Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Bundt Cake

I’ve kinda been in a cooking slump lately… you know, ordering pizza, swinging through Jimmy John’s for sandwiches, picking up pre-made food at the grocery store. We’ve actually been eating out lately, but often that does not satisfy. I usually wish we had saved the money and eaten at home. Even omelets at home taste better than some restaurant food, right?

My favorite stand-by dinner is grilled cheese and tomato soup; however, I do make a killer grilled cheese (brioche bread with real butter and three different types of cheeses) and I do serve homemade tomato soup, so I guess I get a break with that menu.

Last weekend I purchased some apples and somehow, that has inspired me to get back in the kitchen. This cake was easy and I made it much healthier by using less sugar, less oil, and half wheat flour. The butter sauce could not be passed up….. it absolutely made the cake.

Here’s what you need:
For the Cake:
2 heaping cups of peeled apples, thinly sliced
3 T white sugar
2 T cinnamon
½ C vegetable oil
½ C applesauce
1 C white sugar
4 eggs
3 t vanilla
¼ C orange juice
1 ½ C white flour
1 ½ C wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt

For the Glaze:
¼ C butter
1/3 C orange juice
2/3 C sugar

Here’s what you do:
Toss the apple slices in the cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

Beat the oil, applesauce, sugar, eggs, vanilla and orange juice until well incorporated. Add the flours, baking powder and salt.

Spoon about 1/3 of the batter in a well-greased bundt pan. Arrange the apple slices over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter over the apples.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 60 minutes. Check it after about 50 minutes.

To make the glaze: melt the butter, orange juice and sugar together and spoon over the cake. I started while the cake was still in the pan. (You can see the holes I poked in the cake with a wooden skewer.) Then I turned the cake out of the pan and continued spooning the glaze. I also used a pastry brush to apply the glaze. Be patient – it all fits in there and you want it, trust me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Basic Hummus

Maybe some of you have figured out by now that I am a part-time Middle School geography teacher. (I also teach other classes, but let’s not get into that now. When you work at a small Lutheran school, you have to be flexible and able to teach/do lots of different things – keeps life interesting, I say!) My 7th grade curriculum this year is the Eastern Hemisphere and we started at the logical beginning – the Middle East. Remember learning about Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilization?

I love to cook for my students. I know they learn tons about culture and places through taste. It’s a very powerful experience for them. Sometimes I go all out and make an entire meal: paella when studying Spain or turkey in mole sauce when studying Mexico. This week I kept it simple and made hummus. Admittedly, not all the kids like all the food I make, but it’s good for them to be exposed to it.

So this is my basic, basic hummus recipe. If you have never tasted hummus, you are in for a great treat. You can bump up the flavor by adding cumin or cayenne pepper, more garlic or even scallions. But we like it plain. If you have never used tahini, you will be surprised how unusual it is!
Healthy, low-fat and totally addicting! Dip Away!

Here’s what you need:
2 cans garbanzo beans (chick peas) well rinsed
6 T tahini
1 large clove garlic
6 T lemon juice
½ C water
1 t salt

Here’s what you do:
WHILE THE BLADE IS RUNNING, drop the garlic in a food processor. This is the best trick to get teeny pieces of garlic.  You can see the little specs in the photo.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend well. Adjust water and seasonings. Mine here is a bit thick. Serve with crackers, pita, or sliced veggies. To make a beautiful presentation, you can drizzle olive oil over it and sprinkle a bit of paprika for color.

(printable recipe)

One Year Ago: Texas Caviar
                          Tomato Press (this is a good post for those of you who love kitchen gadgets)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Salmon Festival

One of our favorite dune paths
We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country – on the shores of Lake Michigan. Our beaches and sand dunes are unparalleled. Our water recreation and nature preserves for hiking are among the best.  I can’t even begin to describe how satisfying it is to drive by the lake each and every day to and from work.

The 'Big Lake' - full of salmon!
We often comment that no matter what the weather, the lake is beautiful. Often peaceful and blue skies; sometimes stormy and black skies; once in a while frozen with heavy snow clouds low over the lake. The parking lot at the beach almost always has a handful of people just sitting in their cars, watching the water and weather – every day of the year, but most especially when the weather is dramatic.  I think maybe – just maybe- Michiganders sometimes forget what a blessing it is to have all this fresh water surrounding us.

This guy's boiling potatoes

As a food lover and a food blogger I must say  a big, big bonus from living on the ‘Big Lake’ (as we affectionately call it) is the fresh salmon that is so plentiful this time of year. Last weekend our little town hosted a two-day Salmon Festival, and I attended it all.

Friday night’s Fish Boil is more casual – they serve 500 pounds of salmon! Corn on the cob, boiled potatoes, onions and a roll round out the meal….. oh, and lots of beer and good music!

