Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter Heirloom Recipe

In keeping with the post-things-way-after-the-fact trend, here is a fabulous dessert I made for Easter.

Every family has food with history, this banana cake is filled with family lore. As the story goes, my grandma made this cake for special family functions, and it was everybody's favorite. UNTIL the fateful day when only one piece of the cake remained--but more than one person desired it. Apparently an argument broke out over who was to get the last piece of coveted cake. Amidst the furor, my grandma declared her disgust for the whole matter and determined Never to Bake the Cake Again. And she never did.

I heard this story a few times growing up, but didn't realize until collecting recipes for a wedding gift for my sister, that my mom had (years ago) obtained a copy of the recipe from one of my aunts. I couldn't wait for the perfect family gathering to flex my fledgling baking skillz and try this puppy out.

Unfortunately (for me) the recipe was a bit cryptic on some key measurements. This lead to one failed egg cake recipe (the second run I made a buttermilk cake base with a recipe from the always perfect 'joy of cooking' cookbook). And a need to 'wing it' for one of the icing recipes. But in the end, I found success.

Without divulging this coveted family recipe I will say this:
  • The cake was (supposed to be) an egg cake
  • The filling included banana slices and a powdered sugar frosting
  • The outer icing was a pan simmered caramel
According to my dad the cake was "almost perfect", but some elusive and undescribable taste was missing. Regardless, the cake was delicious, and 'almost perfect' is good enough for me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

St. Patricks did come to our house, I swear!

Growing up, St. Patrick's day was a Big Deal.

I remember the requisite green clothes (my mom can give a nasty pinch), and the unbelievably large collection of shamrock-themed socks I managed to accrue.

These days (thankfully) few people seem to recognize the green wardrobe requirement, but the only businesses (sadly) who seem to get hyped about the holiday are the many bars in town. I remember last year I tried calling every place I could think of to get some corned beef and cabbage, to no avail.

What's a good little cook to do? Why, cook it herself! Growing up my mom always made this in the crockpot, filling the house all day with the scents of what-was-to-come. I choose to prepare mine in my trusty cast iron. The beef was delicous, as was to be expected, but the show stopper was this soda bread/cake I found here.

Simply Recipes was the first food blog I started reading years ago and it's still my go-to blog when I'm looking for a sure thing. I've never made anything from this site that I haven't enjoyed.

So if you feel like trying a simple bread, and your feeling lucky-try this out!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hearty Meal for a Soggy Day

I woke up this morning to the grumble of far away thunder. It's been months since we had a good rain storm. I remember as an angst-ridden teen, one of my favorite summer activities was sitting inside my room with my feet dangling out the window during a warm summer thunderstorm. The smell of the wet grass and the water between my toes was heaven!

Today's rain (unfortunately) falls into the gloomy-spring-drippy-rain category, but I still enjoy it-albeit from a warm spot nestled under the covers.

But cold rain days are good for something: hearty German food!

While perusing the pile of corned beef requisite for the St. Paddy's day culinary celebration at the supermarket, I saw fresh bagged sauerkraut was also on sale. Never one to pass up a good deal, I decided there was no harm in two closely spaced hearty meals, except maybe the need for a little extra time on the

One of my favorite blogs recently posted a version of the cooks illustrated version of the mark bittman 'no knead bread'. I've made the original with great success, but this recipe guaranteed a more flavorful loaf. I used a pale ale homemade by some of our talented brew- making friends, and the bread came out marvelously.

As for the sauerkraut, it hardly counts as a recipe, but here goes:

4 medium/large potatoes (i used red), peeled and cubed
3 large carots, peeled and chopped to appx. 2 inch pieces
2 sausages, sliced (I used toulouse made at our local co-op)
1 Bag sauerkraut
1 TBS caraway seeds

Place everything into a large stock pot, add enough water it cover at least half the ingredients, and simmer for a few hours until the veggies are tender. I also added the leftover beer from the bread.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Conversational Dessert

Today, when one of my friends tipped me off to the good deals on strawberries at our favorite supermarket, I knew it was time for strawberry shortcake.

Shortcake is a dessert frequently seen in our household. It's probably the only food my husband really gets excited about, and it's incredibly easy to make. It's a winner on all fronts.

In the summer when good deals on berries abound, this appears on our table with unhealthy frequency.

Tonight my conversation partner came over for dinner. With the constant pressures of school bringing us down, I thought this would make a great end to our meal of pasta.

Strawberry Shortcakes

For the shortcakes:
I just follow the recipe on the jiffy baking mix box
(sadly, this is one of the crutches I learned from my mother--Jiffy baking mix makes so many things easier with it's hydrogenation and other superfluous chemicals)

For the strawberries:
A few hours before you want to eat: slice 1 pound of strawberries and mix in at least 1 TBS of white sugar

For the cream:
Whip a small container of heavy whipping cream with 1 TBS of white sugar until in magically transforms from a liquid to a solid (that's chemistry folks!)

Layer in any order you prefer (we usually go with shortcake -strawberries - cream - mint sprig)

white sugar, jiffy mix, strawberries in March?? This is going to loose all my street cred with the locavores.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Afternoon Snack

The weather took a warm turn this week, the Chaco's came out and we even ventured outside one afternoon (although not for long). One of the many benefits of being home frequently in the afternoon is the ability to have afternoon snacks.

Maybe it's my love of English romance novels or kindergarten that has endeared me to the snack. Who can say? All I know, is that a snack day is a good day!

Today's snack included:
Tangelo slices
Ginger cookies from IKEA
A variety of fancy cheeses including my favorite - cranberry chipotle cheddar
Wheat bread with Havarti cheese and smoked salmon
Chili laced chocolate

Don't you wish it was snack day??