I baked a cake, and it deserves a blog post

B6RtrmlCMAEXuha
This photo was appropriated from The Brown Elephant’s twitter feed. You should follow them. And shop there. @HbBrownElephant

First, there’s an elephant in the room (and I don’t mean that photo)… It’s been a minute since I posted on this blog. You might think that a January 1 post is meant as a comeback, or that I’m making a resolution to bake and blog more in 2015.

Nope.

I’m not into making promises I can’t keep. But, I DID recently pay to have this domain renewed, and in light of that, plus a day off and a magnificent Pinterest fail, I thought I’d come off of my crafty sabbatical for a day and share my space cake with you.

It might be the only post of 2015. Maybe. But it’s worth it.

One day last spring, I saw a solar system cake on Pinterest and a theme for the annual NYE party was born.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to find said recipe, to no avail. But then I found this Jupiter cake, which seemed like a way better idea. On top of that, I collected all the necessary goods to make cake pop moons to orbit around Jupiter.

Yesterday at about 4:30pm I realized that all the ingredients were in metric and the battery on my kitchen scale was dead. Rather than do lots and lots of math while sipping leftover Eggnog, I ditched the Jupiter bit, made a big round cake covered in yellow frosting, and stuck cake pop planets into it with a jimmy asteroid belt.

This is what remained of the space cake when I woke up the next morning. No one ate the Earth. Because my party guests are respectful. The green blob is Africa, duh.
This is what remained of the space cake when I woke up the next morning. No one ate the Earth, because my party guests are respectful. The green blob is Africa, duh.

All things considered, I call it a space cake win. And not at all worthy of this list. Should you want to make your own attempt, here are the deets:

Fudgy Cake Pops (Modified from the cake pop pan package directions):

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used half a block of semi-sweet baking chocolate instead)
  • 1/2 C. butter
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 TB Cocoa
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • lollipop sticks
  • 24 oz. chocolate bark coating (I used more baking chocolate)

Directions (to make my whole space cake extravaganza, double the recipe):

  1. Preheat oven to 325-deg F. Grease and flour both sides of your cake pop pan. And don’t listen to any of that garbage on the Internet saying that you need a cake pop maker. That’s a glorified waffle iron – a uni-tasker that takes up way too much precious cupboard space. Don’t do it. Just get the pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Add sugar and cocoa, stir until blended. Add eggs one at a time, stirring as you go.
  4. Add flour and salt, stir until blended.
  5. Fill each well of the bottom side of the cake pop pan with a heaping tablespoon of batter. Place the top side of the pan and lock into place. Bake 15-20 minutes.
  6. Cool the pan on a wire rack 2-3 minutes, and then transfer the pops to the rack. Meanwhile, pour the remaining batter into a round 8″ greased and floured pan. Bake approximately 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Melt the remaining chocolate in a pan. Dip the top of the lollipop sticks into the chocolate and push halfway into each pop. The chocolate is like glue to keep the sticks in the pops.
  8. Frost, dip, or decorate as desired. I included Pluto, because, debates about its planetary relevance aside, why not have more cake pops?

Lemon Frosting (adapted from Betty Crocker’s cookbook):

Ingredients and Directions:

  • Blend together 2 C. of confectioner’s sugar with 1/4 C. room temperature butter
  • Stir in approximately 2-3 TB heavy cream and 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • Add a few drops of yellow or orange food coloring (because this is going to be the sun)

So the rest is pretty intuitive. Frost the cake when it’s cool, add your sprinkle asteroid belt, and decorate your planets, sticking the pops into the sun. The dusted black plate adds a star-studded stratosphere to the whole thing.

#winning, and Happy New Year.

 

Advertisements

Football food: Pulled Pork and Coleslaw

In my household, football is a big deal.  My coping mechanism has been to come up with meal ideas that celebrate what I consider to be the best part of football season: food, beer, and the occasional social gathering.  I first got the idea of pulled pork in the slow cooker from our friend Mandy Love in Gillette, WY (who’s kids made it for dinner, I might add (that’s how easy this is)).  I paired the sandwiches with a delicious slaw of my own invention.  I’ve tried out this cabbage slaw on three people who “don’t like coleslaw”… and it’s worked every time.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Pork Roast (approximately 3 lb.)
  • 1-2 C. Chicken Stock (homemade, of course)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Mandy’s Special Sauce*
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Onion powder
    • Ketchup
    • Honey
  • *OR* pre-made BBQ sauce

Put the sliced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Rest the pork roast on top and pour chicken stock over it.  Season with salt and pepper and cook on low for 5-7 hours.

