Adventures of an unfussy foodie.

Pretty Kitten's Kitchen is now at http://www.pbandjeats.com

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December 17, 2010

Orange Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache

It's that time of year when we turn to favorite family recipes and timeless flavors: Apples, citrus and spice; rich chocolate spiked with mint or orange; cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Last year, my mother asked me to make a chocolate-orange dessert for our family Christmas party. I felt intimidated because it's not a combination I usually turn to, but I found this fantastic recipe for orange pound cake, then covered it in ganache. It was phenomenal! Moist and fragrant. Just the right touch of orange flavor without being overpowering. Mmmmm...

I made it again this year for a neighborhood party, and there wasn't a crumb left!
Are you drooling yet?

This is one of my showstopper recipes, so it does require a bit of work, but I swear it will pay off.


Orange Pound Cake
PRINTABLE RECIPE

Ingredients:
for the cake
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup grated orange zest (4 to 6 oranges)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the soaking syrup
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice

for the glaze (optional)

2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 and grease and flour two loaf pans or one bundt. (I used Pam with Flour and that was fine.)

Then cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle for 5 minutes (or until it's fluffy). Put the mixer on medium and add the eggs one at a time, then add the orange zest.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the orange juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour and the buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide between the two pans (or pour into your one bundt), smooth the tops... and bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Once out of the oven, cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out on to a rack. Here you will glaze with the syrup you made while it was baking:

You make this syrup by cooking 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup orange juice in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Spoon onto the cake while both the cake and syrup are still warm, then let the cake cool completely.

Once the cake is completely cooled, cover it with rich chocolate ganache.
{Oh yes. I went there.}


Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
16 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate (I use Girardelli 60% chocolate chips -- no need to chop)

Directions:
Chop chocolate and place in medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream until hot but NOT boiling. Pour over chocolate in bowl and stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. (You could also heat your cream, carefully supervised, in the microwave.) Pour immediately over cooled cake. Save leftovers to eat with a spoon later. (I know you will.)

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December 06, 2010

Something Special

Hi friends!
I have missed sharing recipes, tips and tricks with you over the past couple of months or so.

But the thing is, I'm cooking up something really special right now, and the sad result so far is that this blog will need to take a backseat for a while longer.


Though I don't know when I'll have the time and energy to share something new with you, I would still love to hear from you. You are more than welcome to email me at prettykristyn [at] gmail [dot] com.

November 18, 2010

Guest Blogger: Easy Pumpkin Chowder

Today I am excited to have my good friend, Colleen, as a guest blogger. She makes the most charming bags, clothes, and accessories, and blogs at The Busy Bean; On top of which, she is a fantastic cook.

Today she has consented to share with us her delicious recipe for Pumpkin Chowder. It's quick, super easy, and so, so yummy!


I absolutely love the fall. It's getting chilly and I know Christmas is just around the corner. I love snuggling in with warm meals that make my house smell like home. Here's my favorite soup for fall. The best part is that if you've got some canned vegetable soup mix, it only takes about 10 minutes to make! That's a bonus when you get home late from work on a cold night and want something warm and homey without taking a lot of time.


Here's what you'll need:





butter, flour, milk, nutmeg, salt & pepper, canned pumpkin and vegetables. I use my home canned vegetable soup mix. If you don't can, just chop up potatoes, celery, carrots, and onion. Put it all in a pot, just cover with water, and boil until your vegetables are soft, but not soggy. Throw in some frozen peas and/or corn at the end and you'll be all set.


Start by making a roux. Combine your flour and butter in a pot and mix with a wooden spoon. Here's the most important step of the whole process: Season your roux! I learned this from my sister, who does not really have a great love of cooking, but boy can that girl make a good soup! If you season your roux, you will get a much better flavor and use a lot less seasoning than if you add the seasoning later.





Stir the roux until it's very lightly brown and bubbly. You'll notice that you can't smell the flour anymore... it smells more woodsy. That's when you're ready to add the milk. Switch to a whisk when you add the milk, that way you won't get lumps.





