Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

My girls are pretty funny about salad, and particularly salad dressing.  I have one that use to only use salad as a means to eating the dressing, while the other one just likes plain lettuce.  I am more of a dressing gal myself – although I certainly don’t eat salad just to consume the dressing.  Everything in moderation…pretty much my goal in life.  Of course, usually what really happens in my life is the following:  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.

Yep, that’s exactly what’s happened with the market basket that I signed up for.  This is no ordinary CSA basket, this is a basket on steroids – but the good kind of steroids, the ones that are organic and healthy.  Seriously, is there such a thing??  YES – it comes to my door everything Thursday!  I am overwhelmed by the bounty, and every week we are scrambling to come up with ways so that we are not wasting a single bit.

The lettuce parade gets us every week.  The problem is that’s my go-to lunch at work. When I have no time for anything else, I can at least grab a salad.  Plus, I must say – the salad bars are pretty extensive – you can basically find anything you have ever hoped for – which is not typical of my refrigerator, unless it comes from the basket.  So, trying to match the type of salad I get at work is pretty tough – but I have been working at it.  I found this recipe for an Avocado Salad Dressing in Cooking Light, and I realized that’s exactly what I need to get through the madness.  The dressing was much thicker than I imagined, but it was delicious and creamy.  I just love avocado in salads, and this made it even better – it coated every single piece of lettuce, instead of just getting some chunks here and there.

Before getting another basket today, I decided I would bring all the lettuce from last week to work for my lunch.  I was on a mission last night to find anything and everything in our refrigerator to make the best salad I could.  I found some leftover pork roast, smoked chicken, roasted beets, hard boiled eggs, roasted red peppers, carrots and leftover cauliflower.  I must say, it was a salad fit for a queen – but it was missing one key ingredient – that avocado dressing…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup diced avocado
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 (5-ounce) package mixed baby greens

Preparation

Place avocado, cilantro leaves, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and hot sauce in a blender; blend until smooth. Combine radishes, carrots, and mixed greens; drizzle with dressing.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

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Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake

 

Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake 2

I feel like I have been lacking a little in the baking department lately.  I have been very focused on jams, getting a healthy dinner on the table, and not as much focused on the baked goods.  My family has been very patient with me, but I can tell that they are anxious for me to get back into my baking routine.  Fortunately I have lots of great recipes to try, and as long as it doesn’t get to hot next weekend – I am definitely looking forward to the 3-day weekend to catch up.

A lot of my friends have been dropping their kids off at sleep away camp this year – of course out here, it is not nearly as popular as it is on the east coast – and fortunately for me, my older daughter was still not dying to sign up just yet – but I know the time is coming.  I loved sleep away camp – when I came home after the first year, I cried until my mother promised I could go again the next summer.

Months ago I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, and coconut is one of those ingredients that always makes me look twice.  I looked at the recipe, and I was seriously intrigued.  I have been eyeing the coconut oil in the super market for quite some time, and now I had an opportunity to buy it.  Unfortunately this was not one of those dairy-free recipes that makes me (but mostly my husband) so happy, but I decided to go for it anyway.  I wish I could say that I made this today, but this was made a about a month ago, and I have been patiently waiting  to post it.  As I am writing this, I am remembering this moist, delicious, flavorful – pretty much killer – pound cake.  I cannot say enough about this cake.  I had one piece, and it wasn’t enough – the kids went nuts for it also.  There was just a hint of chocolate, combined with a hint of coconut, but it just had this overwhelmingly comforting taste.

I would be kidding myself if I said that the kids needed some comfort food right now – even if they are homesick – I think it is the moms that are in real need of some comfort.  Instead of watching the time go by wanting to talk to your kids, how about trying this cake instead?  Eat half now, and freeze the rest for when your kids return.  If you can actually get half into the freezer before it is all gone…

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
  • cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter an 8×4” loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat oil, ¼ cup butter, and 1½ cups sugar until pale and fluffy, 5–7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat until mixture is very light and doubled in volume, 5–8 minutes. Add vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (do not overmix; it will cause cake to buckle and split). Scrape batter into prepared pan and run a spatula through the center, creating a canal. Sprinkle with coconut and remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar.