Remove the roast from the cooker and dispose of the liquid and onions.  When cool enough to handle, tear into shreds and return to the cooker.  Add sauce and heat on low or warm setting until ready to serve. Mandy didn’t give me specific quantities for her ingredients, and I have to imagine that this sauce can be made a thousand different ways and still be good.  So play around with it until you find the combination you like.

Not-from-the-Grocery-Store Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cabbage (red, green, napa, no matter), cut in small strips (chiffonade)
  • Big glob of mayo, light mayo, or Miracle Whip
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add-ins: my favorites include shredded carrots, diced tart apple (like granny smith or macintosh), walnuts, dried cranberries, and grapes (sliced in half).  Pickled beets are also a great treat in this recipe.

Fluff cabbage in a bowl and mix in mayo and salt and pepper.  The amounts of these ingredients is kind of up to you, but I suggest not going too heavy on the mayo… that’s what makes it taste like it’s from the grocery store.  Just enough that the cabbage isn’t dry.  Fold in the other ingredients and enjoy, or chill and eat later once the flavors have combined.  Eat as a side, or mix in some protein like leftover chicken or pork and take it for lunch in place of a sandwich!

Recipe for the Perfect Picnic

Brie.

Grapes.

Italian bread.

Wine. Red.

Add a little greenery, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a bumpin’ twitter feed and a few thousand of my closest friends, and this is the making of a beautiful evening.  

People do it up right at The Ravinia Festival.

There’s the mad dash from the gate. The in-fighting over the shaded spots close to the Pavilion.  The pop up tables, real crystal, and vases of flowers.  Everything you’ve heard about Ravinia is true.  It’s at times chaotic and dripping with wealth, but the North Shore folks in khaki pants and claustrophobic lawn quickly fade away once the music kicks in.  You settle into your bottle of wine, gaze up at the trees, and all your worries melt away. 

For just ten bucks, you can sit in the most beautiful back yard in the tri-county area and hear some of the best musicians in the world.  This particular Sunday it happened to be Idina Menzel with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Admittedly sniffly, and suprisingly crass, that bitch can sing.

What a glorious way to spend a summer evening. 

Lauren relaxing on the lawn at Ravinia Festival

What’s in the box… week two

Each time I visit Midnight Sun Farm my back hurts less.

Although, I have to say those ladies who spend all day long bent over in rice paddies must have hamstrings of steel.  My typically workload on farm this time of year consists of weeding…. lots and lots of weeding… and after a few minutes of bending over my legs start to bark and I’ve now started in on the “crawl on your hands and knees” technique.  Very elegant.

What really excites me, though, is when I see the things that I’ve weeded (and a few things I’ve harvested and washed) showing up in my CSA box.

In my box this week were:

  • getting the rainbow chard ready

    salad mix

  • two heads lettuce
  • one bulb fennel
  • green onions
  • rainbow swiss chard
  • Hakuri sweet turnips, and
  • spinach

So, what became of this random box of green goodness?

I made several salads and another stirfry, but the true prize of the week was Frittata Night with my friend Kelly.

I totally made this recipe up based on something I’d seen Chef Giada do on the food network….. this is not really at all close to the recipe, so, it’s a Lauren original, and delicious.

Lauren’s spinach and chard Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small onion, sliced or diced (depending how onion-y you like it)
  • 3 sweet turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small bunch rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 small bunch spinach
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 C. half and half
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 – 4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • bacon bits (the real stuff, not Bacos, people)
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 4-6 sprigs fennel leaves

Directions:

Add 2 TB vegetable oil to a high sided saute pan and heat over medium heat.  Add potatoes and cook until slightly softened and translucent (maybe about 5-7 minutes… just prep the other stuff while you do this and check on them occasionally, turning down the heat if they are starting to brown).

wilty greens ready for the eggs

Meanwhile, separate the leaves of the chard from the woody stem and chop the stems.  Add chard stems, onions, and turnips to the pan and cook another 2-4 minutes.  Add the spinach and chard leaves by the handful, and mix until the greens become dark and wilty.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl with half and half and and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and lower heat to low.  Cook about 5 minutes, covered, and add shredded cheese, bacon, fennel and green onions.  Return lid and cook until the cheese is melted and eggs are set.

