Monday, June 29, 2009

Choose Veg

Just over a year ago I was introduced to the book: "The China Study" by my husband's cousin's wife Mischele. It is a compilation of the findings of the most comprehensive study ever conducted on nutrition.

The book completely changed my beliefs about food, the body and genetics. Consequently, at the same time I became heavily involved in politics and over the course of a the past year have pretty much have resigned myself to the belief that everything is a government conspiracy - but that's another blog...

Needless to say, I wholeheartedly recommend reading this book. In fact, two Christmas' ago I gave everyone in our families a copy of this book; I'm pretty sure no one read it...but that's totally OK! this is just my choice. It's interesting to me what a source of contention food choices can illicit amongst friends.

While we are on the topic, I also recommend watching the film, "The Future of Food" free on Hulu.

As is apparent from reading my blog, my extreme attachment to cream and butter has thus far prevented me from giving over fully to the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, but I have tried to limit my consumption of animal food sources to less than 2 meals per week and infiltrate my cupboards with whole fruits and grains. We no longer purchase processed foods, and though I can't loosen my grasp on my ½ gallon of heavy whipping cream (for baking - really!), we choose water over milk.

Yesterday, we visited Mischele's family for dinner and were asked to bring dessert to the feast. I was so excited to dust off my cookbook: "Vegan with a Vengeance" that I hadn't yet found occasion for it to allow inspiration, and create something fanciful.

Cupcakes: Pineapple Princess

Mischele has two of the most adorable little girls in all of Utah, so I knew these cupcakes had to be pink!
¼ cup canola oil
1 ¼ cups pineapple tidbits and juice
cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix together until smooth

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Stir together until flour is thoroughly incorporated
Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full
Sprinkle tops of batter with shredded coconut flakes
Bake at F350°, 15-18 minutes

2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Your favorite food coloring, as desired

Mix ingredients together with beaters until smooth, add extra oil as needed to develop texture
Spoon frosting into a piping bag (I used a ziplock bag with a large tip cut off)
Pipe frosting in large swirls in center of cupcake, sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes, and adorn with single raspberry

Your little girls will go crazy over this (relatively) healthy treat!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm baaack!

The things I always remember about moving are the fun parts; purging all the old collections of forgotten items left hidden after they have fallen behind furniture, replacing favorite possessions you wouldn't otherwise justify spending the money on, and venturing recklessly into the unknown with wild abandon.

I dismiss the memory of how many boxes it takes to pack up the hundreds of books you can't bear to part with and begin to sob simply at the mere thought of leaving them behind, or how heavy that Zelda Treasure Chest is that Gabriel constructed for me on my 24th birthday.

The best part about moving is the unexpected surprise of a beautiful kitchen with a flat surface oven and granite counter tops.

What is your favorite (or least favorite) part about moving?

Though I wanted to christen my new oven by baking a dazzling square cake in my new pan, unfortunately we experienced a typical whirlwind moving cataclysm and suddenly I realized today was the posting date for June's Daring Bakers' Challenge!

The June Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Tart: Bakewell Pudding
This was a fun little dessert, made better by the fact that we got to share it with my sister's family in the backyard, lying on hand-quilted blankets by starlight, serenaded by crickets.

1 cup flour
cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Sift together

Rub together 4oz. of grated butter with flour mixture until it resembles bread crumbs

Lightly whisk 2 egg yolks and ½ teaspoon almond extract together, and mix with flour mixture
Add 2 tablespoons water, and mix until mixture comes together and is slightly sticky

Refrigerate for 30 minutes

Roll to ¼", and lay into a 9" tart pan
Refrigerate for 15 minutes

Fruit Layer:

Spread ¼ to 1 cup of fruit jam evenly over bottom of crust
*I did not have any jam on hand, so I pureed 2 peaches with ¼ cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla

4.5oz butter
¼ cup + 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Cream together

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and 1 teaspoon almond extract

¼ cup + 1 teaspoon flour
½ cup ground almonds
Beat mixture until thick and smooth

Spread evenly over fruit layer
Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over the frangipane, and a touch of cinnamon

