Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moms Club Cake

I made this cake for our moms club year-end celebration. I asked our members to give me one word or image that reminds them of our group and then piped those images on the cake as decoration.

The cake is a double layer butter cake with colored buttercream. I used the crusting buttercream recipe which allowed me to smooth the cake surface with a papertowel. This is the first time I used this method successfully, and I'm pretty pleased. I don't like the taste and texture of fondant, so I would much rather opt for the buttercream. And with these results, I think I'll have to try more like this!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Race Track Cake

This cake is made with 2 9x13 sized chocolate cakes, with chocolate icing in the middle. The top is frosted with white icing (colored green for the "grass"). The "2" is piped in with chocolate icing, and then topped with sugar (colored black/gray) to simulate asphalt. The sides are a mix of graham crackers and chocolate covered raisins (rocks).

I printed the START and FINISH flags and glued them to toothpicks, and borrowed the rest of the props (car, cones, tires) from the kids toy box.

I had a lot of fun making this cake, and my favorite part of it was the "asphalt" because the sugar really gave it the appearance of a road.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Diego Cake

I made this cake this past winter for my nephew's birthday, and I'm just getting around to posting pictures.

The bottom is a 9x13 cake, and then I made two 10" rounds to carve out the waterfall. The first round sits right on back left corner of the bottom. The second round is cut into two pieces (one smaller than the other) to give the step appearance of the waterfall.

After icing, I borrowed heavily from my son's Diego and Lego toys to decorate (after washing very well). I used chocolate covered raisins for the path and rocks.

For the water, I colored white icing with blue food coloring, but didn't mix it perfectly on purpose to give the water some shadows and white water effect. To add to the white water effect, I sprinkled white nonpareils where the water would crash.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pineapple Apricot Salsa

We grilled pork tenderloin for dinner tonight and decided to dice up a ripe pineapple into a sweet and spicy topping for the pork. This salsa is perfect for pork, but equally great on chicken or with chips. One of my favorite things about salsas is that the ingredients can change based on your mood, what's available or how spicy you like your food. This is what we did tonight - but we rarely make it the same way twice. So use what you have and leave out what you don't. It will still taste great!

For this recipe (courtesy of my husband) you will need: 2 cups diced pineapple, 1 apricot (peeled and diced), 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1 Jalapeno pepper chopped, the juice of one lime, 1 garlic clove chopped, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors can meld. Give a quick stir before serving and enjoy this fabulous salsa!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches

You can't go wrong with a classic combination. My husband made these the other night and they were so good we had two each - plus a bit extra at the end. He decided to keep the bread soft which turned out be a nice contrast to the crisp sausage. You can use either hot or sweet Italian sausage, or any combination of the two. We decided on sweet, but he added a bit of crushed red pepper flakes for heat.

For this recipe you will need: 8 large Italian sausage links, 2 red bell peppers, 1 large onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1/2 cup red wine, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and bakery fresh sandwich buns.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat and add sausage links whole. Turn until all sides are browned and remove from pan. Slice peppers and onions and add to pan. Add red pepper flakes and oregano to vegetables and cook them until tender, about 6 minutes. Slice the garlic and add to the pan until fragrant. Add tomato paste and stir to coat peppers and onions and then immediate add wine to deglaze the pan and dissolve tomato paste. Return sausage links to pan. Reduce heat to low and cover. When the insides of the sausage are done (internal temp of 165), remove cover and either allow extra liquid to cook out or fill buns with sausage link and top with peppers and onions. They're very messy and very fabulous! Enjoy!

Edited to add: My husband just reminded me that he added sliced garlic to the vegetables a few minutes before deglazing. I've updated the recipe above. Thanks, Honey! =)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Asparagus with Prosciutto and Parmesan

This delicious side dish is so simple to prepare and the taste is phenomenal! The key is to cook the asparagus just long enough without overcooking.

For this recipe you will need: 1 bunch thick asparagus spears, 1/4 cup diced prosciutto, 1/2 cup stock, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper to taste.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook diced prosciutto until crispy. While that is cooking, wash and trim the asparagus spears (snap one at the end to see where to cut the ends off the others). When the prosciutto is crisp, add the asparagus spears and allow to cook for a minute or two. Add stock and raise heat to bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low for 6 minutes. Remove lid and allow to cook until liquid is evaporated, about another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper to serve.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Fabulous Milestone and Other Updates

1000 visitors! In three months! OK, probably not all that spectacular for experienced food bloggers out there, but I'm pretty proud of myself. And I bet only half of those are my hits. ;)

I want to thank those that have bookmarked or subscribed to Fab Foods. And a special thanks to those of you that comment - because no matter what my visitor counts reads, a comment outshines it all. A comment means that someone liked what they read enough to let me know. So keep them coming!

