Galaxy Donuts

December 22, 2012

donuts

Happy Solstice! Today is extra special, galactically speaking, and I won’t even try to explain why, but you could google it if you want. It’s also the last day of school for my kids before they start winter break. So I’m making them an extra special yummy treat. Donuts are always our first choice when we want a naughty snack. But I think anything homemade still can count as something healthy, especially with the changes I made to an old recipe I had. I substituted white-whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, coconut oil for shortening and added oat bran. These are also a raised and baked style donut instead of deep fried. They are far out!

Galaxy Donuts

  • 5 tsp (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Mix the yeast with the water and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes until it’s nice and foamy looking. Then add the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk, scalded and cooled (heated up until little bubbles form along the edges or in the microwave about 2-3 minutes) –I used a 12 oz can evaporated milk because we were out of milk, again
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • dash of nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, or whatever flour type or blend you like
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup oat bran

Mix everything until combined and smooth. Then stir in:

  •  3 more cups flour

Stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise one hour or until doubled. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut out with a star cookie cutter and place 2 inches apart onto greased sheet pans. Allow to rise, uncovered, 20-30 minutes or until doubled. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Immediately brush with melted butter and roll in cinnamon-sugar:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Makes about 2-3 dozen donuts depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

You could also brush them (like I did) with a simple glaze instead of the butter and cinnamon-sugar.

  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Just mix it all up until it’s smooth and spreadable. Spread over hot donuts.

Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Pepper Steak and Baked Brown Rice

November 6, 2012

My mom used to make a similar dish and I’m so happy I finally recreated it. I think she called it Chinese Pepper Steak, and although this recipe does have soy sauce in it, it’s not an overly Chinese tasting dish. It makes a lot of delicious, savory gravy and you could easily double the meat and rice if you wanted to make this for a big group, or make a lot of frozen leftovers. It’s not exactly a pretty dish (at least with my photo skills today), but everyone except one picky 11-year-old enjoyed it immensely tonight. It’s a great recipe that uses mainly pantry staples so it’s fairly cost effective too. The brown rice recipe actually comes from Alton Brown and it’s my favorite way of cooking brown rice. It’s always nice and fluffy and perfectly tender. Use white rice cooked on the stovetop of that is all you have.

Slow-Cooker Pepper Steak

  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced, any color
  • 2 lbs chuck roast or round steak, trimmed of fat and sliced into strips ( I think venison would work great too)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sugar

Put the onions, peppers and meat into the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle with the garlic, salt and pepper. Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and pour over everything. Cover with the lid and cook on the high setting for 4 hours (for best results). Serve over rice. Serves 4-6.

Baked Brown Rice

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the rice, salt and butter in an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish or a 2 qt casserole dish. Pour the boiling water over the rice and stir. Cover with a lid or foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and fluff with a fork. Serves 6.

Balsamic Sweet Potatoes

October 24, 2012

This might be your new favorite fall lunch or Thanksgiving side dish. As usual, I ate my salad too fast to take a photo of it but you’ll get the gist. I cooked for one of my personal chef clients today and made this salad. And as it usually happens on my cooking days, I didn’t eat any lunch, aside from tasting the food I was cooking all day. So when I got home I was STARVING. And as it doesn’t usually happen, I felt like making more food for myself. But only because after making these potatoes and only taking a bite, I needed MORE!

I got the original recipe for a version of this dish from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday cookbook. But I’ve been making it for so long that I’ve changed it and improved it (in my taste) that I’ll give you my latest version at last.

Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar, I just get a good grocery store brand, nothing too spendy
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, either extra virgin or light, but I actually used grapeseed this time, whatever you’ve got
  • 2 tbsp Cholula hot sauce, or your favorite medium-hot sauce
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt

Pour everything into a jar with a lid and shake it like a polaroid pictcha. 