Keep whisking until the mixture starts to thicken. You'll know it's ready to move on when you can run your finger across the back of your spoon and the milk doesn't run right back and cover up your track.


Now throw your pumpkin in and mix until it's combined.


Add your vegetables, without draining the water (unless you've got a lot of water... basically you just want enough liquid to make it a good consistency. If you like runny soups, add more water or milk. I like mine thick, so I only add what water barely covers the veggies).





Make sure your soup is evenly heated through, then enjoy! {Here's where I should be sharing a picture of the finished soup all pretty in my lovely bowls. Except I didn't take pictures before we devoured it. And I don't have lovely bowls. Maybe I'll get some one day...} Here's the recipe:


Pumpkin Chowder


2 Tblsp Butter (Unsalted)
2 Tblsp Flour
2 C Milk (Whole is best... skim is healthier and almost as good)
1 small can Pumpkin
1 Quart Vegetable Soup Mix
1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste


Make a roux with butter and flour (I use unsalted butter, that way I control exactly how much salt is in my food. If you're using salted butter, just add less salt). Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Once your roux is lightly browned and bubbly, whisk in milk. Stir until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in canned pumpkin until combined. Add vegetables and simmer until soup is warmed through.


Enjoy!



Thanks, Colleen! Don't foget to visit her blog for more yummy recipes and fun craft ideas. And if you're looking for fun holiday gift ideas, stop by her store!

October 11, 2010

Giving Thanks

 Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, the land of [some of] my ancestors.

My father was born and grew up in Canada, and my grandfather still lives there. I'm proud of my Canadian heritage, and I'm excited to celebrate it today.

So today I will be roasting my first ever turkey (yes, I'm nervous), making these rolls and this apple pie with these apples.
I will be thinking of all the blessings that my husband and I enjoy -- our home, our family, our friends -- and all of you!

Even though I'm sure most of you will not be thinking about turkey and stuffing for at least another month, it's never too early to give thanks.

October 08, 2010

Tips and Tricks: 5 Great Things To Do With Pesto


Pesto is a magic potion, if you ask me. We always have a jar of pesto in the fridge, and my favorite thing about it is that it is more than just a delicious sauce for pasta.

Here are just a couple of ideas for using pesto to shake things up a bit:

1. Mix about 1 Tbsp. pesto with about 2 Tbsp. mayo and spread on your favorite bread to add extra flavor to your sandwich. 
(particularly if the bread is foccacia and your sandwich consists of smoked turkey, fresh tomatoes and salty provalone cheese -- as in the sandwich pictured below. Yum yum!)

2. Stir pesto into crushed canned tomatoes and reduce for an almost-instant pasta sauce.

3. Spike your mashed potatoes with pesto to give them an herb and garlic flair!

4. Spread a very thin layer of pesto on your dough instead of pizza sauce -- cover with shredded mozzarella, diced chicken, fresh tomatoes and artichoke hearts for chicken pesto pizza. Oh, and don't forget the bacon!

5. Add a spoonful or two of pesto to fresh diced tomatoes and spoon onto toasted slices of baguette for quick and easy bruschetta.

Do you have a favorite way to use pesto? Know of any other kitchen multi-taskers? Leave a comment!

October 06, 2010

Wishlist Wednesday: Autumn from the Heart of the Home



Today's post takes a bit of a twist from the usual, as my wishlist item today is one I hope will end up on YOUR wishlist, because I already have and love it.

The cookbook is Autumn from the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch.

If you are not yet familiar with Susan, let me be the first to introduce you to the author who taught me that the kitchen is the "Heart of the Home". My mother had her "Vineyard Seasons" cookbook (now sadly out of print), and I pored over it when I was younger. Every page in a Susan Branch book is a work of art -- literally! She hand-paints every book she publishes.

If they were only beautiful, that might be enough for me, but they also contain delicious recipes and fabulous entertaining tips. She even includes great ideas for hostess or neighbor gifts and decorating. Susan Branch always makes me want to be a better hostess, housekeeper, friend, neighbor, and wife -- not to mention a better cook.

Autumn is my favorite because, well...  I bet you can guess.