In other fabulous news, I've updated my favorite blogs list. I'm drawn to other beginner food blogs like mine. But I've got to check out the really great ones - I am so impressed with what people are doing and I like to learn from them. I've added a few of them to my blog roll, because these additions were too great to ignore. I would be thrilled for my blog to be half as good as these. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Homemade Tomato Meat Sauce

This sauce tastes great on any pasta. I love to add red pepper flakes and a ton of grated parmesean cheese to serve.

For this recipe you will need: 2 cans tomato sauce, 1 pound ground beef, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons dried basil, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over high heat. Add the beef and break it apart with a spoon, stirring occasionally until it is browned. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine with meat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Add seasonings and adjust to your taste. Ideally, this sauce should simmer for a few hours for the best flavor and texture. But if you're in a hurry, you can thicken with some tomato paste and have it ready in 20 minutes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Whole Wheat Breakfast Squares

I baked these squares because I had too much stuff in the fridge - overripe bananas, blueberries that were about to go bad and about 4 strawberries. I guess I could've just eaten the strawberries, but I thought it would be fun to add 'em to the mix. And about the name - I don't really know how to go about naming my recipes sometimes. I want to get the main ingredients mentioned, but that sometimes makes for a very long name. So the official name of this is Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Breakfast Squares. They are moist and not too sweet and best served with a hot cup of coffee.

I took a basic whole wheat blueberry muffin mix and tweaked it a bit. I decided to make squares because I was running late on time and I didn't feel like greasing muffin tins - thought it would be a lot quicker to grease a 12x8 pan.

For this recipe you will need: 2.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1.5 cups rolled oats, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 cup honey, 1 cup vegetable oil, 5 very ripe bananas, 4 strawberries (or more if desired), 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup applesauce, 1 cup blueberries, sprinkle of sugar and butter for greasing the pan.

Combine in a large bowl flour, oats, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In separate bowl, mash bananas and strawberries and add honey, oil, vanilla and applesauce. Add the wet to the dry and stir until just moistened (do not overmix). Grease a 12x8 baking pan and spread the mixture evenly. Sprinkle the blueberries with sugar and distribute evenly over the top, pressing them into the mix lightly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares. Enjoy them warm from the oven, at room temperature or straight from the refrigerator.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Broccoli Soup

I hesitate to call this Cream of Broccoli soup, because I didn't use a traditional recipe calling for heavy cream. I didn't have any on hand, and frankly, I'm not a big fan of soups that are too heavy and creamy.

I decided to make soup because I got overzealous at the bulk store and picked up more broccoli florets than my family could handle in a reasonable time. Before 4 cups of broccoli went to waste, I decided to turn it into soup. I've never made cream of broccoli soup before, but I figured I would just keep adding ingredients until it tasted good.

The end result was a tasty broccoli soup that was not too heavy but still had a hardiness to it. Enjoy!

For this recipe you will need: 4 cups broccoli florets, 2 stalks of chopped celery, 1 large chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 4 cups stock, 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup cream cheese, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add celery and onion until soft. Add garlic cloves for another 3 minutes. Add broccoli florets and stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover. Once the broccoli is soft (about 6-8 minutes) blend in pot with immersion blender until smooth and well blended. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine well.

The final texture of the soup should be thick and creamy, but you will definitely notice the texture of the broccoli. Please note this recipe is not for a traditional cream of broccoli soup. I topped mine with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese for an added bite.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Zucchini Raisin Whole Wheat Muffins

This muffin recipe is adapted from a basic zucchini muffin recipe. I cut down on the sugar, substituted apple sauce for oil and replaced a portion of the flour required with whole wheat flour. The result is a healthy and tasty muffin that my kids love. I made these in advance for brunch this Sunday, Mother's Day. Give it a try! They'll be a big hit!

For this recipe you will need: 3 eggs, 1 cup applesauce, 1 cup sugar, 2.5 cups grated zucchini, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, 2 tsp cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 1.5 cups raisins.

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour muffin tins (will make about 24 muffins). Whisk eggs, applesauce, sugar, zucchini and vanilla in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and raisins. Slowly add dry mix to egg mixture being careful not to overmix. You just want the dry ingredients moistened, they do not have to be perfectly blended.

