poulet au reisling, mashed potatoes
pork kebabs with cucumber yogurt sauce, naan, cous cous
famous salmon, green beans
chicken sriracha stir fry, rice
chipotle chicken tostadas, cilantro rice
copycat Mellow Mushroom pizzas, salad
out to Quattro

Monday, July 21, 2014

Italian Creme Cake with Strawberries

Italian Creme Cake with Strawberries
I had never made an Italian Crème Cake before, in fact, I am not even sure I have ever eaten one before I made this cake.  Since there were so many guests at the dinner party, I knew I wanted a sizable cake to serve.  This is the first time I have ever made a cake that needed skewers for stability.  I must admit that I forgot to pull them before slicing the cake, so apologies to my guests who got a special surprise in their cake slice.  This cake is the perfect way to use summer strawberries.  I finally have a second bowl for my KitchenAid mixer, so that made things even easier.  Thanks to Restless Chipotle for the amazing recipe.
Italian Creme Cake with Strawberries

6 eggs, room temp
2 cups of sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ to 2 pounds of powdered sugar
A little buttermilk to thin if needed
2 quarts ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Separate the eggs, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add ½ cup sugar gradually, beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Cream the butter, remaining sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until the mixture resembles whipped cream. Stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture to the butter mixture in half cup additions, ending with the flour mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites. Spoon the batter into prepared pans, bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese and the butter together, add the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, beating until it reaches a creamy consistency. Add a tablespoon of buttermilk to thin, if needed.

Place one cooled layer on a cake plate, spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over top. Top with a layer of strawberry slices. Top with the second cake layer, cream cheese frosting and another layer of strawberry slices. Top with the final cake layer and stabilized with wooden skewers. Frost the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Stabilize layers with straws or wood skewers and frost with remaining cream cheese frosting. Arrange sliced strawberries on top of the cake. Chill for three hours, bring to room temperature before serving.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Dinner Party

Summer Dinner Party 1
Summer Dinner Party 2
Summer Dinner Party 3
Summer Dinner Party 4
I made a massive error when I registered for my wedding. I assumed 12 placesettings would be more than enough for any event I would host that would merit china. I was wrong. My last dinner party fell on a date that worked for everyone, which meant dinner for 15. Luckily, my friend Courtney has a very similar china pattern that she let me borrow (and I still need to return.) Lenox or Waterford, plain china with a silver rim never goes out of style. I do have my grandmother's silver, which doesn't seem to have the same number of any piece. There were at least 15 spoons, forks and salad forks, but I was short a knife. Her silver also has one "child" sized set, so one guest had a knife about the size of a salad for. I wonder if she noticed...

The more the merrier definitely applied to this party! After much furniture arranging and re-arranging, with Miss F's help, I decided to push the kitchen table up to the dining room table so that everyone wouldn't be cramped on one table and we wouldn't be separated, I worried that the people stuck in the kitchen would feel like they were banished to the kids' table.  I had 20 feet of table to decorate, so I decided to keep it really simple.  I used three white tablecloths overlapped to keep things cohesive.  I put a Gerber daisy in dollar store vases at each placesetting, so there was a pop of color at each seat.  I printed out menus on plain cardstock with a pink Gerber daisy sketch on each to tie in with the simple flower arrangements.

Cooking for 15 was daunting, but totally doable.  I was able to prepare most of the menu well in advance, which made things easy come party time.  The menu included shrimp scampi bites, bruschetta with mozzarella and tomatoes, mixed greens with creamy Italian dressing, herb marinated pork tenderloin, baked penne with corn, zucchini and basil, mozzarella basil bread and a strawberry Italian crème cake for dessert.  The pork and pasta baked at the same temperature and time (I so wish I had a second oven,) which made things very easy.  I just added the bread to the oven to warm while the pork was resting.  Thanks to all my friends for all their assistance in plating and serving, there is no way I could have done it all for 15 people.  As always, it was an amazingly fun time and I am so happy to have so many fantastic women in my life.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Cherry Cheesecake Bars
I finally invested in a cherry pitter
from Amazon and I am so glad I did. The best part is Miss F loves to operate it. I wish I had bought it years ago, especially since it was so cheap. Miss F loves cherries and loves making her hands pink from the cherries. I made these cheesecake bars based on a recipe from the Beverly Hills Market and Deli, but I made a few changes. These bars are super simple to make and I can't wait to try it with other summer berries. They are much easier than a cheesecake and have the same great taste.
Cherry Cheesecake Bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ¼ cup cherries, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon cornstarch
8 ounces cream cheese , softened
1⁄3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom of an 8" square pan. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325.

Meanwhile, combine cherries, 1 tablespoon sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until cherries are soft, about 5 minutes. Combine lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir into cherry mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

While cherry mixture is cooling, place cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla in a food processor. Process until smooth. Spread over cooled crust. Dollop cherry mixture over cream cheese layer. Cut through with a knife to swirl.

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Cut into 12 bars.
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