Balsamic Sweet Potatoes, serves 6-8

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped into medium dice
  • 3 sweet potatoes, any color or variety, I like red garnet
  • 1/2 batch Balsamic Dressing

Heat the oil in a big pot or saute pan over meduim-high heat. Add the onion and fry until they start to brown. Add a bit of salt and stir. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into medium cubes (bite sized) and add to the onions. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and onions and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium or med-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. The oil will separate, this is normal, just keep stirring and cooking. Add a bit of salt to taste if needed. Now you are done, unless you want to go all out and make:

Balsamic Sweet Potato and Feta Salad, serves 1

  • some leftover Balsamic Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/2 small head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 roma tomato
  • 1-2 oz feta cheese, cubed (or use crumbled Cotija, a dry, salty Mexican cheese)
  • 1 hard boiled egg, optional
  • some leftover Balsamic Dressing

Pile everything in a big bowl and try not to tear up as you eat your delicious salad.

 

Quiche 101, or How to clean out your refrigerator

October 12, 2012

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Confession time. Before we get to the food, I’d like to apologize for my lack of posts. It’s not that I haven’t had lots of ideas and recipes to share, it’s that I’m intimidated by all the beautiful photos on so many awesome blogs out there. I often opt to skip posting a recipe or food idea because I don’t have or forget to snap a photo before I eat or serve my creations! Now I know lots of people really need, or would like, a picture before they attempt to cook something new, myself included. But a lot of the cooking I do is quick and simple and the end results are not always the type of thing that looks good enough to photograph. And, since I am a stay-at-home mom, wife, personal chef, cookbook writer and food lover, I don’t always have the time to spend on an elaborate post with multiple step-by-step photos. Most of the time I just need to hurry up and get dinner on the table. Besides, I’m not the best photographer. Especially since the only camera I use is my phone. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn or use some cool photo apps or be more diligent about snapping photos of everything. But until then, I appreciate your interest in my food and food endeavors. I will really try to keep posting more regularly with or without tons of great photos.

Now, onto today’s topic of quiche!

Pronounced ‘keesh’ in case you are unsure 🙂 I love this dish for using up leftovers. You can add basically any cooked meats or veggies you have. Today I wanted to use up some deli ham, various cheese bits, and some baby kale.

I had some fresh kale last week that I wasn’t ready to use so I boiled a pot of water and blanched it (threw it in for about 30 seconds). Then I drained it, chopped it and froze it. Then today I defrosted it, squeezed the liquid out of it and threw it in a saute pan with some chopped ham and 3 garlic cloves. I also chopped up a few slices of jarred pickled jalapeno slices and a dash of onion powder along with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. You could use frozen chopped spinach in the same way. Chopped cooked bacon is also yummy instead of ham, or leave the meat out if you want. Other veggies could be added or substituted such as chopped onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli… Just saute them a few minutes if they are raw. Cooking them with a pinch of salt with draw some of the moisture out of them so you don’t end up with a watery quiche or soggy crust. Whatever you end up cooking or mixing up for your filling, just be sure you let it cool a bit while you prepare the crust, cheese and custard.

Cheese is important to quiche. Well for me anyway since I love it. But you could leave it out if you have to. Today I used some swiss, cheddar and muenster. Any kind would work! So shred it up and set it aside.

Next mix your custard. The proportion to follow is 1 cup cream and 6 eggs. You can use heavy cream, half and half or canned evaporated milk. Lately I’ve been buying low-fat half and half for my coffee so I used some of that. Evaporated milk also comes with different fat contents, regular, 2%, or fat free and they will all work. For the eggs, keep in mind that 1 large egg is approximately 1/4 cup. If you don’t want to use all the yolks, you can use 2 egg whites in place of 1 whole egg. So if you have egg substitute to use up or a few extra whites or yolks saved just try to follow the proportion. Whip up your choices of egg and cream with a few pinches or salt and pepper and set aside while you ready your pastry.

