Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ham Quiche

I think I have mentioned before that my family enjoys quiche.  Really, anything in a pie crust is good in my book!  Anyway, this is a very adaptable recipe.  You can pretty much do this with whatever you happen to have in your refrigerator, which is the best kind of recipe, in my opinion!  I developed this recipe after trying some others and figuring out what works best for us!

Sprinkle 1 cup of a mixture of whatever shredded cheeses you like into a pie crust, and top with 1 cup of diced ham.  You could throw in some veggies here too, if you want!

Whisk together eggs, milk, dry mustard, worchestershire sauce and hot sauce and pour over the ham and cheese.  Mix it together gently with your fingertips, being careful not to poke the crust.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.

Bake for 45 minutes and enjoy a delicious meal!

Ham Quiche
1 cup ham (or whatever - any meat or veggie would work!)
1 cup grated cheeses of your preference (for this one, I used cheddar, mozzarella, and a hard goat cheese that we happened to have.  I often add in swiss as well.)
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
a dash or two of hot sauce, optional
grated Parmesan
a few shakes of ground nutmeg
pie dough (I highly recommend THIS recipe - Foolproof Pie Dough)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Roll the pie dough into a circle and lay it into a 9-inch pie pan.  Fold the edges under and crimp or pinch the edges.

Scatter the cheese/s and ham over the bottom of the pie crust.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, dry mustard, worchestershire sauce and hot sauce.  Pour over the ham and cheese, and stir it lightly with your fingertips or a spoon, just enough to get the egg mixture through the cheese.  You could also mix the ham and cheese into the bowl with the eggs, but I think this is more fun!  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, then sprinkle with nutmeg.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing and eating.
Printable Recipe

Give it a try!  I'd love to hear of your favorite combinations!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Birthday Cupcakes

Besides having a birthday celebration with her family and another with her friends, the clever girl also had a celebration at school!  For this one, she requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting!  Happy to oblige!  I made it a bit fancy by sprinkling mini pearls and pink sprinkles on the top of each one - much to the clever girl's delight!  By the way, please excuse the paper plate.  We are moving so I have already packed up all of our dishes!  Sometimes you just have to make do.  (This does not excuse the blurry photo... I can't explain that other than being frazzled and overtired! - Sorry!)

I can't take the credit for making these cupcakes, as the clever girl did most of the work!

Indeed, she says, "I'm the chef"!  She received this awesome chef hat from my mother for her birthday (thanks G!) and she LOVES to wear it and cook.  She also got a super cute chef doll, but that doesn't really have much to do with this blog, though actually the doll IS wearing a skirt with cupcakes on it, so I guess it sort-of goes, in a round about way...

Anyway, when it comes to chocolate cake, I always make Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  I know there are other chocolate cake recipes out there but nothing beats this one.  In fact if you click over to my original post with this cake, it is from the clever girl's birthday last year.  My how my little girl has grown up in a year!  *sigh*  If you don't feel like clicking over there to see the recipe, I am going to go ahead an re-post it here, because it is simply the very best chocolate cake I have EVER had. 

Beatty's Chocolate Cake
adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I use decaf!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line pans with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, slowly add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Printable Recipe

I made Chocolate Buttercream Frosting for these cupcakes.  It is delectable.  Very creamy and chocolaty and really, just perfect!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but not melted
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract OR 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 TB milk or heavy cream

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for a few minutes on medium speed.  Turn off the mixer.  Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar and the cocoa into the mixing bowl on top of the butter.  Stir a little with a rubber spatula just to start things off so you don't coat the kitchen with sugar when you turn on the mixer.  Turn your mixer on to the lowest speed and mix until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the salt, vanilla extract and milk/cream.  Beat for 3 minutes.  If your frosting needs a stiffer consistency, add a bit more sifted sugar.  If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk/cream one tablespoon at a time.
Printable Recipe

If you ever have a need for chocolate cake and/or chocolate frosting, look no further.  Seriously, this is the best.  I gave a cupcake to the woman ordering the shades for our new home and she later told me it was the best cupcake she had ever eaten!  I take no credit.  It is the amazing recipes (and the awesome junior chef)! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Pool Party!

