Barn Birthday Cake

 

This post has been in my draft folder for a year! Not sure why it never published! Better late than never ;-)

For our little girl’s second birthday we hosted an apple picking party at a farm. I was excited for the opportunity to make a barn cake, and barn cake I made! Unfortunately, there were some structural issues and by morning the cake had already begun folding in on itself. A long car ride to the farm finished the job and by party time, the cake was a pile of frosting and fondant with a few barnyard animals poking through.

Below is the barn made using a 9 x 13 cake cut into triangles. I placed this on top of a double layer 9 x 13 cake and I think it was just too heavy. In retrospect,I think I needed a dowel to hold the barn onto the double sheet cake.

Because I spent so much time decorating the cake (cakes are truly a gift of time and love!) you might think I would be upset about serving guests a heap of smashed cake. I wasn’t really. Here’s the reason. Our little girl LOVED the cake! When she came down in the morning and saw it sitting on the table she circled it repeatedly saying, “Mommy made cake for me! Daddy, look! Daddy, look! Look at this cake! Mommy made it for me!” She delighted in poking her little fingers through the fencing to point out the different animals and sugared daisies. She was SO excited!

The above photo was taken the evening before the party. (I had full intention of capturing a gorgeous natural light photos on the day of the party but,  ah well. You win some you lose some! Sigh.)

At least the most important guest appreciated her Mama’s work! That’s really all that matters!

Barn cake!

Crash!

At least the barn yard animal backpack favors were cute!

Have you ever had a major cake fail?

Apple Tart

Remember back in the day when I used to make tarts all of the time?

Well, I was asked to make an apple dessert for Thanksgiving and I wanted to step outside of the apple pie box. I contemplated making an apple tart for Rosh Hashanah and decided on apple cake instead, so for Thanksgiving I determined it was time for a tart!

This tart was well-received. My dad actually thought it was purchased from a bakery when he saw it on the dessert table. (That is always the best compliment, isn’t it?)

This recipe follows my standard tart formula: crust + filling + fruit + glaze. It is easy to make and yields a beautiful and delicious tart. Enjoy!

Apple Tart:

Filling

  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup (50 – 100 grams) granulated white sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • Confectioners’ Sugar for browning the top of the tart.
  • 1 1/2 cups chunky apple sauce (you can definitely use home made if you prefer)

Crust

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon Water

Make the Crust

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all crust ingredients and stir with a fork until mixture is moist, like wet sand. Pour into a well-buttered 9- or 10-inch tart pan and press into an even layer, going up the sides of the tart. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until crust is just starting to brown at the edges. Cool completely.

Make the filling

Peel, core, and cut the apples into slices 1/4 inch thick. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in the other 2 – 4 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Add the apples and saute until they begin to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Set the cooked apples aside.

Assemble

Spoon the apple sauce into the cooled crust.

Arrange the cooked apple slices in concentric circles over the applesauce, and brush with 1 – 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Broil it under a preheated broiler about 4 inches from the heat until the edges of the apples are golden brown and crisp.

Make the Glaze

In a small saucepan, heat the apricot preserves until boiling. Remove from heat and strain to get rid of lumps. Add the water. Use this glaze to seal the baked tart shell and to brush the top of the finished tart.
Recipe inspired from this one found here on The Joy of Baking.

Meatless Tacos (Slow Cooker Lentil Taco Filling)

While the rest of the world is honing their recipes for whipped sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts, I am not. I am honing recipes that can be prepared with minimal effort and eaten during the busy holiday season when the fridge is full but there is nothing to eat.

I am always searching for the next best slow cooker recipe and this one, my friends, is a GEM. I love eating lentils but admit that I find the plain old lentil soup (while delicious) can get a tad boring. Enter: Meatless Taco Filling.

This recipe is at the top of my list because:

  • It uses the slow cooker = I don’t have to worry about dinner once I have tossed all of the ingredients and turned the dial to “on”
  • It is healthy! Three cheers for lentils (fiber, folate, + non-animal protein)
  • It is delicious! While you might not fool a diehard carnivore into thinking it is meat, it does feel just like meat on the palette and you might trick them for a few minutes. This is a fantastic recipe for vegetarians AND meat eaters.
  • Everyone loves taco night!

