July 31, 2012

Orange Vanilla Cake

Does anyone ever wake up and think, "Woah. I'm almost (insert age here)?? I have TWO kids?! What the heck?? No way!!" I'm having one of those days. Not in a bad way!! My inner 19 year-old is just out in full force. 

To be perfectly honest, I feel about 20 inside all the time. Age? Nah. Who cares. I plan on staying this young as long as I can pull it off. But what brought on my little slip back into teenager-dom?? Nickelback. HA!! Yep, go ahead and laugh. I remember when they first came out, all edgy and growly and dark, and their songs these days just crack me up. They're trying to be all poppy and ballad-y, and that voice just DOESN'T work, bud! Give it up!! But as much as I scoff and mock, I have a horribly guilty love of their corny new songs. As I zipped over to the store for eggs in my pj pants, the one that brought it on today was "Gotta Be Somebody". Love it. "There's somebody else that feels the same somewhere, There's gotta be somebody for me out there" You know if anyone but Nickelback sang it, you'd love it. 

But then!! It was followed by my current favoritestest song, so I came home, gave in, and bought it. And proceeded to dance around the kitchen with headphones plugged into my iPad trying to bake and text my mom and sing while seriously congested and not being able to hear a note...Stephen laughed. Yup. I put it on repeat and hoped I wasn't so distracted I missed a major cake ingredient... Oh! The song! "Payphone" by Maroon 5. I loooooove Maroon 5. One of these days I need to go through all their songs and buy all the ones that don't cuss. Sigh, Adam Levine, why must you swear?? Oh well. I'll just listen to the clean ones a few dozen times. 

Lets see... what's next on the playlist... "Already Gone" by Kelly Clarkson! Wow. Now there is a song to crank up and sing so loud it hurts. Too bad my kids are napping...
How's this for another great mental image: Stephen making the boys super-sandwiches filled with everything in our fridge, while speaking in his own special blend of Hispanic and French accents (dubbed "Frenchican") while mixing up the names of every sandwich fixin' while the boys laugh and try to imitate him. It was pretty great.
Joe wins the Awesome Sandwich Award, for his creation of mayo, Swiss, cheddar, muenster, pepperoni, turkey, and baloney. :) He was very proud.
Speaking of proud, this cake smells absolutely divine... just a few more minutes!! It's actually a collaboration between me, my mom, and a recipe I saw on SprinkleBakes. I wanted to make it more orange-y and up the vanilla, so I got tips from my mom on how to do that most effectively. And I do believe, I have created a thing of beauty! I have to confess, it took me two cakes to get it right.
Orange Vanilla Cake
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups+1 heaping tsp all purpose flour 
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest from 2 oranges
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Line and/or grease a loaf pan. (see my teeny workspace! ignore the ingredients, this is first batch, I changed lots of stuff)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Rub orange zest into sugar with your fingers. (mmm, orange sugar...)
In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk in zested sugar, yogurt, oil, and extracts. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients until well blended. 
Pour batter into loaf pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. (Second loaf. Prettiest loaf cake I have EVER made!!)
Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then whisk together the juice and powdered sugar and pour over the top.
Let cool until glaze is completely absorbed into the cake. Dust with powdered sugar and serve! 
(The rest of these pictures are from my first cake, it was just too dark to take them tonight. They'll work!)
Can you see the higher rise with the second cake? That's the difference between 2% and non-fat Greek yogurt! Fat is important! All right, teaching moment over, time for the yumminess.
And it IS yummy!!! I achieved exactly what I wanted, a cake bright with orange and creamy with vanilla. It's fantastic, I am in LOVE.
This cake would be perfect with some lightly sugared whipped cream... I might have to make some tomorrow. I think this is my favorite loaf cake I have ever made... And I created it!! It's super moist, but the higher fat yogurt made it fluffier and tender, instead of heavy and "wet", as Stephen describes.
The powdered sugar may not add much flavor-wise, but it sure is pretty. Takes this cake right over the top. I would say this was like a cake version of an orange creamsicle, but in reality, it is infinitely better. Yay!! Creating recipes is so much FUN! I hope you like it!

And the baking is back!!

