Monday, January 30, 2012

yellow butter cake with chocolate frosting

So, you know how I have been talking about reducing the processed food and sugar in my house?  Well that new mantra is cool and all except when it comes to birthdays.  I am working on introducing new healthy replacements for many of our sugary snacks and treats but, even I am not at a place where I want to enjoy an agave sweetened gluten free oat cake on my birthday.  Maybe in 2013 but, for now we will just celebrate old school with a yellow butter cake and chocolate frosting.  This cake is a classic that I am not prepared to screw with at this point.  I am not going to lie I have a better yellow cake recipe but, it is super involved and this recipe is simple straight forward and most likely have all the ingredients already in your kitchen.  The frosting is down right delicious and so, easy.  This is my go to chocolate fudge frosting.  Did you know you can make super good frosting in the food processor?  Well you can and you don't even have to sift.  So if you are looking for a simple yet, delicious and decadent cake for your next gathering this classic may be the way to go. 

yellow butter cake with chocolate frosting
cake adapted: martha stewart
frosting source: sky high cakes

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups milk

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:  To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans with bakers joy. In a medium bowl, sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk together to blend well and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk. Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans to help remove the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the rack. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting. Level the cakes if necessary.

To make the frosting, place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate, then process until the frosting is smooth.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a serving platter. Top with 1 cup of the chocolate frosting and smooth over the top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting as desired. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Let come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

slow cooker basic marinara sauce

Now that I am a stay at home mom I am trying to find as many short cuts and tricks to still get a home cook meal on the table without having to leave the park early and spend hours in the kitchen.  Learning  to master my slow cooker is my personal challenge for 2012.  This recipe makes a ton of marinara sauce.  I portioned it out and froze it for future meals which helps a ton when you are trying to throw together a quick home cooked meal.  Not only is this marinara sauce easy and tasty but, it is the perfect vehicle to hide some extra veggies in the kids meals.  We had it one night as written below.  There was no revolt which is always a score when introducing a new recipe to my family.  The next night I pureed carrots and zucchini and added them into the sauce while reheating it and no one made a peep.  This is a great basic sauce which you can use in a ton of different ways and doctor it up to your families taste.  Enjoy!

slow cooker basic marinara sauce
source: slow cooker revolution

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed patted dry and minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 28 ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Add onions through red pepper flakes.  Cook until onions are soft and slightly browned, ~8-10 minutes.  Stir in wine.  Scrap up brown bits and simmer until slightly thickened, ~ 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir crushed tomatoes through soy sauce into slow cooker.  Cover and cook for 9 - 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Before serving stir in basil and sugar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, January 23, 2012

chewy granola bars

I stopped buying processed snacks for my kids about a year ago.  I am not a health freak but, I started to see how much processed food they were getting outside the house that I made a decision to reduce the total amount by not having any in our cupboards. My kids adapted really well and know to never ask for those items at the grocery store but, I have become known as the mom in the neighborhood with the lame snacks.  Apple slices, pears and string cheese are not bringing the kids in the front door.  One thing that I continued to buy last year was cereal bars.  My kids ask for one about 3 days a week.  One morning I was looking at the box and read that there are over 40 ingredients in them.  Many of the ingredients I had no idea what they were.  Earlier in the year my nutritionist insisted I cut bars out of my every day menu and have them on hand as an emergency food.  Why had this correlation with the kids bars not clicked at that time?  At this fully caffeinated moment I realized I could do more then ban goldfish crackers.  I made a pact to find better replacements for some of the processed foods that still lingered on my shelves.  I am really excited to share these over the next few months.  We have had a lot of fun in the kitchen experimenting.  The granola bars are a work in progress.  I started out with this recipe from King Arthur which is really good but, there are still many ingredients in this recipe I knew I could swap out.  I concocted a loose formula which seems to work and is great because you can experiment with all different flavors.  I often use up fruit and nuts I bought for a salad or I have the kids get creative with the bin choices at Mother's.  Below are a few flavor combinations that have worked for me but, the possibilities are endless. 

chewy granola bars

GRAIN (2 1/2 cups)
*suggestions: oats, oat flour, oat bran, wheat germ, quinoa flakes, muesli etc.