Grilled salmon served with potato wedge and heirloom tomato - all of it had a  hard cider glaze - really good! 

Saturday is the popular salmon tasting – a competition between area restaurants. You get to sample various types of salmon:  salmon sliders, salmon sushi, salmon mousse, grilled salmon….oh, and lots of Michigan wines and good music! Our favorite was a simple Asian inspired salmon – grilled and served with a sesame oil dressing and then covered with sesame seeds.

Grilling the salmon sliders. Seems a shame to call them that - they were pretty fancy!

My pictures don’t begin to capture the great atmosphere of the event, but hopefully you get a feel for how much we love salmon here in West Michigan.

I recently posted my Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon here….I think you’ll like it.  Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Spiced Rum Cake (this one has a sad ending!)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tres Leches Cake

This is my favorite cake of all time and one of my favorite recipes. I prefer it to any chocolate cake, any cheesecake, any bundt cake. I think cake makes any meal better and this one is by far the best of all.  Thanks to my friend Sue for this recipe. I spent years searching for the perfect Tres Leches recipe and I have made my way through some pretty average ones – either too sweet or too wet.  Now this is the only recipe I will ever use.  

I made this a few weeks ago for a Mexican Dinner Fiesta I donated to the Lutheran School where I work. The meal was included in an auction we have every spring. My menu was a simple one of jalapeno poppers and margaritas, tortilla soup, beef chipotle burritos and homemade refried beans with all the fixins’. To top off the evening, I served this beautiful cake.  Tres Leches is very light and perfect after a heavy meal. Even though it is a Latin American dessert, it would be appropriate to serve after any type of meal.

Surprisingly, this cake is not at all soggy…. it is perfectly moist. Read through the recipe thoroughly before making, because it has a few uncommon steps.  Don’t be intimidated by the process! It is very easy and totally, totally worth it.

Here’s what you need:
1 C confectioner’s sugar
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/3 C milk
1 t vanilla
1 C flour
1 ½ t baking powder
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 pt. heavy whipping cream (some for the cake and some for the topping)

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.  Beat the yolks with ¾ C of confectioner’s sugar until light in color and double in volume. Stir in milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.

In small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add remaining ¼ C confectioner’s sugar. Beat until firm, but not dry.

Fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes. Loosen edge of cake with knife before removing rim.

Cool cake completely. Place on serving plate. Use a two prong meat fork and pierce surface of cake multiple times. Mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk and ¼ C heavy cream. Discard 1 C of this milk mixture. Spoon the remainder of the three milk mixture slowly and patiently over the entire cake, allowing the cake to absorb all of the milk. This takes about 10 minutes, so be patient. It will all fit, just be patient!

Frost with whipped cream and fresh berries.  Serve with pride – it is a special treat! 

(printable recipe)

One Year Ago: Zucchini Crust Pizza - another favorite recipe of mine and one of my favorite summer meals.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tequila Bars

My little camera and the early morning light did no justice to these.

“One tequila - Two tequila - Three tequila - Four!”  What’s that come from? Some kind of drinking game, I bet…. Well, I never played that game, but I do love tequila.  I must say after a long day, nothing tastes better to me that a great margarita. And I am sure you have noticed how much Mexican food we eat around here.

This is my first Guy Fiere recipe.  Actually it’s my second Guy Fiere recipe. I did make his outstanding Tortilla Soup last week for a Mexican Dinner party I hosted…. Many, many thanks to Gina at SPCookiequeen for the recommendation. (Gina, you saved the day!)

This is one of those recipes that I clipped (tore) out of a food magazine. It has been in storage (laying around my kitchen counter) for a while (about a year.)  With all three of my kids home for a week, I needed some extra goodies, so I dug through the pile. This one is definitely a keeper.  Hats off to Guy Fiere.

Here’s what you need:
1 12 ounce box Nilla wafers (I used reduced-fat)
½ C pine nuts
½ C butter (original recipe calls for 1 ½ C, but ½ is plenty!)
1/3 C tequila (notice in the photo above – the off-brand condensed milk but the expensive, high quality tequila…. No comment)
½ C fresh lime juice (I think some lime zest would be appropriate here also)
5 egg yolks plus 2 egg whites
1 14 ounce sweetened condensed milk
1 T sugar

Here’s what you do:

Pulse the wafers and nuts in a processor. Add the melted butter. Remove ½ cup of crumbs to use as the topping and set it aside. Press the remaining crumbs in a 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. (Lots of people on the foodnetwork site commented that they wished they had sprayed the pan before baking, but mine did not stick one bit.)

In the meantime, make the lime filling. Whisk together the lime juice, tequila, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the sugar using a beater. Keep going until you have soft peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the lime mixture. Spread the lime topping over the crust and bake for another 20 minutes. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top of the bars. CHILL before serving at least 2 hours or overnight…… hard to wait!