Every year, the clever girl and one of her friends have their birthday parties together.  I am so lucky in that one of my good friends happened to have her first child less than 2 weeks after I had mine!  We have done joint birthday parties for the past 4 years!  Being June, in Texas, the only logical sort of birthday party to have is one that involves water, and my friend happens to have a pool!  Thank goodness!  We have done a princess/pirate party, an under the sea party, a beach party, and now a pool party.  (We have run out of theme ideas!)  Regardless, the main attraction is the pool!

This year, my wonderful friend did almost all of the preparations, since I had just had a baby and was in the midst of moving.  THANK YOU, FRIEND!!  My sole responsibility was the cake.  So I created a pool at the beach cake.  The cake itself is a vanilla buttermilk cake with classic buttercream frosting. 

Here is a list of the other fun cake components:
Sand:  ground graham crackers mixed with white/clear large grain decorating sugar for extra sparkle
Water:  frosting with some blue coloring gel
Beachball:  a peppermint ball
Characters:  honey Teddy Grahams floating in peach gummy rings or laying on  towels made of organic fruit strips cut into tiny rectangles
Cocktail umbrella for the beach umbrella
Toy palm trees from the party supply store

Originally, I was only going to make the cake, but I saw my friend the night before the party and she mentioned that over 30 people had RSVP'd so I freaked out a bit and made a last minute batch of cupcakes!  And I am glad I did - the kids loved the cupcakes and they sure look cute, don't they?

Besides cake, we also had:

 Nutter-Butter flip-flops

Rainbow fruit skewers
This was my friend's idea - brilliant, isn't it?  Colorful and fun!

 Mini-caprese salads (cherry tomato, basil, and mozzarella ball drizzled in balsamic vinegar)

Pasta salad with veggie pasta, veggie cups with ranch dressing at the bottom, jello jigglers (always a huge hit) and Sangria (for the parents, of course!)

Another home run birthday party!  I say, my friend and I have this down to a science now.  What will we ever do if our kids decide they want to have separate birthday parties? 

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
adapted from Sweetapolita

4 whole eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 TB plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottoms and sides of 3 8-inch round cake pans, like bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment rounds.  Dust pans with flour.  (Note:  If you do not have 3 pans and need to reuse one to bake the rest of the cake, make sure you rinse the pan in cold water before re-buttering/flouring.  You don't want to put the batter in a hot pan!)

Whisk the eggs, yolks, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixer bowl.  Add the butter and remaining 1 cup of buttermilk and blend with the mixer on low speed.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  

Add the egg mixture in 3 additions.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl and mix only until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans, using a kitchen scale to achieve 3 even layers.  If you have never done this, you need to make sure you know the weight of your EMPTY mixer bowl first.  Then see what the bowl weighs with all of the batter inside.  Subtract the empty bowl weight from the full bowl weight and you have the weight of the batter.  Divide that by 3 - this is how much batter goes into each cake pan- we'll call this "one layer weight".  Subtract the one layer weight from the full bowl weight.  This is how much your mixing bowl should weigh after you fill the first cake pan.  Subtract the one layer weight again, and this is how much your mixer bowl will weigh after you fill the second cake pan.  If you did your math right, what you have left should be the amount of the empty bowl plus one layer weight!  
For visual learners:
FULL BOWL WEIGHT - ONE LAYER WEIGHT = amount in bowl after first cake pan is filled
FULL BOWL WEIGHT - ONE LAYER WEIGHT - ONE LAYER WEIGHT = amount in bowl after second cake pan is filled, which should be equal to 

Bake the cake layers for 28-32 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let the layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Classic Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Sweetapolita

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 TB vanilla extract
1 TB water
pinch of salt

Beat the butter and sugar on low speed in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just combined.  Increase the speed to medium and beat until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter, about 3 minutes.

Add the whipping cream, vanilla extract, water and salt, and whip on medium-high until fluffy and smooth, about 3 more minutes.  If the consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time and then whip again.  If the consistency is too thin, add more powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency. 

This recipe makes a classic vanilla (white) cake.  It is moist and flavorful and perfect for any birthday (or other celebration) cake, pool party or not!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Easy Chicken Parmesan

Lately, I have been on the lookout for fast, delicious dinners and this one is perfect!  I found the recipe at Mel's Kitchen Cafe (which, if you have never visited, I highly suggest you do so right after reading my post). 

It's easy, its delicious, and it fits the needs of all members of my family.  It is cheesy and involves pasta (we all love pasta!), with lots of sauce and juicy chicken.  Perfect.  The clever girl eats this right up!