Other fantastic books by Susan Branch:
Heart of the Home
Girlfriends Forever
Sweets to the Sweet
Christmas from the Heart of the Home

October 04, 2010

What I did this weekend

Pumpkins and apples and cider, Oh my! 

Pumpkin Patch
So many pretty pumpkins! A difficult choice ahead of us...

Beautiful Jonathan apples just begging to be picked and made into pies or applesauce!

The hubs. Loving the fake smile...

Me!

Our bulging half-bushel of apples.

If you can find a place to pick your own apples this month, do it! You won't regret it. (Don't forget to sample the fruit warm from the sunshine of the branches. Oh! And pick up some freshly pressed cider!) Or at least find a nearby pumpkin patch and snip your own pumpkin off the vine instead of settling for what you can find at the store.

Want to go where we went? Visit Paradise Valley Orchard in Cache Valley, Utah.

PS: Recipe coming sometime next week. This week: Midterms. [sigh]

October 01, 2010

Have your cobbler and eat it too



I hope you're not sick of peaches yet, because they don't last long. Now is the time to enjoy them at their very best. So I hope you won't mind one more peach recipe.

I was looking for a good cobbler outside the normal biscuity-topped goodness. (Which I like, don't get me wrong.) This cobbler has a delicious, golden, slightly crunchy oatmeal topping that satisfies in a deep-down way when paired with cool, creamy vanilla ice cream.

So... sufficient to say that I am a big fan. You will be too.

Oatmeal Cookie Peach Cobbler
PRINTABLE RECIPE
Adapted from Cooking Light


Ingredients:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. flour, lightly spooned into measuing cup and leveled off (use whole wheat flour in part or in whole, if desired)
1 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder

6 c. peaches, peeled and sliced
1/3 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:
Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and mix until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon and baking powder. Gradually add this to the wet ingredients until fully blended. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For filling, toss peaches with sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, and lemon juice until coated.

When ready to bake, spray 9x9" pan (or large cast-iron skillet, if you have one) with non-stick spray. Spread out peach mixture evenly along the bottom of the pan and drop oatmeal mixture by tablespoons on top (I used a 1" cookie scoop).

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Delish!



September 27, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies

I always look forward to the Daring Baker Challenge every month. Because I was traveling so much last month, I didn't have a chance to participate, so I was doubly excited to get back in the game this month.

The challenge for September was to make and decorate beautiful sugar cookies in the theme of "September" -- whatever that means to you. And to me, among other things, September really means football season. So what better way to celebrate a great start to the season for my Utah Utes than to make (and eat) Ute cookies!

So, Saturday night, while we listened to the Utes cream San Jose State, I carefully crafted these beauties:




I couldn't resist a not-so-subtle dig at BYU (the "Y"), the biggest rival of our Runnin' Utes.
My dad graduated from the "Y", so I made him eat it. So glad he's a good sport! :)


Oh, the sweet taste of victory!

Want to make some cookies of your own? Read on, my friend. Read on.


September 23, 2010

Storing Summer

I love this time of year. Have I mentioned that, yet?

My mother grew up in a small-ish town called Brigham City in northern Utah, where they grow delicious peaches. In the early part of September every year, they have a festival they call "Peach Days". I remember going as a child -- there were rides and games and, I think, a parade. But mostly I remember the peaches we would eat from my grandparents' back yard.

They tasted like summer. Like every spark of sunshine over the summer months was collected and stored for later, giving the fruit it's sunrise-colored skin, plump and soft and warm from the treetops.

The first time I ever had freezer jam, I was at my cousin, Jenny's, house. Tired from playing house or spinning around in circles or generally causing trouble, we had begged for a snack. My aunt produced a small square tupperware from the depths of the freezer, and not too much later we each had a jam sandwich with the most heavenly concoction I could ever remember tasting -- Strawberry. Freezer. Jam.

September 21, 2010

Local Flavor: Bruges Waffles and Frites



Imagine a sunny Friday afternoon in early fall, a clear, blue sky.

Imagine you have the afternoon off of work to spend with friends. You decide to go to Bruges Waffles and Frites.