NUTS, SEEDS, CRUNCH (1 - 1 1/2 cup)
*suggestions: sliced almonds, peanuts, chia seeds, flax seed, brown rice cereal, pretzels, sunflower seeds, pepitas etc.

*suggestions: cinnamon, ginger, salt, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract etc.

*suggestions: cranberries, blueberries, banana chips, dates, pineapple, coconut etc.

FUN (1/4 - 1/2 cup)
*suggestions: carob chips, chocolate covered berries, yogurt chips etc.

STICKY (~3/4 cup)
* I typically mix two stickies.  1/3 - 1/2 cup of one and 1/4 cup of another.  See examples below.
*suggestions: honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave etc.

BINDER (1 cup)
* I make sure there are at least 6 tablespoons of a fat source.  That could be nut butter, coconut oil, melted butter etc.
* suggestions: almond butter, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, unsweetened applesauce, greek yogurt, apple butter, banana puree, egg whites, melted butter, coconut oil, neutral oil etc.


Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9x9 pan with a parchment sling.

In a large bowl mix together all of your dry ingredients.  That includes grains, nuts, seeds, crunch, dry spices, fruit and fun stuff.  If you are going to add a bit more stick by way of sugar toss that in here.

In a medium bowl whisk together your sticky sweetener, liquid spices, and binder.

Pour the liquid mixture into your dry mixture and gently fold/mix the two together until all the dry ingredients are coated.

Turn the mixture into the prepared pan.  Make sure it is spread evenly and then press and pack the mixture down into the pan.

Bake for ~30 minutes.  The top will get a tad brown.  Remove from oven and allow bars to cool in pan for 20 minutes.  When bars are cool then place the pan in the refrigerator or freezer for approximately 30 minutes.  Once bars have set up use the parchment sling to remove bars and slice. 

Bars store in an air tight container for a week or in the freezer for 2 months.

Enjoy! Have a delicious and healthy day.

I store them in the freezer as they do get a bit crumbly. If would want them a bit stickier then toss the oats in a 1/4 cup of sugar (brown, white or turbinado).If you want to boost the protein you could add soy or hemp protein powder.

Banana Honey Carob Granola Bars (The Elvis) - Kids current favorite
1 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup brown rice cereal
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, crushed
1/3 cup banana chips, crushed
1/3 cup pretzels, crushed
1/4 cup carob chips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup banana puree ~ 2 medium brown bananas

Follow directions above.

Almond Cranberry Dark Chocolate Granola Bars
1 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup brown rice cereal
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chocolate covered cranberries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup greek yogurt

Follow directions above.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

french onion soup

My dear friend "C" embraces life so, when the reminder for supper club came out and labeled the theme as Tyler Florence, Napa inspired, rustic, localvore and a sparkly NYE redux I giggled but, was not surprised.   Most of us in the group spent NYE in our pajamas with greasy pizza, kids and eyes closed before midnight.  And when I say midnight I mean the east coast midnight even though we are southern California girls.  Pathetic but, that is our reality.  In order to not let an opportunity to sparkle pass us by "C" encouraged us to dress in cocktail attire.  This group loves them some glitter and some good food.  Cocktail hour started with a woo woo cocktail, artichoke fritters and crostini.  Tyler Florence can really throw down some vodka, butter, oil and down right yumminess.

The table was localvore inspired with fresh artichokes, oranges and succulents from the farmers market.  Very rustic, local, and beautiful.  Each place setting had a quote from Tyler which started with "family is the people you spend a great deal of time with, care for and trust...a two-way street".  The quote was perfection for this group as I know in my heart I could call any of them at any time and they would be there for me.  They feel like family and even though we could have spent the evening munching on the amazing osso buco over creamy polenta with serious and deep conversation we choose to talk about completely ridiculous things like if you could be any celebrity who would you be.  Love the family of friends I have choose in life.

