Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp with Rice Noodles

It’s back to school time. Everyone is trying to get back into the routine and looking for quick meals. Here’s one that’s quick, delicious, AND healthy. If you chop the vegetables the night before, you can have this yummy meal ready in no time.

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp with Rice Noodles
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon chile paste (Huy Fong – Sambal Oelek)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
12 ounces shrimp

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons chopped cashews
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 green Thai chile (or 1 serrano chile), seeds removed, finely chopped
10 mini sweet peppers (or 1 to 1 1/2 red/yellow bell peppers), coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
3/4 cup snow peas
3/4 cup bean sprouts
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces rice noodles, softened in hot water and drained

Mix the first 5 ingredients (vinegar, honey, chile paste, soy sauce, shrimp) together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

---- Now you can either use the next 30 minutes while the shrimp is marinating to chop vegetables. Or if you chopped them the night before, you can use this extra time to help kids with homework, throw in a load of laundry, etc (have a glass of wine, put your feet up, etc… you wish). ----

This next part goes very fast. So have all of your ingredients handy and you’ll have dinner on the table in less than 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add cashews, garlic, ginger, and chile. Stir fry for 1 minute. Remove the cashew mixture with a slotted spoon (if you don’t remove, it will burn).

Increase the temperature to high heat. Add the peppers and carrot. Cook for 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Next add the shrimp mixture and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the snow peas and cook for 1 minute. Return the cashew mixture to the wok and add bean sprouts. Toss to coat. Remove from heat.

Serve over rice noddles with additional soy sauce on the side.

Recipe slightly adapted from Cooking Light, August 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Strawberries with Honey-Infused Whipped Cream

This is just a great little dessert tid-bit I needed to share.  I almost always make my own whipped cream (I am just not a fan of that stuff that comes in a can).  Typically, I add powdered sugar to sweeten the cream. But this time I used honey…. Oh my gosh! The flavor is just absolutely luscious. I don’t know if I’ll ever use powdered sugar again. You just have to try honey-infused whipped cream (fancy name – simple to make). Serve simply with fresh strawberries – or just eat it with a spoon.

Honey-Infused Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons honey

Using an electric mixer, whip the cream and honey in a medium mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mustache Cake Pops

I just had to share this creative idea with you from my friend Brittany. We teamed up recently to create these super cool mustache cake pops for her friend’s birthday. We are tickled by how great they turned out.

I prepared vanilla cake pops, dipped in white chocolate.

Follow the same technique that I describe in the chocolate cake truffle post or the red velvet cake truffle post. But before you dip the cake balls into the white chocolate, add a lollipop stick to each. Dip the tip of each stick in some melted white chocolate, then gently press the dipped end of the stick into the center of a cake ball about half-way through. Allow the chocolate to harden for about 10 minutes, then proceed to dip each ball into melted white chocolate, holding each cake pop by the stick allowing excess chocolate to drip off.
Use a piece of Styrofoam or a large glass filled with uncooked rice or dried beans to hold the cake pops upright after they’ve been dipped. Allow the chocolate to harden (you can refrigerate to speed up the process if you like).

While I was prepping the cake pops, Brittany was busy creating these cute (but very sophisticated) mustaches out of black fondant. Black fondant isn’t really that fun to make (other colors are much easier). So I always buy Duff’s fondant (from Ace of Cakes) available at Michael’s craft stores.
When the chocolate coating on the cake pops was hardened, we attached the fondant mustaches using a small dot of royal icing as “glue.”

we persuaded Mark to model one of the mustaches

Brittany then packaged the finished cake pops in a piece of Styrofoam set inside a simple black vase tied with a matching ribbon.  Her vision was beautiful, fun, and sophisticated. Thanks for allowing me to help, Brittany!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