Easy Chicken Parmesan
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise to make 6 thinner chicken cutlets
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded provolone or sharp provolone cheese
Hot spaghetti noodles for serving

Combine the garlic, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, sugar, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Rinse and then dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, then season both sides of each piece with salt and pepper.  Place the flour in a shallow bowl and dredge the chicken in the flour, coating both sides.  Gently place the 3-4 of the chicken pieces (whatever fits loosely) in the hot skillet and cook for 3 minutes.  Flip over and cook for another 3 minutes until a golden crust is formed on each side.  The chicken will cook further later, so you do not need to make sure they are cooked through in this step.  Remove the chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Wipe the excess oil from the skillet and pour the tomato mixture into the skillet.  Be careful, as the skillet might still be hot!  Turn the heat to medium and gently nestle the browned chicken into the sauce, making room for all of the chicken pieces.  The chicken should be mostly covered with sauce.  Cover the skillet and simmer on medium or medium-low for 15 minutes.  If the chicken is sticking to the skillet, turn the heat down a bit.  Now is a good time to cook your pasta noodles.

Remove the lid from the skillet and sprinkle the mozzarella, provolone, and remaining Parmesan over the chicken and sauce.  Cover again and cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. 

Serve over hot spaghetti noodles.
Printable Recipe

An easy weeknight meal.  What is better?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daring Bakers - Swedish Prinsesstarta

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers' host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstarta!  Though I haven't been able to participate in a Daring Bakers challenge in a while, when I saw the June challenge, Swedish Princesstarta, I knew this challenge would have to be met.  It just so happens that my little princess, a.k.a the clever girl, turned 5 in early June I had a suspicion that she would really enjoy a princess cake.  So, I didn't do this challenge on time (supposed to be posted on May 27), but the challenge was met anyway!

I did offer the clever girl another birthday treat that I thought she would enjoy, but let's be honest, when she heard the words "princess" and "cake" together, nothing else would do!  And I am so glad this is what she chose because it was DELICIOUS.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Vanilla Pineapple Compote

YUM.  Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Vanilla Pineapple Compote.  This is seriously delicious.  My dinner group recently got together, and the theme this time was "gourmet picnic".  I was on my own that weekend, as Mr. Clever Mom was traveling, so I had both kids thus very little time to devote to being in the kitchen.  I  knew I had to make something that could be put together pretty easily, which can be a tall order for anything "gourmet".  But then I thought of cheesecake.  Cheesecake is one of those things you mix together and then just throw in the oven.  But I had to fancy it up a bit, so I found this recipe for Goat Cheese Cheesecake and man, am I glad I did!  I am not actually a cheesecake fan.  I never order it for dessert and never make them.  But I was intrigued by the goat cheese idea so I went with it.  Wow.  If all cheesecake was like this, I might be a convert!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Savarin

 Hmmm, for some reason this never posted as scheduled.....

Our recipe challenge for Tuesdays with Dorie this week was a Savarin!  If you, like me, have no idea what a Savarin might be, let me give you a little lesson.  A Savarin is a cake made with baba dough in a ring mold.  Helpful?  Ha!  Not so much.  A baba is a yeast dough that is airy like a sponge.  It is baked and then soaked in a syrup (often rum, for baba au rhum).  In the 1800s, a baba was baked in a ring mold for gastronome Brillat-Savarin, and there the cake got it's name. 

I do not own a savarin mold and did not take this opportunity to increase my already large baking supplies.  So I baked my savarin in the bottom of a Bundt pan.  Three times. 

Let's talk about this a minute.  I actually baked this savarin THREE TIMES.  Yes, indeed, you read that correctly.  I made it the first time and forgot a step, so that one (which resembled more of a frisbee than a cake) went into the trash.  So I made it again, and paid more attention this time.  (Let me assure you, this recipe is not complicated at all, I was simply doing too much multitasking the first time around.)  The second batch did rise, but not very much.  It was still pretty sad looking.  I then watched a video of the recipe author, David Blom, making this savarin with Julia.  The only thing I saw that was different in the video is that he did not mix the dough as long as the recipe states.  I set savarin number 2 aside and made another, following the instructions as stated on the video.  Savarin number 3 turned out identical to savarin number 2.  What gives?  I have no clue.