Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy birthday with a big coconut cake, monte cristo sandwitches, and salad de maison

So last week was such a busy week for me and I am finally able to take a breather and share with you what I have been up to! First off, it was my moms birthday on Thursday! The big 50! And I know she wouldn't mind me sharing her age because she looks fabulous for 50. For her birthday cake I wanted to make something extra special. She loves coconut as much as I do so I thought a coconut cake would be very appropriate. But it couldn't be just any coconut cake it had to be extra fabulous. I found Ina Garten's coconut cake recipe and decided to give it a go. I also found a yummy lemon curd recipe on the joy of baking site and thought that would be amazing as a filling. The cake turned out delicious! Such a moist cake with a perfect coconut flavor. I find I am never unhappy with Ina's recipes and this wasn't an exception. Mom said, "It could be in a restaurant," and dad said "This is the best cake I have ever had!" It truly was a delicious cake. The lemon curd filling paired beautifully with the cream cheese frosting which was to die for by the way! I will be making this cake again soon, maybe next time I will make them into cupcakes with a lemon curd filling...mmmmm....
Happy Birthday Mom!
So lucky to have a mom like you! Love ya!

For my mom's birthday dinner we made monte cristo sandwiches with salad de maison. Some may think having sandwiches for a birthday isn't special enough, but let me tell you, I would prefer these sandwiches over a steak dinner. So delicious and unique. Definitely suitable for a special occasion. And as for the salad...amazing. My family has been making this salad for a while and there hasn't been a salad that has come close to how amazing this one is. It could be the 3 whole garlic cloves in the dressing that makes it so tasty. I am definitely a garlic fan and tend to overdose on it. It is a common comment from my husband at the dinner table when he says "I see you put some extra garlic in" , I guess it's the Greek in me which makes me always want to add more to recipes, but with this dressing 3 cloves or garlic is just right. I hope you have a chance to try all of these fun recipes!

Whenever I take pictures at my moms house people
always comment on how beautiful my kitchen is...although
I would love to pretend that my mom's kitchen is mine I wont:)

Coconut Cake

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).(Ok so this is the one time I deviated fromIna's recipe, I did whip it and it was delicious, smooth and creamy!)

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Lemon Curd:

3 large eggs

1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)

1 tablespoon (4 grams) finely shredded lemon zest

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar

4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces

Lemon Curd: In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate until cold. The lemon curd can be made several days (up to a week) in advance.

Salad De Maison

Yield: 10 servings

2 cups Romaine lettuce, torn in pieces (I use a whole head to romaine)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated (I cut mine into cubes)
2/3 cup almonds, slivered
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup croutons
1/4 cup bacon (or bacon bits), to taste

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Lightly toast almonds. Cut up bacon in 2-inch pieces and cook until crisp (or use bacon bits). Toss lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, almonds, Parmesan cheese, crou-tons and bacon together and set aside. Prepare dressing by blending lemon juice, salt, canola oil, garlic and pepper together at high speed in a blender or food processor. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

This longtime favorite is on the menu at the Blue Bayou Restaurant

1 egg

1 3/4 cups plus 2 T water

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 t. salt

1 t. baking powder

8 slices egg bread (challah works well), sliced 1/2 inch thick

2/3 pound ham, cut into 4 slices

2/3 pound turkey, cut into 4 slices

1/4 pound Swiss cheese, cut into 4 slices

3 cups canola oil

Confectioners' sugar

Blackberry preserves

1. Line a cookie sheet with paper towels; set aside

2. Whisk the egg and water together in a mixing bowl. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk thoroughly, scraping side of bowl. Continue to whisk for 20 minutes, until smooth.

3. On one slice of bread arrange a slice each of ham, turkey, and cheese, covering the bread evenly. Place another slice of bread on top and slice sandwich in half diagonally.

4. Heat oil to between 365 degrees F. and 375 degrees F. in a 10 inch pan. Do not let the oil reach a higher temperature than this; if the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down. Dip half of the sandwich into the batter, allowing excess to drain, and very carefully place into the oil. Repeat with the other sandwich half. Cook 3 minutes on each side. Place the cooked sandwich on the prepared cookie sheet in a warm oven until ready to serve. Repeat for other three sandwiches. Cook the sandwiches one at a time, and allow the oil to reach the desired temperature in between each batch.

5. Sprinkle sandwiches with confectioners' sugar and serve with blackberry preserves on the side.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Absolutely Amazing Homemade Snickers!

