Friday, April 30, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (with Lemon Curd)

Thad has a co-worker who is leaving his company to travel the world for a few months. I am impressed by Will (the world travelor) because of his courage to follow his dreams and I believe you are only young once and life is too short. So we decided that I was going to make him a farewell cake. I decided on my mom's Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (that she used when she made wedding cakes) and because I had made a big batch of lemon curd a few weeks prior and knew that a Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with buttermilk frosting and lemon curd filling would be light and tart, perfect for spring.

Please pardon how my cake looks, decorating cakes is something I have not done much of and am determined to make it a strength. The beauty of my cake does not reflect the amazing taste of the cake on the inside. And please note that I only put the best of the best recipes up here, recipes that I can stand behind!

Ok with that said, get ready to make a cake that is light, fresh, creamy and tart all at them same time. There are three steps to this cake. The first is the cake, the second is the lemon curd and the third is the buttermilk frosting.

Step 1:
Lemon Poppy-Seed Cake
1 box lemon cake mix (I use Betty Crocker)
1 package (3.4 oz) Jell-O Instant Lemon pudding
4 eggs
1 cup lemon yogurt or sour cream (I used yogurt)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-4 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon rum extract

Begin by setting the oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9" cake rounds and set aside. Combine the cake mix, jello, eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil, poppy seeds, water and rum extract. For mixing instructions follow the back of the cake box. Once mixed, pour batter evenly into cake rounds place in oven and set time for 20-25 minutes. I start checking my cakes at 20 minutes sticking a butter knife in the center, once it comes out clean it is done. Make sure you do not over bake because this cake is best when moist. Placing parchment paper over a cooling rack, turn cakes out onto the rack and let cool completely.

Step 2:
Make your lemon curd. Click on Lemon Curd link for recipe.

Step 3:
Peggle's Buttermilk Frosting
1/3 cup butter (I usually overshoot on this measurement, more butter never hurts)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
*I add 1-2 tablespoons of milk to give it a creamier consistancy.

Note: I had to triple this recipe for the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

This frosting is the best. So easy. Just mix all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.

Once all three steps are completed (cake cooled, lemon curd made and frosting standing by)it is time to assemble this masterpeice of a cake. Slice each 9" round horizantally into even halves.

Place the first half on a platter of your choice. Then frost with frosting first and then spread with 3 tablespoons of lemon curd. Repeat this process 2 more times. For the exterior of the cake I frosted the entire thing and then spread the lemon curd on the top of the cake and then using a cake decorating bag, I made a frosting border. Once completely assembled place in the refigerator an hour or more to set. Then serve!

It was a hit at the farewell party for Will and is great for a garden party, wedding or shower. Once you make it, you will be hooked. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Best Banana Muffins Ever

Everytime I go to the store I buy bananas, I think it is a mental thing like bananas = healthy. But usually they sit there and just get browner and browner by the day. I had 4 old aging bananas sitting in my fruit bowl and with each passing day I knew I had to make something with them and thought I probably will just have to bake some banana bread. Then the next day I came across a banana muffin recipe and thought I would try something new with my poor brown bananas.

The Banana Muffin recipe was easy and straight forward and I literally whipped them up in 15 minutes and the finish product was oh so tasty. Thad is my taste testing victim and when they were finished, I cornered him with a warm muffin adorned with butter, I watched him as he bit into the soft muffin.......the verdict? He loved them. He said the muffins were moist and flavorful. I told him the secret ingredient was nutmeg and it did add a cool flavor to the banana muffins.

Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
3 or 4 ripened bananas (about 1 cup mashed bananas)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons melted butter
(I also added about a half cup pecans)

Start off by turning the oven to 350 degrees. Then get out a 12 cup muffin pan and spray each muffin cup with a non-stick spray. Set aside and move on to the recipe. Getting all of this stuff out of the way makes the cooking process move alonger quicker.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. In another mixing bowl, mash the bananas and add the sugars, egg and melted butter (and pecans if desired). Whisk together until smooth. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet. Mix until they are combined but be sure not to over mix.

Next pour the batter into 12 muffin cups, distributing the batter evenly. I found that by distributing the batter and using ALL of it, the muffin cups were too full and so the tops got too big while baking. So my advice would be to only fill them up 2/3rds of the way so they have more of a clean shape. Perhaps once the first batch is done you can make a couple more muffins with the remaining batter. Lastly Sprinkle with sugar if desired. Then bake for about 15-20 minutes (my muffins baked for exactly 15 minutes).

Then remove from the muffin pan and let cool on a cooling rack. I would recommend serving the banana muffins warm with some butter and a small glass of milk. Enjoy!