Now imagine the most delicious waffles you've ever tasted; crispy and chewy and sweet, topped with tangy fresh fruit and creme fraiche, flecked with pearls of sugar. And don't forget to dream up some excellent fries as well.

Salivating yet?

Whatever you may have conjured up in your imagination, these are better.

On just such a beautiful Friday, some friends and I headed down to Bruges to see what it was all about. And what it's all about is a slice of Europe right here in SLC. Though a bit pricey, Bruges serves up some serious waffles -- crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, with crunchy bits of sugar dotted throughout. You can top with your choice of seasonal fruit, sweetened creme fraiche, or get the "Torpedo" -- the height of decadence with a whole bar of dark chocolate sandwiched between two layers of waffle.

Bruges started out at the local Farmers' Market and quickly became so popular that they opened a storefront right across the street from Pioneer Park. They emphasize using local produce to top their waffles (even if the waffles themselves are made of imported ingredients), which made me smile as I dug into my vanilla/creme fraiche/Brigham City peach goodness.

The verdict: Give it a try. I certainly intend to go back again. Maybe on a midwinter day with some hot cocoa on the side...

Nom nom nom...

September 17, 2010

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

 
Just a quick weekend note to encourage SLC residents to check out some new restaurants this week by taking advantage of the great deals offered through the Downtown Alliance Dine-o-Round.

September 17 (today) - October 2 (next Saturday) a number of great eateries in downtown SLC will band together to deliver popular items in a preset menu for a fantastic price: $5-10 for lunch and $15-30 for dinner.

Directory of participating restaurants here.

My picks (in no particular order):

ACME Burger
Canella's
The Copper Onion
Lamb's Grill
Metropolitan
Robin's Nest
Settebello Pizzeria
Tin Angel
Wild Grape Bistro

I also hear fun things about the ever popular Red Rock and Squatters pubs.

Now, go ye forth and eat well this weekend!

September 16, 2010

There's a recipe somewhere in here...

You know, food blogging isn't my life. Compared to a lot of food bloggers, or even bloggers in general, I spend relatively little time running my blog. Generally speaking, I post about what I make for meals at home, sharing with you a new recipe I've tried or an old favorite we return to time and time again. If I happen to take a picture, that's fantastic, and I give myself a pat on the back.

The hardest times to put a post together are when my house is a wreck. Like right now, for instance. It's hard to get decent pictures when in the background you see a mountain of unwashed dishes or a forest of cereal boxes littering the kitchen table. And unlike many other types of blogs, a food blog requires one to create something in order to write about it. So it's a challenge -- a challenge I signed up for willingly, so I'm not complaining, really, just mulling over why it can take me forever sometimes to get something on here that satisfies me.

And I hope that what I write satisfies you, too. Maybe it inspires you or makes you laugh. Whatever keeps you coming here, I'm glad because I love that anyone would think to pay attention to my little corner of the internet at all. So, Thanks!

After all that, I do have a recipe to share with you. It takes so few ingredients and so little effort that it can barely be called a recipe at all, but it is truly scrumptious so I hope you will try it. (I even took a picture! {Pat on back.})



Slow-Cooker Beef for French Dip Sandwiches
 recipe originally found at Skinny Bovine's Kitchen
PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 packet onion soup mix (such as Lipton)
1 packet zesty Italian dressing mix (such as Good Seasons)
a beef roast, 3 or 4 pounds (Whatever kind you can find for a good price. We usually use chuck.)
water
sliced provalone cheese
good french rolls
caramelized onions (optional)

The super easy directions are as follows: Place roast in crock pot. (Mine is a 5 qt. size.) Sprinkle in both packets of seasoning. Fill with enough water to just cover the roast. Let cook on low all day. When the meat falls apart, it's ready. (Usually after 8 hours or so.)

When you're ready to serve, shred the beef with two forks. Split your french rolls, top with provalone and broil until golden. Fill prepared rolls with beef (and caramelized onions, if you've gone to the trouble of making them) and serve with a little dish of the liquid (jus) from the slow-cooker.

Leftovers can be frozen and reheated. (I never have any jus left when I freeze my leftovers, so I serve it the second time around with the au jus from a packet. Still delish!)