I am documenting this recipe immediately so that I don’t forget about it!

Meatless Tacos (Slow Cooker Lentil Taco Filling):

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 14 ounces vegetable broth (beef or chicken broth can be substituted) plus an additional 5-6 oz.
  • 1 cup salsa
  •  14 ounce can of corn
  • your favorite taco fixings (tortilla shells, grated cheese, sour cream/Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes etc.)
Put everything in the crock pot (except for corn and taco fixings) and cook on low for 9 hours, stirring occasionally and adding broth or water as needed. When done, stir in canned corn. Use as you would a meat taco filling.

Adapted from recipe found here on Food.com.

P.S. I love Food.com!

Pumpkin Cupcakes

 

 

Pumpkin cupcakes! Perfect for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful season!

Pumpkin Cupcakes recipe found here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/11/pumpkin-cupcakes/

P.S. I hope One-Pie never changes their can label. I love the nostalgia it evokes and choose it over Libby’s every time because of it!

Banana Cake for My Little Monkey

First order of business is this: I’ve decided I am no longer waiting until I have a decent picture to post to the blog. I am going to snap a photo of whatever meal/dessert I have made and document it. Too many great recipes have gone undocumented and too many weeks have past between posts because the photos are blah. In an ideal world I would be able to spend more time learning the ins and outs of my camera as well as make/buy a light box and stage the meals perfectly. Until then I will commit to posting whatever I have.

Now back to regularly (hopefully more regularly!) scheduled programming. ;-)

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Wow. Here we are again. Another year has passed since my daughter was born. Her second birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  I barely remember life without her, yet I feel like I just had her.  All of those cliches are cliches for a reason. Time flies.

She has shiny blond curls that I would have never predicted. She is particular about which shoes and clothes she wears and whether she would like a barrette or “two ponies” in her hair. Certain words/phrases make her laugh into a tizzy, like “coconut” and “sour feet.” (Don’t ask!) When she is overtired she giggles so hard she nearly chokes.  She loves playing with her baby dolls and she changes their diapers, puts lotion on their tushies, feeds them little bottles of milk and water then wraps them in blankets tenderly before tucking them into the tiny doll crib. She also loves playing with play dough (or “tay-doe” as she calls it, even though she can say the word “play” clear as day.)

She recently learned to put her own shoes on and she likes to ask, “Right foot mama?” Because sometimes she puts them on opposite feet. (And seems even more comfortable that way! ha!)

She loves books–especially Olivia, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Boo Boo, Tikki Tikki Tembo, The Cat in the Hat, The Tooth Book, and Max and Ruby. She has most of them memorized! My heart becomes a puddle on the floor when I peek into her room and see her flipping through books and “reading” them out loud.

More than anything she loves playing with her cousins and friends. The pure joy in her deep brown expressive eyes, full lips, pudgy cheeks and teeny teeth explodes my heart on demand. She bursts with little girl excitement when they are together. Watching them play (splashing in the kiddie pool, holding their hands at the playground, jumping on the bed  in fits of giggles and screeches) is like a drug for me. She brings infinite amounts of joy into my life and I love her more than I ever knew possible.

Her actual birthday was on a weeknight so I planned to make this banana cake. But then I realized I was out of butter so long story short we had this cake the night after her birthday. It is moist and delicious when paired with rich chocolate frosting. It is an Art Smith recipe. I rediscovered his book Back to the Table and I have found so many fabulous recipes in it.

(Her birthday party cake was adorable turned catastrophe after a bumpy car ride. More on that in another post.)

She loved the cake! Success! Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups mashed, well-ripened bananas
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • One recipe of your favorite chocolate frosting

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch round pans.

Beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce to low speed and beat in the bananas. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients, beating until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips using a wooden spoon. Spread evenly into pans.

Bake until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Check at 25 minutes.)

Cool in pans for 15 minutes then remove from pans and cool on wire racks completely. Frost with chocolate frosting.

Recipe adapted from recipe found in Back to the Table by Art Smith.