Adapted from Stephanie's Kitchen

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Funky Monkey Bread

Work has been really slow lately and when I say really slow it has been REALLLLLY slow. So I have had time to browse my favorite food blogs and find some awesome deliciousness (is that even a word)which got my imagination going as to what I can create in the kitchen.

So I came across a Monkey Bread recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Stephanie's Kitchen and it sounded so yummy and so easy, plus I knew I had most the ingredients in my pantry. So last night I made the recipe and let me tell you, it was a crowd pleaser. Thad said he just wanted one and then one turned into two and then had some for breakfast this morning. Monkey Bread is so simple to make and is such a feel good food, so here is the recipe.......

Monkey Bread
2 tubes of biscuit dough (I like pillsbury) (20 biscuits in total)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

Start off by laying out a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray and set the oven to 350 degrees. I then take all the biscuits out of their packaging. You should have twenty. Then cute each biscuit into fourths. Once done you should have 80 little pieces. Then measure out the cinnamon and sugar into a small bowl. Dip each individual piece into the sugar/cinnamon mixture, making sure each piece is fully coated. Place between 6-7 peices into each cup.

Then using a small sauce pan melt the butter and brown sugar, bringing it to a boil. You will notice that the mixture will get thicker and more carmelly. Then spoon a tablespoon over each cup of buscuits. Bake for 20-25 minutes (Mine only took 15 minutes because my oven is ancient and cooks fast).

While the Monkey Bread is baking you can prepare the glaze. I found a recipe on-line, made it and when I went to taste it, it was horrible. So I made my own.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk all three ingredients together, making sure it pretty and smooth.

Then once the Monkey Bread is done, drizzle as much glaze on them as you want. The more the better.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lemony Lemon Curd

I was talking to my mom the other night and there is a cookie recipe that she has asked me to help her work on and one of the key ingredients is lemon curd. When she told me I could make my own lemon curd I was sort of intimidated and skeptical. I thought back to when I worked at William-Sonoma and how expensive a jar of their lemon curd was, $14 dollars, yes that is right $14 for a 12.5 oz. jar of lemon curd and thought there is no way I can make this delicate curd myself. But after a pep talk from my mom, I decided to take on the task.

What I love about lemon curd is that it has a custard feel to it but is made with all natural ingredients and there is no thickening agent like cornstarch or flour used. It has such a tart, light lemony taste to it, perfect for spring. What can you use Lemon curd for? For lots of good stuff. It is the filling my mom uses for her lemon poppy-seed wedding cakes, you can use it as a filling for a tarte, or spread it on some toast or use your left over egg whites and make Pavlova with a lemon curd filling.

Lemon Curd Recipe
2 cups sugar
12 large egg yolks (this is not a typo, 12 egg yolks it is)
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1 cup unsalted butter room temp
2 Tbs. grated lemon peel

For this recipe since it requires you to be constantly stirring, make sure you have all your ingredients ready and on hand. Start off by combining the sugar and eggs in a medium sauce pan (save the egg whites which can keep in the refrigerator for up to a week).

Gradually add in the fresh lemon juice, stirring constantly over low heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon, a little tip from my mom is, once you take the spoon out of the mixture and you can run your finger down the back of the wooden spoon and the line stays, it's done. It's important not to let the mixture boil. *Note that it will also thicken a great deal as it cools.

Take off heat and stir mixture to cool it down slightly. Then whisk in 1 Tbs. of butter at a time until all butter is incorporated. Stir in lemon zest. Cool and enjoy. This makes a large amount and will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

So easy to make and so much cheaper than buying it. Enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Butter Cream Frosting

Butter Cream Frosting
1 cup real butter (not margarine) *room temperature
1 cup vegetable shortening
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/4 - 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer) thoroughly cream butter and shortening . Beat in the vanilla, mixing well. Add sugar, one cup at a time, stopping after each cup to scrape down the sides; mix until blended. When the sugar is completely beaten in and the sides of the bowl are scraped down, add the whipping cream, beating at the highest speed until super fluffy, for one to two minutes. Because of the whipping cream in this recipe it works best when chilled slightly but not too long. This is a great and light frosting, probably one of the best I have found.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Salad De Mason

It is spring and with spring comes gorgeous weather, freshly planted gardens and light fresh dishes. My mom is the queen of finding yummy salads and has many gourmet salads that she makes but my favorite of them all is her Salad de Mason. It is such a great side to a main dish, so easy to make and all homemade!