Pie crust is not hard to make, but I often use Pillsbury refrigerated pastry rounds. And by the way, I have used the generic and store brand and they are not as good. My justification in using a store-bought prepared product is this: pie crust is made with shortening (at least the good ones are-or a combo or butter and shortening). And shortening is pretty much the most processed of a ‘food’ you can buy, so why not just buy it already made into the pastry. It’s not the kind of thing I eat very often anyway. But feel free to make your own pastry if you want! OR just skip it altogether and make a crustless quiche. It’s works just as well. Anyway, if you do choose the Pillsbury route, just let it warm up a bit on the counter while you are preparing your filling, then roll it out a bit bigger than your pie pan. When you are ready to line your pan just position it over the pan and ease it into the bottom. To help move it from the counter to the pan either fold it in quarters or roll it up. When you are pressing it into the pan try not to stretch it or once baked it will shrink. If there is any dough hanging over the top of your dish, just fold it under and gently press it to the top of your dish. Make little dents with your fingers, called fluting, to create a pretty edge.

Some recipes suggest you pre-bake your crust but I find this is unnecessary. It just takes longer. So now you are ready to fill up your pastry shell. First sprinkle the bottom with some shredded or diced cheese, then add your veggie and meat mixture. Finally pour your egg/cream mixture over everything. You can sprinkle a little more cheese on top if you want. Stick the pie into a 350 degree oven and bake for about 50 minutes. The edges of the crust should be golden brown and the filling should be puffed and rounded, not watery in the center and slightly browned on top. You can tell by looking at it if it is puffed. If the center is still sunken looking and lower than the edges bake it longer.

Serve quiche hot, room temperature or cold. It will reheat perfectly in the microwave too.

QUICHE

1-2 cups chopped, cooked meats and/or veggies

1-2 cups shredded cheese

minced garlic, hot sauce, onion powder or other herbs or seasonings

1 cup cream

6 eggs

1 pie crust

Mix together your meats, veggies and seasonings and set aside. Shred your cheese. In a bowl, mix your cream and eggs with some salt and pepper. Line a 9 or 10 inch pie plate with your pastry. Sprinkle with most of the cheese. Top with the meat and veggies. Pour the egg mixture over everything. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes or until puffed and golden and the center isn’t watery. Serves 6-8.

French Toast Sticks

August 22, 2012

Make-ahead breakfast or bed time snack in our case this time. I REALLY have a hard time throwing away food, especially homemade good food. Last week I attempted a recipe from ‘Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.’ It was a whole wheat and oatmeal bread. If you’ve ever baked a whole grain loaf you’ll know that getting the texture right can be a challenge. And this one, although very tasty and good toasted, it was a bit moist and dense to be a good sandwich bread. I don’t think I added enough flour either. So, there was half the loaf still sitting forlorn in the fridge. And I was in a clean out the fridge kind of mood. That, and the fact that I didn’t make dinner tonight as we were having leftovers (and sneaking tastes of the chili I was making ahead for a party this weekend), so I knew the kids would welcome a more substantial bedtime snack.

I cut my loaf into thick slices, then each slice into five short sticks. I made some maple-butter and brushed it on instead of the usual egg-milk soak. I was afraid because of my moist bread that it would just fall apart if I soaked it then tried to fry it in a pan turning each peice four times to get all the sides. So I took the easy route. Just toasted the butter brushed sticks in the toaster oven. I didn’t even turn them. They were crunchy and delicious. If you wanted to make a bunch at a time, from say, a whole loaf of bread (something I do with traditional french toast all the time) you just have to freeze them on sheet pans until they are hard then transfer to a ziptop bag. If you go the regular french toast route, I’d soak and fry whole pieces of bread, let them cool in a single layer, then freeze hard before storing in a baggie. You just have to stick them in the toaster to heat them up, easy!

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French Toast Sticks

1/2 loaf whole grain bread (denser and the small pieces hold together well)

3 Tbsp butter, melted

3 Tbsp real maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Lay the bread in a single layer on the foil. Brush each side of the bread sticks with the maple butter. Bake until golden brown. (I used my toaster oven convection setting at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.) Serve with more maple syrup for dunking if you like.