Bake cake, tenting with foil if coconut browns too much before cake is done (it should be very dark and toasted), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70–80 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan 20 minutes before turning out.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be baked 5 days ahead. Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake

Brown Mustard

Brown Mustard

Condiments…I am not sure I have ever blogged about condiments before.  Maybe just once.  Whenever I think about condiments, I think about my grandfather.  He was a very quiet man, his wife definitely carried the conversations in the family.  We lived in the same town, so I didn’t talk to them on the phone very often, until I went to college.  Then my grandmother would call me once a week, just to check in and see how I was doing.  Every once in a while my grandfather would get on the phone to say hi, and his favorite topic to ask me about was the food.  He would ask me what they were serving for dinner, and more often than not he would tell me not to forget the ketchup.  I never really remember him eating ketchup, but it certainly seemed to be something that was always on his mind.  Whenever I grab ketchup out of the refrigerator, I always think of him.

That leads me to mustard, my least favorite of the condiments.  Over the years I have grown to love mustard when I cook – but I would never slather mustard on anything, even today.  A few weeks ago my good friend and neighbor brought me a present from the farmer’s market - mustard seeds.  He helps his friends at Nash’s set up their stash, and always comes home with some awesome stuff.  I think I was even more excited than he was.  I have never made mustard before, and really had no idea how incredibly easy it was.  There was a recipe right on the back of the package, and I followed it exactly.  I swear when I put the mixture in the blender, I was still skeptical – and then all of a sudden there it was.  Mustard – real mustard, I couldn’t believe it.  I was almost bouncing off the walls with excitement.  I took a spoon and tasted it – and it was the best mustard I have ever had.  Probably because I made it…funny how that works.

One bit of caution – this mustard is great to make and store in the refrigerator.  I would not try and can this – it didn’t work so well.  For some reason the mustard cooked, and had a bitter taste afterwards.  So, if you are not obsessed with mustard like my grandfather was with ketchup – just find some friends and neighbors to share with, I know they will thank you…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey

Preparation

Mix together the cider vinegar, mustard seeds and beer and let sit for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Add the salt and brown sugar or honey, then mix in a blender or food processor until the desired consistency.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Brown Mustard

Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Everyone needs a break now and then.  I am not just talking about a small 15-minute walk around the block brake, I am talking about a break from life. Ok, yes, those 15-minute walks are important – after what I experienced this week, sometimes you just need to get a little air.  The problem is that you have to come to that conclusion yourself – no one can tell you that it has to be done.  But believe me, it is amazing what it can do for you…

To say that things are hectic right now is an understatement.  Thursday was the last day of school for the year, although this year it was a little bittersweet.  For my younger daughter, it was a big party – but for my older daughter it was not the usual feeling.  Unfortunately I had an all-day meeting, and was extremely preoccupied – all my brain cells were focused at the time.  That was until I got the text.  The last day was fun, except for the end – everyone was crying, even the boys.  Getting that text was heart breaking.  Later I found out the teachers were crying too.  All because the school board decided to split these kids up.  I won’t get into it again, because I can no longer dwell on this horrible decision.  This summer I am working on an attitude adjustment – I am going to have a positive outlook on my daughter’s new school – and so will she.  We agreed to it.

So as I sat there in that meeting, thinking about my daughter – it hit me, I was not the only one with a life outside that room.  Life is hard – and most of the time, you really have no idea how hard it is – particularly for everyone else.  Fortunately for me, I can always turn to food – and that’s exactly what I did this weekend.  I didn’t just dabble – I was hard core – I was on a power cooking/baking frenzy, trying to get all my stress out in the kitchen.  I actually think it worked…or I am just utterly exhausted.

This was just one of the many things going on in my kitchen – a good old fashioned blueberry coffeecake.  Now, I have a favorite recipe from my mother – that just happens to be dairy-free.  I just had to see though if this dairy version from Cooking Light was better – and you know what, it wasn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, this was absolutely moist and delicious – but I actually like my mother’s recipe better – ok, who is really surprised by that?  Yes, my mother tests her recipes more than anyone else I know.  And Mom, you win again.