Salad de Mason

Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¾ cup vegetables
2 heads romaine
3 Cloves of garlic crushed
1 cup grated Swiss Cheese
1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup almonds toasted

This recipe is so easy and straight forward. Combine lemon juice (making sure all the seeds from the lemon are removed), garlic and salt and pepper. You can mix it with a fork, adding the vegetable oil last, mixing well or you can do the Peggy method which is combine all the igredients in a mason jar, place the lid on tightly and shake well. Let stand for 3 hours, knowing the longer the ingredients have to marinate and blend the better the dressing will be.

Once the romaine lettuce has been washed and dried and the salad dressing has had some time to marinate, combine lettuce, cheeses and then add salad dressing to taste. I typically do not use the entire amount and find that I can make a second round of salad with the dressing I have made. It also keeps for about 2 weeks, so you can whip it out and using as a dressong for any salad . Also I use this same dressing to make greek salads and just add the kalamata olives and feta cheese.

Your family and guests will love this salad and everytime I make this salad I am asked for the recipe, need I say more? So give it a try, it will be a hit!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pushing Daisies.......and Tulips

Last night I had the urge to bake. Baking has become a hobby to me and a huge stress releaser. Since I am on a strict diet I have only been able to sample very little but for me it is the art of it that I love so much. I think it is starting from scratch and seeing the whole process unfold and having a fresh, soft,yummy cookie to show for it at the end.

My mother-in-law gave me some cute spring cookie cutters and I have been wanting to try them out. The daisy cookie cutter, I was not thrilled with and thought the shape looked like a sun but loved loved loved the tulip cookie cutter. I used the famous Bradford Sugar Cookies for this recipe and Peggles Vanilla Frosting which is listed with the Bradford Sugar Cookie Recipe.

Just thought I would share. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dreamland BBQ Nachos, The Forester Version

Pat and Mark came over for dinner last night and Thad and I decided we were going to make them something memorable and yummy. As many of you know I love the spirit and energy that is here in Tuscaloosa during game season and Thad and I have formed some traditions since I have been here. For home games we always go onto campus, I wear a scripted "A" on my cheek and then we go to Big Bad Wolves and I get me some BBQ nachos and Thad gets himself a BBQ sandwich. Big Bad Wolves is a place that comes only on Fridays and Saturdays for home games here in Tuscaloosa. Their Nachos are what dreams are made of and in many ways have changed my life.

Well since they are only here during game season, we are left to wonder the earth aimlessly without BBQ nachos. So we decided to do our own and do the Dreamland version of BBQ Nachos (which are sold at the Bryant Denny Stadium for games). So here is how it is done....are you ready for your life to be changed?

Step 1: Start off with some Nacho corn chips.

Step 2: Add the cheese, Ricos Aged Cheese Sauce (Heat up cheese and one can water)

Step 3: Add a hardy serving of Pulled pork of your choice (we go to Full Moon)

Step 4: Then add the sauce, warmed up (we get ours from Dreamland)

Step 5: The topper is jalapeno peppers, to give it a kick

Step 6: Eat yourself silly and enjoy every bite and let me know when you want to come with us to Big Bad Wolves during Football Season.

(sorry for all the random sized pictures, they were the best ones I could find)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Martha's Blueberry Crumb Cake

There is this cute little produce place downtown Tuscaloosa called Richard's Market and it has a small town quaint feel to it. I have been meaning to stop by there since I moved to T-town and then finally the other day I had a chance to. And I am glad I did, there are plants outfront to buy and inside has the produce all displayed in a way that makes you feel like you are getting the freshest and cheapest produce in town. While there I bought some avocados, grapes, nectarines and blueberries.

I told Thad that I felt like baking and he said you need to make something with those blueberries. So I went on-line and found a recipe of Martha's and gave it a try. It turned out so yum and had a great texture and those fresh blueberries were icing on the cake.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

For the streusel topping
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter

For the cake
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled) , plus more for pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk, well shaken
1 1/2 cups blueberries
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Start off by preheating oven to 350 degrees. First make the streusel topping. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender until large, moist crumbs form. Chill. (Note: Make sure the crumbs are big so they don't all melt into the cake while baking)

Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and allspice. In a large bowl or Kitchen Aid, beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately until just combined. (Batter will be very stiff.) In a large bowl, toss the blueberries with remaining teaspoon of flour (Tip: Tossing the blueberries with a bit of flour keeps them from sinking during baking).

Fold blueberries into the batter; spoon into prepared pan.

Sprinkle cake with streusel topping. Bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes (It took mine 40 minutes to bake). Let cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar before cutting into squares.

There is nothing like fresh blueberries baked into a struesel crumble. A perfect dessert for a baby shower, bridal shower or garden party. Enjoy!

Adapted from Martha Stewart