Thursday, May 31, 2012

Culinary Pen Pals - May, 2012

 I can't even remember where I found this link, but Lindsey over at the Lean Green Bean had this awesome idea. She started a foodie pen pal program. Every month, you can sign up to send (and receive) a nice little care package from a fellow participant. If you are a blogger, you then write about it and post at the end of the month (that's today wow!).

The picture is of all the loot I got from Natalie, my foodie pen pan for May. She sent me a bunch of yummy treats. Although this picture makes me admit the first thing I used were the banana chips, I love those things.

Natalie introduced me to shakeology, which are extremely good, and almondictive bites from TJ's, like I needed another excuse to shop there. I have been snacking on my goodie box for a few weeks now. Thanks so much Natalie, what you sent was just fantastic.

These little things are amazingly addictive. However, they are also tasty tossed into some oatmeal cookies.

If you would like to participate in this program, check out this link that tells you all about it. It's a great way to meet people, and very fun!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neopolitan Cake

Remember that great neopolitan ice cream we all used to get at birthday parties? And, when we peaked back into the freezer, we would find all of one flavor or another missing? Well, at least at my house. I was the strawberry ice cream lover, my brother took the chocolate. I think we left the  vanilla for our parents.

I thought the flavors would go perfectly together in a cake. But, I struggled a little with the different layers, until this version, that is! I want to warn you, however, the recipes look amazing long. But, don't worry at all - they are not complicated, just long.

I still had to show this picture, even though it shows that my vanilla bean cake stuck to the plate, and came apart while I was working with it. My fault, and it doesn't affect the taste whatsoever, so don't worry. I included in the instructions how to not have your cake stick to the plate...

 I wanted each of the layers to be perfect on their own, but still compliment each other perfectly. And, I think this does it. The brownie bottom is a perfect example of why we love brownies - rich, dense, and oh so chocolatey. The strawberry cream cheese layer reminds us of that wonderful rich strawberry ice cream and gives us a nice beautiful strawberry taste. And the top is a rich vanilla bean layer. And, of course, we had to top it with a fluffy white frosting, made with marshmallow fluff - it tied all these layers together.
What a perfect way to start the summer! For a .pdf of the recipes, click here. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day, and a special thank you goes to all the soldiers out there - current and past.

Neopolitan Cake

General Instructions/Assembly Schedule:

·         The day before, up to 8 hours before cake is served: prepare the strawberry cheesecake layer, chill
·         2-3 hours before (up to overnight): prepare the brownie layer, let cool to room temperature
·         2-3 hours before (up to overnight): prepare the vanilla bean layer, let cool to room temperature
·         1+ hour before: Prepare the frosting, if assembling the next day, refrigerate.
·         To assemble: Place brownie layer on your serving dish, if needed, smooth the top with a serrated knife to ensure even cake layer.
·         Place chilled strawberry cheesecake layer on top of brownie layer. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to invert the brownie layer into the strawberry cheesecake layer while it’s still in the pan, then invert onto a plate with the brownie layer on the bottom. Remove the parchment from the strawberry cheesecake layer.
·         Sift 1-2 T. powdered sugar on top of the vanilla bean cake. Invert onto a temporary plate. Trust me, you need the powdered sugar – this cake sticks like mad to plates. Invert onto another plate, so the top is facing up. Even up the cake layer with a serrated knife. Gently place on top of strawberry cheesecake layer – bottom up (it’s easier to frost that way.
·         Frost with fluffy frosting.

For the Strawberry Cheesecake Layer:
Original recipe by The Twisted Kitchen

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
2/3 c. pureed strawberries
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. low sugar strawberry preserves
½ t. salt
1/3 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 300. Put parchment on the bottom of an 8” round pan. In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese 2-3 minutes until a bit lighter. Add sugar and strawberry preserves and mix an additional minute. Add egg, strawberries, and salt. Mix 1-2 more minutes, until no lumps remain. Add flour and mix until flour is incorporated.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-45 minutes, until edges are light brown, and middle doesn’t jiggle. Cool at room temperature for 30minutes, then refrigerate.

For the brownie layer:
Original recipe by Mom, The Twisted Kitchen

2 eggs
¼ c. dutch cocoa
1 cup sugar
½ c. oil
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. coffee
¾ c. flour
½ t. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray or grease an 8” round cake pan, use parchment or foil on the bottom, since the brownie does tend to stick. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil, and sugar. Whisk in vanilla, salt, coffee, and cocoa, until cocoa is moistened. Sometimes the cocoa doesn’t like to incorporate into this mixture, just keep stirring, it will. Stir in flour, mixing until well combined, with no lumps.

Pour into prepared baking pan, and bake 25 minutes, until top is slightly dry, and sides start to move away from the pan. Cool.

For the vanilla bean cake:
Recipe adapted from The Cake Bible

1/2 cup milk
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or ½ vanilla bean (just the scraped insides – aka the good stuff)
2  cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter (3 oz), softened
Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9” cake pan with parchment paper, then grease or spray the parchment.
Combine sugar, baking powder, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Add butter, and mix with a mixer 2-3 minutes, until mixture resembles fine sand. Add milk, egg whites, and vanilla, and mix until well combined, and you see no lumps – do not overmix.

Place in prepared pan, and bake 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden, and a cake tester comes out of the center clean. Let cool in pan.

For the frosting:
Adapted from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook

2/3 c. butter
1/3 c. shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 7 oz container marshmallow fluff

Cream the butter and shortening together in a large bowl until light and fluffy – 2-3 minutes. Add marshmallow fluff and mix until combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat an additional 2-3 minutes, until desired consistency.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spicy Cheese Spread

 Pimento Cheese Spread has always fascinated me. It's a Southern thing, and I am not southern. Before now, the only kind I tried was that stuff in a jar around Christmas. You know that stuff - it's the stuff you put in celery when you were a kid...or at least I did.

I wanted to put that out there, since this does have cheese, and pimento...but beyond that, I'm really not sure if it's even close to the Southern staple. This is a heavenly spread, so I strongly encourage you to at least try it. In my opinion, cheese and spicy peppers are a natural combination - they play off each other so well. The fatty dairy cools the fire of the peppers, so you can enjoy them. Or, at least that's what I do, since I'm a bit of a spice whimp.

Give this spread a try - even my Mom liked it...and she doesn't like Jalapeno's. And, for all the Mom's out there, Happy Mother's Day!

For a .pdf of the recipe, click here.

Spicy Cheese Spread

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
4 oz jar diced pimento’s, drained
½ t. garlic powder
1 T. diced jalapeno
¼ c. finely diced Anaheim pepper (you can add a spicier pepper, like Jalapeno, if you want a spicier result)
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. salt
½ t. pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Serve with crackers, or broiled on toast.