So I hope that I was not the only one that was able to take a break this weekend – in whatever form that is.  Even if you just took a few deep breaths…I know it will help.  Monday, I am ready for you – bring it on.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Remove 2 tablespoons flour mixture; sprinkle over blueberries, tossing to coat.

Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter; toss to combine.

Place granulated sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (about 2 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in rind and juice.

Spoon half of batter into a 9-inch square light-colored metal baking pan coated with cooking spray (do not use a dark or nonstick pan). Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup blueberry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over blueberries. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup blueberry mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Pickled Radishes

Pickled Radishes

Radishes are completely underrated.  I swear they are one of those vegetables that people just shy away from because they don’t know what to do with them.  Aside from putting them in salads, is there really a lot you can do with them?  Oh yes…and I just happen to be one of those people who loves them, just about any way.

I think I actually inherited the taste from my father.  I remember him eating raw radishes when I was little – he would just eat them like he was eating a strawberry.  Now, I am happy to eat them like that, although I prefer this way…until I tried pickling them.

The other week I got a huge bunch of radishes in my market basket.  I was just about to break out the bread, butter and salt, when I remembered pickling.  I have been wanting to pickle radishes for quite some time, and here was my opportunity.  I decided to make up my own recipe, using the pickling spices I have in the house, and I am hooked.  They are the perfect little snack after work, and they go great with a cocktail on the weekend.  They were super easy to make also – and just a few radishes really go a long way.

So when I got the next market basket with more radishes – I almost pulled out the pickling spices, but I thought, I can’t stop now – what’s next?  So I roasted them…and yes, those were delicious too.  Radishes…the new incredibly versatile vegetable, who knew?

Ingredients

  • 10 radishes, sliced thin
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spices

Preparation

Place the cider vinegar, water, salt, sugar and pickling spices in a medium saucepan and cook until the salt and sugar dissolves.  Place sliced radishes in two 1/2-pint canning jars, and then poor the cider mixture on top.  Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate before eating.  They stay fresh for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pickled Radishes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

We are on the final countdown – just one week from tomorrow, and the school year will officially be over.  There is part of me that feels like this year absolutely flew by, then another part that has been waiting forever for the year to be over.  Of course it will definitely be bittersweet – with my older daughter having to change schools next year leaving the majority of her friends.  My goal this summer is to have a more positive outlook on the whole situation.  The good news is we found out the new school will not only have an orchestra next year, it will have four!  Of course her old school has five, but who is counting.  And even though the building is old and it will take them a few years to make the changes they are hoping for – by the time my younger daughter is there, things should be in much better shape.

The other weekend was my older daughter’s birthday.  When I asked her what she wanted me to make, she really had to think hard – but she kept bringing up the Boston Cream Pie I had made for her last year.  She knows how I like to try new things though, and was really torn.  That’s when I had a great idea – what if I could turn the Boston Cream Pie into cupcakes??  She was sold – hands down.  And then I hit myself – seriously, am I going completely mad?  The Boston Cream Pie was hard enough, and now I was going to try this again with cupcakes?  I am a glutton for punishment – that tastes absolutely incredible at the end.

These cupcakes were fabulous.  They were everything that the cake was, and more – because they were so ridiculously adorable.  Second time around is much easier than the first, and they actually didn’t take too long to make.  Particularly because I made the custard the night before.  Don’t fret if you have leftover custard like I did – I just put it into some small ramekins, and the girls ate it like pudding – the most decadent and creamy pudding ever.  Watching my daughter eat these cupcakes with her friends – and the happiness in the air – it was perfect.  They were able to forget all about the changes coming – and just focus on the positives.  A good lesson for us all to remember.  Focus on the cupcakes…and nothing else matters.

Ingredients

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Preparation

For the pastry cream

Heat the half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just simmers. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until smooth. Add the flour to the yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove the half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup to the yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to half-and-half in saucepan.

Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 8 minutes.

Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For the cake

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 2 cupcake trays (24 total) or place non-stick wrappers in the cups. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cover to keep warm.

In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes. Remove mixer bowl from stand. Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.

Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the 24 cups – they should be about 3/4 full. Bake until tops are light brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack and cool completely in pan.  Carefully remove them from the papers or the tins.