September 02, 2010

Very nice, that risotto!

I don't know the reason, but for a couple of weeks now I have been craving rice. It's not something we eat a whole lot of, especially when you compare it to the amount of pasta we eat, but I just knew that a risotto would hit the spot.

Perhaps it's the onset of Fall I can feel and see in everything around me. The light has changed somehow, as it always does this time of year, and temps have cooled ever so slightly, letting me know that my favorite season is just around the corner! And with my favorite season come cooler nights and heartier dishes, like the mushroom risotto I made the other night.

Now, I've eaten risotto before, and I've helped my mom make risotto before, and I've watched people get yelled at by Gordon Ramsey for making bad risotto before, but I've never made it for myself. It was time.

I found a recipe from Cooking Light that sounded just perfect (well... almost) and I set to work.

I was advised that when making risotto, it is best to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start, because once you get going, you'll be busy stirring and won't have time to chop mushrooms and shallots or strip sprigs of thyme of their leaves... so if you can prep the night before it will make your life a lot easier.

The original recipe called for dried porcini mushrooms, and I hadn't the foggiest idea where to find those, plus I know that I like creminis, so that's what I used. The original also called for mascarpone cheese, which I substituted for the cream cheese I had on hand. (Besides, 89¢ beats $5.99 any day of the week in my [pocket]book.)

August 25, 2010

Wishlist Wednesday: Cast-Iron Skillet

A cast-iron skillet is something I have wanted for a REALLY long time. I keep eyeing them every time I get the opportunity -- lifting them up, feeling their heft and dreaming about beautifully seared meats and crusty biscuits and peach cobbler and... and.. and.. and... beautifully roasted chicken!!!

On Monday, I was ridiculously jet-lagged but needed to get out of the house for an hour or so. So I did something very dangerous: I went to Williams-Sonoma where I drooled over the cast-iron pans on display there. I was able to hold off buying one. (Whew!) But then I kept thinking about it when I got home. And I got on Amazon. I ordered the new Hunger Games book -- and because you need to spend over $25 to get free shipping, I also broke down and ordered my long-desired 12" cast-iron skillet.

What?! I was weak with exhaustion. Plus, it was $18. And a sound investment.

I already have a perfectly adequate set of pans, including two lovely, large skillets. So why does cast iron rock my socks so much?

I'll tell you.

August 12, 2010

Luscious Links: This Week for Dinner

While we're on the subject of planning menus, it's only fitting to introduce you to a fabulous blog to jump-start your menu planning -- or keep you motivated if you already do!


Jane Maynard started This Week for Dinner because she could never come up with menu ideas for her family. It has become a great place to find inspiration. Every week, Jane shares her menu plan, and others leave their menus in the comments. I frequently participate, when I'm on the ball, and I have found some awesome ideas and recipes that I have incorporated into my weekly meal plans. (Like the Bistro Chicken. It doesn't kid around.)




This blog is about simple food and fun. So pop in on Jane and take a peek at the great menu ideas, family-friendly recipes, and beautiful photography!

August 10, 2010

Tips & Tricks: Weekly Menus


Did you see Julie & Julia? There's a part in that movie where Amy Adams' character, Julie Powell, states what a comfort it is to cook, knowing that if you combine the right ingredients under the right conditions, you get just the right result.

I know that at the end of a long day of work or school or picking up after little ones it can be really daunting to think of having to put together an evening meal. Some nights I come home after school and work and stare dolefully at the pile of dirty dishes in my messy kitchen and I just feel overwhelmed by the responsibility to feed myself. Still, if I can get myself going, making dinner can be pretty therapeutic. For me, it requires a fair bit of work and organization on my part to make that happen.

My mother taught me the value of making a weekly menu. She did this by example -- and by that what I mean is that we basically starved if she did not make a weekly menu. (Or we went out to eat... a lot.)

Writing out what I want to make during the week is honestly the wheel that keeps our household turning. It keeps us on budget and makes the week much more zen -- I have all the ingredients I need, and I know that I can make the meals I've planned. And I have a ready answer for the dreaded question, "What's for dinner?".