Add to muffin tins and cook for 15 minutes and check. My muffins were done at 18 minutes, but I could have taken them out a minute or two earlier. They are done when a knife inserted comes out clean. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Whole Wheat Rotini and Cheese (with Broccoli)

It takes a bit longer to make homemade mac-n-cheese, but it's well worth it. The boxed stuff is super high in sodium and it doesn't even taste that great. Although the box is simple to make and in a pinch can definitely get the kids fed when time is an issue - when I've got a few extra minutes I like to make it from scratch.

Usually I use regular pasta (any kind I have on hand) but I recently decided to give whole wheat pasta a go with my family (or more specifically a whole wheat pasta blend.) The blend is a bit easier to eat and while the taste is still different from regular pasta, it's something that I think the family can get used to and then will eventually never notice the difference.

For this recipe you will need: 3/4 pound whole wheat pasta, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup stock, 2 cups broccoli florets, 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese, 3 slices american cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook pasta according to directions on box. Four minutes before the pasta is done, you will add the broccoli florets to the pasta pot, so get the broccoli washed and ready to go. I like to set a timer for the pasta cooking time less four minutes so that I don't forget.

In a separate medium size pot, melt butter and whisk in flour to make a rue. Whisk in the milk and stock and bring to a slow boil and reduce heat. Continue stirring until thickened. Add the cheddar and whisk until melted and well combined. Add the american cheese, one slice at a time, until melted and combined. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta and broccoli and add to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over and mix well to combine. Serve immediately. Note: add a splash of milk or stock when reheating leftovers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe is a favorite in my home. And what's not to like? It's simple to prepare and very flavorful. I especially enjoy the bitterness of it. My kids? Not so much. But I still give it to them hoping one day they'll understand why it's so good.

Follow these simple (and I stress, simple) steps to a perfectly cooked Broccoli Rabe.

For this recipe you'll need: One bushel of broccoli rabe, 3 garlic cloves sliced, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. You may need some liquid like water, wine or stock.

Wash and cut the broccoli rabe into 2-3 inch pieces, discarded the woodier end pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the pepper flakes and garlic to the oil and lower the heat immediately. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan half at a time. The heat will quickly wilt the broccoli and the second half should be added once there is enough room in the pan for more. Once the broccoli rabe is wilted (a few minutes), continue cooking in the pan until the stalks are as tender as you like. To cut some of the bitterness, you may add a bit of liquid to the pan at this time to aid in cooking.

Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. In my opinion, there is no better accompaniment to broccoli rabe than sausage, but it's equally tasty in pasta dishes or even cold the next day.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Forget the Easy Stuff - Eggs

As a mom, eggs have become my go to meal - that is, I can make them for any meal and be sure that my kids are getting a healthy source of protein. Serve any of these dishes with a side of fresh fruit and some turkey sausage (always have handy in freezer) and you've got yourself a complete meal that is done before you have a chance to order in.

Here is a quick list of my favorite uses for eggs for a quick, healthy and homemade meal.

  • Hard Boiled Eggs - Place eggs in pot large enough so the eggs are not on top of each other. Fill to cover with cold water. Place on stovetop over high heat until a gentle boil begins. Immediately cover and turn off heat. Set timer for 15 minutes. Remove eggs after 15 minutes to ice bath or refrigerator to stop cooking. To Serve: Shell and eat as is, mash with mayo for egg salad, slice on top of salad or deviled eggs.
  • French Toast - Scramble 3 eggs with 1/2 cup milk, pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Heat a pan over medium high heat and melt enough butter to coat the pan. Dip bread into egg mixture and cover completely. Immediately place in hot pan and lower heat to medium low. It will be done when brown on both sides. To Serve: Drizzle with warm syrup, sprinkle with confectioners sugar or spread with thin layer of cream cheese and sliced strawberries (my son's favorite).
  • Egg Sandwich - Heat pan over high heat and melt butter to coat pan. When hot, crack one or two eggs in center and immediately lower heat to medium low. Season as desired (I like Tabasco, salt and pepper) Break yolk or leave intact (my kids like it broken and I'm over easy) and flip after a few minutes. To Serve: Place fried egg on buttered toast with any or all of the following: cheese, tomato, bacon, baby lettuce, ham or hot sauce.
  • Scrambled Eggs - Scramble 4 eggs in a bowl and add 1/4 cup water, salt, pepper, parsley and cook in pan over medium low heat, moving eggs around in pan until they are cooked to desired doneness.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What I Know NOW About Motherhood...

...that I didn't know before.