Big Batch French Toast

1 loaf wheat sandwich bread (about 18 slices)

6 eggs (use 1 egg per 3 slices of bread approximately)

3 cups milk, any kind or type (about 1/2 cup milk per 3 slices bread)

about 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or even a splash of a flavored coffee cream is good!)

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

butter

Heat your largest skillet over almost high heat until it is almost smoking hot (add a bit of oil while heating if you are using a non-stick pan, you don’t want to heat one empty). Soak each piece of bread on each side fairly quickly. Add a bit of butter the the pan and fry the slices on each side until browned. Place the pieces in a single layer on a sheet pan covered with wax paper or foil. Once all the pieces are cooked, let cool, then stick the pan (s) in the freezer, uncovered, until hard. Transfer to a zip top bag. To reheat stick in a toaster and cook until it sizzles.

Korean Pot Roast with Cucumber Salad

August 16, 2012

I found a delicious sounding recipe for Korean Beef Tacos via Pinterest in my search for recipes to use up cucumbers I made it for dinner tonight. Here is the original post:http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodiebride/archives/8582

Instead of making tacos I used a chuck roast and served it alongside some jasmine rice because it would be better received by my picky family. (But I think I’m going to go the taco route for lunch for myself tomorrow with the leftovers.) The cucumber salad is very simple and was a nice counterpoint to the sweet tasting meat. I used vidalia onion with the sliced cucumbers because I have a case of them to use up and because they are good raw, nice and sweet.

I love Asian flavors and I know I’ll be making this again. I think what makes it Korean, specifically, is the brown sugar. Korean food usually has more of a sweet component than other Asian cuisines.

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Korean Pot Roast

1 chuck roast, mine was 2.5 lbs

2/3 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup light brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, pressed

2 tbsp fresh ginger (I cut 2 pieces to fit into my garlic press chamber and squeezed it through, the peel gets left behind)

3 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp dark sesame oil

1 tbsp Sriracha, or other hot sauce

Place everything in your slow cooker and turn the roast with tongs to coat with everything. Cook on high 5 hours (or low 8 hours).

Cucumber Onion Salad

1/2 large cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 medium Vidalia or red onion

big pinch of salt (about 1/4 tsp)

1 tbsp rice vinegar

Mix veggies with salt and vinegar.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

August 15, 2012

My neighbor gave me a bunch of cucumbers so I dug out this recipe and went to work. It’s a good one because it uses four of them. It is also unique because you cook the cucumbers first. It is really delicious, smooth and creamy. This soup is great made ahead as it needs time to chill.

Chilled Cucumber Soup–Makes 8 cups of soup (recipe is easily halved)
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4 large cucumbers, peeled–cut in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon, then slice crosswise
4 scallions, white part only, chopped (I used chopped vidalia onion instead, about 1/2 a medium onion)
2 Tbsp butter
 
In a large skillet cook the cukes, onion and butter about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
 
2 Tbsp flour
 
Sprinkle the flour over the cucumbers and cook another 3 minutes, stirring until combined.
 
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
 
Meanwhile, heat the broth and milk in a glass bowl in the microwave until hot. Slowly stir into the cucumber/flour mixture.
 
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp dried dill (add 1 Tbsp to start, then taste the soup after it’s pureed and add more if you think it needs it)
1 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
a few dashes of white pepper
 
Add the lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Simmer gently about 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour it all into a blender and carefully blend untl smooth. Remove the center doohickey from the blender lid and cover with a towel so the steam can escape, start on low and increase the speed once you know it won’t overflow. My blender canister was almost full. Pour into a large bowl, cover and chill until cold.
 
16 oz fat-free Greek yogurt or light sour cream
 
Whisk in the yogurt, taste for seasoning. Cover and chill 4-6 hours before serving. Garnish with chopped chives if you like.