Bake at 400°F, for 25-30 minutes
Let cool in oven for 15 minutes
Serve at room temperature with sliced fruit and whipped cream

Friday, June 12, 2009

Housewarming Gifts

A few months back I credited Evan at Butter Cakes for sharing her ingenious idea for making decorative carrots out of Starburst candies. Since then, I have become an avid reader and follower of hers. I was sold on her creativity after the Starburst contribution... but then I saw this:

This incredible assembly is entirely handcrafted by her whimsically artistic fingers! I dare you to tell me your jaw is not on the floor, and that you don't need a spatula to lift it back up. My little nephew turned 4 this week, and what I wouldn't give to have to been there to make this cake for him! Click on the picture to get more details on this fabulous cake!

If that isn't enough, Evan held a contest a few weeks back giving away a 6" Fat Daddios square pan that is 4" deep!
#1: I've always wanted to make a square cake that I didn't have to piece together from my casserole dish!
& #2: Did you read that it's 4" deep! That's an easy 3 layers with one swing!

Needless to say, I was elated when she announced that I was the winner! She even wrote me a personalized email with instructions on how to achieve the best results with this pan.

When it arrived, I couldn't wait to tear into the package. And then... I saw it... It is a beauty!

It's sheer torture having to wait to use it, but... I've decided it's worth deserves to be used as a christening device to break in my new oven, in our new home, to be forever dubbed the housewarming, welcome home, surprise and celebration treat pan!

Thank you Evan! I'm still grinning that big smile seen in the photo above!

Did you catch that? Announcement! Announcement! We are moving! Gabriel accepted a position at Avalanche/Disney Interactive in Salt Lake City, Utah! Only 1 more week in Portland, and then we embark on the one way ticket road trip to Utah! Hence forth, if I ever go a few days without blogging - you'll know where I am... enjoying Caramel Apples on Main St. USA!

Now... tell me, what cake should I bake in my wonderful new pan?!

P.S. Don't forget to vote for me at the BlogLuxe Awards, Tastiest Blog!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Don't Forget Me

S'mores seem to the blogging theme of June, and as I don't want to be left out, I thought I would throw (one of) my recipe(s) into the mix. Though I realize I'm not alone in this proclamation, I'll say it anyway: I love s'mores.

Growing up my brother and sisters and I had the only two things every child needs; a fire pit and a trampoline. In the winter our trampoline was at home in the corner of the backyard, resting a few feet below the deck in a special circular outfit specifically designed to house it... but, in the summer our trampoline was moved onto the deck unveiling a ring of stones.

Nothing will ever be so special to me than a ring of stones. It is this that brings back the fondest childhood memories for me, sitting around the fire pit cooking hot dogs and spending time together as a family waiting for the embers to burn, patiently stacking graham crackers and chocolate.

Thankfully, this is a tradition that has been passed on through three generations so far, serving as the cornerstone of any family event.

My favorite kitchen S'more concoction is actually Campfire Cookies, but those will have to wait until August's Recipe Swap. Speaking of... don't forget to submit your favorite summer salad recipes for June's Recipe Swap.

These chewy, ooey, gooey brownies are a crowd favorite, and so simple you'll wish they were more complicated so that you had an excuse to stay out of them.

Brownies: Campfire
Topping: Toasted Marshmallows
Glaze: Chocolate

Make your favorite brownie recipe batter
Pour half the batter into a rectangular pan, lay whole graham crackers side by side on top of the batter

Cover with remaining batter
Bake as directed

When cooked through, layer top of brownies with mini marshmallows and turn the oven to broil
Place brownies on top rack and let marshmallows toast (I like mine a bit on the crispy side)
Remove from oven and drizzle with melted chocolate
Marble the chocolate and marshmallows

P.S. Don't forget to vote for me at the BlogLuxe Awards, Tastiest Blog!

Monday, June 8, 2009

On the Grill

I've still got cheesecake on the brain from the April's Daring Bakers Challenge, despite trying to purge my seemingly insatiable need to whip cream cheese with a count of four since March. This time, I experimented with pineapple.