Ah, there are so many things. But to sum it up, I learned the true definition of selflessness.

  1. having little or no concern for oneself, esp. with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish. (from dictionary.com)
  2. holding one's urine, especially with bladder about to bust open, in order to let your potty-training daughter use the only bathroom first.
  3. losing some or all of a night's sleep holding one sick child in order to keep second and third healthy children from waking up and from being tired the next day at school.
  4. foregoing all outings at "nice" restaurants and eating out at local diners and pizza places where the menu has little more to offer than chicken fingers and hotdogs.
  5. going days without a decent shower due to hectic mornings schedule of make breakfast, clean up after breakfast, get kids dressed, brush kids teeth and hair, find missing glove, load into car, drive to school, go grocery shopping, etc. - all before 9am.
  6. never going to the bathroom without an audience.
  7. never sleeping in.
  8. never getting sick.
  9. never eating without rushing.
  10. never having to go a day without hearing a sweet voice saying, "I love you, Mommy."
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there who on one great day learned that they could give up anything and everything they once thought was important to take care of their real reason for living.

This post was inspired by the notes from my nest Mother's Day Blog Bash. Visit notes from my nest to find out how you can win lots of great prizes for your Mother's Day!

Today's Kitchen Disasters (yes, there were multiple)

There were a few things I wanted to get done today. A friend of mine is going through a tough time and I thought it would be nice to drop some muffins off at her place (she's got three young kids). That trip never happened, and well, the muffins were to blame.

I've made muffins from scratch before, and they've turned out great. Recently I've been trying out recipes (not just muffins, but pancakes, breads, etc) using whole wheat flour instead of or in addition to white flour. So, I find this great recipe on a blog (that shall remain unnamed) for muffins using ww flour, no sugar and fresh fruit. I though, hey, you can't go wrong - especially since she posted such wonderful "after" pictures of her muffins.

I followed her recipe exactly - and well, the muffins were inedible. The tops were done, but the bottoms never got there. And if I had let them go any longer in the oven (because they were already in for the recommended time) the tops would have burnt and that is just not fabulous food!

So, instead of preparing a lovely basket of homemade goodies for my friend, I cut off the tops (the only parts of the muffin that were actually edible) and gave them to my kids who then turned their noses up at it. Except for my one year old, who basically shoves in his mouth anything I put on his plate. They tasted good (the tops), but I couldn't bring myself to give them as a gift. If you have any recipes for whole wheat muffins or bread please link to it in your comments - I would appreciate it! I'm still searching for a recipe for my friend's gift basket.

On to kitchen disaster number 2. Had to run out with the kids for the whole afternoon and I knew we wouldn't be back until right before dinner. So at 2:30 I busted out the crockpot and threw ground turkey, a bunch of spices, and 2 cans of tomato sauce and 1 can of chopped tomatoes. I gave it a stir to break up the turkey, turned the cooker onto high heat (4 hours) and left. My plan was to come home to tasty, slow cooked meat sauce and quickly cook up some pasta when we got home.

Got home around 5, and the house smelled great! I took a peak, and the sauce looked excellent, and I was just about to put a pot of water onto boil when plan B jumped in my head. Ah, plan B. Anyway, the sauce was a bit thin, since crockpots tend to add moisture to whatever you're cooking. My first thought was to add a can of tomato paste to thicken it up while the pasta cooked. Then I thought - hey, why not add the pasta to the sauce to cook and absorb some of the moisture? I have read about others cooking pasta or rice in the last few minutes of a crockpot cycle, so I didn't think anything bad would happen. Well, it did.

After 20 minutes it was apparent that the beautiful meat sauce had turned into a thick paste of tomato sauce and pasta. The pasta wasn't even done yet, so I added about a cup and a half of stock to thin it out and give the pasta some much needed liquid to finish cooking. Fast forward 10 more minutes and the pasta was done. But, it was a bit mushy. The kids ate it reluctantly (probably thinking the whole time, "man! mom is off her game today!") and left about half of it uneaten. All except my one year old, who as I revealed earlier will eat anything since apparently I starve him the rest of the day. Anyway, what was barely edible at 6pm became a big pile of extremely inedible MUSH as the pasta continued to cook even after I removed it from the heat source.

I told my husband we were eating it because I wasn't about to let 1.5 pounds of organic turkey meat and almost 1 pound of pasta go to waste. In defense of myself, outside of the texture, it really wasn't all too bad. My husband even had seconds. Although he asked that I never attempt to cook pasta in the crockpot again. Lesson learned!