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Egg-ceptional Salad

April 10, 2012

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Have a few extra Easter eggs stinking up the fridge? Make this super delicious egg salad. It has bacon in it which always makes everything better and couldn’t be more fitting! This is great on a sandwich, crackers or on a bed of greens. I saw the original recipe in a book by one of my favorite authors of cozy mysteries, Joanne Fluke, and changed it a bit to be a little healthier. I guess you have to compensate for the bacon somehow. Of course you can simplify it by omitting everything but the eggs, mayo, salt and pepper (I lived this most basic of egg salad recipe in college), but if you want something special, make this right now.

Deluxe Egg Salad

2 oz light cream cheese

1/4 cup light mayo

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder, or 1 chopped green onion

1 tsp dried parsley, or 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything until smooth. Add:

1 carrot, peeled and grated

2 slices bacon, cooked, cooled and chopped

6 hard boiled eggs, cooled and chopped

Gently fold carrots, bacon and eggs into mayo mixture. Chill until serving. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Birthday Cakes

February 7, 2012

 

I started learning how to decorate cakes when I was 15. I had just started my first job at Dairy Queen and the owners wife made wedding cakes in the back. No, not ice cream wedding cakes, but real fancy multi-tiered cakes like they have so many TV shows about now. I liked watching her decorate them and asked a lot of questions. I also professed interest in learning to make and decorate the ice cream cakes too and eventually they let me write the birthday messages on the pre-made cakes. Once they realized I had awesome writing skills they showed me how to use this cool image enlarger to trace the pictures on the top of the cakes and also how to pipe on the edges and make flowers. It was fun and I’ve always tried to find reasons to decorate cakes for friends since. Now that I have kids I almost always make them cool cakes for their birthdays.

 

This year, a neighbor invited us to a superbowl party so I made a football cake. It was one cake I had been wanting to try ever since I got my Pampered Chef batter bowls and read how you can bake in them. I sprayed and floured the glass bowl and filled it about ¾ full with batter. It bakes a bit longer than a flat cake, but just keep checking it (about every 5 minutes after the suggested bake time) with a wooden or bamboo skewer until moist crumbs remain. Then carefully run a thin knife (I used a steak knife) around the edge of the bowl. Place a cooking rack (upside-down) on top of the bowl and place a towel around the sides to protect your hands from the hot glass, hold the rack and bowl together and quickly flip it all upside down. This is called inverting the cake onto the cooling rack. So now the cooling rack is on the counter-top with the cake under the upside-down bowl on top. Lift the bowl off the cake and let it cool on the rack. Then you just cut off the rounded top, and make another cut vertically. You place the top cut sides together and end up with a football shape with a flat bottom. I trimmed it up a bit more to get the shape right and frosted it before sliding it onto the frosted cake.

 

Here are a few tips when making cakes to decorate:

Generally you will want a bit denser cake than what a cake mix will give you. Since you are generally slicing cakes into layers or shapes, you want a dense cake that can be handled without falling apart. The recipes I’ve used are sometimes Bundt cake recipes. Sometimes the back of the cake mix box will have a recipe for turning the mix into a bundt cake or pound cake with extra ingredients.

 

The recipe I’m including today is one I collected out of a magazine a long time ago and have been wanting to try. It turned out great and was very moist and dark. It also doesn’t contain eggs, which is kind of weird but not unheard of. It is very similar to my grandma’s Crazy Cake recipe (I’ll have to post that one sometime too). There are so many different types of cakes and countless recipes out there, use your favorite. I have to add though, I just had another piece of the leftover cake (2 days after it was baked and frosted) and it is even better now. I also think freezing un-frosted cakes makes them moister once thawed. So making and decorating cakes almost requires you do them n advance. I mean, think about those cake shows…they take days to decorate and just have partially finished cakes sitting around for days before they are eaten. So no worries about them staying fresh, they are actually better a few days later.

