I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Taking on Ace of Cakes--Red Velvet Cake and Marshmallow Fondant

Ok, maybe not really. But isn't our cake pretty?

I have always been obsessed with watching the Food Network. I love all of the little hints/tips/tricks that I have learned from watching it. I love my expanded food/recipe knowledge I have from watching it. I love to just have it on in the background as I go about my day. But my husband has not always felt the same way. Don't get me wrong, he loves to eat (not quite as much as I do :), but he has never had an overwhelming desire to sit down and watch Food Network. "Ace of Cakes" has changed that.

Joe is an artist and I think that is why this show appeals to him so much. We love to sit and watch episode after episode of these crazy kids building amazing and amazingly beautiful cakes. I sometimes thing Joe may host a secret yearning to run away and join the "Ace of Cakes" crew. And he has a very not-so-secret yearning to someday receive a Charm City cake.

Since Joe's birthday is this week, I figured it would be a lot of fun to work together on his cake so he could get his own "Ace of Cakes" experience. I also thought it would be a good way for me to redeem myself for my ugly Brown Velvet Cupcakes and to try out a Marshmallow Fondant recipe I found on Confections of a Foodie Bride (if you haven't yet checked out her blog, you really should--no really. Go there now. I can wait.).
So, we made the cake, frosted it with a little cream cheese frosting (store bought--I was feeling a little lazy since we were already making cake and a frosting. We only used a little anyway), and then went to town with the decorating. This was such a fun project and I can't wait to do it again. Maybe someday we really will have an actual "Ace of Cakes" showdown :).

Red Velvet Cake
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Grease two 9 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Cream shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar WELL. Add eggs and beat well.
Make a paste of cocoa and red food coloring. Add to creamed mixture. Mix salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla and buttermilk together. Add alternately the flour with the milk mixture to the creamed mixture. Mix soda and vinegar and FOLD INTO CAKE BATTER. DON'T BEAT OR STIR NOW.
Bake for 30 minutes. (I actually had to bake about 45 minutes)

Marshmallow Fondant
(confections of a Foodie Bride)
16 oz bag plain marshmallows (the small ones, not the jumbo ones)
2 Tbsp water
shortening, for greasing bowls
1-2 tsp flavoring
2 lb confectioner’s sugar, divided
pinch of salt

Grease a microwave safe bowl, a spoon, the dough hook, and the bowl of your stand mixer with shortening (grease it well).
Place the marshmallows and water in the greased microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Stir with the greased spoon. If all the marshmallows have not melted, microwave for 30 seconds more. Stir in flavoring.
Place confectioner’s sugar and salt in the stand mixer bowl, reserving 1 cup, and make a well in the center. Pour in the marshmallow mix and turn the mixer on to the lowest setting. When it sounds strained, increase the mixer speed up one setting. Turn off the mixer once all sugar has been incorporated. If the fondant is sticky, add the reserved confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time.
Turn fondant out onto plastic wrap. Rub a bit of shortening on the outside of the ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, place in a ziploc bag, and let rest for at least 2-3 hours. Keep unused portions covered when not using. If the fondant becomes stiff, place in microwave for 20 seconds at a time until pliable.
Roll out on a greased mat/fondant circle to the desired thickness.
(To get the colored fondant, I kneaded in food coloring into small batches of the frosting. Yes, my hands are green today.)

Stuffed Mushrooms, Grilled Pork Chop Rub, and Baked Potato Soup

Yes, perhaps this combination of food for dinner is a little weird. But when it tastes so good does it matter?

I have recently started running. I would like to run the New York Marathon. Maybe crazy, but it is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. It is one of those things I really want to do even more after living in the city. Last year I was leaving a bar after watching a Chiefs game and all of these people were walking down Ninth Avenue after finishing the race. It was so inspiring and I haven't been able to rid myself of the drive and desire since that day. Plus, how cool is it that the race goes through all five boroughs? Since I started training/running again a couple of weeks ago it feels really good. I have more energy, my stress levels are lower, and I actually feel happier and healthier. But it is giving me weird cravings, which result in pairings for dinner that maybe I wouldn't normally do. Like a hearty soup that could be dinner in itself paired with grilled meat and stuffed mushrooms that are usually an appetizer as a side.
Stuffed Mushrooms
2 lb. Large Mushrooms
2 cloves garlic finely diced
1/4 cup butter
8 oz. bulk pork sausage
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)

Remove stems from mushrooms, reserve caps. Finely chop stems and saute' in butter with garlic until both are golden. Add sausage and saute' until brown. Stir in bread crumbs, cheese and parsley. Stuff each cap with mixture. Place in broiling pan that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Broil 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are bubbly and brown.

Grilled Pork Chop Rub
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 t. ground coriander
1 t. chili powder
1/4 t. dried sage
2 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried oregano
1 1/2 t. dried onion flakes
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil

Mix together all ingredients. Rub on pork chop and allow to sit for at least 2 hours. Let pork chop sit at room temperature for 45 minutes before grilling.

Baked Potato Soup
3 large russet potatoes
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
2 c. milk
1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4 green onions, chopped
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Clean and peel potatoes and cut into medium sized chunks. Boil in salted water until cooked through. Pour into a sieve (you do not need to retain the cooking water).
In a large soup pan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes. The add the flour and whisk briskly for about 5 minutes, forming a roux. Whisk in the milk. Cook for another 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until milk thickens slightly. Add the potatoes to the pan. Using a potato masher, carefully mash the potatoes in the soup to desired consistency.
Add the sour cream, cheddar cheese, and green onions to the soup and continue to let cook.
When soup is heated all the way through, add salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving, stir in the crumbled bacon. Extra green onions, cheese, sour cream and bacon can be used for garnish.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grandma's Chocolate Sheet Cake (aka Texas Sheet Cake)

This is another recipe that will always, always remind me of home, holidays and family. It is one of those desserts that I never ate except at grandma's during a large family gathering. In fact, I never knew anyone else ever made this type of cake until I came across them on some cooking boards and blogs last year. But it will always be one of my favorites. This sheet cake is rich and moist and just perfectly chocolaty.
I did make a mistake in making it by putting it into a 9X13" baking dish instead of a large sheet pan, but I just had to cook it for about 45 minutes instead of the recommended 10-15. It still turned out just as moist and delicious (and with a little thicker layer of frosting). And you really couldn't ask for an easier recipe.