July 30, 2012


I'm sure you can all see I am brand-spankin' new at this blogging thing. And let me tell you, I love it more and more every day. It brings me so much joy! My Mother used to always tell me I needed to find a hobby. I would get all offended, thinking, "I LOVE being a Mom! I LOVE being a Wife!! This is all I have ever wanted to be, isn't that enough??" But she was right. I have found a way to share my love of cooking, baking, mommy-ing and living with you, my readers, and it has been eye-opening. SO! A few questions for  you, if you don't mind! I would really appreciate a quick answer, if you have a sec :)

Comment replies: I love your comments so much, and try to reply to at least most of them! Do you get my replies when I do it on here, or should I email you replies? Either way works for me, I consider anyone who likes my blog enough to comment a new friend, and love to chat!

Posts: I tend to ramble, are my posts too long? They look long to me sometimes...

Any other tips or critiques? Thank you for your time!!

Asian-Barbecue Glazed Salmon and Ginger-Spiced Coconut Rice. Wow!!

We had a fantastic dinner last night!! Sooo, so yummy. A new favorite, that's for sure. And we got the boys to eat fish!! That is ALWAYS an achievement. In fact, Joe liked it so much he wanted leftovers! There weren't any, but still. Victory. Asian Barbecue Glazed Salmon and  Ginger Spiced Coconut Rice . Doesn't that just sound decadent and delicious?? It was!! Although, I messed up the rice, because I tried to do it in a rice cooker instead of stovetop. So I won't post my results, I just posted the link to the original at The English Kitchen. Even messed up, it was delicious though!! Mine was just a bit gooey-er than it was supposed to be. The salmon is straight out of Cooks Illustrated. Hats off to them for just about any meat/fish recipe I have tried, spot on for cooking things well! The original is here, although you can't access the online recipes unless you have an account. So I have duplicated them with all credit, as best I can. Just trying to do this thing right!! We used frozen salmon, if it's wild-caught it will be as good or better than any fresh you can get. Unless you are in one of those wonderful places where you can get REALLY fresh salmon. If so, I envy you. 

Asian-BBQ Glazed Salmon (from Cooks Illustrated)
Printable Recipe
Published January 1, 2011.   From Cook's Illustrated.
Asian Barbecue Glaze 
2tablespoons ketchup
2tablespoons hoisin sauce 
2tablespoons rice vinegar
2tablespoons light brown sugar
1tablespoon soy sauce
1tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce (I just used chili sauce, like Sambal Olek)
1teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  1. Whisk ingredients together in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  2. Glazed Salmon (makes 4-6 fillets

    1/2teaspoon kosher salt
    1 tsp brown sugar
    1/4teaspoon cornstarch
    4center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each (see note)
    Ground black pepper
    1teaspoon vegetable oil
    1recipe glaze (see above)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine brown sugar, salt, and cornstarch in small bowl. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over top of flesh side of salmon, rubbing to distribute.
  1. Heat oil in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place salmon, flesh side down, in skillet and cook until well browned, about 1 minute. Using tongs, carefully flip salmon and cook on skin side for 1 minute.
    Remove skillet from heat and spoon glaze evenly over salmon fillets. (Mmmm, this glaze is so yummy!!)
    Transfer skillet to oven and cook until center of thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is still translucent when cut into with paring knife, 7 to 10 minutes. (If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, or it is too small to hold all fillets, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake on there) Transfer fillets to platter or individual plates and serve.
    These certainly aren't my greatest pictures ever, but YUM!! I recommend keeping a bit of the glaze to drizzle over your fish at the end. I am not a HUGE fish lover, but I ate almost all of this big ole' fillet, and it was awesome. Especially with the coconut ginger rice!! I would have added another teaspoon of ginger to this batch, but again, I cooked it wrong, so it probably would have been perfect.
    Creamy coconut rice with a bit of heat with this tangy, spicy (just a little!) mouthwatering glaze, and perfectly cooked salmon... I ate them together every bite. They were good friends. I can't imagine making them separately ever again! I even got a little more rice when the salmon was gone, just to pick up that last smear of glaze on my plate :) And cool fresh cantalope to finish. We love fruit with dinner!
    If my kids liked it, there is a decent chance yours will too. Or your husband, or pet... whoever you cook for.
    Now enough of this real food nonsense, tomorrow I get back to baking!!