 

When you are cutting, shaping or slicing layers of cake, use a serrated knife. A lazy susan makes slicing layers into even thinner layers if you simply keep the knife mostly still and turn the cake on the table against it.

 

Heat is generally the enemy when it comes to decorating cakes. Frosting acts quite different when it’s warm than when it is at a cool room temperature. If you have problems, open some windows, crank the air conditioning or refrigerate your frosting for a few minutes to firm it up.

 

Food coloring can also make frosting runny, especially if you have to add a lot to achieve a dark color. You can buy paste food color at specialty kitchen or cake/candy making supply stores that doesn’t add as much liquid to the frosting.

 

Before you start putting fancy decorations on a cake you need to frost the top and sides so you have a nice smooth surface. First use a thin layer of frosting called the crumb coat. It will seal all the cracks and crumbs so you get a nice pretty layer on top. Let this first coat dry slightly to the touch. Then you can spread on a nice thick layer of frosting and it won’t be marred by errant crumbs getting mixed in.

 

I really have fun with using decorating bags and tips but if you don’t want to invest in them, you can try putting your frosting in a plastic bag with a corner cut off. You can also fold a piece of waxed paper into a cone and snip the corner for a homemade decorating bag.

 

Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

6 tbsp baking cocoa

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups water

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed and beat on medium for 1 more minute. Pour into a greased (and floured if you are planning to invert it and frost the sides) 9×13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool before frosting.

** For the football cake I doubled the recipe and poured about 3 cups of the batter into my 4-cup batter bowl and the rest into the cake pan.

 

Chocolate Buttercream (adapted from an Alton Brown recipe)

1 ½ cups butter, softened

2 tbsp mayonnaise

6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

2-3 cups powdered sugar, depending on the consistency you want, the softness of the butter and the heat in your kitchen

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

 

Beat the butter and mayonnaise with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add some of the sugar. Mix until combined and repeat until all the sugar is incorporated, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add the vanilla and salt and mix well until fluffy. Store covered in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before using. Makes about 4 cups frosting.

Here are a few of the cakes I’ve made for my kids if you want some ideas for boys birthday parties.

 

This was a quick cake I made for a spiderman birthday. It was pretty simple as I just used decorating gels. Be careful with these and practice on plate so you can get used to the consistency. Knead them in the tube a bit because the first few squirts might be watery. I just traced a design on the cake first with a toothpick and then went over it with the gel.

Above is another Spiderman cake. My kids REALLY like spiderman and so I had to come up with another cake idea. Honestly I love the first movie too so I made this cake to be  a cross between the pizza shop that Peter Parker gets fired from and the skyscrapers he practices his web shooting on.  You might be able to tell that it was a hot day and the frosting was starting to melt a bit. I used hershey bars for the windows and sugar wafer cookies for some of the building accents. I completed it with Dum-Dum light posts, a gummy pizza in the window, and a Spidey action figure on top.

This Star Wars cake was probably the favorite so far. It is inspired by the battle between Anakin and Obi Wan at the end of eposide III. They are fighting amongst the lava flows which I made out of sugar cones. I just broke the tips off for the peaks. I carved some trenches out of the cake and piled the pieces up along one side. Then I frosted it with chocolate frosting and filled in the trenches with a runny powdered sugar glaze that I colored yellow and red. I also used some red fruit roll ups for some of the lava flow too. Then I just added the lightsaber wielding Anakin and Obi Wan lego guys.

Ok this Candyland cake was the most fun for me to decorate. I saw it in a magazine and was so glad my son agreed to it for his party. I just frosted a sheet cake with white frosting and sprayed it with green spray color I found at the grocery store and used green sugar and sprinkles on the base. The path is made from Starburst. I also used peanut brittle, chocolate candies and kisses for the swamp, cake cones filled with frosting for the palace, and dum-dum suckers and marshmallows for the forest. This was September so I had a hard time finding candy canes so I used puffy peppermint candy instead. I used gumdrops and skittles for the 2 shortcuts and Necco wafers across the botttom which I wrote my son’s name on, Adrian.