I made the french onion soup which was good but, I would increase the onion a bit, decrease the broth a bit and let the soup sit and cool a bit to let the flavors meld a bit more.  It definitely tasted better when I reheated it to serve at the house.  French onion soup is a bit rustic and comforting yet decadent and delicious in one little bowl of love.

french onion soup
adapted: tyler florence

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 large onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1.5 -2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
8 ounces grated gruyere


Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25-30 minutes.

Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5-10 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 8-10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven under broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

orange dream pudding pops

When 3 pounds of oranges arrived in my CSA box this week I knew I would have to motivate myself with 2012 blog goal #3 (use CSA box ingredients more creatively).  I am the only person in this house that eats oranges and while I really do like them 3 pounds is a lot for even this girl.  The crazy warm winter days that we have been enjoying has been prompting Carter to constantly request popsicles.  I started googling orange sherbet but, then I had an 80s flashback of pudding pops.  I loved pudding pops and can vividly remember that thin layer of ice that encased the pop.  Once you cracked the ice layer the most creamy center was right beneath.  They were delicious.  I had all of the ingredients to whip together orange dream pudding pops.  Carter and I squeezed the oranges and got mixing.  The results were fantastic.  There is no thin icy layer but, the pop is just as creamy as I remember.  These pops must really evoke dreams because Carter woke up the next day and said "mommy I had a dream last night that you let me eat two pudding pops".  True sweet dreams.

orange dream pudding pops
adapted: glutenfreefive

1 large box instant vanilla pudding
8 ounces vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
8 ounces cool whip, thawed

In a blender combine pudding, yogurt, juice and milk and blend until combined. Fold in cool whip and pour into popsicle molds and freeze for 5 hours or until firm.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

new york style crumb cake

The new year is going to bring a lot of change for me.  I don't like change.  I resist change.  This year I am going to embrace change.  When I got married I was a food and fitness fanatic.  I truly enjoyed exercise and eating healthy.  I still like both of those those things but, I let sugar, butter and fancy cakes creep into my life.  What was once a treat became a daily necessity.  I no longer tasted and savoured a sweet treat.  I craved it and then ate it without even tasting it.  This year I am going to return to healthy eating with the occasional treat.  Instead if making resolutions I am setting a few goals.  In addition to some life goals I have a few goals for this blog. 

1.)  Return to the archived posts and make things from the past.
2.)  Look back and remake something that I love but, dislike the picture.
3.) Creatively use and document my CSA deliveries.
4.) Recreate an old favorites with a new spin.
5.) Work on my photography and writing.

To kick off the new year and my return to healthy eating I made this super light and healthy crumb cake.  Yeah right!  I was in charge of the coffee cake for parent child this week.  As much as I wanted to bring in a healthy breakfast cookie or baked oatmeal I wasn't sure how the moms would react so, I fell back on this family favorite.  When I was a little girl living in Connecticut we would take my grandfather grocery shopping every week.  Each week he would give me the same task of selecting the Entemann's crumb cake with the most crumb topping.  I would look over each cake carefully before I made my selection.  We would return to his home to unpack the groceries and then share a big piece of coffee cake.  Every time I see a crumb cake I think back on this memory fondly.  I love when good food evokes happy memories.  My mom happened to be visiting when I made this cake and the first thing she said when she took a bite was grandpa would love this cake.  Honestly I don't know who wouldn't love this coffee cake.  The cake portion is light and buttery and there is no shortage of crumb on this cake.  Perfect ratio.  I cut this cake into 16 pieces which was the perfect size for a little mid-morning treat for the moms.  Hope you enjoy every last crumb.

new york style crumb cake
source: cooks illustrated

crumb topping

1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk

confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Topping: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.  Cut into 12 large or 16 reasonable sized pieces.  Enjoy!
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