I served this gorgeous thing with a side salad of spring mix, kidney and garbanzo beans, strawberries, sunflower seeds, leftover radishes and dried cranberries.  That, and about a bottle of red wine….

And it looked like this:

Lauren’s spinach and chard frittata with strawberry salad

This, friends, was a night to remember!

photos courtesy of Kelly Rose

Fancy fare: Black Forest Ham Crostini

Adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe, this super yum appetizer was easy to make for our NYE party.  Plus, it has great visual impact, looks fancy, and is really delicious.

Black Forest Ham Crostini

Ingredients:

A fresh loaf of skinny french bread

1/3 C. sour cream (reduced-fat still tastes great)

3 TB minced red onion

1 TB horseradish

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Fresh arugula or other green (not too pungent), for garnish

1/4 – 1/2 lb. black forest ham, sliced thinly (I got mine already sliced at the deli counter)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 deg-F.  Thinly slice french bread (about 1″ thick) and place on sprayed baking sheet.  Toast bread in the oven about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, onion, horseradish, and pepper.

Put bread on serving platter, and place one deli slice on each piece of bread.  Add a dollop of sour cream mixture and garnish with arugula or other greens.

Betty knows best: Deviled Eggs

One of my prized possessions is my first edition 1950 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book.

It has amazing tips on how to be a good housewife and decorating a kitchen with polka dots… “Gayest, most colorful of all!”

Though perhaps slightly dated in its approach and it’s recipes (like: miniature pigs in blankets and pineapple marshmallow creme), every recipe I’ve tried out of this book has been amazingly successful.  It just goes to show that when it comes to classic American cooking…. Betty Crocker knows best.

This New Years Eve, I tried making Deviled Eggs for the fist time, much to the delight of my household and, I might add, me.  Simple. Creamy. Delicious.

Betty’s Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

6 eggs (hard-boiled, see below*)

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt, depending on your taste (I like less salty)

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

About 3 TB mayonaise, vinegar, or cream (enough to moisten)

Directions:

Cut hard-boiled eggs in half, slip out the yolks into a small bowl and mash with a fork.  Add the other ingredients and mix until creamy.  Refill egg whites with yolk mixture (you can just spoon it in, or use a pastry bag if you want to be extra fancy).  I like to dust them lightly with Paprika.

There are about 1,000 variations of Deviled Eggs, and you can experiment yourself with curry powder, diced ham, pimentos and the like… but I like them just like this.

If you don’t have a fancy deviled egg tupperware as I do, you can lightly squeeze two halves back together and wrap them in wax paper like a salt water taffy (twisting the sides tightly) for transport.  That is, if you don’t eat all of them before you get to your party.

*Just in case you don’t know how to make hard-boiled eggs, a brief tutorial:

  • Boil water in a pot.  The pot should be large enough for the eggs to sit in a single layer, and fill with enough water to completely cover the eggs.  Add 1 TB vinegar to the pot.
  • Lower eggs into the water one at a time, using a ladle and gently resting them in the water.  Lower the heat to medium-ish.
  • 20 minutes later.
  • Use your ladle again to scoop out the eggs one at a time and place them in a colander.  Place the colander in an ice bath to prevent the eggs from continuing to cook, not to mention they are too hot to handle.

Ringing in 2012

Your RSS feeds will likely be clogged with a bunch of bloggers’ resolutions today.  Rather than bore you with the typical “lose weight, blog more” goals that I share with all my fellow Americans, I shall ease your hangover with a beautiful photo diary of what my New Year’s Eve looked like.

The theme:

A classy beer tasting party.

The setting:

The fabulously retro party basement that lies beneath my humble abode

The menu:

Classic hors d’oeuvres including a fruit and cheese tray, deviled eggs, creamy Mexican dip, black forest ham crostini, homemade peanut brittle, and Dragon’s Milk Stout brownies (recipes to follow for the rest of the week)

Paired with:

Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Unibroue Maudite (amber Belgian-style ale), New Glarus Moon Man, Stone IPA, and a special New Glarus Raspberry Tart for the midnight toast.

Aside: I’ve had many failures in the kitchen, but this shin-dig (I flatter myself) was a delicious success.

Contributing Crafty Lady Nancy took these photos, and selected and sourced the beer pairings….

Black Forest Ham Crostini
Creamy Mexican Dip
Deviled Eggs
Blue cheese, Camembert, Asian pear and a clementine blossom
Milk Stout Brownies