To assemble

Cut each cupcake in half. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spoon on tablespoon of cream onto each cupcake bottom. Using offset spatula, spread evenly to cake edge. Place the top of the cupcake over the cream, making layers line up properly. Refrigerate cupcakes while preparing glaze.

For the glaze

Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove fro heat and add chocolate. Whisk occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Pour glaze onto each cupcake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake. Chill cupcakes 3 hours before serving. Cupcake may be made up to 24 hours before serving.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Bacon and Leek Risotto

 

Bacon and Leek Risotto

It is hard to be on a treadmill day after day, not feeling like you are actually getting anywhere.  There is so much going on at work these days, I take one step forward, and two steps back.  I told my team a little secret yesterday…sometimes I go home and make myself a list of things to do – just so I can check things off and feel like I have accomplished something.  Yep, I have a problem.

Fortunately I finally figured out my blog problem.  I have to say, I love WordPress, I have had very little issues with them.  Super easy to use, very easy to get help – but this one really baffled me.  For some reason when I looked at my post, I was looking at the code – not what it looks like on the other side.  Well, once I actually was coherent and spent a few minutes thinking about it – I realized there were two tabs on the upper right hand side – “Visual” and “Text”.  It somehow switched to “Text” and when I switched it to “Visual” the code disappeared.  The menu bars were still not the same, and either was the picture, but I figured out I had to click the “Toolbar Toggle” – and then edit the picture and make it bigger.  Whew.  I felt a whole lot better afterwards – like I really had accomplished a lot.  I love that feeling.

So I have mentioned the market basket that we started getting on Thursdays – it seriously is one of the highlights of my week.  Not only am I amazed at what they stick in there week after week, it gives me another opportunity to feel like I am accomplishing something.  If I can use up everything in that basket every week – that is quite a feat.  I am finding myself thinking creatively about cooking again, and I love it.  The leeks have been beautiful lately – nice and big, and bursting with flavor.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light and decided that it was a risotto night – I needed to use up the leeks, and the sweet and smoky bacon that they had put in the basket – from my absolute favorite farm.  Maybe it was the ingredients that I used, but this risotto was over the top delicious.  For a weeknight dinner, it certainly felt special.  Like I had finally gotten off the treadmill and actually ran a mile.  For once, it felt good to run back…

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 bacon slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leek (about 4 large)
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Bring stock and 2 cups water to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek, shallots, thyme, and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in rice; cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup stock mixture; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/3 cup stock mixture. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed before adding more (about 25 minutes total). Stir in lemon juice, butter, pepper, salt, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Remove pan from heat. Stir in reserved 1/3 cup stock mixture. Sprinkle with reserved bacon and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Bacon and Leek Risotto

Serenity Now

Grapefruit Rye Cocktail

Is it Friday yet?  I know, I really shouldn’t be saying that right now, because technically it is only Tuesday – with Monday being a holiday and all.  But for some reason this week has not been any easier, with the chaos growing just a bit each day, as we get closer and closer to the end of the school year.  This week, I have officially declared it insanity…

Normally you would think I would be looking for ways to simplify my life, but no…that is not me.  If a good opportunity comes up, I can’t just let it pass by.  Even if I am in the midst of complete insanity.  I have always wanted to be a bartender – not for a profession, just for a night.  It is almost like playing a real live video game – you know the ones when you have to get all food in the grocery cart before time runs out, or you have to get everyone out of the spa with their hair done and nails freshly painted?  This time it is about making drinks though, and it is not a game.  Yes, that will be me on June 7th.  My husband and I have been going to this little restaurant/bar now for a couple of years.  We love the place – the food is top quality, and the cocktails are the best we have ever had.  It is our happy place.  And the people who work there have become our friends.  Now, I love to make drinks for my friends – and one night I asked half jokingly when they were going to let me be the bartender.  Be careful what you wish for.

So, for the past few weeks I have been working on my cocktail menu, and having a lot of fun naming the drinks with our friends.  This was one of the first drinks I put on the list – it is my favorite one right now.  The grapefruit is so deliciously sweet in the market, it really makes an amazing drink.  I am really not a huge rye fan, but this combination is a winner. Plus, I think we could all use a little serenity now.  So stop by the bar on June 7th if you can…serenity now, insanity later.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. rye
  • 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Lillet
  • Grapefruit twist

Preparation

Add rye, grapefruit juice, Campari and Lillet into a cocktail shaker.  Add ice, and shake for about 30 seconds.  Strain and pour into a cocktail glasses, then serve with a grapefruit twist.