On Sunday night, I start by writing a list of meals that appeal to me. I move all the recipe cards I need to use during the week to the very front of my recipe box so I don't have to dig to find them as I need them. Then I break out my menu planning sheet and write out when I think we'll be making which meal. Then I flip my menu over and write out my grocery list.

And then I post my plan up in the top right corner of my blog. It keeps me honest. :) I also put the menu up on the fridge for easy access, and to help me remember to defrost anything that needs defrosting.

So here are my menu-planning tips:
  • Grab the grocery store ads while you make your menu -- that way you can plan your meals around what's on sale
  • Keep a list of meals that your family consistently likes. You can refer to this list whenever you get stuck deciding which meals to make. I keep mine on the computer and add to it every so often to keep from getting stuck in a rut.
  • Involve the whole family. More input means less work for you, and it means that your fellow diners will eat what you make. I love weeks when I hear P say that he can't wait for meatloaf on Tuesday because it was his request for the week. Makes me smile, and it creates an excitement about mealtime that I find infectious!
  • Plan to have nights when you won't cook. Don't get burned out -- plan nights to order pizza or check out the new Thai place down the street or go on a date with your sweetheart or a night out with friends.
  • Always keep a few things on hand that you can throw together in a pinch. I call these "Pantry Meals", and I'm always on the lookout for more to add to my repetoire. I also grab a freezer meal (I particularly like "Voila" meals from Bird's Eye -- try the Chicken Alfredo) if I know the week is going to be hectic. It's a lifesaver to have a plan B available when life happens, as it inevitably does.
  • Have one night of the week that is set. For example, we usually have breakfast for dinner on Fridays. It's a great way to start a tradition! And if you're always on the lookout for different recipes to try, it will never be boring.
  • Did you plan to make guacamole for taco night on Monday, but your avocados aren't ready yet? No problem. Because you have everything else on hand for meals during the week, you can shift things around as necessary. Just because you said that you're having lasagna on Saturday doesn't mean you have to keep it that way. The point is to use menu planning as a tool to help you manage the task of feeding your family. This is a no-guilt, panic-free zone. So you didn't make that fun recipe you wanted to try this week. No one is keeping score. Make it some other time.
  • If you're not familiar with Robin Miller, I recommend that you check out her cookbooks. Her philosophy, "cook once, use twice",  transforms leftovers from one night's meal into the next night's meal seamlessly. (Psst... they're also pretty healthy. Bonus!)
Do you plan a weekly menu? What are your strategies for getting dinner on the table?

August 03, 2010

Guest Post @ The Busy Bean

Be sure to hop on over to The Busy Bean for a guest post by yours truly.

Here's a little preview:


While you're there, check out Colleen's Etsy shop for some seriously adorable bags and such!

July 27, 2010

A Summer Recipe

Is it sweltering where you are right now?

I confess, summer is my least favorite season. Heat and I simply do not get along well together.

In the summer, those who cook desperately seek ways to avoid turning on the oven -- I usually turn to the microwave or crock-pot to avoid heating up the house. And then there are summery salads; no cooking required! A good salad can be so refreshing on a summer evening, but I tire of lettuce in a hurry.



When my mom broke out this recipe one Sunday, I knew I had to recreate it for myself. And share it with all of you. RUN to the store to get the ingredients for this one. Your tastebuds will thank you. :D

Jicama and Watermelon Salad
via Foodnetwork.com
PRINTABLE RECIPE

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of kosher salt
dash or two black pepper
1 jicama, cut into matchstick pieces
4 cups watermelon in 2-inch chunks
1/3 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves

Directions:
Whisk together juices, honey, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add the jicama, watermelon and mint and toss to coat. Let chill until ready to serve -- up to one hour.



Daring Baker Challenge: Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

**A special thanks to my brother for the great pictures! You can definitely tell which ones I took myself! ;D
The finished product. Gorgeous!
WELL... [wipes brow with corner of apron]

I have finally completed the July Daring Bakers' Challenge, and I am pooped.