Ok, so amazing doesn't even come close to describing how good these homemade snickers are. My family used to make them often years ago but unfortunately the recipe was lost! I came across Lynns Kitchen the other day and lo and behold she had a recipe for homemade snickers! I think it's the same recipe that I used to use and even if it's different, it doesn't matter because these candies are soooo good! So good that the day I made them I ate about 13, no joke. Yes I know it's a little embarrassing but once you make these you will know why I just couldn't stop at one, two, or three. They are a little time consuming but very easy. And to top it all off, you will be left with many spoons to lick! Hope you have a chance to make these and let me know what you think!
The first layer of chocolate...

Hubby caught me sneaking a lick...or two
Now for the yummy nougat layer

Taking 5 while the nougat layer hardens in the fridge...see what
I mean about having alot of spoons to lick?

Now for the caramel layer...
Tada! The final product with the last layer of chocolate.
Looking at these is making me want to make them again!

2 teaspoons butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups marshmallow creme
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts (I just put a cup in but next time will put in more)
1 package (14 ounces) caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup (6 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Line a 13-in. x 9-in. pan with foil; butter the foil with 2 teaspoons butter and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the milk chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter; stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread into prepared pan. Refrigerate until set.

For filling, in a small heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar and milk; bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; boil and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the marshmallow creme, peanut butter and vanilla. Add peanuts. Spread over first layer. Refrigerate until set.

For caramel layer, in a small heavy saucepan, combine the caramels and cream; stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Cook and stir 4 minutes longer. Spread over the filling. Refrigerate until set.

For icing, in another saucepan, combine chips and peanut butter; stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Pour over the caramel layer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before cutting. Remove from pan and cut into 1-in. squares. Store in an airtight container. Yield: about 8 dozen.

This recipe is adapted from Taste of Home

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A beautiful day with Ricotta Cookies

A few days ago I woke up after a rough nights sleep, looked out the window and saw the shining sun and melting snow. Suddenly my sleepless night didn't matter anymore. I was getting the ultimate summer bug. Whenever I see that first peek of sunshine after a long winter my whole body feels energized. I want to go running, play volley ball...and bake! I guess you could say everything makes me want to bake, seeing a colorful fabric that reminds me of the perfect color of frosting, going to a bistro and seeing their yummy sweets, or finding those perfect sprinkles I just have to use! But this urge was different. I knew I had to open every window in my kitchen welcoming the fresh spring air, bringing a positive influence on what I was about to bake. My mother in law requested that I make some of my ricotta cookies for a few of her friends and today was the perfect day to make them. These ricotta cookies are a family favorite. My mother-in-law raves about them. I think it's their cakey texture that makes them unique and delicious. It also doesn't hurt that they have a healthy dollop of cream cheese frosting to finish them off. Most recipes for ricotta cookies call for an almond glaze, but that doesn't cut it for me so I opt for the cream cheese frosting. Every time I make these I try out a different cream cheese frosting and this time I found my favorite. So far it's the best cream cheese frosting I have made but I am still on the hunt for the ultimate cream cheese frosting so if anyone has a good recipe I would love to see it! Hope you enjoy these lovely cookies and have a lovely day!

Everything ready to get creamed!

Delicious batter that is way too good to pass up! This recipe makes about
45 cookies but I get around 43 because I get a little carried away
eating the dough.

Ready to bake!

Ready to deliver...and eat:)

Italian Ricotta cookies-makes about 45

2 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven o 350

In a med. bowl cream butter, sugar, eggs, ricotta, and vanilla. Add flour all at once and then pulse the mixture until it forms a workable dough. Scoop with small cookie or ice cream scoop onto an ungreased cooking sheet. Bake 10-12 min. until lightly browned.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
5 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. almond extract
pinch of salt
about 4 cups powdered sugar

In a stand mixer, use whisk attachment and whip cream cheese and butter until really fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add salt and flavorings. Add powdered sugar and whip again. Can add more powdered sugar till consistency is how you like it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blue Lemon Bistro

Recently, the Blue Lemon Bistro opened in Highland, Utah and I have been anxious to try it out. I finally got the chance yesterday when my cousin and I popped in for lunch. I hadn't heard how the food was, so I had no expectations. The atmosphere was very modern, fun, and cozy. I began reading the menu and simply could not decide what to order because everything looked fabulous! I finally came across their fish tacos and knew I had to give them a try. First, let me just say, I am very picky when it comes to fish tacos. I love the fish tacos from Red Butte Café in Salt Lake City, and I am normally disappointed when I order them elsewhere. However, that was about to change! The presentation alone was beautiful and the taste was equally delicious! I enjoyed the combination of shrimp and salmon. My first bite was heavenly. They were one of the best if not the best fish tacos I have ever had. I no longer have to drive to Salt Lake to get my fish taco fix. The tacos were served with sweet potato fries which were amazing! I don't have any pictures of the food because I was so wrapped up in how amazing it was that I didn't even think about it. On our way out I saw that they had some cupcakes. How could I leave a place without cupcakes? So I went up to the counter and I got the lemon while my cousin got the vanilla. The cupcake, like the tacos, was delicious! My cousin also had a lot of wonderful things to say about the vanilla. I am already counting the days until I visit this bistro again. I am actually a little nerovous it's going to affect my pocket book but a part of me could care less! This is definitely a new great place to eat and I would advise anyone to go and check it out!
Sorry about the not so good pics, but I think these cuppies
look amazing regardless of the bad lighting!