Ok, there is no cake involved here but I wanted to include this Scooby Doo Sundae because it was really fun. I used my biggest trifle dish and made a gigantic sundae worthy of Scooby and Shaggy! Everyone loved it. It was basically a big banana split with a couple different kinds of ice cream and all the toppings you can think of.

Here is another Star Wars party my son wanted. We had found a Star Wars cookbook and he really wanted this Yoda Soda (sprite with lime sherbet scooped into it). I decided to theme the whole menu around the Cantina scene and named everything and made cards for all the food. I made simple Asteroid Field Brownies to use in Dark Side Sundaes (hot fugde brownie sundaes) that my son loved decorating with mini-marshmallow ‘asteriods.’ For the food I made Greedo’s Burritos (bean and chorizo enchiladas with red sauce) and Han-chiladas (white chicken enchiladas).

Here is one more cake (I know I have a few more but need to search for the photos). I made this one for my niece, Marissa’s Sweet 16 party. I went all out and got the cardboard circles for between the layers and kept them from sinking into the cake by cutting drinking straws to sink into the cake for the cardboard to sit upon. I decorated it with inspriration from all the nifty socks my niece likes to wear. There is a number 16 on the top piped with a star tip.

Happy Baking!!

A New Orleans Sandwich: The Beef Po’ Boy

January 23, 2012

There are 2 fantastic sandwiches that originated in New Orleans. So in honor of the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration here you go. First there is the Muffaletta which is cold-cuts (ham, salami and anything else you like), cheese and olive salad. What is olive salad? Well it originated as the leftover crushed olives at the bottom of the barrels that frugal deli owners decided would be good as a topping to the rich meats and cheeses. Second is the Po’ Boy which is usually a hot sandwich of roasted meats or fried, breaded seafood (shrimp or oysters especially), topped with mayo, lettuce and tomato.

My twist on these sammy’s is first making shredded beef in the crockpot, using my delicious blend of herbs that I deconstucted from the sodium-laden packets of various mixes from my original recipe. Then I make a crisp coleslaw adding olives and banana peppers to top the juicy sandwich for added cooling, tangy flavor and a bit of crunch to the meltingly tender beef. A smear of mayo wouldn’t hurt either if you’re into that kind of thing.

As long as you’re getting all your spices out to make the beef you might as well make a super batch, like quadruple or more because I know you’re going to want to make this again. The spices also make great beef stew or pot roast (also in the crockpot).

 

Slow Roasted Beef Po’ Boy with Olive Slaw

 1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp dried parsley

2 tsp oregano

1 ½ tsp onion powder

1 ½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp onion flakes

½ tsp basil

¼ tsp thyme

¼ tsp celery salt

1/8 tsp dill

2 tbsp cornstarch

**If you make a big batch, use 4 1/2 tbsp of the spice mixture for every 4 lb roast.

 

4 lbs chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat

½ cup water

 

Mix all the herbs and spices with the cornstarch. Rub over the meat. Put the roast in a crockpot and pour in ½ cup water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat is very tender. Shred with 2 forks and serve in buns. Top with olive slaw if desired or serve alongside.

 

 

Olive Slaw

 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 ½ tsp sugar

½ tsp mustard

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

 

10 oz shredded green cabbage

½ cup sliced green olives

½ cup sliced black olives

½ cup mild or hot banana pepper rings (in the pickle aisle)

4 green onions, sliced

 In a medium bowl whisk together vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic. Drizzle in olive oil and whisk to combine. To the dressing, add the cabbage, both olives, pepper rings and green onions. Toss to combine and refrigerate until serving.

 **Variation: for a more substantial salad to be served alongside: Double the dressing and add 1 peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber, 1 chopped tomato and one can of drained green beans.