This is only my second month participating in the Daring Bakers' group, but I am having so much fun with it! This month we were challenged to create a Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake -- essentially a swiss roll cake (jelly roll) sliced and frozen with layers of ice cream and hot fudge sauce to make sort of a bombe glacĂ©e. The inspiration for this recipe can be found here.

Sunita gave us a lot of creative latitude, which I appreciated because I'm a little chocolated out
(GASP! I know.)
I decided to create mine with a vanilla/raspberry/lemon flavor combination to keep it light and summery. And can I just tell you that I have never made a dessert with so much WOW factor! My family went crazy over it at Sunday dinner. The cake was a nice textural contrast with the creamy vanilla ice cream and slightly gooey lemon curd, and the raspberry sorbet rounded things off with a tangy, refreshingly summer-like flavor.

Vanilla Raspberry Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

It was a lot of work, but I was bursting with pride at my family's reaction, so it was worth every minute!
 
For those of you following along at home, let's get started. We have 5 components to make -- all from scratch:
Raspberry Curd
Lemon Curd
Sponge Cake
Raspberry Sorbet
Vanilla Ice Cream

Let's start with the fruit curds. I know, the name isn't particularly appealing, but the final result is scrumptious. A fruit curd is kind of a butter/jam/custard combo; it has the consistency of pudding, kind of. It can be used as a filling or topping for cakes, eaten with scones for afternoon tea, or just eaten by the spoonfull (because I can't help myself -- don't judge).
I used a recipe for rasberry curd courtesy Tea, of Tea and Cookies. It turned out fantastic -- the most beautiful shade of purple. I won't list the recipe here, but click over to her site if you are interested.

Lovely, lucious raspberry curd. Mmmm...
Lemon Curd
Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice (the juice of about 3 lemons)
1 tbsp. lemon zest ( the zest of one lemon will do. freeze the zest from the others with a little water for later use in cakes, etc.)
pinch salt

Directions:
The easiest way to make this is to combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl (I use my pyrex measuring cup, 1 quart size) and cook on high for 30 second intervals, stirring well with a fork or whisk between each interval until the mixture coats the back of a spoon (or the fork you're using because why dirty another utensil, am I right?). In my microwave, this took maybe 3 minutes -- but as microwaves vary, keep going until the consistency is right. It will be a tad runny but it will thicken as it cools.
If you find you have one or two clumps of egg white in your curd, just pick them out or pass the mixture through a seive and discard solids.
Easy right? Now, set it in the fridge and ignore it for a bit. When it has cooled completely, cover it with a lid or some plastic wrap. (I won't tell if you just have to eat some, promise.)

Now make your sponge cake.
A sponge cake is an old fashioned cake that uses only whipped egg whites for leavening. Traditional sponge cakes use no added fat and very little flour. I chose a basic recipe which turned out very well:

My sponge cake/jelly roll ready for chilling

Vanilla Sponge Cake
Ingredients:
7 eggs
Pinch salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cake flour (I put 2 Tbsp. conrstarch in my measuring cup and filled it the rest of the way with AP flour.)
*For chocolate sponge cake: substitute 1/2 cup cocoa powder for 1/2 cup cake flour.
Directions:
Line jelly roll pan (mine is smaller than a standard half-sheet pan, about [measurements] with parchment paper. Set oven at 400°F. Separate eggs; beat egg yolks together with vanilla 1 minute.
Add pinch of salt to egg whites; beat until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating whites until they cling to bottom and sides of bowl, then beat 1 minute longer.
Fold beaten egg yolks into egg whites gently but quickly. Gently fold in sifted sugar and flour. Do not over mix. (I like to use a wooden spoon, it seems to work better than a spatula)
Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly from center out with a spoon or spatula. Tap pan several times on table to break any air bubbles.
Bake in center of oven 8 to 10 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly.
Remove from oven. Immediately loosen sides with a table knife and turn cake out onto prepared dish towel. Roll tightly while still warm and let cool 10 - 15 minutes.
Carefully unroll cake and fill as desired (I used my raspberry curd). Reroll immediately and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until ready to use.

Are you tired yet? Me too. Go take a nap and come back.

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