I'm a huge fan of fresh tomatoes. If you are skilled enough to have a garden (I'm not... just about everything I try to grow dies), this would be absolutely delicious with whatever fresh tomatoes you have. I remember having fresh tomato sandwiches as a kid - just plain white sandwich bread, butter, and lots of salt and pepper. Simple! Yum! This Tomato Basil Bruschetta has become one of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes... balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lots of basil.
Tomato Basil Bruschetta
4 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
salt & pepper to taste
1 garlic clove
1 baguette, sliced (I used a buckwheat baguette)
Set the oven to BROIL. Place the slices of baguette on a baking sheet. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub the cut side on each slice of bread.  Using 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, drizzle a little oil on each slice of baguette. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for about 3 minutes (or until the baguette is lightly toasted). Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Cut the tomatoes into quarters, remove and discard seeds and “tomato goo,” then dice the tomatoes.
Chop the basil by gathering leaves (I used about 15 to 20 leaves) only and arranging them from largest to smallest. Stacking the smaller leaves on top of the larger leaves. Roll the largest leaf around the other small ones. Slice the roll of leaves crosswise into thin strips. At this point, you can use the basil in strips or continue to chop in the opposite direction as I did.
Combine the diced tomatoes in a medium bowl with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the chopped basil and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Top each piece of toasted baguette with a spoonful of the tomato basil mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Using the remaining 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, drizzle each piece of bruschetta with a few drops of the vinegar.
You could also serve the bowl of tomato basil mixture and feta with the baguette toasts on a plate, allowing guests to top their own toasts.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Queen Elizabeth Cake

Phenominal.  That's the only word I can think of right now because I just tasted a fork full of Queen Elizabeth Cake. It is so much more amazing than I imagined it would be. My husband said, "No wonder Queen Elizabeth is a bit round... eating this cake all the time."  I love his humor. He also thought this cake was delicious. You are going to love it!

I've honestly never even heard of this cake before, so let me tell you the story behind it...

My friend, Sal, knows how much I enjoy cooking and baking. So when his sweet wife, Lori, was asked to edit the journal for the United Federation of Doll Clubs, they were kind enough to send me a copy. I was expecting "magazine style," but what I received was a beautiful hard-cover book full of interesting writings and photographs of dolls, written by collectors and historians of dolls from all over the world. To compliment the doll subject, the journal is full of recipes from members of various doll clubs around the world. They all came together recently in New Orleans for what they called "A Jambalaya Jubilee" (and the journal is named the same). I am very thankful that Sal and Lori shared this book with me. Now I can share some of its recipes with you! First up - Queen Elizabeth Cake... of course I started with dessert.

Queen Elizabeth Cake
for the cake...
1 cup Granny Smith apples, diced*
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

*I used one whole apple diced very small, but the recipe also says you could use raisins or dates if you like

for the icing...
1/4 cup butter
4 tablespoons cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter and flour an 8 or 9 inch cake pan. In a saucepan, cook the apples (raisins or dates) until softened, then let cool. NOTE: I added a little butter to the saucepan when I cooked the apples. I cooked them for about 15 minutes until I was satisfied that they were soft enough for my liking. You could cook them less if you prefer a little crisper apple in the texture.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and nuts. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Into the butter/egg mixture, add the dry ingredients alternately with the softened and cooled fruit in one-thrid increments. NOTE: This batter has the consistency of a cookie dough, rather than a cake. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (the recipe said 45 minutes, but I thought that might be too long so when I adjusted).

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Then, remove the cake from the pan and transfer to a plate.
This cake is kind of like a giant thick cookie.
To prepare the icing, combine the butter, cream, brown sugar, and coconut together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes. Cool the icing slightly (about 5 minutes) and then pour over the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides.

After icing the cake, I scraped every last bit of this icing
out of the saucepan and ate it all off of the spatula.
Place the iced cake back in the oven with the setting to BROIL. Broil for 2 minutes and remove from the oven.
Look at that icing bubbling under the broiler.
It is so delicious with a caramel and coconut flavor.  
Allow to cool. Slice and serve.

I'll be sure to share more recipes from "A Jambalaya Jubilee" in the future. It has many that sound delicious - appetizers, salads, drinks, dinners, and more dessert. I can't wait to try another! Thanks Sal and Lori!

recipe from Patricia Poulin in "A Jambalaya Jubilee" 63rd Annual Convention, The United Federation of Doll Clubs

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chocolate Cake Truffles

Sometimes when you bake a cake, it comes out of the oven with a top that is slightly rounded - not perfectly flat. So if you want to have a perfectly flat top on your cake, you'll need to trim the top with a sharp knife to level it. I don't think good cake should ever be wasted. Please don't throw it away! Make some cake truffles. I promise you'll love them.