I'm severely dedicated to pineapple; and there is nothing quite so enchanting to me as grilled pineapple.

Cheesecake: Hawaiian
Crust: Coconut Cookie

¼ cup crushed Nilla Wafers
¼ cup crushed Rice Krispies
¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
3 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons butter
Press into bottom of 9" springform pan
Bake at F325° for 7 minutes
Sprinkle layer of shredded coconut over crust, and cook for additional 2 minutes

24oz. cream cheese
½ granulated sugar
½ brown sugar
Whip together until smooth

3 egg yolks, one at a time
Juice from 16oz. can of pineapple slices, or approx 2 cups
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk 3 egg whites to soft peaks, fold into batter

Pour over crust and bake at F250° for 65-80 minutes
Let cool in oven, heat off, for one hour
Run knife along edges of pan, before removing

Grill pineapple slices over briquettes and adorn cake

We enjoyed this cheesecake at the park with friends, and it was a sensory delight that mimicked our good feelings of warm friendship, uninhibited conversation and liberating play.

P.S. Don't forget to vote for me at the BlogLuxe Awards, Tastiest Blog!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Honor is All Mine

I was shocked to learn that I was nominated for a
Blog Luxe Award: Tastiest Blog!

Truth be told, I never knew there were Blog Awards!
Every day I learn something new and exciting about the blogging community,
and this is definitely classified as new and exciting!!

I'm a far cry from having the top number of votes,
but if you enjoy reading about my baking experiences,
click above to make your way over there!!!
P.S. I'd love you forever, and ever and ever... and then some!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

8 Mile

I've never struggled so much with a cake. I feel like I traveled 8 miles, walking barefoot, over sand dunes during a sandstorm, while making this cake.

Cake: 8 Mile Chocolate
Frosting: Cream Cheese
Why 8 miles, specifically?, because this is an eight layer cake.

I recently accepted a calling as the Young Women's Advisor in our ward; we only have a handful of girls in our ward, so we all meet together. One of the suggested guidelines for teaching is to always try and include the young women's values as often as possible.

I think, of course, there is nothing better than to pair a lesson with cake.

Mile 1: Our lesson was titled: "Reaching Out to Others", and through the course of the lesson we discussed how, and most importantly why, to befriend those who we may not otherwise think we have that much in common with.

Mile 2: The arduous journey began the evening prior, at then end of a blistering day, in my microscopic kitchen at a temperature of 125°. I knew the temperature would have an effect, but I had no choice so I cleared out the top shelf of the fridge and hoped for the best.

Mile 3: Eight layers meant four cakes, each sliced in half. The first set of cakes looked beautiful, but as I flipped them right side up after baking, I discovered that I had under baked them. Fortunately, at this point the second set of cakes were still in the oven, so I was careful not to make the same mistake, but realized though it was already stifling hot the the oven would need to remain on for at least another ½ hour.

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
½ cup oil
Mix until elements are of the same consistency

Add 6 egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition and 1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt 2oz. bakers unsweetened chocolate in 1 cup water, stir to smooth

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Stir dry ingredients into batter
Add 1 ½ cups buttermilk, whisk to smooth
Stir in additional 1 cup flour

Whisk 6 egg whites to firm peaks and fold into batter
Pour batter evenly into two greased and lined 9" round cake pans

Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch
Run knife along edge of pan, and cool on wire rack
Repeat, for 2 more cakes

Mile 4: Then I observed, for the first time ever, I was out of baking chocolate! Having already made two trips to the store for ingredients I opted to use melted chocolate chips instead of running off to the store. Though the taste was OK, the color did not achieve a rich, deep brown to match the first six layers, but instead remained a muddy, dirty, grayish brown.

Earlier in the day, during one of my trips to the store, I found a smaller version of a cake leveler at Michael's, for just $3! I've always wanted a cake leveler, and I figured at that price I was foolish not to add it to my set of baking tools (I'd only ever seen the over sized versions for large sheet cakes, a size that would be completely inappropriate for my use). I was extremely excited to put it to work, so I quickly tore off the packaging and sliced through the first cake; the same cake that was under baked. Fortunately, one half of the cake was cooked clear through and was salvageable.

