats great so it is perfect to make the day before. If you have a smoker and the time this is a great marinate. Just let it soak everything up the night before you are smoking then throw it on your grill.

Enjoy Y'all! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Hoppy! Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I really can't believe it is Easter weekend! As I look out the window to see the snow falling on the ground it is hard to imagine that my kids will be comfy in their cute sear sucker shorts and linen shirts I have picked out for them to wear.
My weekend is going to be quite wild with egg hunts and a huge wedding I am catering but one item that will be on my weekend to do list will be making a batch of these delicious carrot cake cupcakes to take for a family dinner we will be crashing...that is not our family! The salesman was totally against carrot cake until he had these. With some strong convincing a few years ago he finally took a little nibble of one cupcake, then a bigger nibble, and by the end of the day he agreed with me that eating healthy can be fun! I have overheard him several times telling others to try a bite because these are the best. Remember, I am a purist when it comes to my food so you will not find any impostors like raisins, nuts or pineapple in this recipe which is exactly how I like it. This cake has made a believer out of many who didn't think they would like veggies in cake...but trust me, they will. These are very reminiscent of a delicate spice cake muffin but with a big slather of old school cream cheese frosting it sends them over the moon. This recipe can be made as a cake with two, 8 inch round pans lined with parchment, a greased 9x13, or about 24 cupcakes made with a liner. Oh, and the lovely picture was provided by my dear friend Evin of where these appeared at her daughters Easter birthday celebration. Happy Hoppy Day, Y'all!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 Cups all purpose four
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cups fresh shredded carrots (I prefer to do this in a food processor but you can grate them as well)
1 cup veggie oil
4 eggs

1. Grease and flour a 9x13, 2 8inch rounds or line 24 muffin cups with liners.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the first 7 ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients and lightly mix just until combined, scraping down a few times to make sure there are no dry ingredients stuck to the bottom of the bowl.
3. Pour into selected pan. Bake at 350 degrees, 25-30 minutes for pans and about 18-20 minutes for cupcakes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. The cake should spring back when gently touched. Remove and allow to cool on wire racks.

Cream Cheese Frosting (I have been known to double, and would if you are doing an 8 in round or need plenty to lick up after!!)
1 8oz package of cream cheese at room temp
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk or cream

1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until softened and combined.
2. With the mixer on low add the vanilla and powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time.
3. This will be really thick frosting so add just 1 Tbsp at a time of milk until it is a good spreading consistency.
4. Spread over cooled cakes or cupcakes and sprinkle with chopped nuts or any decoration of your choice.

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lighten Up Corn Pudding

All I know is it is hard to photograph corn pudding and make it look appetizing! 
I pretty much love all things corn. Corn is to veggies as shrimp is to fish, you can broil it, boil it, sautĂ© it, soufflĂ© get my drift. This past weekend we were cooking up a big fat brisket and for some reason I always want to partner a corn dish with brisket, whether it be corn bread or on the cob. I decided to do a variation of a corn pudding based on the crazy ingredients I had in the fridge. Now, you have to remember that things like full on cream or butter are big splurges these days so I didn't have my normal ingredient on hand...and half way through I realized that I didn't have any eggs so I had to make due. This variation is super light in calories and crazy easy to prepare and I didn't have to feel super guilty about it afterwards. Because it is cooked at a high temperature, the top becomes lightly brown and the corn on the surface has a great chewy texture, similar to pan fried corn. 
Give it a whirl and see you if feel like you are missing out. 

Lightened Up Corn Pudding
1 can- whole corn drained
1 small can creamed corn
1 cup plain non-fat greet yogurt
2 Tbsp Half and Half or milk
2 Tbsp butter melted
2 Tbsp self-rising corn meal
1 Egg or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl. Pour into a small greased baking dish. 
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until top is lightly brown and center is lightly set. 

Enjoy Y'all!  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Worth the Wait- White Cheddar Pesto Garlic Bread

Yellow rose cafe white cheddar pesto garlic bread!
I hope you guys had a splendid Valentine's day! We spent the evening with the muffins sorting through their treats and sweets from their school love bags and made a yummy dinner of "pasghetti" and meatballs. I shared with you all earlier that I am trying to stick to more lean and clean foods this year (whoever thought that was a good idea was crazy!!) so this night was a total splurge for me in all areas. I decided that if we were going to do things then we were going to do them right. We used fresh wide egg noodles to accompany our fresh Yellow Rose Cafe: Out with the old - Homemade Meatballs. I decided to make up for lost times by making a sinful garlic bread. But, not just any garlic bread, a white cheddar and pesto garlic bread. This was SO what I wanted after my month long break from carbs! The thick fluffy fresh ciabatta bread with is deep cavernous pockets was the perfect vessel for the creamy and rich slather of butter and love and cheese. It was the ultimate treat to share with my Valentines. We might just have to celebrate everyday!