Chocolate Cake Truffles
1 1/2 cups crumbled chocolate cake
2 teaspoons chocolate buttercream frosting (or any frosting of your choice)
8 ounces chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons Crisco vegetable shortening (optional)

First, make sure your hands are clean. I've found that the best way to make cake truffles is to just use your hands for all of the crumbling, mixing, and forming.

In a large bowl, use your hands to crumble the cake into little bits.
Add a small amount of frosting. Start with about a teaspoon or two and get it mixed in well, using your fingers. This part takes a little practice. You have to find the right consistency. When the mixture will hold the shape of a ball easily when squeezed in your hand, you've got it right.
I use a melon baller to get consistent amounts of the mixture, work it into a small ball, and place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper. You could also use a teaspoon and just roll the mixture in your hands to form the balls.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl. You can do this by either melting it in a double boiler (a bowl set over a small pot of simmering water) or melt in your microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between each interval.

HINT: If your chocolate is melted, but seems kind of thick, you can add a small amount of crisco to thin it. Be sure to stir it in until it is completely melted. You'll notice that the chocolate will get smoother and thinner. Add about a half teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Using a fork, carefully place each ball into the chocolate and turn gently to coat. Remove the ball from the chocolate using the fork and allow excess chocolate to drip off. Carefully place the truffle back on the sheet to harden.
I like to add a little drizzle of chocolate to the top of each truffle. It hides and imperfections in the chocolate and makes it look just a little more fancy. Just place some of the melted chocolate in a small ziplock bag. Snip a very small hole in one corner and gently sqeeze some chocolate out into a drizzle.

You can refrigerate if your truffles are too soft. But they will also keep just fine at room temperature once the chocolate sets.  
You can use any combination of cake, frosting, chocolate coating you like. Let me know what you try! Enjoy!!

This is also the basic idea for cakepops, you just add a stick to make the cake truffle turn into a cakepop. Hopefully I'll have some to share with you soon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Asian Barbecue Salmon and Snap Pea Salad

Summer is perfect for grilled fish. I’m a fan of grilled fish for a few reasons – (1) tastes great; (2) Mark is usually the one who cooks it; (3) grilling outside does not leave the house smelling like fish for hours like it would if we cooked it inside. This meal is also great because it’s rather healthy and I just love all the colors on the plate.   

Asian Barbecue Salmon and Snap Pea Salad
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 garlic cloves
 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chile paste (look for sambal oelek in the Asian area of your market)
2 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
1 cups snap peas thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated radishes (about 2 radishes)
1 shallot, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

To prepare the barbecue sauce, combine 2 tablespoons sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lime juice, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and chile paste. Pulse to combine into a smooth sauce.
Brush about half of the sauce on the tops of the salmon fillets. Grill salmon on medium-high heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Brush on more sauce as needed, as the salmon cooks.
I used my mandolin slicer to create thin strips of snap peas and also to julienne the radishes. Just be extra slow and cautious if you use this method and be sure to keep your fingers clear of the extremely sharp blade.
To prepare the salad, toss the sliced snap peas, radishes, and shallot with the sesame oil and vinegar. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt (adding more to taste).
Serve the salmon with additional sauce drizzled on top and some salad along the side. Enjoy!!

Original recipe (slightly adapted) from

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coconut Lime Cookies (Gluten-Free)

The perfect summer cookie - these are light and tart, yet soft and absolutely luscious. The lime and coconut compliment each other very nicely. And bonus ... they are gluten-free!! I've been thinking about them for a few weeks now. They are actually an adaptation of the lemon ricotta cookies I posted a while back. I was trying to think of a way to make them different and also make them gluten free so that Katie could enjoy them too. I delcare it a success. Will you think so too?...

Coconut Lime Cookies (Gluten-Free)
for the cookies...
2 cups coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
juce of 3 limes
2 limes, zested

for the glaze...
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar  
1 lime, zested
juice of 1 lime

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric mixer.  Add the eggs, ricotta, lime juice, and lime zest and mix. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Stir until just mixed.

Drop by tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheet. I typically use a small cookie scoop (like an ice cream scoop, just smaller). That way each cookie comes out the same size. Use the palm of a clean hand to flatten each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Prepare the glaze by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the glaze and sit upright on the wire rack to dry. HINT: I always place some waxed paper or parchment paper under the wire rack to catch the drips of glaze. It makes clean-up much easier.