July 29, 2012

Almond Shortbread Cookies

Okay, so I didn't bake these today. Stephen did. I was napping. In fact, I should really make him post about them, because he is pretty much the baker of these cookies these days. They're just so easy! He likes to take treats to the families he home-teaches, and at least half of the time, he makes the treats himself! Such a gentleman. :) These are his go-to, because, again, they're ridiculously simple. And they just might be his favorite. My sister-in-law Jane gave me this recipe, what feels like a million years ago, when we lived down the street from Stephen's parents in the middle of Missouri. I have so many fond memories of those years... just not of the summers. SO hot, humid, full of ticks and chiggers... *shudder* Ick. I am so glad Stephen has been converted to the West. The rocks might have had something to do with it... Anyway, I digress. Cookies! Five ingredients. Really!

Almond Shortbread Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 cup salted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in almond extract. Add flour till just mixed. Roll dough into balls. 

Make a small hole in the top with your finger. 
Fill hole with jam. (Raspberry and leftover apricot from my Pumpkin Surprise Muffins here) Bake for 14 minutes. 
Easy peasy!! Stephen got creative with a few of them...
Raspbery almond?
Butterscotch almond?
Anyone see the big black beastie hair on that one? No? Just me then :) I think it's hilarious... maybe I shouldn't point it out... unsanitary and all that. Hey, when you have an 87 pound dog in a 500 square foot apartment, no matter how often you vacuum and brush said dog, those hairs just kinda... precipitate!
But there are no dog hairs on these, I promise. Aren't they pretty?? And easy?? And yummy!!
I don't know why they're called shortbread cookies... they aren't like shortbread at all. They're soft, a bit fluffy, buttery and almondy. Very scrumptious, but not shortbread. Oh well, I didn't name them!
I'll just eat them. And you should too! Happy Sunday!

July 28, 2012

Big things, yummy things and blue things.

We, like many of you I'm sure, watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies last night. We got started a little late, but I think we caught most of it. It was quite epic, wasn't it!! Some of my favorite parts were when the rings were joined and showered gold sparks (gave me goosebumps!), the children's choir singing "God Save the Queen", (got me all choked up and I wished I was British, yet again!) Mary Poppins vanquishing the baddies, and of course, Mr. Bean and his one note. I loved it when he made faces at the pianist.

The Queen's entrance was a riot. (She didn't really jump out of that airplane, right??) I love that she so obviously has a sense of humor. Sometimes the commentors were a bit annoying, but I did learn a few things! I didn't know about the 2 times London basically saved the Olympics. They certainly deserve to be the first city to host it 3 times! And wow, when all the little torches became one giant flame... that was amazing. Quite the epic fireworks show too! I must admit, after all that, I thought, "and we're ending with Paul McCartney? Really?" but getting the whole stadium, visitors and athletes from around the world to sing with him, that was a perfect ending. Loved it.

Bracken enjoyed the Olympics too! Okay, I fib. She enjoyed watching me eat popcorn. She knows I'll always share. Even though I shouldn't.
We went to the farmer's market again today. The produce stalls are increasing! Hooray! In a few weeks we'll probably be able to get all our produce there. I don't care if it's a little more expensive, it is so worth it! It tastes better and lasts longer. We got corn (hooray!!), green beans, tomatoes and peaches. And of course, another heavenly limeade. Mmmmm...
Look at my beautiful little hydrangea!! I think I'll name her Bonnie. I'm sorry, what? You don't name your plants? Well, I do. Not always, but some just cry out for a name. Like this one. :) Stephen wanted to get me one in the hospital, but wasn't sure if I liked them. I do! So he told me to pick one out at the store. *happy dance* Our grocery store actually has a lovely flower area. I picked a little one, because I want it to be easy to take with us when we move. She was just so perfect, with a few green-shaded petals and not a wilted one to be seen! She made me so happy I practically snuggled her all the way home.
Now I need to find a pretty flowerpot. Eventually, when we buy a house, I would love to plant her outside!! Unfortunately, I don't really have much of a green thumb... in fact, I kinda have a brown thumb... plants don't live long around me... I don't know why!! Does anyone have any tips for the "care and feeding" of a potted hydrangea??
Another silly blue thing. I'm a kinda addicted to salt water taffy at the moment, and blue raspberry is my favorite. Stephen grumbles at me when I buy it. I guess I do feel a bit guilty, but what's the fun of being "all growed-up" if I can't do whatever on earth I want from time to time?? And speaking of yummy things, I just HAD to use those fresh tomatoes today, so I made my favorite sandwich in the whole world... a BLAT!! Hee hee :) A BLAT is a bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato sandwich. Have you ever added avocado?? It's positively delicious!
Eh, it didn't photograph very well, but it was scrumptious. I always pepper my bacon when I fry it up (or rather, when I ask Stephen to fry it up for me... I always manage to burn it. One of the few things I just can't cook right!!) and sprinkle a teeny bit of salt on the tomatoes. Spread mayonnaise on toasted bread, top with lettuce, avocado, bacon, and tomato. You have built a BLAT! I love that name. 
This has the perfect sandwich ratio for me. 85% veggies, 15% meat. That's how I like my burgers too. Sometimes I wonder if I am borderline vegetarian... nah.
Does this count as a recipe??