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

It’s that time of year! (And believe it or not, I’m not referring to pumpkins. Not yet, at least!) I have APPLES on the brain!  Boy am I loving these crisp cool mornings. I’ve officially made the switch to hot coffee, which is a big step given the iced coffee addict that I am.

I always welcome the transition to fall with open arms. The season seems  briefer and briefer each year, which is all the more reason so savor it. The pressure of filling the long days of summer is behind us and we can retreat to the house for warm dinners, red wine, and pumpkin beer. And the season is all the sweeter now that I have a little pumpkin’s birthday to celebrate each fall!

I attended a Rosh Hashanah dinner party this weekend and I was asked to make a dessert containing apples. It’s my understanding that apples (and honey) signify the sweetness of the New Year. (If anyone would like to elaborate on this in the comments, please do.)

I always enjoy being tasked with a specific request! I contemplated an apple tart but ultimately decided on this apple cake because it gave me a reason to purchase a Bundt pan. I can’t believe I didn’t already own one! It’s green, of course!

This cake turned out great! While it worked well as a dessert, it would also be appropriate to serve with tea and coffee as a coffee cake. I decided to take a short cut using the caramel candies instead of making caramel sauce from scratch because it was so. much. easier. While making the sauce from sugar might have been fun, it would have required me to find my candy thermometer and would have taken much longer. This “fake” method tasted fantastic and I am not sure it would be worth my time to make it from scratch. (Feel free to convince me otherwise!)

I poured the sauce into a squeeze bottle and drizzled it over the cake until it dribbled down each corner and crevice. Mmmmm. Apples + Caramel– a duo that is in the rankings of Peanut butter + Chocolate, Tuna Salad + Potato Chips, and Crusty Bread + Cheese in my book.

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce:

  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground
  • cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set
aside.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine vegetable oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs; mix on high speed until combined.

With mixer on medium speed, gradually add dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Using a wooden spoon fold apples into batter and mix to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with
a few moist crumbs attached, about 60-65 minutes. Note: Ovens vary drastically so this cake could take as long as 70 minutes. Begin checking it at 55 minutes. My oven is hot and this cake took about 60 minutes.

Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack. Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Easy Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 bag of caramel candies
  • 1/2 cup of cream or milk

Place unwrapped caramel square candies into a microwave safe bowl. Add cream or milk. Microwave on high for one minute at a time stirring after each minute until melted.

Recipe adapted from Butter + Cream blog, originally from Martha Stewart.com.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

When I visited my friend Jenny in Chicago a few months ago, her very sweet boyfriend cooked us dinner so that Jenny and I could drink wine, chat, laugh uncontrollably and reminisce of our days spent riding camels in Australia, soaking in the sulfur baths of New Zealand, gorging on duck fat coated potatoes in France, and trekking through waterfalls in Martinique. (And quite honestly, that barely covers it!)

The meal was so delicious that as soon as my little one and I returned home it was the very first meal I prepared. And I have made iterations of it 3 times since.

While not exactly photogenic (large slabs of meat in brown sauce tend not to be) this recipe was utterly delicious. Jenny’s boyfriend served it with perfectly crisp roasted potatoes. In the photo above I was short on time so I served it with sauteed mushrooms over a bed of quinoa. (The quinoa really soaks up the mustard and pork juice sauce and tastes delicious.)

Wait to add salt to sauteed mushrooms until AFTER they are done cooking. And to boost their flavor, start with some fresh garlic and olive oil in the pan.

This recipe is now a staple in our kitchen. And as always (at least in this household!) a good meal is only partly about the actual food. It’s often about the feelings the food evokes. In this case, the years of memories of great times with a fabulous friend.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins (3/4 – 1 pound each), trimmed
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper; transfer to skillet and cook, turning, until browned all over, 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover skillet; cook pork, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer registers 150  degrees. 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pork from skillet, wrap in aluminum foil, and let rest 10 minutes (reserve skillet with juices).  To juices in skillet, add mustards, and sour cream, and any accumulated juices from resting pork; whisk over medium heat until heated through (do not boil). Add water if sauce is too thick. Slice pork thinly and serve with pan sauce.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce found here on Martha Stewart.com.

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