Mile 5: Inspecting the leveled half of the cake, it looked a bit skewed to me, but I trusted the leveler and chalked my observation up to the sweltering heat, mounting frustration and accumulating exhaustion. It was when I reached layer six that I realized the cake looked skewed... because the leveler was a notch higher on the right side than it was on the left (notice the orange/green frosting melding into one)! Never trust a setting straight from the store!!

This cake looked like a disaster, and normally I would be abhorred to show off such a tyrannical presentation, but as it turns out it was a perfect accompaniment to the lesson and I would have preferred nothing other than a towering, lopsided, disgruntled, and unlevel catastrophe. So... I'm quite upset that I don't have a picture of the monstrosity in it's entirety.

Mile 6:
1 cup butter
16 oz. cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 packages powdered sugar
Mix with hand held until smooth
Due to the heat, frosting the cake was grueling! As I tinted each of the colors, I set each color in the fridge to firm up before applying to the cake. Then after frosting each layer, I put the cake itself in the fridge to firm up. As I tried to spread frosting between each layer, however, the frosting beneath it could not resist sloshing around, and I had to wonder if my fridge was even working!

Mile 7: Before frosting the outside and top, I chilled the cake for a good hour or so this time convinced my fridge wasn't working. The cake was a perfect tower, chilled and firm, but in all of 5 minutes, by the time I had wrapped the cake in frosting, and layered in on the top to smooth it was beginning to shape like a horseshoe... Distraught, fatigued and heartbroken I put the cake in the fridge - hoped it wouldn't have exploded by the morning and went to bed.

Mile 8: To my delight, the cake was in tact in the morning and after a solid few hours of sleep I had a new outlook on how this cake would fit into the lesson... if I could get it to the church.

I'm not perfect, you know this, and this post certainly proves it. You aren't perfect, but sometimes I get hung up on the fact that you seem to be. The truth is, and though we all forget it at times, we are all just trying as hard as we can. Like this cake, we don't look perfect, we don't always act appropriate, and sometimes things don't turn out the way we want them to, but when we look inside ourselves we find that we are each a Child of God, and we each have Virtue, Faith, Good Works, Integrity, Individual Worth, Divine Nature, Choice and Accountability and Knowledge.

And yes, phew, we made it to the church in one piece.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recipe Swap

Obviously, I typically restrict my posts to treats and desserts, but I can't resist sharing some fabulous sweet summer salads I've been enjoying in this incredible soothing and calming warm weather.

Which has led me to create a wonderful new monthly event that I'm really excited about! The first of every month, I am going to share some of my favorite recipes that fit the month or season of the moment, or special recipes that coincide with memories or events from that month.

#1: The Sweet Slaw, by Tasty Crush
This wonderful, easy and refreshing slaw is as simple and slicing and dicing a few ingredients and tossing them together!

#2: Hot Potato Salad, by French Knots
Present this, and prepare to be the star of your next party/picnic/outing/beach activity/you name it!

#3: Arugula, Strawberry, Mozerella and Almond Salad: by Mango & Tomato
This salad is reminiscent of a my strawberry themed bridal shower, and trust me, it's just as wonderful!

#4: Summer Apple Salad, by Kitty (that's me!)

This is my ultimate favorite, toss all these items together and enjoy.

1 ½ apples, cubed
½ cup walnuts, toasted and then tossed in 2 tablespoons honey
½ stalk of celery, chopped
1 chicken breast, grilled and seasoned
1 cup pasta shells, cooked
½ cup mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons mustard
Now, it is your turn! Share your favorite recipes for the month of June, and be sure to include a link! Every month, I will pick a recipe at random(.org), and highlight it on my blog!

I love to make new recipes, and I love to link to fabulous, talented people; I see fun times in our future!

3..., 2..., 1..., Start submitting!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Portland Boutique

A couple friends and I are getting together
to show off some of our favorite things!

I hope you can make it!

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