Grandma's Chocolate Sheet cake

2 c. flour

2 c. sugar

1 t. baking soda

pinch of salt

2 sticks butter

1 c. water

4 t. cocoa

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

2/3 c. buttermilk

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a saucepan, heat butter, water and cocoa and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Pour into a 11X17" sheet pan and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes (or into a 9X13" baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes).


1 stick butter

4 TB cocoa

6 TB buttermilk

1 lb powdered sugar

Heat butter, cocoa and buttermilk in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and mix together with the powdered sugar (and 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans if desired). Pour over cake while hot and allow to sit at least 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Asparagus, Tomato and Feta Tart; Mushroom Creamy Chicken

I've been trying to have a plan in mind before I go to the grocery store these days so I don't get home without ingredients I need and waste a lot of time. But there are days when I just cannot decide what I want to make.

For this dinner I knew that I wanted to try out a tart, but wasn't sure what I wanted to put in it. I figured I would see which veggies or fruit looked good once I got to the grocery store. That ended up being some asparagus and grape tomatoes. And then I couldn't help but pick up some feta cheese to add to the mix. For the main course I just had no idea. But when I got to the store and started wandering around I had a flash of a meal past--I recalled the delicious richness of a cream cheese chicken recipe that flashed around blogs and cooking boards last year. Since I didn't have the recipe with me, I figured I would just make something up. I still don't know where that original recipe is (I lost my recipe file when our computer got stolen last year), but this version is a good substitute.

Asparagus, Tomato, and Feta Tart
1 flaky butter crust recipe (below)
16 stalks asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in half
14 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 package crumbled feta cheese
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 c. Heavy whipping cream
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 375.
Blanch the asparagus spears in boiling, salted water for 4-5 minutes.
Roll out the dough and place into a 9" tart pan and trim the edges. Take the asparagus spears and lay them into the crust filling up as many spaces as possible, but trying not to overlap (lay them in a circular pattern). Sprinkle on half of the feta cheese.
Mix together the egg yolk and the heavy cream. Pour this mixture over the asparagus. Top off the tart with the rest of the feta cheese and the grape tomato halves.
Place tart in oven and cook for 45 minutes or until firm. Allow to sit at least 10 minutes before serving.

Flaky Butter Crust
(from Emeril)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
To make with a food processor, combine the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 10 seconds and add the ice water. Pulse quickly 5 or 6 more times until the dough comes together. Remove the dough and place on a floured surface. Using your hands, work the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
To make by hand, combine the flour and butter in a medium bowl, and mix with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough comes together and is no longer dry, being careful not to over mix. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface according to the recipe, then allow to rest again in the refrigerator before baking.

Mushroom Creamy Chicken
3 TB cooking oil
5 boneless, skinless chicken tenders
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. dry vermouth
1 package cream cheese
1/4 c. heavy cream
3 TB butter

Heat the cooking oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and when the oil is hot add the chicken to the pan to sear each side (about 2 minutes on each side). Remove chicken from pan.
Add mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Saute until golden, then add the dry vermouth. Cook down, about 2 minutes. Add in the cream cheese, cream, and butter and cook, stirring constantly, until the cream cheese has been "melted" and incorporated into the sauce.
Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook until chicken is cooked through, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Serve the chicken and sauce over noodles or rice.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Brown Velvet Cupcakes??

You know what it's like: you are surfing through your favorite blogs and all you can think of are those beautiful baked goods. Fluffy cakes, fruity tarts, scrumptious candies, and, I think the favorite of all, the incredible cupcakes. I can't look at blogs without getting that baking urge deep in my gut. Last week was one of those days that I couldn't get rid of it. After much thought, I decided I would try out a red velvet cupcake. My husband loves red velvet cake and I've never tried to make it myself--plus I thought it would look really pretty on my blog.
I was wrong.

I searched for a recipe that would be the best and came across one from Magnolia Bakery. Now I have had Magnolia's red velvet cake and it is delicious. I was so excited to make this recipe in my home. My first mistake, however, was not reading the reviews on the recipe.

Don't get me wrong--the cupcakes were not bad, but it definitely was not the most amazing red velvet that I have ever tasted.

My second mistake? In the food coloring. The recipe called for 6 TB of red food coloring (really?? I think this must be a huge mistake in the recipe--so not all my fault). I did not have 6 TB of red food coloring. I had 2 TB. Not even close. I figured I didn't need all 6, but the cocoa wasn't mixing together easy enough, so I thought I needed at least a little more liquid in there. Instead of using a drop or two of water (which was my first thought) I decided to use a little of the blue food coloring. I figured I'd make pretty purple cupcakes. But no. As soon as I added that blue food coloring everything turned black. I was so shocked and frustrated that I almost threw the whole thing out. But I ploughed on and hoped they'd turn out ok anyways.

They looked like rich chocolate cupcakes, but didn't taste like rich chocolate cupcakes. I think part of the charm of the red velvet cupcake is it's rich color and with it looking like something else your taste buds are thrown a little off guard. Luckily Joe's coworkers didn't seem to mind.
So, if anyone wants to let me in on a great red velvet recipe, I'd love to try these again. And maybe next time they'll actually be red.