Makes 2 cocktails

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Serenity Now

Hawaiian Dessert

Hawaiian Dessert

 

I am not sure what is going on right now with my blog, but I am going to try and ignore it. The picture looks super small, and I can’t figure out why. Well, at least it is not an ordinary Sunday night – and tomorrow, I can try and get to the bottom of this. I have no idea how this blog post will look when publishing, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

I am big on short cuts, but not big on using prepared foods – and that includes boxed cake mixes. Although there are certain times when it actually does make sense. I have to admit, I love a good boxed cake every once in a while – but it doesn’t belong on my blog…that is until now. The other week I had signed up to bring a dessert to book group. I didn’t have a ton of time that day, and remembered this recipe that people on our food alias at work were talking about. Someone was looking for a dessert to bring to a Hawaiian themed party – and this is what people recommended. It came from the website Yummly, and it looked super simple, yet fed a crowd.  Even though I was not going to a Hawaiian themed party, I needed something simple that fed a lot of people.

I had no intention of putting this on the blog – with a boxed cake and vanilla pudding, it was not really something I figured would be blog worthy.  Wrong.  My friends loved the cake – and I did as well.  It was creamy on the top, with a nice layer of cake that almost seemed like a soft crust – they all thought I was crazy not to post the recipe.  So here we are – and hopefully you won’t give up on me – but we all need a break from time to time, and this was certainly a delicious one. Here’s to simplicity, feeding many…and Hawaii.

Ingredients

  • 1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
  • 3 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 cups cold milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped and sweetened
  • 2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

Directions

Mix cake batter according to package directions. Pour into two 9×13 in. baking pans. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until the cakes test done. Cool completely. In a large bowl, combine pudding mixes, milk and coconut extract; beat for 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat well. Stir in pineapple. Spread over the cooled cakes. Top with whipped cream; sprinkle with coconut. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Yield: 24 servings.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Hawaiian Dessert

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

I know it is Sunday, but I am already looking forward to Thursday.  That market basket that my husband got me for Mother’s Day is quite something.  It is like Christmas morning every Thursday night – as we unpack the beautiful wooden box with all sorts of goodies.  This week’s basket came with this wonderful box of pistachio apricot granola.  I can’t wait to put some on my yogurt in the morning.  It’s the little things that get me through this end-of-the-year chaos.

Since I was set for breakfast this week, I thought it was only fair if I made some treats for the girls.  They do love granola – but I know they love scones even more.  I have gone through many ways of saving recipes over the years.  I started by keeping every single food magazine and marking the pages where I liked a recipe.  That worked for a little while, but after I had over 20 magazines, I couldn’t remember what was in each issue.  Then I started cutting out the indexes, and had a binder of them – with the highlighted recipes that I liked.  Again, not very practical as I had to look through hundreds of pages to find what I was looking for.  The next plan was to cut out the recipe and put it in a photo album, where I had dividers of the different types of recipes.  After I filled up two binders, I was done with that method.  At that point I decided I needed to use technology, and that’s when I started my blog.  I tell you, I love being able to Bing a recipe from my blog and get to it instantly.  Technology can be quite awesome.

Instead of going to my usual stack for a scone recipe (knowing that I didn’t have any lingering around that I wanted to make), I went to one of the binders I created – and flipped to the “Breakfast” tab.  I found this recipe that I probably cut out ages ago from either Gourmet or Bon Appetit and decided to see if it had stood the test of time.  Boy did it ever – these scones were crunchy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside, with a touch of oat flavor, but nicely sweetened.  I could have scarfed a couple of them down, except that I reminded myself they were for the girls – I already had my treat waiting.  So, we will all be eating well this week, and we need to – if we are going to get through these last 5 weeks.  Ugh!

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large navel orange
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk plus additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Special equipment: a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a food processor, then add oats and pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss chocolate chips with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface  and gently knead 6 times.

Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a lightly buttered large baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner.

Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones