Aug 222013
 

I haven’t been cooking (and blogging) as much lately, but of course, birthday parties are special.  For my younger nephew’s 2nd birthday, the cake team assembled again to make this firetruck.  It was a much smaller project than the Great Train Cake, but still gave us a challenge.  We got most of our inspiration from this video which really takes you through the process step by step.

While I have a great egg free recipe for chocolate cake, we have not found the best recipe for yellow cake yet.  My Mom ended up making two cakes from different recipes.  The first was this recipe from the UK version of the Food Network.  The batter was much too thick so my Mom added some milk, but the cake was still a little dry.  Then she made a marble cake from a box mix, using egg replacer.  That one was very crumbly.  In the end, we salvaged what we could to make the firetruck, but we’re still on the lookout for the best egg free cake recipe.

The video shows you how to slice and stack the cakes to make the shape of the firetruck.  Two things really helped us out here; using generous amounts of frosting, and putting the cake in the freezer a few times to help the frosting harden.  The frosting is just a basic butter/powdered sugar/milk mixture, tinted with all the red food coloring we could find.  The decorations included a pretzel ladder, gum drop lights, Oreo wheels, Hershey’s miniatures as windows, and a licorice fire hose.

 

firetruck cake

 

 

When my nephew saw the cake, he immediately made noises like a siren, so I do think he got the idea.  Finally, the time came where he got to blow out the candle and actually eat some cake.  I think our firetruck cake was a success.

 

ethan2cake

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 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 302013
 

The pop tarts were fun to make and eat, but my favorite recipe from last weekend was this Summer Vegetable Tian from Budget Bytes.  It has all the best ingredients like zucchini, tomatoes, and cheese.  It also has a pretty presentation, worthy of an elegant summer dinner party.

You start with a mixture of sauteed onions and garlic in the bottom of the dish.  Then you slice all the vegetables thinly, and layer them in the dish standing up.  We used fresh basil instead of thyme, which gave this dish a bit of Italian flair.

2013-07-27 19.50.34

 

The dish is covered tightly with foil, which steams the vegetables in the oven.  Then you add the cheese (we used a blend of mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan), and bake the dish for a while longer.  When it’s finally done, you have this beautiful tian.  Everyone loved it, and it will be on the table again very soon!

vegetabletian

 

 

 

 

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Jul 292013
 

I had bookmarked this homemade pop tart recipe from Smitten Kitchen two years ago, but never got around to making it.  If I am going to bake something sweet for breakfast, I would rather make something like a muffin or scone.  Plus, I am not that great with a rolling pin.  But then my mom saw the recipe, and she is good with a rolling pin, and we had all the ingredients on hand.  It was fate.

We followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen very closely, but substituted 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose flour.  (Sorry to report, that does not make these a ‘healthy’ breakfast!)  We made half of them with a cinnamon and sugar filling and half of them with a jam filling made from both blueberry and strawberry preserves.

Since it was a hot and humid summer morning, we had to put the dough in the freezer fairly frequently.  Every time it got too soft to work with, we tossed the dough, dough mat, and all right into the freezer for about 15 minutes, and then started again.  In other words, the next time we try this recipe will be in January!

The pastries came out of the oven lightly brown, with a tender and flaky crust.  Is it possible for a pastry crust to be too flaky?  Because these came close.  I may look for other variations of the recipe which would be a little sturdier.  Both the cinnamon and jam fillings were delicious, but someone suggested a Nutella filling which I think we have to try.  And my sister suggested we work on an icing.  While we’re not anywhere near to putting Kellogg’s out of business, this was a really fun project with a delicious end result.

 

pop tarts

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 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 222013
 

You may have seen the One-Pot Spaghetti recipe and pictures on Facebook, Pinterest, and various blogs.  I’m not sure of the true origin, although many roads lead to Martha Stewart.  I’ve seen a lot of references, but I chose the Italian Wonderpot recipe from Budget Bytes to guide me.

Most of the ingredients are pantry staples, and you can assemble the pot within just a few minutes.  Some versions include red pepper flakes for a little extra heat.  I kept thing simple with minced garlic and Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle.

Although this doesn’t have the complexity of a gourmet pasta dish, it has a good taste and works well as an easy meal.  There’s plenty leftover for lunches too.  Double win!

 

one pot fettuccine

 

One Pot Fettuccine

2 c. vegetable broth
2 c. water
1 (12 oz.) package whole wheat fettuccine
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) package sliced mushrooms
1 (16 oz.) package frozen spinach
2 t minced garlic
1 T Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle, or Italian seasoning

Place ingredients in a large pot, in the order written.  Make sure that ingredients are covered by liquid.  Cover pot, and bring to a rapid boil.  Remove cover, and boil for 12-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 

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Jul 092013
 

Dips are the ultimate convenience food; you don’t even need utensils.  This one inspired by the Food Network goes well with cucumber slices or chips, and it’s hearty enough that you might forget about cooking dinner altogether.

You can make this spicy with an extra shake of cayenne, or add more basil and lemon for a sharper flavor.  Everyone around the (large) table seemed to like this dip, including the 3 year old.  That’s success!

 

eggplant dip

 

Eggplant, White Bean, and Basil Dip

1 large eggplant, peeled, and cut into 1″ chunks
Olive oil (1/4 c. plus more for drizzling)
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. packed fresh basil leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
2 t minced garlic
Dash cayenne pepper

Place eggplant on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400F for 20-30 minutes.  Allow to cool.

In a food processor, blend eggplant, 1/4 c. olive oil, beans, basil, lemon juice, and garlic. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne.

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