Katie - your cookies are on their way!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chocolate Ganache

Everything is better with chocolate. Try adding a little chocolate ganache to your next cake. It's simple to make and really adds a delicious dimension. It's easy, yet looks elegant.


Chocolate Ganache
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or you can use about a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Add the cream to a small saucepan. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is almost boiling. Immediately remove from heat and pour hot cream into the bowl over the chocolate. Stir the cream and chocolate until smooth. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla, stirring to combine. Allow the ganache to sit for about 10 minutes before using.

Frost your cake as desired and refrigerate until ready to add the ganache. (Refrigerating the cake will help the ganache to cool more quickly when you add it, creating the nice drips and cooling fast enough to hold some of the drips on the side of the cake before falling all the way to the bottom.)

Remove your prepared cake from the refrigerator. Pour the ganache evenly on the top of the cake. It should slowly begin dripping down the sides. Use a knife or spatula to smooth the top and insure even drips if necessary.

Return cake to refrigerator, allowing the ganache to set. I typically like to remove the cake from the refrigerator an hour or two before serving so that it's not "cold." But you could serve straight from the refrigerator if you like.

You could do this same process with any type of chocolate you like - dark, milk, white, colored candy melts. Oh! here's an idea.... how about a red frosted cake with dark chocolate for Halloween. Or a cake frosted in white buttercream, topped with a ganache using red candy melts so it would look like blood. I guess it's time to start preparing some fun Halloween food!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Watermelon Sorbet

This weekend we (well, me really dragging Mark along) decided to check out some Oklahoma culture. I heard about this local (not exactly local, seeing as it took almost 2 hours through lots of farmland to get there) festival that's been in Rush Springs, Oklahoma for many, many, many years - the Watermelon Festival. I thought, of course, "This is going to be fun!" I love watermelon and I was sure it would be exciting to see a little more of Oklahoma. I don't think it was the most excitement we've seen in Oklahoma, but I took some photos to share and created a sweet, refreshing watermelon sorbet recipe.


There was a watermelon exhibit full of prize watermelons. The watermelon queen was also on hand just at the entrance to the exhibit. Little girls were rushing to have their picture taken with her (she wore a watermelon-print dress with cowboy boots).
 This is what a prize watermelon looks like... there was a huge line of people just waiting to walk around and look at each watermelon that was part of the exhibit - seriously... Mark and I did not see the attraction so we took a quick look around and continued exploring the festival.

There was a little section of carnival rides - that Tilt-A-Whirl on the left is my favorite. We didn't ride it.

Plenty of shopping opportunity was available at the watermelon festival.... check out these note pads. And eveyone needs a wild west photo in their home - bonus points for John Wayne.
The red solo cup wine glass next to the canning jar wine glass.
Oops... almost didn't see that guy in the full camouflage.

This local home had quilts in their yard for sale  (many of them embraced the watermelon theme)
no explanation necessary for this one

There were three tractors on display. Em 'r some nice lookin tracters.

check out the guy's big bag of pork rinds

The watermelon truly was delicious. And I thought it was really great that the whole community came together to stand around some makeshift wooden bars to eat huge chunks of watermelon on a hot August day.

The made-in-Oklahoma root beer was out of this world.

We stopped at Ruby's Watermelon Stand as we left the little town of Rush Springs. We bought one of these huge watermelons (I think it must have weighed 30 pounds - not joking). That picture on the right is pretty much what the entire drive looked like from Oklahoma City south west to Rush Springs.

Now, what to do with all that watermelon??!!... Make watermelon sorbet. Sooooooo sweet and refreshing. Enjoy it on a hot summer afternoon!
Watermelon Sorbet
4 cups watermelon puree*
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

*Cut watermelon into one-inch cubes, discarding seeds and rind. You'll need about 7 to 8 cups of cubed watermelon to make 4 cups of puree. Place watermelon in blender to puree. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Use the smooth puree for the sorbet.

Create a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved in the water. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Combine the watermelon puree, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Stir well and chill in the refrigerator.

Pour cold watermelon mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream maker process is completely, you can eat the sorbet right away or transfer to a container, seal, and freeze until read to serve.

If you have kids or just want to add a little fun to the sorbet, top with a few mini-chocolate chips to look like watermelon seeds. Enjoy!