White Cheddar Pesto Garlic Bread

Let me begin by saying there are just a few ingredients in this dish so make them count! I am not a snob about food but for this kind of splurge you really want to make it good...and it will be if you follow my lead.

1 loaf of fresh ciabatta bread, sliced in half lengthwise
4 Tbsp room temp butter
1 clove of garlic chopped, then smashed with the back of a knife with a pinch of salt until it becomes a paste
4 Tbsp good mayo- we use Dukes
4 Tbsp store bought pesto (you can use homemade if you have some)
1/2 cup freshly grated white cheddar- luckily for you it is rare to find white cheddar pre-shredded so you won't be tempted to skip this step. Freshly grated is ALWAYS the way to go!
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl combine the butter, garlic, mayo and pesto. Spread it evenly on both sides of the bread. If you have a large loaf then add a bit more butter and pesto to make it go further.
Top the bread with the cheeses then give it a nice sprinkle of fresh black pepper.

Place it on a cookie sheet or pizza stone and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted. Then, turn your oven to broil and let it sit for about 30 seconds until the edges start to get brown and crunchy.
Cut into large wedges and gobble up.

Enjoy Y'all!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I'm Melting- Thai Peanut Noodles with Chicken

At the start of this year the salesman and I embarked on a new eating journey. We took everything that we loved to eat and decided to not eat it. And I mean everything. We started a nutritional system (will not mention any names) that you use alongside healthy eating. This has rocked our world. I never thought about committing murder for a grilled cheese until now. The thought of chocolate cake can make me become a crazy woman. I find myself chanting, "bacon, bacon, bacon" in my sleep. We are basically eating no carbs, no sugar, no caffeine, no dairy, no salt...should I go on? Torture. For a girl like me this is tough. They call it a challenge because that is what it is. I thought I liked veggies but the thought of no creams or cheese to smother them in is hard. I have had to really adjust my cooking and put some recipes to the test in order to please all of my eaters at the table. One of our favorite dishes to eat pre-diet was a Thai peanut dish. I love the balance of sweet and heat and it was a great meal to cook for a huge crowd. Since peanut butter is part of our new healthy eating, Organic low salt no sugar added peanut butter that is, I decided to see if I could refine the recipe to fit the new bill. And it worked! I don't know if it was because this was the first carb dish I had had in three weeks or if it was because I was so hungry by this point in the night that I would have eated a paper plate, but we loved it. I felt guilty at first since it tasted so good but then I remembered that it was good for I decided to go back for seconds. This is a great fiber friendly, low sugar, low fat crowd pleasing meal. Does it get any better than that?

Thai Peanut Noodles with Chicken

2 Roasted Chicken Breasts- Don't know how? Check it out:
Yellow Rose Cafe: Canned or Not Canned....there is no question! - Roasted Chicken
2 whole carrots- grated (mine are thin sliced but grated is best)
1 cup sugar snap peas- cut in thirds
1/2 box whole grain thin spaghetti noodles
1/3 cup natural peanut butter- we use Smuckers and keep it upside down in the fridge
2 tsp Agave nectar
5-6 dashes Texas Pete or Louisiana Hot Sauce
2 Tsp (or to taste) low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 diced garlic clove
1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro, reserve back 2 tsp
1/4 -1/3 cup chopped peanuts or cashews

Shred the chicken and place in a large bowl. Toss in the grated carrot and cilantro.

In a large pot,cook the noodles in salted water until al dente, about 6-8 minutes. I typically add 1 Tbsp of salt to the water.

In a small skillet, saute the sugar snap peas in a splash of olive oil until tender, about 3-5 minutes. If you like the tasted of raw peas then don't bother. Once cooked, throw in to the bowl with your chicken then place the skillet back on the stove on low heat. To the pan add the peanut butter, Agave, Texas Pete, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar and juice of 1.5 limes. Gently simmer until it is all combined. Add to it 1/4 cup of hot water and stir until you have a good consistency. Taste as you go along. If you want it sweeter, add a splash more agave. If you like more heat, add Texas Pete. If you like more salt, add soy sauce. Get the point?

Once the noodles are cooked, scoop them into the pot of chicken carrot mixture with a pasta scoop if you have one. You don't want to drain the noodles totally because you want some of the water left on them to help with the sauce. Throw the sauce into the bowl and toss it around. Squeeze the remaining lime over the top, pour into your bowl and top off with the chopped peanuts and reserved cilantro.

Enjoy Y'all!