Summer Days

>> Monday, March 31, 2008

It's sure getting hot. Yeah, I'm bitchin' about the heat already. Betcha can't wait for August.

Identical light summer lunches for the Boy and Boo, mine was much the same, so I didn't bother with a picture.

1. honeyed yogurt in the container
2. baby banana
3. monster strawberry
4. black grapes
5. biscuit

I learned from experience that if a kid can't open a banana, a kid won't eat it - and those little Manzana bananas can be really tough to get into! An easy fix is to snip half-way through the stem with scissors, not enough to expose the fruit, but just enough to get the tear started. Works like a charm - or you could something like this.


Daring Baker #4 Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

>> Sunday, March 30, 2008

Morven from Food Art and Random Thoughts hosted this month's Daring Baker event. She made the lovely choice of Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Here's what happened when I gave up on my fakin' ways and tried bakin' my way back into your good graces this month.

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups whole milk minus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 egg whites from freakishly small eggs erroneously labeled as LARGE
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
5 egg whites from freakishly small eggs erroneously labeled as LARGE
3 sticks salted butter, at room temperature (UNsalted butter recommended)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup sour cherry preserves stirred until spreadable
smaller than needed quantity of sliced almonds

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and realize you don't have any parchment paper despite the appearance of having plenty due to the presence of the empty boxes in the cabinet. Prepare to scream at children then realize it's doubtful they used the last, nor any of the parchment paper. Shut mouth. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered aluminum foil. Put the pans on a baking sheet. Discover both pans won't fit on baking sheet, fuss around a bit then put the pans directly on the oven racks.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Take a minute to count the number of bowls and briefly wonder if you have enough clean dishes to make a cake. Give a silent shout-out to one bowl recipe writers. Press on. Add the butter and working with the whisk attachment beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes or maybe 10, until the butter and sugar are very light and fluffy. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Huff a little about this bit of fussiness. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Stop at this point and taste the batter. Decide that it's the best cake batter you've ever tasted and totally worth getting 4 bowls dirty even if the cake turns out like chewy pancakes in the end. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, turn them out of the pans and peel off the foil liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up.

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, which I don't, and I don't know why, and add the butter a 1/4 of a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in try not to think about it and beat buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, about 10 minutes.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream that tastes delicous but doesn't taste at all salty if you don't use salted butter. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly. Remove the plastic and re-taste at frequent intervals while you wait for the cake to cool.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally roughly in half. Remember too late that trick with the toothpicks.
Put one layer cut side up on a plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Or aluminum foil. You know, whatever you have. Spread it with one half of the preserves. Realize that you should have only used about a third and try to scrape some up with a spoon. Math genius. Try to cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Quickly figure out that this is making a huge freakin' pink mess and decide to pipe on the buttercream. Feel inordinately pleased with self. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and pipe on the buttercream and then do the same with a third layer. Place the last layer on and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Wonder why there doesn't seem to be quite enough for full side coverage. Realize that you probably ate more than you realized. Feel gluttinous. Find some sliced almonds in the cabinet, press the almonds into the sides to hide the lack of frosting. Vow to never again buy boxed cake mix. Ignore that you know you lie.

What would I do differently? Well, I think substituting lemon juiced milk for buttermilk really upped the lemon flavor which was fine by me, less fine by the other people that live here. Like I care. But I would most definately pay more attention when shopping and buy unsalted butter. And parchment paper. And maybe more almonds, but if I'd ended up with more buttercream for the cake and less used in pre-frosting testing I probably wouldn't have used them at all.

I LOVED the sour cherry with the lemon, and the cake itself was really nice. I'll certainly be making it again. Soon. With coconut.


Just Another Packed Lunch

>> Saturday, March 29, 2008

1. sliced ham rolled with cream cheese in the middle
2. tiny pickles
3. little toasts
4. peach rings
5. carrots and hummus for the boy
6. grapes
7. pistachios


Back to the Grindstone

>> Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So long Spring Holiday, it's as though we never really knew ya.

