Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rainbow Angel Food Cake

Our church celebrates NYC Pride every year. This year I offered to contribute a cake for the festivities and came up with the idea of dressing up a plain angel food cake with the colors of the rainbow. For the cake, I used a tried and true recipe from The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book. The rest was just putting together a pretty design with colorful fruits.

For The Cake You'll Need...
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 2/3 cups egg whites (12-14 large eggs)
- 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract

Get at least five fruits: a variety of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. If you have other shade of fruit to add into the mix do so, but I used the following fruits and assembled the leftovers into a tasty salad.
- strawberries
- mandarin oranges
- pineapple
- green grapes
- blueberries
- blackberries

How To Make It
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Sift flour and powdered sugar together over a small bowl.
3) In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Increase speed to high. Beat until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until whites stand in stiff, glossy peaks when beaters are lifted. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.
4) Sift flour mixture, one-third at a time, over beaten egg whites. Fold in with rubber spatula just until flour mixture is no longer visible. Do not overmix.
5) Scrape batter into an ungreased 9-10 inch tube pan; spread evenly. Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed, 35-40 minutes. Invert cake in pan onto a baking sheet and allow to cool completely. Run a thin knife or spatula around the cake to loosen from side and center of tube pan. Remove from pan and place on cake plate/platter.
6) Slice fruit into bite size pieces and arrange around finished cake.
7) Serve with additional dusted powdered sugar or fresh whipped cream.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Make Stromboli

Looking to mix up your pizza night? Make stromboli instead of pizza for a change. Sounds kinda fancy and difficult, right? Well, I seek to make my kitchen a no-intimidation zone, so no! Only an extra step or two and longer baking time required. Stromboli is essentially just a pizza in jellyroll form.

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Prepare your pizza dough.
3) Using your hands and/or a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a rectangular cookie sheet until it looks like it would be ready to turn into a regular pizza.
4) Add your favorite toppings (think red sauce, cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, onions, meat for the omnivores if you're making a couple of these at a time, etc.). Use a little more sparingly than you would with pizza to avoid the a mess of stromboli filling on your baking sheet.
5) Roll up as you would a jelly roll (or a loaf of cinnamon bread) and pinch the ends together. Use a little water if the dough is difficult to stick together.Place seam down on your baking sheet.
6) Lightly brush the top of the stromboli with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of cheese.
7) Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until thoroughly browned.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sugared Tomatoes

I know plenty of folks who sprinkle sugar on their morning grapefruit, but tomatoes?!? It's true that tomatoes are usually savory fare, but they can also be transformed into an easy summer dessert.

When I was a girl, I was introduced to the idea of "tomatoes as dessert" by an elderly friend of the family. He and his wife both told me that when they grew up on their respective family farms, their parents would pluck tomatoes from the garden, add sugar, are serve to the kids for dessert. I was skeptical, but tried and fell in love with the idea.

So, how do you make a light summery dessert and use up excess tomatoes in the process? Very, very simple...

- tomatoes, thickly sliced
- sugar, to taste (I'd recommend just using less sugar over an artificial sweetener any day.)

How To Prepare
1) Lightly sprinkle your tomato slices with sugar and serve. That's it. Done. Yum!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Fuss-Free Dinner Parties

Have you always wanted to have friends and family over for dinner, but don't like cooking big, involved meals? I try to host weekly gatherings of friends in our homes, but some times I go through phases where I want nothing to do with long-winded prep work or standing over a stove.

So, what to do? You want the fun of a dinner without the same level of fuss. Ordering pizza and wings is fun, but can't happen on a regular basis. Instead of investing more time than you'd like in the kitchen, have a "Make Your Own (Insert Customizable Food Here) Night."

This week I'm having Make Your Own Quesadilla Night. Provided by me:
  • tortillas
  • shredded cheese
  • salsa
  • black beans
  • sautéed onions
  • sautéed bell peppers
Anyone coming has been asked to bring an additional fun filling, topping, or side of their choice. A few years ago, I plunked down $30 one of those unnecessary indispensable small appliances, a quesadilla maker, to make quesadilla nights even more fuss-free. Folks can personalize the meal to their hearts' content.