July 27, 2012

MY Macaroni and Cheese

*Disclaimer: I am going to brag a lot in this post. I promise I shall never ever brag like this again. Just give me this one, and I will be humble forevermore. Thank you.*

This is a very, VERY big deal. For me, anyway. I'm a little bit obsessed with "comfort food", you know, those homey classics that are generally full of cheese, butter, or gravy. Maybe that is because my mother was more health conscious than I might have wanted her to be while we were growing up... I always wanted more cheese, or butter, or gravy than was good for me. One thing we NEVER had was homemade macaroni and cheese. As I got older, I thought the constant-warmed deli stuff from grocery stores was AWESOME. *Shudder* Finally I went in search of the perfect homemade mac and cheese. I had never had it, but I knew it must exist somewhere. Well, I found one. And it was close. But not quite there. So over the course of about five years, I tweaked, and changed, and deleted, and adjusted, until the only thing left in this recipe that hasn't changed is the number of eggs. Therefore, I can officially call it MINE. ALLLLL MINE!! Ahem.

Now, I realize nearly everyone has their own favorite version of mac and cheese, and everyone likes theirs different ways. But to me, this is the greatest EVER. It was pretty darn good, for a long, long time, until one day, as I was whipping up a batch to take to Brat Tuesday (my husband and his few best geology friends decided they would grill bratwursts outside the science building every Tuesday. Just because they could) I remembered something I had seen on the Food Network. Someone added a pinch of nutmeg to a bechamel sauce. Now, while there is no bechamel in this recipe, the idea of nutmeg (which I love) enhancing creamy things (which I also love) seemed like genius. So I added a pinch of nutmeg to my mac and cheese.

Ho. Lee. Cow.

Fireworks went off, the sun rose in the west, world peace was achieved, and I dropped 10 pounds.

Okay, obviously not. Especially that last one. But I had finally achieved it, the BEST homemade macaroni and cheese in the WHOLE WORLD. I drove to campus singing (literally) and walked on clouds to their grilling spot, ecstatic to share this glorious concoction with a bunch of men. And did they agree??

Heck yeah they did. They asked for the recipe!! How many times do you hear men do that?? This stuff ROCKED that Brat Day. *happy dance* And Austin gets bonus points for picking out the nutmeg. 

It's amazing what ONE ingredient will do. Thank you for letting me brag.

MY Macaroni and Cheese
Printable Recipe

3 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
6 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (unless you are a medium or mild cheddar lover, then use what you like!)
2 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch of nutmeg
3 Tb butter, cold

Cook pasta in lightly salted boiling water till just short of al dente. Shred Cheeses. I buy 8 oz chunks, so i can easily figure out 6 oz and give the end pieces to the boys. :)
 While the pasta is cooking, beat together the eggs, most of the can of evaporated milk (about 3/4 of the can, the amount doesn't have to be perfect) and the spices.
Drain pasta, return to pot, and turn heat down to medium low. Stir in the butter till melted. By then the heat should be about right. Add milk mixture, and stir constantly till it thickens a bit. Until you can drag a spoon across the bottom and it leaves a trail for a few seconds. Be patient, and don't turn up the heat, or the mixture will curdle, and the texture will be grainy.
Once the milk thickens, add half of the grated cheeses. Stir until melted. Add the other half, and stir until melted. Remove from heat immediately and serve!
That's it!! Easy, huh? If you wanted to dress it up, you could throw it in a serving dish and sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top. It took many tries to find the perfect cheese blend. I found that the jack cheese helps it stay smooth, creamy, and melts really well, while the sharp cheddar adds plenty of cheese flavor. I love that I managed to get it creamy while avoiding Velveeta. HA! Take THAT, processed cheese food!! You can play with the cheeses if you are looking for something different. Also, a note learned from my Mom's experience, use the same brand of cheese you already know you like. Different brands can taste sharper or milder, and could throw off the flavor for you. 