Monday, March 9, 2009

No Cupcake Liners? No Problem!

The other day I was reading Utah Loves Cupcakes and came across the post about the Blue Cattle Truck Vanilla. It went on to say how Marlo Scott, owner of Sweet Revenge in NYC used the vanilla at her bakery. I watched the video of her on Martha and was so intrigued by her cupcakes. Instead of baking them in cupcake liners she used parchment paper. I couldn't stop thinking about the idea until I tried it! They turned out really fun and I think they would look darling at a wedding or a special event, or just to have around the house for hubby and me to eat:) I wish I would have filled the parchment up a little higher, like 3/4 instead of filling them up 1/2 full like I did. I think they would have looked even better. Often I want to make cupcakes but realize I don't have cupcake liners but now I will have an alternative!

Now as for the cupcake. I had some buttermilk in my fridge that I needed to use up so I searched for a vanilla buttermilk recipe. Everyone needs a good stand by chocolate and vanilla cupcake recipe. I have my chocolate recipe which I love but had yet to find a super yummy vanilla one...until now! This recipe was absolutely amazing! Such wonderful flavor! I even made some simple syrup to put on top of them right when they came out of the oven which made them even more scrumptious! I put a drop of almond flavoring in the simple syrup to give it more of an almondy flavor. This will be my standby vanilla cupcake recipe until I find something better, so if anyone has a favorite of theirs I would love to hear about it! Until then I will be competely happy using this yummy recipe.

Which do you like better?

I don't think I will take the time to cut parchment for every
batch of cupcakes I make but once in a while it is a fun

As for the frosting, I just threw some butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and almond extract together. Wish I had exact measurements but I dont-sorry!

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Place liners in a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it looks creamy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla and almond extracts until mixture is smooth.
Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until almost combined. Add buttermilk and stir, again, until almost combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until all ingredients are mixed in.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups.
Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350F, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Let cupcakes cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the muffin pan. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Simple Syrup
*equal parts sugar and water. Bring to a boil, boil a couple of minutes till sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Brush on cupcakes with pastry brush while cupcakes are still hot.

Cut a piece of parchment 5 1/2 inches square. Center it over cupcake pan and squish it down with a plastic cup. Marlo Scott of Sweet Revenge uses unlbeached parchment, I couldn't find any so I just used white.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hi Hat Cupcakes!

I am always looking for new ways to make cupcakes and always looking for the latest and greatest recipe. Well I have to say that this new cupcake is probably the best one I have made yet! The idea was inspired by Cassie from How to Eat a Cupcake. I was looking at her blog and as soon as I saw her Hi Hat cupcakes I knew I had to make them! Right that second I went into my kitchen and got to work. I had some leftover almond swiss meringue buttercream in the fridge and thought I would pair that with a devils food cupcake-and I am so glad I did! The flavors were wonderful! I love anything almond flavored and when it's paired with chocolate it's even better. I gave one to my dad and he said that these were "special" cupcakes because he thought they were so good. And I had to agree, usually I am hesitant to say that what I made was amazing but I had no humility this time. These were amazing!! I am actually contemplating making them right now after talking about them. I hope you have a change to give these a try! If you want better instructions and pictures for dipping the cupcakes visit Cassie's blog here.

Don't you just want to dive right in!?!

Devils Food Cupcakes:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 packed brown sugar
4 T. butter at room temp
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat over to 350.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into bowl. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium igh speed, beat the sugar, brown sugar, and butter until light and fluffy, 2-3 min. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the water and buttermilk, beating on low speed until just combined; srape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat on medium high speed just until no traces of flour remaing, about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 18-20 minutes.

Almond SMBC
3 large egg whites at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces at room temp
1 tsp almond flavoring

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over simmer water in a saucepan (but not touching) and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, utnil the sugar has completely idssolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160 f on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temp, and holds stiff peaks, about 6 minutes.

With the mixture on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well aftert each additions, If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid afer all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Add the flavoring and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use right away.

Chocolate Coating
2 cups (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Put the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is just melted. Scrape it into a bowl and cool slightly, about 15 minutes.