Not a fan of quesadillas? No problem! You can have your own "Make Your Own" dinner party with other foods including, but not limited to:
  • baked potatoes (just add sour cream, cheese, broccoli, bacon, etc.)
  • salad (you provide a base of greens and dressing, friends bring add-ins)
  • tacos
  • veggie burgers/burgers
Have fun, be creative, and let dinner take care of itself for a change!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grandma's Cinnamon Bread: Part Two

When it comes to breakfast, noot much tops a fresh, warm loaf of cinnamon bread. Beware! This bread has a history of disappearing quickly.

You'll need a starter to make this cinnamon bread, so don't forget to check out Part One of this recipe for easy instructions.

- 1/3 cup sugar (in the original recipe as optional, so I don't use it)
- 1/2 cup corn/canola/vegetable oil
- 1 cup cinnamon bread starter
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 6 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt

How To Bake It
1) Combine your liquid ingredients (oil, water, starter), then add it sugar and salt so that it has a little time to dissolve.
2) Slowly mix in the flour using either a spoon/hands or a stand mixer to form a stiff dough.
3) Lightly spray the top of the dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap or a towel that you don't mind getting dough on.
4) When the dough has doubled in volume (usually 8-12 hours depending on the temperature of your home), punch down. Knead on a floured surface until no longer sticky and divide into three equal parts.
5) Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease three loaf pans. I like using stoneware pans; Grandma used metal. Choose what works for you.
6) Stretch each section of dough into a long piece.
7) Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon onto the dough and roll up as you would a jelly roll.
8) Pinch the ends of the loaves together with your fingers and place in the greased loaf pans.
9) Spray a little oil on the tops of the bread. Sprinkle a little extra cinnamon and sugar on top for an extra dose of YUM!
10) Cover the pans with plastic wrap/a towel. Let stand for 4-5 hours, or until the dough rises a little above the top of the pans.
11) Bake for 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned.
12) This bread freezes nicely, but don't forget to share! If bread starts to get stale before you can eat it, it also makes fantastic french toast.

NOTE: Don't like cinnamon bread? Just form the dough into loaves right away without rolling up with the cinnamon and sugar. Instant white bread, which is also delicious.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grandma's Cinnamon Bread: Part One

My Grandma Shook used this recipe to bake bread for her family and friends; it makes three loaves. She started the tradition of keeping a loaf or two for the family as a breakfast treat and giving the rest away. I ask that you continue the tradition: Remember, your mama always taught you to share...

The Starter
Starters are living, breathing yeast colonies. You'll need one to bake this bread, but don't worry-- their care and feeding is simple.

- 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 TBSP instant mashed potato flakes

How To Make Your Starter
1) Dissolve yeast in warm water
2) Add sugar and potato flakes
3) Refrigerate for three days in a container with a lid loosely on top. I use a mason jar.
4) For extra fun, give your starter a name!

Feeding Your Starter
Whether you bake on a regular basis or not, you'll need to feed your starter about once a week.

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 TSBP instant mashed potato flakes

Feed Your Yeast!
1) Add the ingredients to your starter, mix well, and let stand out of the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. Keep free from drafts and in your original container. Starter will be slightly bubbly after being out of the refrigerator.

If you're not baking bread...
2a) Set aside 1 cup of your starter and either discard the rest or give some to a friend so that they can have a starter of their own.
3a) Pour the cup of starter into the original container and return it to the 'fridge. Feed again within 5-8 days.

Baking day...
2b) Set aside 1 cup of your starter for baking and another cup to return to the 'fridge in the original container. Discard the rest.
3b) Feed the starter you return to the refrigerator within 5-8 days.
4b) Use the remaining cup of starter to bake your bread.

To be continued...

Budding New Yorker

I've been working from home part time since last November. Recently, I was offered another work-from-home opportunity, took on the challenge, and found myself with later nights and significantly less free time. Mamahood plus two additional jobs? I'm finally a real New Yorker!!

I'm sure you've long since picked up the pieces and moved on with your lives... but I missed you! I missed my kitchen! There's been far too much eating things out of packages and my supply of leftovers is beginning to dwindle. That, and I've found that Gavin has entered the dreaded picky toddler eating phase. He only eats vegetables when they're cooked into tasty things like soup and curries. Smart boy. Looking forward to sharing good food with all of you!