But I think it is perfect how it is. Creamy as all get out, super cheesy, thick and decadent, and what IS that secret ingredient??
OH yes, nutmeg. My dear, dear friend. I will be forever grateful to whoever that was, on the food network, that made me think of adding you to my macaroni and cheese. Mmmmm...

Well, if you try it, and I hope you do, let me know what you think! I promise, despite all my bragging, you are allowed to still like yours the best. But I'd love to hear how you liked it anyway :)

July 26, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Cake

Well, we are home from the cabin. It did just what it was supposed to, gave me a break from people and gave Stephen a break from life. And Bracken got to pretend she was some kind of wild Jack London dog, wandering around our cabin, and the boys... well, they did the same things they always do, just outside. Lately their favorite "pretend" involves one of them being a pet of some kind (anything from a spider, to a kitty, to a Nom Nom) while the other is their Master. Their word, not mine! For more on our family adventures, and lots of pictures, visit here.

Half of the fun of coming to the cabin is COOKING at the cabin. It comes with it's own set of obstacles, considering all the utensils and dishes and pots and pans are an odd conglomeration that has developed over twenty years, and there is no stand mixer (gasp!!) but the SPACE, my dears, the SPACE. See, here is my kitchen:
Yep, that's what I'm working with, folks. My Kitchenaid lives under the sink and if anything needs to be rolled out, I must go to my table. Which is in the living room. Ack. And here is the cabin kitchen!
Ahhhh, glorious SPACE!! There's a whole other counter to the left. And the VIEW!
So it should be pretty obvious why I LOVE cooking up here! My next three recipes were all made in that wonderful kitchen. Sigh... I miss it already. 
I've had my eye on this recipe for a few weeks now, but it is hard to get up early and make a special breakfast for these boys. I love my sleep too much. The feeling of vacation that is a constant at the cabin just begs for special breakfasts though. Yet another winner from The English Kitchen! It's a good thing I have a few other recipe sources, and some of my own, or you would have no reason to read my blog, you could just read hers.  :) But please keep reading mine! 

Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Cake (from The English Kitchen)
Printable Recipe

200g of plain flour (2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 TBS sugar
110g of white vegetable shortening, cut into bits (1/2 cup)
156ml of buttermilk (2/3 cup)
4 ounces butter, softened (1/2 cup)
50g of soft light brown sugar (1/4 cup, packed)
50g of white sugar  (1/4 cup)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the vanilla glaze:
130g of icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
4 TBS heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Melt half of the butter in the bottom of a pie dish.  Stir in the brown sugar to combine.  Spread all over the bottom.  Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and soda into a bowl.  Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the sugar.  Add the buttermilk all at once and stir with a fork, just until the dough comes together.  Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times.  Pat out into a 12 by 6 inch rectangle.  
Spread with the remainder of the softened butter.  Mix the white sugar and cinnamon together.  Sprinkle this evenly over top.  Roll up tightly from the long side.  Cut into 8 slices with a sharp knife.  
Place them, cut side down into the prepared pie dish.
Bake for  15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and the brown sugar butter mixture on the bottom is bubbling up.  Remove from the oven and tip immediately onto a serving plate. (I held a plate on the top and flipped them over, worked like a charm!
Now, that looks yummy enough, but oh no! You aren't done quite yet! We must elevate this from simply yummy to fan-flipping-tastic!
Whisk together all the ingredients for the glaze until smooth.  Drizzle  half of this over top of the whole cake, reserving the rest for serving.  Serve warm, cut into wedges with the remainder of the glaze spooned over top.
If cinnamon rolls and coffee cake had a baby, this is what it would look like.
Using a buttermilk biscuit dough was positively GENIUS for this cake! It's tender, almost flaky, sooo buttery and rich...
With plenty of cinnamon swirled through... the middle turns into a soft pile of frosting-y, brown sugary, cinnamony decadence.
Eight perfect pieces, two for each of us...
PERFECT with an ice-cold glass of milk! And I hardly ever drink milk, so that's sayin' somethin'.
Very, very, very much kid approved. 
I kept taking bites of the one piece left over (I couldn't eat both of mine!) throughout the day. It's even good cold!
Find an excuse. Set an alarm, get up before your kids or your sweetheart, amaze them with a special breakfast, for no reason at all. It's worth it, I promise!!