1. ham slices rolled up with cream cheese inside
2. wedges of Edam
3. snow peas and baby carrots
4. dried pineapple
5. Nutella sandwiched between coconut bar cookies

1. cubes of leftover ribeye
2. wedges of Edam
3. snow peas and baby carrots
4. potato chips
5. Nutella sandwiched between coconut bar cookies


Chard Glorious Chard

>> Tuesday, March 18, 2008

1. vegetables
2. toasts hidden under the carrots
3. hummus
4. chard glorious chard

I thought I bought some gorgeous beet tops. Don't ask me why I thought I needed beet tops, 'cause I don't know. It was probably my innate attraction to red things. I was looking for a way to cook the not beet tops and discovered what I had was actually Swiss Chard. I sometimes buy chard at Trader Joe's all cleaned and cut up and sealed in a bag that disguises it in such a way that I, a grown woman, could not identify it in whole leaf form. But anyway, yeah. Not beet tops.

I'm thrilled that I came across this recipe from Beyond Salmon. I followed her technique closely but used shredded Parmesan instead of grated and added some golden raisins when I put the leaves in. It was fantastic! Glorious even. Yay chard! Glorious chard! Had to sneak the dish away from myself to save some to pack for lunch. Not exaggerating - it's really that good.


No Faces Again Today?

>> Sunday, March 16, 2008

1. hummus
2. carrots
3. chunk of edam
4. pita chips
5. snow peas

I put the flower on at the last minute when I remembered the disappointed looks and comments I've gotten lately from a co-worker. It was some consolation I think. That's me. Bringing joy to the masses.


Mini Meatloaf Lumps o' Love

>> Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Life's been a little crazy around here. The cure? Little lumps of barbecue glazed meatloaf. Tastes like love. Or at least like really good meatloaf. I made some extra for the freezer. Any bets on the date I'll find them and throw them away? No? Oh well. At least I got a chance to use the new food processor for like the 4th time since I got it at least 2 months ago. It can make bread crumbs out of bread slices in no time flat. A real workhorse that thing is turning out to be. Good investment. Yep.

1. little meatloaf or loaves depending on the eater
2. strawberries
3. roasted corn
4. orange slices for me
5. sugar for berry dipping for them
6. carrots for them cause good mommies give their kids vegetables
7. mini fudge grahams for them cause good mommies compensate for giving their kids vegetables that they don't particularly like by giving them cookies even if they also gave them pure sugar

Hey, it's just a little sugar. Like less than a teaspoon. They drink water! And milk. Organic even. Back off nutrition police! It's a healthy lunch. Really. The fact that I'm entering the first lunch in Margot's Wholesome Lunchbox monthly blogging event and not the other two means nothing. Nothing at all.


Soy Vey!

>> Friday, March 7, 2008

1. teriyaki pork ribs
2. rice with sesame seeds
3. grapes
4. Mounds candy bar
5. bean paste apple

We love this meat. I use Soy Vey's Island Teriyaki sauce (no substitutes!) and boneless "country style" pork ribs. Nothing else. Brown the meat then slow cooker it for 6 hours or so with about 3/4 of a cup of the teriyaki sauce. That's it. Seriously. And it's delicious. Pretty much the only reason I own a crock pot! I added some jarred peppers to this to stretch it out a bit.

Isn't that little apple cute? I bought a whole package of these little fruits to put on cupcakes that I never made - so I decided to just eat them. That's how I roll.


When the Whole is Less than the Sum of the Parts

>> Tuesday, March 4, 2008

1. onigiri stuffed with krab, cream cheese and green onion
2. strawberries
3. container of sugar
4. pistachios
5. fudge filled marshmallow

1. 3 onigiri stuffed with krab, cream cheese and green onion wrapped with nori belts
2. strawberries
3. container of soy
4. container of sugar
5. dried pineapple
6. chili lime peanuts

1. 2 onigiri stuffed with krab, cream cheese and green onion
2. strawberry
3. vanilla yogurt with dried papaya
4. granola
5. tangerine
6. pistachios

Those kids didn't like onigiri stuffed with krab, cream cheese and green onion. Though they do claim to like rice, krab, cream cheese and green onions. Freaks.


Peanut Butter Sanwiches. Again.

>> Monday, March 3, 2008

1. peanut butter sanwiches
2. grapes
3. pretzels
4. pistachios
5. watermelon

1. peanut butter sanwiches
2. grapes
3. pretzels
4. pistachios
5. watermelon
6. orange slices
7. cookies



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